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I have telegraphed Mr. Phelps, our Minister at London, to make earnest protest to Her Majesty's Government against such arbitrary, unlawful, unwarranted and unfriendly action on the part of the Canadian Government and its officials; and have instructed Mr. Phelps to give notice that the Government of Great Britain will be held liable for all losses and injuries to citizens of the United States and their property caused by the unauthorized and unfriendly action of the Canadian Government to which I have referred.

I have, &c.,




No. 194.-1886, May 30: Translated cipher telegram from the
Secretary of State of the United States to the United States
Minister at London.

Call attention of Lord Rosebery immediately to Bill number 136, now pending in the Parliament of Canada assuming to execute treaty of 1818, also circular 371, by Johnson, Commissioner of Customs ordering seizure of vessels for violation of treaty. Both are arbitrary and unwarranted assumptions of power, against which you are instructed earnestly to protest, and state that the United States will hold Government of Gt. Britain responsible for all losses which may be sustained by American citizens in the dispossession of their property growing out of the search, seizure, detention or sale of their vessels lawfully within territorial waters of British Nth. America.


No. 195.-1886, June 2: Letter from Mr. Phelps to the Earl of Rosebery (British Foreign Secretary).

London, 2nd June, 1886.

MY LORD, Since the conversation I had the honour to hold with your Lordship on the morning of the 29th ultimo, I have received from my Government a copy of the Report of the Consul General of the United States at Halifax, giving full details and depositions relative to the seizure of the "David J. Adams," and the correspondence between the Consul General and the Colonial authorities in reference thereto.

The Report of the Consul General, and the evidence annexed to it, appear fully to sustain the points I submitted to your Lordship in the interview above referred to, touching the seizure of this vessel by the Canadian officials.

I do not understand it to be claimed by the Canadian authorities that the vessel seized had been engaged, or was intending to engage, in fishing within any limit prohibited by the Treaty of 1818. The occupation of the vessel was exclusively deep sea fishing, a business in which it had a perfect right to be employed. The ground upon which the capture was made was that the master of the vessel had purchased of an inhabitant of Nova Scotia, near the port of Digby

in that province, a day or two before, a small quantity of bait to be used in fishing in the deep sea, outside the three-mile limit.

The question presented is whether under the terms of the Treaty, and the construction placed upon them in practice for many years by the British Government, and in view of the existing relations between the United States and Great Britain, that transaction affords a sufficient reason for making such a seizure, and for proceeding under it to the confiscation of the vessel and its contents.

I am not unaware that the Canadian authorities, conscious, apparently, that the affirmative of this proposition could not easily be maintained, deemed it advisable to supplement it with a charge against the vessel of a violation of the Canadian Customs Act of 1883, in not reporting her arrival at Digby to the Customs officer. But this charge is not the one on which the vessel was seized, or which must now be principally relied on for its condemnation, and standing alone could hardly, even if well founded, be the source of any serious controversy. It would be at most, under the circumstances, only an accidental and purely technical breach of a Custom-house Regulations, by which no harm was intended, and from which no harm came, and would, in ordinary cases, be easily condoned by an apology, and perhaps the payment of costs.

But trivial as it is, this charge does not appear to be well founded in point of fact. Digby is a small fishing settlement, and its harbour not defined. The vessel had moved about and anchored in the outer part of the harbour, having no business at or communication with Digby, and no reason for reporting to the officer of Customs.

It appears by the Report of the Consul-General to be conceded by the Customs authorities there, that fishing vessels have for forty years been accustomed to go in and out of the bay at pleasure, and have never been required to send ashore and report when they had no business with the port, and made no landing, and that no seizure had ever before been made or claimed against them for so doing.

Can it be reasonably insisted under these circumstances that by the sudden adoption, without notice, of a new rule, a vessel of a friendly nation should be seized and forfeited for doing what all similar vessels had for so long a period been allowed to do without question?

It is sufficiently evident that the claim of a violation of the Customs Act was an afterthought brought forward to give whatever added strength it might to the principal claim on which the seizure had been made.


Recurring, then, to the only real question in the case, whether the vessel is to be forfeited for purchasing bait of an inhabitant of Nova Scotia to be used in lawful fishing, it may be readily admitted that, if the language of the Treaty of 1818 is to be interpreted literally, rather than according to its spirit and plain intent, a vessel engaged in fishing would be prohibited from entering a Canadian port for any purpose whatever," except to obtain wood or water, to repair damages, or to seek shelter. Whether it would be liable to the extreme penalty of confiscation for a breach of this prohibition, in a trifling and harmless instance, might be quite another question.

