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them substantially in the form which I am now willing to sign. I have not deemed it necessary to write the whole treaty, as suggested, as much of it is formal and well understood. I am pressed for time, and my penmanship is not fit for such a document.
I address you this note not so much for your own consideration as to enable you to express distinctly and clearly to your colleagues of the Danish Government my own views of the present attitude of the negotiation. The little time now left to conclude the business, as well as entire candor on my own part, now seem to require this of me. You and I have heretofore substantially agreed upon the stipulations to be inserted in the treaty, and in coming to that agreement I have conceded all that I can concede under my instructions, and I have frankly stated to you my fear that I had even strained them a little.
Now it is proposed to insert several new and extremely important provisions, never before discussed, which might easily become of very grave import-provisions unusual in such a treaty-provisions which my own judgment can not approve, which are directly contrary to my instructions, and which would most assuredly prevent the ratification of the treaty if the President would even consent to submit it. Entertaining this opinion, it would be little short of bad faith in me if I did not at once enable you to advise your colleagues that any further discussion of them would only consume valuable time and lead to no good result.
Recent dispatches and other information received by me indicato quite clearly that, however willing, and even anxious, Mr. Seward and myself might be to conclude this negotiation, the difficulties that may arise after the convention is signed will now be more serious in the United States than in Denmark. Though not directed or authorized to read any particular dispatch to any member of the Danish Government, I will not deemn it improper for me to communicate the substance of my information to you and Count Frijs whenever you wish it. In this attitude of the affair every week's delay and every additional condition will only accumulate embarrassments at Washington, and I would not feel that I had discharged my whole duty without expressing this opinion with entire distinctness.
In regard to the proposition to introduce the words "civil persons” (personnes civiles) into the treaty, as I observed to you last night, it could only be held by the Government and courts of the Unitd States to mean corporations, sole or aggregate, and by the manner of its proposed introduction could be claimed to embrace their corporate rights, powers, and franchises as well as property and effects. These might prove incompatible with the sovereign control of the United States, or at least with the policy of their commercial and fiscal regulations, and of course the Government will not agree to have a variety of commercial, fiscal, and police regulations. The provision is sufficiently
broad by stipulating for the protection of private property and private rights. This covers all real and vested interests. Any franchises enjoyed by civil persons will, no doubt, be continued, in so far as they are consistent with the policy, the laws, and the sovereignty of the United States. But they can not be expected to make an indefinite contract without knowing what it embraces. Whatever privileges have been granted by Denmark, either to Danes or to foreigners, were granted of her grace, and were granted in relation to Danish ter ritory and to Danish populations. They were accepted, and have since been enjoyed, subject to the supreme and well-understood right of Denmark to cede the sovereignty, and such cession is neither a disappointment to thein nor bad faith in Denmark. She can not possibly be held to have limited her right of absolute cession. You observe I refer to powers and franchises which could be held to affect the occupation and use of any part of the islands and contiguous waters, and the enjoyment of any peculiar rights of trade, fishing, manufacturing, banking, use of harbors, etc. All property is distinctly protected, and it will make no difference to whom it belongs, whether to a natural or to a legal person.
I readily concede that Denmark 'shall retain the personal debts that she holds against individuals, and may withdraw any public moneys in the colonial treasury, Denmark at the same time stipulating to liquidate the Government paper currency heretofore put in circulation and any outstanding obligations connected with the measure of emancipation. But any stipulation, as proposed, that Denmark reserves an indefinite "debt" due by the colonial treasury is inadmissible. It is not a debt in any proper sense of the term. It is in substance only an item or an evidence of the cost of former administration in the islands, over receipts. And even if it were a debt properly so-called, you will not fail to see the difficulty of making any stipulation about it. The moment the cession is completed there is as to Denmark no colonial treasury; there is no one there to treat with, and no property or population that can be taxed by Denmark for the payment of the debt, so that if the provision meant anything it would be practically an assumption of the debt by the United States. Being reduced to that shape, it hardly needs to be said that the United States could not be expected to assume such a liability.
Finally, as to the proposition that “the United States shall succeed to all the rights and obligations resulting from conventions concluded with foreign powers, and from contracts regularly made by the royal administration for objects of public interest, specially concerning the said islands,” there are several insuperable objections.
