Learn about the beta

File No. 367.114M69/162.

The American Ambassador to the Secretary of State.

No. 252.]

Sir: In further reference to my telegram of July 16th, and my despatch No. 247 of the 18th instant, regarding the reply of the Sublime Porte to our various notes concerning our claim of jurisdiction over the captain of the steamship Texas, I have the honor to transmit herewith copy of the note I sent to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the 27th instant.

The recent change of Cabinet has necessitated my elaborating again the subject in this note addressed to the new Minister for Foreign Affairs.

I have [etc.]

W. W. Rockhill.
[Page 1329]
[Inclosure.]

The American Ambassador to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the note of the 15th instant which his excellency Assim Bey, then Minister for Foreign Affairs, had the kindness to send me in reply to several communications from this Embassy concerning the case of Spiro Macris, captain of the steamship Texas, at the time of her sinking in April last, and in which his excellency expressed his regrets for the sinking of this ship.

As stated in its memorandum of May 11,1 in order to arrive at an intelligent conclusion as to the facts of the case, this Embassy had requested to be furnished with a chart showing the location of the wreck and other data, and that the local authorities should not proceed further in the matter before all the facts of the case were fully known. By its note verbale No. 91 of the 8th of June2 which referred to the question of jurisdiction, this Embassy had the honor to state that as the Texas was an American vessel, the property of an American corporation and flying the American flag, and as her captain was held for a crime alleged to have been committed by him while aboard that American vessel, and in his capacity as master of the same, he was subject to the same jurisdiction as would be an American citizen serving in like capacity. The Embassy therefore specifically requested the surrender of the said captain to the custody of “the American Consul General at Smyrna, to be tried by the American Consular Court for such charges as might be properly brought against, him on account of any act committed by him while performing his duties as master of the said American vessel.

By its note verbale No. 103 of the 27th of June,3 the Embassy found itself obliged to enter a protest against the authorities at Smyrna, who had seen fit to remove the said captain (a man who had not been tried by any court whatsoever, competent or incompetent) from the hospital prison and to throw him into the common prison of convicted criminals. By the note No. Ill of the 10th instant,4 I had the honor to inform his excellency the Minister for Foreign Affairs, that notwithstanding the request contained in the above-mentioned communications, all of which had remained unanswered, the trial of Spiro Macris had commenced in the Ottoman criminal court at Smyrna, and therefore, reserving all rights, I entered a formal protest against the attempt on the part of the Ottoman authorities to try the said captain, pending the determination of the question raised in the above-mentioned communications.

A careful perusal of the above-mentioned communications will clearly show that this Embassy had expressed no opinion as to the culpability or non-culpability of the said Spiro Macris. The Embassy had requested:

1.
To be furnished with a chart, and that the local authorities should not be allowed to proceed with the case before all the facts of the case were fully known.
2.
Whereas the said captain is, for the reasons fully explained, subject to the same jurisdiction as would be an American citizen serving in like capacity, that he be surrendered to the custody of the American Consul General at Smyrna to be tried by the Consular Court.
3.
The Embassy had found itself obliged to enter a formal protest against the unwarranted action of the local authorities, who had taken the liberty to throw the said captain into the common prison of convicted criminals even, before the question of jurisdiction had been fully discussed between the Imperial Ministry and this Embassy.

In the Imperial Ministry’s note of the 15th instant,5 I notice that notwithstanding its importance the third point is entirely ignored. Part of the first is incidentally mentioned, and the second is not directly and fully answered. I may be allowed to state that the note seems to seek to carry the discussion on another ground. There seems to be an effort to prove that the Ottoman authorities [Page 1330]at Smyrna acted quite properly, while the captain of the Texas, like other captains of the American Archipelago Steamship Company (not the Hadji Daoud Company), an habitual violator of port orders, brought about through his own fault the sinking of the Texas. I beg, however, to state that that is not the point under discussion. Supposing that the captain of the Texas was at fault, supposing that the sinking of the vessel with all the loss of life and of property which it entailed was solely due to the captain, supposing that there was criminal negligence on his part and a very just ground for a prosecution, the question at issue is: Who has jurisdiction to try the captain of the American vessel? This Embassy replies it is the American Court at Smyrna which has jurisdiction, because the Texas was an American vessel, the property of an American corporation and flying the American flag, because the captain of the vessel is held for a crime alleged to have been committed by him while aboard this American vessel and in his capacity as master of the same, he is consequently subject to the same jurisdiction as would be an American citizen serving in like capacity. The Sublime Porte, however, without giving a direct answer to the argument put forward by the Embassy, states that the captain, who is a Hellenic subject, was arrested outside of his vessel, and that lie is prosecuted for having caused damage to Ottoman interests.

I am therefore obliged to take note that the Imperial Ministry has not fully replied to the important points contained in the several communications from this Embassy, to again ask that orders be given to the local authorities to proceed no further in the matter before all the facts of the case are fully known and the points of jurisdiction fully discussed. Otherwise I shall be obliged to maintain my protest against any attempt on the part of the local authorities to try the captain of an American vessel for charges of acts alleged to have been committed by him while performing his duties as master of the said American vessel, and I hereby have the honor to renew the reservations as to all rights in the premises.

I avail [etc.],

W. W. Rockhill.
  1. Inclosure 3 with his despatch 234 of June 28.
  2. Inclosure 1 with said despatch.
  3. Inclosure 2 with said despatch.
  4. Inclosure 3 with his despatch 243 of July 12.
  5. Inclosure with his despatch 247 of July 18.