Such a literal construction is best refuted by considering its preposterous consequences. If a vessel enters a port to post a letter, or

send a telegram, or buy a newspaper, to obtain a physician in case of illness, or a surgeon in case of accident, to land or bring off a passenger, or even to lend assistance to the inhabitants in fire, flood, or pestilence, it would, upon this construction, be held to violate the Treaty stipulations maintained between two enlightened, maritime, and most friendly nations, whose ports are freely open to each other in all other places and under all other circumstances. If a vessel is not engaged in fishing, she may enter all ports. But if employed in fishing not denied to be lawful, she is excluded, though on the most innocent errand. She may buy water, but not food or medicine; wood, but not coal. She may repair rigging, but not purchase a new rope, though the inhabitants are desirous to sell it. If she even entered the port (having no other business) to report herself to the Custom House, as the vessel in question is now seized for not doing, she would be equally within the interdiction of the Treaty. If it be said these are extreme instances of violation of the Treaty, not likely to be insisted on, I reply that no one of them is more extreme than the one relied upon in this case.

I am persuaded that your Lordship will, upon reflection, concur with me that an intention so narrow, and in its results so unreasonable and so unfair, is not to be attributed to the High Contracting Parties who entered into this Treaty.

It seems to me clear that the Treaty must be construed in accordance with those ordinary and well-settled rules applicable to all written instruments, which, without such salutary assistance, must constantly fail of their purpose. By these rules the letter often gives way to the intent, or, rather, is only used to ascertain the intent. The whole document will be taken together, and will be considered in connection with the attendant circumstances, the situation of the parties, and the object in view. And thus the literal meaning of an isolated clause is often shown not to be the meaning really understood or intended.

Upon these principles of construction, the meaning of the clause in question does not seem doubtful. It is a Treaty of friendship, and not of hostility. Its object was to define and protect the relative rights of the people of the two countries in these fisheries, not to establish a system of non-intercourse, or the means of mutual and unnecessary annoyance. It should be judged in view of the general rules of international comity, and of maritime intercourse and usage, and its restrictions considered in the light of the purposes they were designed to serve.

Thus regarded, it appears to me clear that the words, “for no other purpose whatever." as employed in the Treaty, mean no other purposes inconsistent with the provisions of the Treaty, or prejudicial to the interests of the provinces or their inhabitants, and were not intended to prevent the entry of American fishing vessels into Canadian ports for innocent and mutually beneficial purposes, or unnecessarily to restrict the free and friendly intercourse customary between all civilized maritime nations, and especially between the Unitd States and Great Britain. Such, I cannot but believe, is the construction that would be placed upon this Treaty by an enlightened Court of Justice.

But even were it conceded that if the Treaty was a private contract instead of an international one, a Court, in dealing with an

action upon it, might find itself hampered by the letter from giving effect to the intent, that would not be decisive of the present case.

The interpretation of Treaties between nations in their intercourse with each other proceeds upon broader and higher considerations. The question is not what is the technical effect of the words, but what is the construction most consonant to the dignity, the just interests, and the friendly relations of the sovereign Powers. I submit to your Lordship that a construction so harsh, so unfriendly, so unnecessary, and so irritating as that set up by the Canadian authorities is not such as Her Majesty's Government has been accustomed either to accord or to submit to. It would find no precedent in the history of British diplomacy, and no provocation in any action or assertion of the Government of the United States.

These views derive great if not conclusive force from the action of the British Parliament on the subject, adopted very soon after the Treaty of 1818 took effect, and continued without change to the present time. An Act of Parliament (59 Geo. III, cap. 38) was passed on the 14th June, 1819, to provide for carrying into effect the provisions of the Treaty. After reciting the terms of the Treaty, it enacts (in substance) that it shall be lawful for His Majesty, by Orders in Council, to make such regulations and to give such direc tions, orders, and instructions to the Governor of Newfoundland, or to any officer or officers in that station, or to any other persons, shall or may be from time to time deemed proper and necessary for the carrying into effect the purposes of said convention with relation to the taking, drying, and curing of fish by inhabitants of the United States of America, in common with British subjects, within the limits set forth in the aforesaid Convention."


