File No. 24203.

Ambassador Bryce to the Secretary of State.

No. 54.]

Sir: His Majesty’s Government are anxious to obtain information regarding the examination of witnesses under oath by consular officers in the United States. It is the practice of the English courts to issue from time to time commissions by which the person or persons named in the writ of commission are empowered to examine witnesses on oath, affirmation, or otherwise, in order to obtain evidence abroad for the purposes of civil proceedings pending before the courts of this country.

On some occasions British consular officers are intrusted with this duty if they are personally willing to undertake it. They are not, however, under any obligations to do so, nor does it form any part of their official consular attributes. Furthermore, all such evidence is tendered voluntarily and witnesses can not be compelled to give it should they be unwilling to do so.

His Majesty’s Government presume there can at least be no objection to this practice in cases in which the persons whose testimony is required are British subjects, but they nevertheless wish to obtain an official pronouncement on the subject.

I have accordingly the honor to request that you will be so good as to furnish me, ii possible, with replies to the following specific questions:

Is there any objection to evidence being taken in this manner from United States citizens if they are willing to give it?
The same question as to subjects or citizens of other States when within the limits of the United States.
The same question as to British subjects similarly placed.

Thanking you in anticipation, I have, etc.,

James Bryce.