First. Very much the same course of reasoning applies to this that does to the preservation and continuation of corporate powers and franchises.
Second. The Government of the United States may be entirely ignorant of what these conventions and contracts are, and would not, therefore, enter into an indefinite agreement that might be developed into very inconvenient and unmanageable proportions.
Third. The Government may know just what these stipulations are, and for that reason may be unwilling to take the islands with them, and has, therefore, shaped my instructions and the project of treaty so as to exclude them.
Lastly. Upon this point, the United States will care but little for any rights except that of sovereignty and dominion over the islands, and if they desired to succeed to these rights they could not do so without the consent of the other contracting parties. I speak of all contracts and conventions for anything less than the title or sovereignty over the islands—such contracts and conventions were made by the other parties to them, with Demark, and with no reference to the United States; they selected the party they would contract with, or confer the right upon, and it is incompetent for Denmark and the United States to agree that the United States shall succeed to these rights without the express consent of the other parties. I refer to executing rights and contracts from which future benefit or advantage might arise. Any right or advantage enjoyed by Denmark by reason of executed contract, and which affects the title or condition of the islands, passes with the cession, without being specified.
You will excuse the great length at which I have expressed these views. I might have simply indicated what course I felt bound to pursue, but I have preferred to give my reasons in detail and without any reservations, in the hope that your esteemed colleagues will see the justice of the views I have expressed, and admit both the necessity and the propriety of leaving all new and difficult questions out of this negotiation. Very truly, yours,
GEORGE H. YEAMAN. His Excellency Major-General RAASLOFF,
Minister of War, Copenhagen.
Mr. F. W. Seward to Mr. Yeaman.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, October 19, 1867. SIR: Your dispatches, Nos. 104 and 106, have been received. The suggestion contained in the accompaniment to the latter will be complied with when the Department shall have been definitely informed upon the subject to which it relates. I am, sir, your obedient servant,
F. W. SEWARD, Acting Secretary. GEORGE H, YEAMAN, Esq.
Mr. Yeaman to Mr. Seward.
(Extract.) No. 111.)
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,
Copenhagen, October 22, 1867. SIR:
Our negotiation seems to be progressing slowly. Certainly there are enough of labor and time devoted on both sides to accomplish such a transaction. As I am constantly promised a conclusion soon, I will defer for a while a full account of other very interesting questions which the Danish negotiators have offered for consideration since my letter to General Raasloff of the 14th, a copy of
S. Doc. 231, pt 8-13
which was inclosed in my dispatch of the 15th. They appear to me to be really desirous of concluding, but to be timid and overnice, and undaly cantious about third powers and certain interests that might be affected by the cession. They have committed the fault of authorizing me to telegraph you that this Govern. ment was quite ready to conclude, if we would agree to mention the vote in the treaty, and afterwards discovering they had to perform several laborious researches and discussions. That is an attitude of the affair for which I am in no way responsible, and I am well satisfied that if the negotiation had been left to General Raasloff and myself, the treaty would have been in Washington before now.
GEORGE H. YEAMAN. Hon. WILLIAM H. SEWARD,
Secretary of State, Washington,
Mr. Seward to Mr. Yeaman, No. 66.]
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, October 24, 1867. Sir: I recur to your dispatch No. 106, and to your two letters of the 3d and 4th instant, which have also been received.
Each of the letters is accompanied by a private and sealed communication, addressed by General Raasloff to myself. The burden of the several papers thus received is that my early instructions declining a stipulation to subinit to the people of the two islands the question whether they shall be transferred to the United States constitutes a serious and insurmountable barrier to the negotiation on the part of Denmark.
On the 5th of October, one day after the latest date in these communications from Copenhagen, I instructed you by telegraph to waive the objection referred to and consent that a popular vote be taken in the islands at the instance of Denmark.
