811.114 Fisher Lassie/25

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

No. 168

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the Department’s instruction No. 1010 of November 27, 1931, File No. 811.114 Fisher Lassie/9, and to transmit herewith a copy of the Embassy’s informal communication of December 11 to the Foreign Office and a copy of the reply of June 18, with enclosures, which has just been received.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
Ray Atherton

Counselor of Embassy
[Page 49]
[Enclosure 1]

The First Secretary of the American Embassy (Thaw) to Mr. R. G. Howe of the Treaty Department, British Foreign Office

My Dear Howe: May I have recourse to your assistance in the following matter?

It appears from instructions which the Embassy has just received from the Department of State that under date of October 10 last the American Consul at Nassau, Bahamas, was directed to try to obtain from the appropriate authorities there certified copies of the entrance and clearance papers of certain vessels suspected of being engaged in the smuggling of liquor into the United States, as well as information regarding the cargo carried, names of shippers and names of masters, during the period from January 1, 1930, to date. This information was requested on behalf of the Bureau of Prohibition for use in connection with proceedings which are contemplated against the vessels.

The Consul replied to the Department that he had been informed by the Acting Colonial Secretary of the Bahamas that the furnishing of such information was forbidden under instructions from the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Specifically the Consul was informed by the Acting Colonial Secretary that “… this Government is required to supply you with information in general terms only respecting vessels clearing from ports of this Colony with substantial cargoes of liquor destined for ports outside the Colony on or adjacent to the East Coast of America between Panama and the St. Lawrence.” The Acting Colonial Secretary referred to certain correspondence from his office on September 18, 1925, and January 28, 1926, and went on to say that there had hitherto been no departure from the existing rule excepting where further information had been required for adjudication on seizure of vessels by United States Authorities and that having regard to the fact that the present practice is the outcome of negotiation between the Government of the United States of America and Great Britain his Government would not take upon itself to alter the rule.

The Department of State now points out to the Embassy that the Acting Colonial Secretary at Nassau bases his refusal apparently on instructions received prior to the agreement reached at the conference held in London in July, 1926, between representatives of Great Britain and the United States, as the result of which certain methods of cooperation were formulated, and that Section 4 of this agreement entitled “Prosecutions” provides that proceedings shall be [Page 50] instituted for infringement of British or United States law, the last sentence reading, “In this connection, an attempt should at once be made to secure, if possible, the necessary evidence to enable proceedings to be instituted in the case of vessels known to be engaged in the traffic.”

I should be greatly obliged if you can let me know whether the understanding of the Acting Colonial Secretary at Nassau is correct.

Sincerely yours,

Benjamin Thaw, Jr.
[Enclosure 2]

The Head of the American Department, British Foreign Office (Craigie), to the First Secretary of the American Embassy (Thaw)

No. A 3274/130/45

My Dear Thaw: I am very sorry that we have been so long in giving you a considered reply to your letter of 11th December to Howe enquiring whether the action taken by the Acting Colonial Secretary at Nassau in the circumstances described in your letter was, in our opinion, correct. As you will no doubt have realized, we had to refer this matter to the Bahamas Government, a procedure which was bound to take time. I hope however that you will agree that the present letter, which is based on a very full report received from the Governor, clears up this question satisfactorily.

In the first place I enclose full copies of letters from the United States Consul to the Acting Colonial Secretary and the latter’s reply,49 parts of which you quoted in your letter under reference. From the United States Consul’s letter you will see that, while he asks for extensive information about twenty one vessels over a period of ten months, he does not suggest that this information was wanted in connexion with proceedings which were contemplated against the vessels. Moreover, you will see that amongst the particulars with which the United States Consul asked to be supplied were details regarding the cargoes carried and the names of shippers. While in the light of the 1926 Agreement, the authorities of His Majesty’s Government would of course arrange for the production of such records or certified copies thereof as might be considered necessary for the purpose of instituting criminal proceedings, it was explained to the United States authorities at the Conference in 1926 and has been brought to their notice on several occasions since that the British authorities would not be prepared to give the United States authorities copies of papers which show the names of individual consignors [Page 51] or consignees or gave detailed particulars of individual consignments. As a case in point I enclose a copy of a letter of the 27th November, 192950 from Mr. Bertenshaw of the Customs Office to the United States Consul General in London about certain shipments of liquor to St. Pierre and Montreal. Moreover, our reluctance to supply particulars of individual consignments was responsible, as you will no doubt recollect, for the arrangement about “interesting cargoes”,51 and from the Acting Colonial Secretary’s reply you will observe that if any of the vessels about which particulars were requested had cleared foreign with cargoes of liquor from one of the ports of Nassau, the usual information regarding the date of clearing of vessels carrying “interesting cargoes” would have already been supplied to the United States Consulate. Although we agree that the reference in the Acting Colonial Secretary’s letter to instructions issued prior to the 1926 Agreement was misleading, it would nevertheless appear that he was substantially correct in the line which he took. If finally the United States Consul had returned to the charge as he was practically invited to do in the last paragraph of the Acting Colonial Secretary’s letter with an explanation that the information was for the purpose of instituting criminal proceedings, the Bahamas Government would of course have co-operated with a view to affording the United States authorities all relevant evidence that could properly be supplied.

The Governor of the Bahamas adds that he has taken an opportunity of having a friendly conversation with the United States Consul, during which the question of co-operation between the Bahamas Government and the United States Consulate in regard to the liquor traffic was frankly discussed. The Governor then explained to the United States Consul the reasons, as set forth above, which had prompted the Acting Colonial Secretary’s letter, and at the same time assured him that the Bahamas Government was anxious fully to live up to the spirit of the 1926 report. In so doing he also expressed the wish that on any future occasion the United States Consul should come to see him personally and informally in the first instance if he had any reason to believe that he was not being supplied [Page 52] with information he was entitled to receive. We understand, therefore, that this matter is now satisfactorily settled.

Yours ever,

R. L. Craigie
  1. Ante, pp. 47 and 48.
  2. Not printed.
  3. The “interesting cargoes” arrangement, effected through an exchange of notes between the United States and Great Britain and put into effect on June 6, 1930, was intended as an aid in detecting shipments of liquor destined for smuggling into the United States. By the terms of the arrangement the British Collector of Customs at Leith, Scotland, was to inform the American Consulate at Edinburgh of the departure of vessels with cargoes of not less than 500 gallons or cases. This information, strictly confidential in nature, was to consist of the name of the vessel, its destination and date of clearance, and the disclosure that it carried an “interesting cargo.”