Ambassador Reid to the Secretary of State.

No. 64.]

Sir: I have the honor to report the receipt of your telegram of the 13th instant and my action under it as shown in my telegram of the 16th instant.

As intimated in my dispatches, Lord Lansdowne has been out of town for some days. As he was expected on Monday, however, I sent a private note to his residence on Saturday, a few hours after the receipt of your dispatch, asking the favor of an appointment at as early an hour as convenient on Monday.

Finding on Monday that he had not yet returned, I went to the foreign office and saw the first permanent under secretary, Sir Thomas Sanderson, to whom I stated the substance of the information received from my government, and asked for the promptest action in communicating with the Newfoundland authorities, adding I was sure Sir Thomas would agree with me in the belief that if any new question were to be raised at this late date about the rights of American fishermen under the treaty of 1818 it should be raised through the regular diplomatic channels instead of through abrupt action on the part of the Newfoundland authorities. This view seemed to strike Sir Thomas as reasonable and he promised that on the return of Lord Lansdowne this should be one of the first subjects brought to his attention.

The same evening the unofficial letter from Lord Lansdowne mentioned in my cable despatch was sent to me at my private residence. To-day a note has been received from him (dated yesterday) repeating the statement that the governor of Newfoundland denies any attempt to prevent American fishermen from catching fish, and the hope that the reports which reached you were the result of misapprehension. A copy of this note is inclosed.

* * * * * * *

I have, etc.,

Whitelaw Reid.
[Inclosure 1.]

Ambassador Reid to the Marquess of Lansdowne.

My Lord: Referring to my conversation to-day with Sir Thomas Sanderson about the fisheries situation on the Newfoundland coast, I have the honor to express my gratitude at the prompt inquiries already instituted and to repeat the earnest desire of my government that your lordship should secure from the Newfoundland authorities the immediate withdrawal of their notice prohibiting Americans from taking fish from within the limits plainly granted in Article I of the treaty of 1818.

[Page 496]

As I explained to Sir Thomas Sanderson, our American fishermen have been advised by my government that their right to take fish within these limits is quite clear; that it is in accordance with the construction of the treaty always followed heretofore, and that it has never been questioned by the British Government.

Such previous difficulties as that at Fortune Bay certainly indicate a probability of serious trouble again if this Newfoundland prohibition is actively enforced.

If it is really desired now to raise any question as to the construction of the treaty of 1818, I feel sure that you will agree with my government in thinking that it should be done by suitable diplomatic representation and not by abrupt prohibition of the established practice without any communication on the subject between the two governments.

Your lordship will of course understand that my government insists on the rights always enjoyed under the treaty of 1818 and feels bound to protect our fishermen against an interference by the Newfoundland authorities which is plainly in violation of the uniform construction heretofore given to that treaty.

I have, etc.,

Whitelaw Reid.
[Inclosure 2.]

The Marquess of Lansdowne to Ambassador Reid.

Your Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 16th instant relative to a report which has reached the United States Government that steps are being taken by the Newfoundland authorities to prohibit United States citizens from taking fish within the limits open to them under Article I of the convention of 1818.

As I have already had the pleasure of privately informing your excellency, the governor of Newfoundland, to whom on the receipt of a message from His Majesty’s ambassador at Washington telegraphic inquiries were at once addressed, has replied that the visit of the Newfoundland minister of marine to this part of the island was for the purpose of arranging the disposal of French fishery effects on the treaty shore, and that there has been no attempt to prevent American fishermen from catching fish.

I trust, therefore, that the reports which reached the United States Government are the result of a misapprehension as to the facts of the case.

I have, etc.,