File No. 763.72111R24/3

Mr. William Bayard Hale to the Counselor for the Department of State

Dear Mr. Counselor: Section 5282 of the Revised Statutes of the United States reads as follows:

Every person who, within the territory or jurisdiction of the United States, enlists or enters himself or hires or retains another person to enlist or enter himself or to go beyond the limits or jurisdiction of the United States with intent to be enlisted or entered in the service of any foreign prince, state, colony, district or people, as a soldier or as a marine or seaman, on board of any vessel of war, letter of marque or privateer, shall be deemed guilty of high misdemeanor and shall be fined not more than $1,000 and imprisoned not more than three years.

The intention of this statute seems to be clear. There is no qualification in it to the effect that it applies only to citizens of the United States: “Every person” who enlists or enters himself or who retains another person to enlist or to enter himself or to go out of the United States with the intent to be enlisted or entered in foreign service is guilty.

There is at the present time being conducted in the United States a campaign for the enlistment of recruits for the British Army. The mails are being used for the transmission of circulars and letters to this end, and advertisements are being inserted in newspapers, some of which in turn go through the mails.

I have in hand an advertisement which I cut from the Minneapolis Journal of January 14, which reads: “British subjects wishing to enlist for active service overseas can obtain full information by writing recruiting officer, Fort Francis, Ontario.”

I enclose herewith a clipping from the New York Times of March 5 to which I should like to call your careful attention.1 The military secretary of the Governor General of Canada writes to B. W. King of this city asking his aid in the enlistment of aviators for the British Army, promising a bounty of $250 for each enlistment and liberal pay. The Governor General’s secretary asks Mr. King to advertise his offer in the United States. Mr. King has followed instructions and has printed the advertisement. It is true that the [Page 760] invitation to enlist is verbally given to British subjects, but it can hardly be supposed that the nationality of a recruit would be inquired into, nor is his nationality a matter of which the statute takes cognizance. It forbids enlisting or the retaining of another person to enlist.

I need not call the attention of your Department to the fact that through its past history the Government of the United States has shown itself extremely sensitive over the efforts of foreign powers to enlist recruits in our territory. The activity of the French Minister in 1793 in this respect led to strained relations between this country and the French Republic. Similar activities on the part of the British Minister at Washington, Mr. Crampton, resulted in his being handed his passports by President Pierce. I call your attention to the opinion of Attorney General Cushing, uttered in 1885 [1855]:

The undertaking of a belligerent to enlist troops of land or sea in a neutral state without the previous consent of the latter is a hostile attack on its national sovereignty.

If agents of the British Government, being instructed to enlist military recruits, succeed in evading the municipal law and so escape punishment as malefactors, such successful evasion serves to increase the intensity of the international wrong done the United States.

Mr. Jefferson, when Secretary of State, declared that:

The right of raising troops being one of the rights of sovereignty and consequently appertaining exclusively to the nation itself, no foreign power or person can levy men within its territory without its consent, and he who does may be rightfully and severely punished.

It seems to me, as a citizen of the United States deeply solicitous for the preservation of our neutrality amid the grave events that are being enacted around us, that the activities of British recruiting officers in this country ought to be stopped, and that the Federal Government has abundant authority and ability to put a stop to them.

I am [etc.]

William Bayard Hale
  1. Not printed.