Mr. Thompson to Mr. Hay.

No. 109.]

Sir: I have to report that upon receipt of a letter from Consul Furniss, at Bahia, under date of May 16, 1903 (copy inclosed), informing me of the use by a Brazilian line of sailing vessels of a house flag very much resembling one of the forms of our national ensign, I brought the matter to the attention of the foreign office in an unofficial note of May 25, 1903 (copy inclosed), informing Mr. Furniss of the steps taken in a letter dated May 26, 1903 (copy inclosed). Receiving no answer from the foreign office, I again wrote to Baron Rio Branco under date of September 9, 1903 (copy of letter inclosed), receiving an acknowledgment of the receipt of this note and of my previous one, under date of September 30, 1903 (copy and translation inclosed).

Although I have received no further communication from the foreign office, I learn through the official paper that the minister of justice has now taken the necessary measures to prevent the further use of the flag resembling our national ensign by the line of vessels referred to.

I have, etc.,

D. E. Thompson.
[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Furniss to Mr. Thompson.

Dear Sir: Under date of July 18, 1901, I wrote to Minister Bryan relative to a line of Brazilian sailing vessels which were using as their house flag a flag so closely resembling our national ensign that it can not be differentiated at a short distance, and asked his assistance to have its use prevented.

In August of the same year, when Colonel Bryan was passing through this port on the U. S. S. Atlanta, he informed me that the matter had been called to the attention of the Brazilian Government, and that he had been assured that its use would be prohibited.

The boats flying the flag are the property, of the Bahia-Pelotas firm of Rosa, Carvalho & Co., and are in the “carne secca” trade between the ports mentioned. At present there are three of these vessels in port, and a few days ago my attention was called to the fact that they were flying the objectionable flag at the mainmast.

The flag is an exact facsimile of ours, with the exception that the stars in the blue field are arranged in a circle, in the center of which appear the letters “R. C.” arranged as a monogram.

[Page 102]

The arrangement of the stars in a circle is permitted by our Government when 13 stars are used, and that, coupled with the fact that the monogram is so small as to be either indistinguishable or not noticed by one even at a short distance, makes its continued use by a Brazilian vessel very undesirable.

This matter is called to your attention that you may give it such action as the matter necessitates.

I am, etc.,

H. W. Furniss.
[Inclosure 2.]

Mr. Thompson to Dr. Rio Branco.

Mr. Minister: I herewith inclose you a sketch of the house flag used by the Brazilian firm of Rosa, Carvalho & Co., of Bahia and Pelotas, and regularly displayed in their ships which are engaged in the coastwise trade, and are registered at Pelotas.

You will observe that this flag is substantially identical with the flag of my country, having 13 stripes alternately red and white, and a blue field in which stars are disposed in a circle in one of the forms authorized by our statutes and frequently used.

The striking resemblance will appear by comparing the lithograph copy of our national ensign which I inclose with the sketch of the house flag of Rosa, Carvalho & Co.

Our consular officers in Brazil have called my attention to the use of this ensign, and I believe you will agree with me that confusion may arise from the similarity of the two flags, and that Brazilian port officials as well as our consular officers might well mistake a Brazilian ship for an American or an American for a Brazilian.

I do not know whether your Government has adopted any regulations in regard to the use of a national ensign as a house flag of a private firm, but I venture to call your attention for such action by the proper officials as may seem to you and them proper.

D. E. Thompson.
[Inclosure 3.]

Mr. Thompson to Mr. Furniss.

Dear Sir: I have received your letter of May 10, 1903, reporting that the Brazilian shipowning firm, Rosa, Carvelho & Co., of Pelotas and Bahia, are using as a house flag on their ships an ensign which is practically identical with the flag of the United States. Your letter on the same subject of July 18, 1901, to my predecessor, Mr. Bryan, was answered by him on August 10, 1901. He said to you: I have called the attention of the minister of foreign affairs to the matter and he has suggested such communication with the house responsible therefor as is likely to prevent a recurrence of the abuse in the future.” It seems probable that Mr. Bryan meant that you should communicate with the house. There is no correspondence here indicating that he or the Brazilian minister of foreign affairs have taken any such action. I infer from your letter that you have not made a direct protest to Rosa, Carvelho & Co. since receiving Mr. Bryan’s letter. If I am wrong, please advise me. I think a request to Rosa, Carvelho & Co. to discontinue the use of the United States ensign as a house flag on Brazilian ships should properly come from the Brazilian authorities. The vessels are directly under their control and not under ours. It seems to me the Brazilian Government would disapprove of Brazilian ships carrying a flag which makes them appear foreign. I have therefore written the minister of foreign affairs, calling his attention to the matter for such action by the proper authorities as he may deem proper.

I am, sir, etc.,

D. E. Thompson.
[Page 103]
[Inclosure 4.]

Mr. Thompson to Dr. Rio Brunco.

Mr. Minister: On May 25 I had the honor of addressing you a note on the subject of the use, by a line of Brazilian sailing vessels plying between Bahia and Pelotas, of a house flag very much resembling the national ensign of the United States, to which we have as yet received no answer.

I would be pleased if you would be so good as to tell me the conclusion, when it has been reached, of the proper authorities.

I avail, etc.,

D. E. Thompson.
[Inclosure 5.—Translation.]

Doctor Rio Branco to Mr. Thompson.

I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your excellency’s note of the 9th instant, asking for my attention to your note of May 25 last, on the use by a line of Brazilian merchant vessels plying between Bahia and Pelotas of a flag much resembling the national ensign of the United States.

In reply I have to say to your excellency that I have brought your note to the knowledge of my colleague of the navy department, whose reply I am awaiting in order to, in due time, transmit it to you, to whom I have the pleasure of reiterating the protests of my high consideration.

Rio Branco.