125.655/31: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Harvey)

47. Your 69, March 7, 3 p.m.8

Department yesterday gave to press for release today and so advised British Embassy, Department’s notes of August 11, November 8,9 February 28,9a also text of telegram No. 292, September 18, 7 p.m.9b substance of which according to your telegram No. 482 of October 23, 2 p.m.9c was conveyed by you to Foreign Office.

As a preface to the publication of the notes the following explanatory statement was made.

“The Department of State has taken the position that since the British Government has charged the American Consular Officers at Newcastle with improper conduct in the performance of their Consular functions, and has allowed these charges to become public, it was incumbent upon the Department to investigate carefully the charges, in order to determine whether or not the officers were guilty and, if guilty, the extent of the discipline required. With a view to reaching a conclusion, a very careful investigation of all the facts was at once undertaken, with the result that the Department reached the conclusion that the charges against the officers had not been substantiated. In these circumstances, the Department saw no alternative but frankly to advise the British Government of the result of its investigation and to express the hope that the charges could be withdrawn.

“Article 4, of the Convention of Commerce and Navigation of 1815 with Great Britain provides that, ‘in case of illegal or improper conduct towards the laws or Government of the country to which he (a Consul) is sent, such Consul may either be punished according to law, if the laws will reach the case, or be sent back, the offended Government assigning to the other the reasons for the same’.

“The position of the Department in the present case is that, in its opinion, no illegal or improper conduct towards the laws or government of Great Britain has been committed and that the only evidence of guilt which the British Government has produced in support of its charges consisted of three unsigned statements which upon examination by the Department were not regarded as at all sufficient.”

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Department also made public circular instruction No. 865 of December 30 to consular officers,10 transmitted to you in Dept. No. 786 Jan. 25,11 together with following statement:

“In the course of the negotiations in regard to the action of the British Government in revoking the recognition of the Consul and Vice Consul at Newcastle, the suggestion was made that as a means of avoiding misunderstandings in the future in respect to the aid which consular officers of the United States and Great Britain should give to the merchant marine of their respective countries the two Governments issue identic instructions to their consular officers. The British Government in its note of December 27, 1922,12 made the promulgation of identic instructions one of the conditions in the settlement of the Newcastle incident. The Department of State held that the question of identic instructions was a separate and distinct matter having no bearing on the settlement of the Newcastle incident, which settlement should be determined on the basis of truth of the charges preferred by the British Government against the two consular officers. It, therefore, declined to agree to a proposal for the issuance of identic instructions but indicated its willingness, after the Newcastle incident should have been disposed of, to discuss with Great Britain the conclusion of a consular convention defining the rights and duties of consular officers of the two countries.

“With a view to making clear the duties of consular officers of the United States in respect to American shipping, including Government owned vessels, and avoiding any occasion for misunderstanding in regard to the position of the United States with respect to the activities of consular officers in behalf of American shipping, a general instruction was issued to all American consular officers and in conformity with the frank spirit in which the discussions in regard to the Newcastle incident has been carried on with the British Government, a copy of that instruction was promptly handed to the British Embassy in Washington.”

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