The British Ambassador (Geddes) to the Secretary of State

No. 634

Sir: I have the honour to inform you on instructions from my Government that a report has been received from the Acting British High Commissioner at Cairo, with regard to the case of A. MacClennan, a British seaman, recently serving on board the United States Steamship Berwin.

It appears that MacClennan signed on at Barry Dock, South Wales, as a member of the crew of the Berwin, for a voyage to India and Egypt and back to the United Kingdom. The Berwin foundered at sea, and the crew, including MacClennan, were brought to Alexandria.

It is stated that MacClennan’s articles had, by the sinking of the ship, expired. The United States Consular authorities at Alexandria, however, took the view that MacClennan was still subject to their jurisdiction, and required him to work his passage to a port in the United States, i. e. to a port other than his port of discharge. MacClennan objected to this, and was finally sentenced by the United States Consular Court to a period of fourteen days imprisonment.

The action of the United States Consular authorities in this case raises a question of principle of some importance. The vessel in which MacClennan was serving having ceased to exist it was, in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government, improper for the United States Consul to assume jurisdiction over MacClennan, who is a British subject. This being the case the Consul had, in the opinion of His Majesty’s Government, no legal power either to require MacClennan to work his way to the United States, or to sentence him to a term of imprisonment.

I should be glad if you would be good enough to bring this case to the notice of the Department concerned, informing them of the opinion of His Majesty’s Government that the assumption by the United States Consul of jurisdiction over MacClennan was, in the circumstances, unjustifiable. I hope that the United States Government will concur in this view and that they will give instructions to prevent the recurrence of what appears to be an error on the part of the local United States Authorities.

I have [etc.]

A. C. Geddes