The British Embassy to the Department of State


senate bill s–717 to provide for the deportation of allen seamen and for other purposes

Senate Bill S 717, copy of which is attached,36 is almost identical with the bill S 3574, which was killed in the House of Representatives [Page 841] last year. This bill appears to be open to serious objection on the part of foreign nations.

In the first place, the bill provides for interference with the composition of the crews of foreign vessels while in United States ports. It is the general international understanding that when private ships of a foreign state are in port the territorial authorities should refrain from interference with the interior economy of the vessel. The composition of the crew is a matter which affects the interior economy of a vessel, and the proposed clauses, if enacted, would therefore conflict with a well-established, well-recognized and useful international practice.

Further, the bill would in effect discriminate against foreign vessels trading in American ports. It would cause great embarrassment to all ships in which Chinese labor and Lascars are employed, and in particular to British Tramp Steamers trading with American Ports in the course of their world voyages. The technical difficulties of eliminating from the crews of tramp steamers the Asiatic elements against which this bill is aimed would, in practice, probably result in the masters of such vessels being compelled to cut out American ports from their sailing schedules. In this way freight rates on American exported produce would automatically rise, prices of American grain and cotton and other produce would be increased in the countries of consumption, and British consumers of such produce would be obliged to curtail their purchases with resulting damage to themselves and their trade with the United States.

Even stronger objection may be taken to the proposed legislation on the ground that it constitutes a direct interference with trade, its effect being to dictate to other countries how they are to carry goods to and from the American market. At the same time, the proposed interference with the composition of the crews of foreign vessels and in particular the difficulty of complying with Section 6 of the Bill, which refuses clearance to vessels departing from the United States unless carrying a crew of at least the same number as on arrival, are likely to lead to much inconvenience and in many cases to long delay, involving the alteration of sailing schedules and serious loss to business. Further, the Bill would prohibit the employment of Lascars and Chinese on ships registered outside their own States, and countries such as India might well consider this as a direct and unwarrantable interference with the employment of their subjects on the high seas. Active apprehensions have in fact been caused in the Legislative Assembly in India, who have been in communication with His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain on the subject.

At the same time, protests have been received from many of the principal shipping interests in Great Britain. The opinion was expressed [Page 842] before the House Committee last year that the bill would in practice constitute a discrimination in favour of Japanese and other Asiatic vessels at the expense of the merchant marine of Great Britain and all other maritime countries, since whereas vessels of these countries would be prevented from employing Japanese and Asiatic labour, Japanese or other Asiatic merchant vessels would be free to call at United States ports with crews of their own nationality on board. In addition, as pointed out above, there would appear to be discrimination against Asiatic seamen serving in European or other vessels not of their own country.

Detailed objections to the Bill on technical grounds were laid before the House Committee on Immigration by representatives of shipping interests last year.

  1. Not printed. A memorandum of May 3, 1929, from the British Embassy (not printed), with reference to Bill S. 202 introduced Apr. 18, 1929, identical with Bill S. 717, referred to this memorandum of Jan. 4, 1928, and attached a further copy (file No. 150.071Control/20).