The Under Secretary of State (Olds) to the British Ambassador (Howard)
My Dear Mr. Ambassador: I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your note of November 3, 1927, together with its enclosure, with respect to the difficulty experienced by the “Firpark” in New Orleans, in which you ask whether on a further review of the situation the United States would be prepared to express their willingness to permit His Majesty’s consuls in the United States, when necessity arises, to summon a Naval Court in accordance with the relevant provisions of the British Merchant Shipping Acts and to recognize and give effect to the findings of such a Court.
The Congress of the United States, by the Act of March 4, 1915, commonly known as the Seaman’s Act,61 requested and directed the President to abrogate all treaties or parts thereof insofar as they provide for the arrest and imprisonment of officers and seamen deserting or charged with desertion from merchant vessels of the United States in foreign countries and for the arrest and imprisonment of officers and seamen deserting or charged with desertion from foreign merchant vessels in the United States and for the cooperation, aid and protection of competent legal authorities in effecting such arrest or imprisonment. Pursuant to this Act notice of abrogation of the treaty between Great Britain and the United States concluded June 3, 1892,62 providing for the recovery of deserters from merchant vessels was sent to your Government, the abrogation to be effective July 1, 1916.63 A copy of the pertinent sections of the Act is enclosed for your information.64 You will note that Section 17 specifically repeals Section 5280 of the Revised Statutes of the United States providing for the restoration by authorities of the United States of deserting seamen on the application of a consul or vice consul of any foreign government having a treaty with the United States stipulating for such action. It also repeals that part of Section 4081 of the Revised Statutes of the United States relied upon by the United States District [Page 990]Attorney in New Orleans in expressing the views referred to on page one of your memorandum. There appears to be no other provision of law authorizing the authorities of the United States to give assistance in such matters.
In these circumstances you will readily appreciate that a decision by a Naval Court convoked in the United States by a British consul pursuant to the British Merchant Shipping Acts could not be accorded recognition or support by the authorities of the United States.
I am [etc.]