Learn about the beta

File No. 367.114M69/131.

The Secretary of State to the American Ambassador.

[Telegram.]

Your May 13 and May 16. The Department, after careful consideration of the facts leading up to the arrest and detention of the captain of the Texas by Ottoman authorities at Smyrna, can reach no other conclusion than that it would be disadvantageous to waive our rights under circumstances which would create an undesirable precedent.

The following points are mentioned for your information as having among others influenced the Department in arriving at its conclusion:

  • First. Vessels belonging to citizens of the United States are entitled to fly the American flag in foreign ports, and are internationally American vessels.
  • Second. A seaman of whatsoever nationality serving under the American flag owes temporary allegiance to that flag and is therefore subject to its appropriate jurisdiction.
  • Third. American vessels and consequently their crews in the waters of countries in which the United States exercises extraterritorial jurisdiction are subject to two sorts of consular jurisdiction: Firstly, that which (as to the internal government of the ship and members of its crew) would belong to the consul in any port not extraterritorial, either by virtue of the general principles of international law or by virtue of special treaty provisions; and, secondly, that which would accrue by virtue of extraterritorial rights, which the Department is strongly inclined to believe extends to jurisdiction in the case of crimes and misdemeanors committed in territorial waters by a citizen or member of the crew (other than subjects of the port country) against whatsoever parties.

Therefore, in accordance with the principles of extraterritorial jurisdiction which this Government has hitherto asserted, you are instructed, notwithstanding the probability that the Ottoman Government may decline, again to make upon the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in such manner as you deem most appropriate, a specific request for the surrender of the captain to the jurisdiction of the American Consul General at Smyrna, in addition to reserving in behalf of this Government all rights in connection with the case.

Knox.