I have this day reiterated that instruction by telegraph, and have asked you to report progress. It is very desirable that the treaty, if one is concluded, should be submitted to the Senate as early as possible, to the end that if it be ratified, as I trust it will be, Congress may in that case be immediately invited to pass the laws which the transfer of the islands by treaty will have rendered not only necessary but urgent. I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD, GEORGE H. YEAMAN, Esq., etc.,
Mr. Scward to Mr. Yeaman.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, October 25, 1867. Sir: Your dispatch of the 3d instant, No. 107, has been received. In my No. 66 I have reiterated the instruction to yield the question of a popular vote in the two islands. In previous dispatches, which doubtless have reached you before this time, I have explained our position in regard to Santa Cruz. I restate it now: If Denmark desires to negotiate for the sale of Santa Cruz, let her make a distinct and separate offer by formal dispatch. I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD. GEORGE H. YEAMAN, Esq., etc.,
Mr. Yeaman to Mr. Seward.
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,
Copenhagen, October 25, 1867. SIR: I have now the pleasure of inclosing the treaty, which has just been signed by Count Frijs and myself, for the cession to the United States of the Danish islands St. Thomas and St. John. Hoping it will prove entirely acceptable and satisfactory, I have only to suggest that it must be considered in the light of the fact that it is the best that could be obtained.
Though the treaty will speak for itself, it is proper now to give a résumé of the very constant and active negotiations that have been in progress daily and almost hourly since my dispatch of the 15th. It seems that the difficulties to be overcome have been greater than I ever knew until lately, and greater even than Count Frijs and General Raasloff anticipated, when I was authorized to send my first telegram, and that in truth, instead of being then “quite ready to conclude" if we would put the vote in the treaty, they had only cominenced active and earnest work in the negotiation.
There are some reasons for this for which the two principal negotiators on the Danish side can hardly be held responsible. Their colleague, the minister of marine, has proved so violently opposed to it that he goes out of the cabinet in consequence of the treaty. The ministers of finance and of the interior, though willing to accomplish the cession, have been not only cautious but exacting and timid in regard to the duties and the attitude of their own departments of the Government in the affair. Then the director general of the department of foreign affairs (the under or assistant secretary of state), who is a permanent officer, familiar with the records. shrewd and intelligent, is properly much consulted about all important transactions. Though having no vote, he has been entirely opposed to this cession, and I am now well satisfied has sought to discover and even to magnify obstacles. I became so used to the different sorts of propositions that I could tell where each one came from as soon as it was mentioned.
Among the matters offered for consideration during the last days of the negotiation was the fact that France, Spain, Brazil, and the “ Empire” of Mexico had executed a joint convention conferring upon a citizen of France, whose name I forgot, but who is said to be a great favorite with the Emperor, certain valuable and exclusive privileges in regard to laying and connecting submarine telegraph cables; that the King of Denmark had been invited to join in the convention by embracing the Danish West Indies in its operation, and had promised to do so, but had not yet signed it; that the Government felt under some obligations in regard to it, and anticipated complaints on the subject, and that the cabinet would like to preserve the best relations with France. I replied that I could not possibly make it the subject of treaty stipulations, and as it seemed to have been in some degree at least connected with the scheme for extending the dominion of the * Latin races” in the Western Hemisphere, it had better be allowed, so far as this matter is concerned, to share the fate of the main enterprise. The matter was zealously pressed by the under secretary, but I gave no encouragement for its discussion by the negotiators.
Another matter which seemed to have more equity was that there had been a “concession” heretofore to a Danish citizen of the exclusive privilege of landing a telegraph cable on the Danish islands, and about which it is alleged he had been to some outlay of time and money, but had not been able to comply with the conditions in point of time, so that the concession had expired by limitation. A renewal had been asked, and the secretary of the interior would not grant it without the advice and consent of the minister for foreign affairs, who would not decide until he had brought the matter to my notice, not wishing to do anything which might be thought to be in the least bad faith. I expressed my appreciation of the course he had pursued, but observed that I was in no condition to form any opinion of the equity of the case; that I could neither make it a basis of the treaty por give any consent that it should be renewed. I referred to the difficulties about the Spanish land grants made pending negotiations for Florida, and expressed the opinion that the grant would be felt to be an embarrassment at Washington, and that if objected to would not be valid without the approbation of the Congress of the United States. There was some further discussion of the matter, and at one time it seemed that the grant would be renewed with a request for a favorable consideration by the United States, but I am assured it was abandoned.
