The Secretary of State to Ambassador Reid.


(Mr. Root quotes the following telegram from United States fisheries agent now in Newfoundland:)

“Yesterday the colonial authorities interfered with native fishermen shipped outside 3-mile limit on the United States of America fishing vessel since notice was posted stating such shipment illegal.

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Authorities have summoned crew to appear at court, Birchy Cove, which, if complied with, will be the means of several broken voyages. The captain of vessel is inclined to ignore summons, and objects men being taken out of vessel. Advise me.


(The department’s answer was:)

“Your dispatch November 13 received. Penal proceedings against Newfoundland fishermen for shipping on American vessels outside 3–mile limit appear to be clear violation of modus vivendi. We can not believe that the government of Newfoundland intends wholesale punishment of her own fishermen for seeking means of livelihood in accordance with the express permission of the Government of Great Britain. We therefore assume the purpose of Newfoundland is merely to make a test case in which to dispute the power of Great Britain to control Newfoundland legislation by the agreement embodied in the modus vivendi, although we understood that the Newfoundland government has assented to the agreement.

“Ascertain from Newfoundland officials whether this is their purpose. If it is, while our rights under the treaty and modus vivendi can not be taken away or affected by any decision in such a proceeding and we must regard it as purely a matter relating to the internal affairs of the British Empire, nevertheless, to avoid any conflict or disturbance, you should facilitate the raising of the question in an orderly and seemly way. The appearance of one or two men in court should be sufficient for this purpose. If, on the contrary, you find a disposition to conduct the proceedings in such a way that the proceedings themselves, in advance of any authoritative decision and in advance of any opportunity by Great Britain to make good her agreement with us, break up or seriously interfere with our fishing under the modus vivendi, inform this department promptly, and such advice will be given as the occasion demands.”

(Mr. Root adds that he answered in this way hoping to avoid conflict which might excite colonial feeling. Of course, if Newfoundland government is really trying to break up fishing under modus vivendi, the American Government can not permit men to be taken from its ships. Mr. Root does not doubt that Great Britain will enforce respect for its agreement with us, but prompt and vigorous action on her part seems necessary.)