The Belgian Minister to the Secretary of State.

Dear Mr. Secretary of State:

Following upon the conversation which we had this morning, I beg to submit the inclosed documents for your examination of the claim of the Belgian firm El Oriente in re “Saturnus:

A memorandum of the legation on the subject.
A copy of the brief already submitted to the State Department by Mr. Michener, counsel for the German firm Baer, senior, whose case is identical with that of the El Oriente.
A letter from the Belgian consul-general at Manila, written to Governor Wright on January 28, 1904, disputing the findings of the committee charged with the examination of the claim of the El Oriente Company.

I deeply appreciate, dear Mr. Secretary, your kindness in consenting to take this case under your personal examination.

I beg to offer you my earnest thanks, and remain with highest consideration, etc.,

Bn. Moncheur.

[Memorandum on the Saturnus case presented by the Belgian Minister to the State Department.]

In reply to the claim of the Belgian firm El Oriente, in re Saturnus, the State Department made it known that the United States Government rejected all responsibility for the damage suffered by the claimants at the hands of the Philippine insurgents, both on strictly legal grounds and on the broad grounds of equity.

On legal grounds, however, it seems that the evidence adduced before the various “claim boards” in the Philippine Islands would hardly prove acceptable in any court of justice, because the evidence rested exclusively on hearsay testimony and ex parte affidavits, as it is shown in the brief presented by Mr. Michener, counsel for the German firm of Baer, senior, in the same Saturnus case.

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The Belgian claimants, therefore, can not accept the statement that it has been shown conclusively that the moneys found in the possession of the insurgents were not the identical funds plundered by the insurgents from the steamer Saturnus.

On the broad grounds of equitable justice, the United States Government would hardly dispute the fact that it has benefited by the precise amount of money found in the hands of the insurgents and taken from them by the American troops.

Whatever may be the origin of these funds, even supposing they were not the identical moneys plundered from the Saturnus, the claimants in the case have at least a claim to a pro rata of these funds, and consequently a claim on the Government who was benefited by the confiscation of that money.

The State Department, in order to reject the present claim, seems to lay stress upon the decision of an English court of law, in re West Rand Central Gold Mining Company, Ltd., v. The King, as reported in 2 K. B., page 391, of the Law Reports, 1905. But it appears that this decision can hardly be stretched so as to cover the present claim, owing to the fundamental difference in the circumstances of the cases.

The English decision held that “There is no principle of international law by which, after annexation of conquered territory, the conquering State becomes liable, in the absence of express stipulations to the contrary, to discharge financial liabilities of the conquered State incurred before the outbreak of the war.

But the essential difference between the cases grows out of the fact that, whereas the late South African Republic was a foreign country in a state of war against Great Britain, the Philippine Islands, on the contrary, were possessions of the American people, on which a number of American subjects were not waging war but only in a state of rebellion against the authority of the country’s lawful government. The United States Government seems to have had so little doubt of its ability to restore public order in its possessions that, toward the end of July, 1899, General Otis, commanding the army of the United States in the Philippines, granted to the steamer Saturnus permission to sail for the Philippine ports of her destination, without any warning or reservation as to possible risks from the rebellion.

It appears, therefore, in equity at least, that the United States Government tacitly guarantee the shippers in the case against any molestation at the hands of its own subjects, in parts of its dominions where it undertook to preserve public order and to crush rebellion, and that the same Government, having failed to protect these shippers against such molestation, can not disclaim liability for the loss incurred.