File No. 21274/19–24.

Minister Brown to the Secretary of State.

No. 144.]

Sir: Referring to previous correspondence on the subject, I have the honor to submit herewith copies of further correspondence concerning the apparent intention of the Honduranean Government to enfarce to the letter its laws of navigation in the case of the schooner George A. Lawry, of New York, owned by Consular Agent Glynn at Trujillo.

I have, etc.,

Philip Brown.
[Inclosure 1.]

Minister Brown to the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs.

No. 53.]

Sir: Referring to the interview which I had the honor to have yesterday morning with His Excellency the President and to the discussion which arose concerning the interpretation and application of the navigation laws enacted by the last National Congress, I desire to point out in a friednly spirit certain phases of this subject which I believe were overlooked in the study of the matter.

In my note to the ministry for foreign affairs, dated August 11 last, I stated that—

It is to be assumed that the local authorities have misinterpreted the laws referred to, but in order to avoid any misunderstanding I would state that while the right of Honduras to regulate its coastwise trade as it pleases is fully recognized, on the other hand, it can in no way be admitted that foreign-owned vessels engaged in commerce between Honduras and other countries should be compelled to conform to the requirements of the laws as interpreted by the local authorities referred to. Such action would be clearly in contravention of international law and the provisions of the treaty of amity and commerce between Honduras and the United States.

[Page 370]

I am this day telegraphing in the above sense to the consular agent in Trujillo, but in oRder that there may be no serious, regrettable incidents in this connection, I would request your excellency’s Government to kindly confirm this understanding of the laws in question and to send telegraphic orders immediately not only to Trujillo but to all other ports of Honduras for the instruction and guidance of the authorities whose duty it will be to enforce the new laws of navigation.

The minister for foreign affairs, his excellency Sr. Dr. done José Maria Ochoa V., in his courteous reply to the foregoing note, dated August 14, stated:

Complying with your excellency’s wishes, my Government will issue the instructions directing the port authorities in regard to the application of the legislative decree before cited (No. 50), instructions which shall contain the interpretation given to the said law by the Executive.

In view of the friendly deference shown to my representations in this matter I felt confident that all possible danger of any misunderstanding concerning the application of the laws in question had been definitely removed. On the 7th of September, however, I received a telegram from the American consular agent at Trujillo stating that the commander of that port insisted that the American schooner George A. Lawry, of New York, should be nationalized in Honduras. I at once brought this incident to the attention of the minister for foreign affairs, who immediately assured me that orders had been sent to the authorities at Trujillo to in no way molest the ship in question, and furthermore on September 14 his excellency the minister again assured me that the incident complained of would not be permitted to occur again.

I must confess that it was with painful surprise that I subsequently learned that on the same date referred to, namely, September 14, His Excellency the President telegraphed to the commandante de armas at Trujillo as follows:

You may grant clearance to the American schooner Lawry, owned by Consul Glynn, but with a proviso inserted in the same instrument that the permission is given for this time only and that the said schooner shall not be allowed to navigate in Honduranean waters unless it be registered and nationalized in Honduras, for the reason that it belongs to a foreigner habitually residing in Trujillo, a Honduranean port, and in accordance with article 1 of the legislative decree No. 112, which you will communicate in writing to Mr. Glynn in order that he may have due notice thereof, advising him at the same time that the same information has been sent to the American minister.

For the information of the Honduranean Government, I would state that I am in receipt of instructions from my Government in this matter, stating that—

If the rather obscure provisions of the Honduranean decree be given the sweeping scope which the words, taken literally, might seem prima facie to indicate, the decree would appear to cover vessels holding an American or other foreign registry. If so interpreted, the decree would be clearly violative of the principles of international law and in derogation of the respect due American registry.

In the treaty with Honduras there are such explicit references to “their ships and cargoes,” referring to the “subjects and citizens of the two countries, respectively,” and to the reciprocal liberty of trading and to “the vessels of the United States and Honduras, respectively,” as are inconsistent with the view that Honduras can mean to place any such compulsions on our registered vessels trading there, if not engaged in her coastwise trade. If, however, the decree be interpreted in the light of the principles of international law and treaty referred to and its scope so limited by construction as to make it apply only to vessels owned by Americans or other foreigners domiciled in Honduras which have no American or other foreign registry, it would seems to be within the international competence of Honduras to enact.

In view of all the facts and antecedents in this case, and in the belief that the Government of Honduras would not wittingly adopt any measures incompatible with the friendly relations existing with my Government, or would fail to comply with the assurances previously given in this connection, I venture to express the earnest hope that the proper orders will be issued without delay to the commandantes of the various ports to the effect that no obstacles shall be placed in the way of American vessels registered in the United States and engaged in commerce between ports of Honduras and other foreign ports.

Referring to the difficulties which President Davila stated the Government was encountering in suppressing contraband trade on the north coast of Honduras, I would state that it would give this legation great pleasure to receive suggestions as to any way in which it might be of possible assistance in this regard.

I avail, etc.,

Philip Brown.
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[Inclosure 2.—Translation.]

The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs to Minister Brown.

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to acknowledge to your excellency the receipt of your courteous note, dated the 2d instant, concerning the interpretation and application of the laws of navigation enacted by the National Congress in its last session.

Informing your excellency that as soon as I have duly studied the points to which it refers, I will reply thereto,

I have the pleasure of renewing, etc.,

Jesus Bendana.