Consul Proffit to the Third Assistant Secretary of State.

No. 68.]

Sir: Referring again to my dispatch No. 66 of January 20, 1904, I have the honor to inform you that the British Government have refused to entertain Dr. William H. McGreevy’s claim for the payment of certain notes issued by the late South African Republic.

After a formal presentation of the claim I appeared before the central judicial commission and urged payment thereof. The reason assigned for refusal to entertain said claim will be found in the letter from the chairman of the commission, part of which letter has been quoted in my letter of this date to the claimant.

[Page 797]

The British Government maintain that the fund provided for the payment of war claims was offered as a matter of grace rather than of legal obligation, and that the same was intended for those persons who, undergoing the ills and hardships incident to war in South Africa, had suffered in their property rights by reason of said war. Thus a party holding the obligations of the late Republic in order to be entitled to participate in the benefits of the fund mentioned must first show that he is in lawful possession of said obligations—that they came into his hands by virtue of supplies furnished or services rendered to the responsible officers of the late Republic, and at a time when the said Republic had the right to pledge its credit.

The British forces crossed the Vaal River on the 28th of May, 1900, investing Johannesburg on the 31st of May, 1900, and Pretoria on the 6th of June, 1900. Lord Roberts immediately issued a proclamation annexing the Transvaal to the British Crown.

By reference to the 31 notes which form the basis of Doctor McGreevy’s claim it will be found that 26 of them were issued in Pretoria on May 28, 1900, the other 5 being issued in Pietersburg on January 4, 1901.

In conclusion, the department is informed that the position of the British Government, as announced by the central judicial commission (being in part gleaned from a personal interview with the chairman), is as follows:

  • First. The claimant came into possession of the notes forming the basis of his claim after the world had notice of the fact that the British forces were in possession of the capital of the late republic, and after a formal proclamation of annexation had been published by the responsible commander of the said British forces.
  • Second. The claimant, living in Scranton, Pa., suffered no hardships in South Africa during the war between Great Britain and the two republics, and so far as the allegations accompanying his claim show, sustained no injury to his property rights in South Africa.
  • Third. The notes were not given to the claimant by the responsible officers of the late republics in exchange for supplies furnished or services rendered, and claimant, therefore, is beyond the provisions of section 10 of the treaty of peace.

The department is further informed that the claimant has been informed of the decision of the central judicial commission and the notes in question returned to him.

I have, etc.,

Joseph E. Proffit.

Consul Proffit to Doctor McGreevy.

No. 1248.]

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that the British Government, through the agency of the central judicial commission, have refused to entertain your claim for the payment of the certain notes of the late South African republic mentioned in my letter of January 12 last.

I presented a formal claim on your behalf and appeared before the commission and pressed same personally, but with the poor result already indicated.

In announcing the refusal of his commission to entertain your claim the chairman writes to me as follows:

“Apart altogether from the fact that the time for filing claims expired some ten months ago, Doctor McGreevy would not appear to have any right to compensation. He is not a resident of the Transvaal or Orange River Colony, he [Page 798] had no property destroyed in either of these two colonies, and suffered no loss in either of these two colonies.

“Compensation will be paid only to those who suffered war losses in South Africa. If a man such as Doctor McGreevy, who is not a resident of South Africa, chooses to acquire certain paper notes, he does so at his own risk.”

Regretting the unfruitful issue of my efforts on your behalf, and returning herewith the notes in question,

I am, etc.,

Joseph E. Proffit.