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It further enacts that any foreign vessel engaged in fishing or preparing to fish within three marine miles of the coast (not authorized to do so by Treaty) shall be seized or forfeited upon prosecution in the proper Court.

It further provides as follows:

That it shall and may be lawful for any fisherman of the said United States to enter into any such bays or harbours of His Britannic Majesty's dominions in America as are last mentioned, for the purpose of shelter and repairing damages therein, and of purchasing wood and of obtaining water, and for no other purpose whatever; subject, nevertheless, to such restrictions as may be necessary to prevent such fishermen of the said United States from taking, drying, or curing fish in the said bays or harbours, or in any other manner whatever abusing the said privileges by the said Treaty and this Act reserved to them, and as shall for that purpose be imposed by any Order or Orders to be from time to time made by His Majesty in Council under the authority of this Act; and by any regulations which shall be issued by the Governor, or person exercising the office of Governor, in any such parts of His Majesty's dominions in America, under or in pursuance of any such Order in Council as aforesaid.


It further enacts as follows:—

That if any person or persons, upon requisition made by the Governor of Newfoundland, or the person exercising the office of Governor, or by any Governor or person exercising the office of Governor in any other parts of His Majesty's dominions in America, as aforesaid, or by any officer or officers acting under such Governor or person exercising the office of Governor, in the execution of any orders or instructions from His Majesty in Council, shall refuse to depart from such bays or harbours; or if any person or persons shall refuse or neglect to conform to any regulations or directions which shall be made or given for the execution of any of the purposes of this Act; every such person so refusing, or otherwise offending against this Act shall forfeit the sum of £200, to be recovered, &c.

It will be perceived from these extracts, and still more clearly from a perusal of the entire Act, that while reciting the language of the Treaty in respect to the purposes for which American "shermen may enter British ports, it provides no forfeiture or penalty for any such entry, unless accompanied either (1) by fishing, or preparing to fish, within the prohibited limits; or (2) by the infringement of restrictions that may be imposed by Orders in Council to prevent such fishing, or the drying or curing of fish, or the abuse of privileges reserved by the Treaty; or (3) by a refusal to depart from the bays or harbours upon proper requisition.

It thus plainly appears that it was not the intention of Parliament, nor its understanding of the Treaty, that any other entry by an American fishing vessel into a British port should be regarded as an infraction of its provisions, or as affording the basis of proceedings against it.

No other Act of Parliament for the carrying out of this Treaty has ever been passed. It is unnecessary to point out that it is not in the power of the Canadian Parliament to enlarge or alter the provisions of the Act of the Imperial Parliament, or to give to the Treaty either a construction or a legal effect not warranted by that Act.

But until the effort which I am informed is now in progress in the Canadian Parliament for the passage of a new Act on this subject, introduced since the seizures under consideration, I do not understand that any Statute has ever been enacted in that Parliament which attempts to give any different construction or effect to the Treaty from that given by the Act of 59 George III.

The only Provincial Statutes which, in the proceedings against the "David J. Adams," that vessel has thus far been charged with infringing are the Colonial Acts of 1868, 1870, and 1883. It is therefore fair to presume that there are no other Colonial Acts applicable to the case, and I know of none.

The Act of 1868, among other provisions not material to this discussion, provides for a forfeiture of foreign vessels "found fishing, or preparing to fish, or to have been fishing in British waters within three marine miles of the coast; " and also provides a penalty of $400 against a master of a foreign vessel within the harbour who shall fail to answer questions put in an examination by the authorities. No. other Act is, by this Statute, declared to be illegal, and no other penalty or forfeiture is provided for.

The very extraordinary provisions in this Statute for facilitating forfeitures, and embarrassing defence against or appeal from them, not material to the present case, would, on a proper occasion, deserve very serious attention.

The Act of 1870 is an amendment of the Act just referred to, and adds nothing to it affecting the present case.

The Act of 1883 has no application to the case, except upon the point of the omission of the vessel to report to the Customs Officer, already considered.

It results, therefore, that, at the time of the seizure of the "David J. Adams" and other vessels, there was no Act whatever, either of the British or Colonial Parliaments which made the purchase of bait by those vessels illegal or provided for any forfeiture, penalty, or proceedings against them for such transaction. And even if such purchase could be regarded as a violation of that clause of the Treaty

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