It seems that soon after the reports reached Europe, in the early part of last year, of your visit to the islands, Lord Russell, then at the head of the cavinet of London, approached the Danish minister in London on the subject, and the result of the interview was a promise by the Danish minister that nothing would be done witbout first letting the British Government know it. This was naturally felt here to be an embarrassment, but can be avoided, if necessary, upon the ground that such a promise was unauthorized and can not be held to bind the Danish Government.
The proposition that the United States should succeed to all the rights and obligations arising from contracts and from conventions and treaties with other powers was so stoutly insisted upon that I could only dispose of the question by declining its further consideration, at the same time offering that if any particular engagement or supposed right was submitted to me for reflection I would consider how far it inight be assumed, executed, or protected until the parties interested could come to an understanding with the Unted States. The Engl sh and French lines of steamers and their postal facilities were mentioned, but upo research the Danish negotiators concluded that these had been matters of departmental arrangement and administration, not amounting to any national obligation nor vesting any permanent right.
I deemed it right to concede the reservation asked for in regard to debts due the Danish treasury by indivduals, such a reservation not being really needed, but is implied, and that concerning the churches in favor of the Lutheran congregations. The only necessity for that was because of the national or legal character of the religion and of the church property. As to any other churches, if there are any, they need no mention, being ful y protected. The debts on private individuals occurred by the Government selling estates for taxes or other claims, in which case the Government b comes the owner, under the Danish law, and then selling on installments, retaining a lien for the purchase money.
It was proposed, that in specifying the property which passed, “ cominercial” property should be excepted, by which they meant those lots and buildings in which the colonial government had a joint interest or a right of occupation and use, such as governor's house, etc. I had to be at some pains to demonstrate that a reservation was not the proper form for them; whatever interest Denmark had would not pass to the United States, but that in that case Denmark might find herself still a joint owner, either with the United States or with the local territorial government, which nobody could desire, they only wishing to save local interests and rights, and that the proper form to put it in was simply to pass all the property and interest of the Crown of Denmark, which was finally accepted.
It was brought to my knowledge that there is in circulation in the islands a limited amount of paper currency issued by the Government, and that some bonds are still held, given by the Government in compensation to the owners of slaves when emancipation was effected, and it was suggested that a commission should be appointed to arrange these matters. I did not deem myself sufficiently informed of the facts and history of these matters to make any intelligent stipulation about them, and preferred to leave them where at last they have to be left, on the national faith and ability to pay them. The claims of the ho'ders are clearly not injured by not being mentioned in the treaty, and any agreement made in the dark might have turned out to their injury. In the end both sides preferred to leave these things out of the convention. The proposition that Denmark did not release any debt held against the colonial treasury, or due by that treasury, was urged with great persistence. It seemed to me so very untenable, not to say preposterous, that I had to decline its further discussion, and let the minister of finance, who was present and insisting upon it, give to my refusal such weight as he thought it deserved in the negotiation.
Then followed the proposition that a joint commission should be appointed to state the balance and account current of the two islands with the home Government, and of the three islands with each other, not stipulating in the clause that either Government was bound to pay any balances found due. I objected that the commission on behalf of the United States, knowing nothing of the business, could render no efficient aid in making the settlement; that Danish officers knew the state of the accounts and could easily render them; that the appointment of joint commissioners must be held to have an object, and the only reasonable purpose could be to find and award a balance for one Government or the other to pay, and that I would put nothing in the treaty that could possibly admit of any such construction. It was insisted on the other side that our Government would have a duty to discharge to its new citizens, in seeing that all old accounts of public matters were correctly rendered and stated; and the impression seemed to be that I was unreasonable in resisting a mere commission. I then proposed, as the only thing I could assent to, that we would borrow from the Russian treaty the provision that the agents for delivery might do whatever else was necessary to effect a transfer; that I would express to my Government my reason for this, which was, that if it was found necessary or desirable by the President or the Department that the accounts should be stated by the agents, it might be done under that clause, and that I would recommend the matter for consideration if the Danish Government desired it to be done, but distinctly rejecting, in all contingencies. the idea that the United States could be in any way bound or be implied to assume any balance found. Having done this, I then also desired to adopt from the Russian treaty the stipulation that the right of possession shall be deemed complete on the exchange of ratifications, without waiting for such formal delivery," and gave what I thought very sufficient reasons for the proposition in the mutual interests of both parties, which, after some hesitation, was accepted.