The Chargé in Norway (Bevan) to the Secretary of State

No. 92

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith for the Department’s information copies of an exchange of correspondence1 between the Legation, the Norwegian Foreign Office, and the American Consulate at Stavanger, in regard to a Norwegian court decree ordering the American Consul at Stavanger to withhold the delivery of a passport and other papers belonging to an American citizen by the name of I. S. Rasmussen, pending the settlement of a case concerning an alleged debt.

I called on the Secretary-General of the Foreign Office2 in regard to the matter and he advised me off hand that he thought the action of the Consul in refusing to recognize the jurisdiction of the court in the case was proper, but requested a little time to study the case.

At my suggestion he agreed to speak to the judge at Stavanger on the telephone and request him to withdraw the court order addressed to the Consulate, and ask as a courtesy, that Mr. Rasmussen’s passport be retained until the case was settled. The judge, however, refused to withdraw the order.

Mr. Esmarch thereupon wrote me an informal note (see enclosure No. 3 with translation), asking me to request the Consul to respect the court order as an act of courtesy, and not bring to an issue the point of international law involved therein. During the interim, the case was settled through Mr. Rasmussen’s payment of the debt. The court then cancelled the order sent to the Consulate.

I wrote informally to Mr. Esmarch (see enclosure No. 4) requesting his opinion as to whether the Consul at Stavanger had properly interpreted Article XIII of the Treaty of 1827.3 In reply he stated (see [Page 889] enclosure No. 5) that the point at issue is whether the inviolability of a document could be considered to exclude the competence of the courts from issuing an order to the Consulate calling for the non-delivery of the document.

I would be obliged for the Department’s opinion in the premises, as it is probable that similar cases of this kind will arise in the future.

Respectfully yours,

Thomas H. Bevan
  1. Not printed.
  2. August Esmarch.
  3. Commercial treaty with Sweden and Norway, signed at Stockholm, July 4, 1827, Miller, Treaties, vol. 3, p. 283.