Grover Cleveland

Special Message

September 12, 1888

To the Senate:

Responding to the inquiries contained in the subjoined resolution of the Senate of the 28th ultimo, I have the honor to state in reply to the subject first therein mentioned, calling upon the Executive for "copies of all communications, if any, addressed by his direction to the Government of Great Britain, remonstrating with that Government against the wrongs and unfair treatment to our citizens by the action of the Canadian Government in refunding to vessels and cargoes which pass through the Welland and other Canadian canals nearly the entire tolls if they are destined to Canadian ports, while those bound for American ports are not allowed any such advantage, and the breach of the engagement contained in the treaty of 1871 whereby Great Britain promised to the United States equality in the matter of such canal transportation; also copies of any demand made by his direction upon Great Britain for the redress of such wrongs, and the replies of Great Britain to such communication and demand," that I herewith transmit copies of all communications between the Department of State and the United States consul at Ottawa, which are accompanied by copies of the orders of the Canadian officials in relation to the subject inquired of; also correspondence between the Department of State and the British minister at this capital, with copies of the documents therein referred to.

I also inclose, as connected therewith, a copy of Executive Document No. 406, House of Representatives, Fiftieth Congress, first session, containing the answer of the Acting Secretary of the Treasury, dated July 23, 1888, in reply to a resolution of the House of Representatives relating to the navigation of the Welland Canal, and the documents thus transmitted comprise the entire correspondence in relation to the subjects referred to in that portion of the resolution of inquiry which is above quoted.

The second branch of inquiry is in the words following:

And also that there be communicated to the Senate copies of all papers, correspondence, and information touching the matter of the refusal of the British Government or that of any of her North American dominions, to allow the entry at Dominion seaports of American fish or other cargoes for transportation in bond to the United States since the 1st day of July, 1885.

It will be remembered that though the fishing articles of the treaty of 1871 expired on the said 1st day of July, 1885, a temporary arrangement was made whereby the privileges accorded to our fishermen under said articles were continued during the remainder of that year's fishing season.

No instance of refusal by the Canadian authorities since July 1, 1885, up to the present time to allow the entry at Dominion seaports of American cargoes other than fish for transportation in bond across the territory of Canada to the United States has been made known to the Department of State.

The case of the fishing steamer Novelty , involving, among other things, a refusal, on July 1, 1886, of the fight to permit the transshipment of fish in bond at the port of Pictou, Nova Scotia, was duly communicated to Congress in my message of December 8, 1886, a copy of which I herewith transmit. (Ex. Doc. No. 19, Forty-ninth Congress, second session, p. 1.)

On page 16 of this document will be found a copy of a communication addressed by the Secretary of State to the British minister, dated June 14, 1886, on the subject of the refusal of transshipment of fish in bond. At page 24 of the same publication will be found the protest of the Secretary of State in the case of the Novelty, and at pages 49-50 are the response of the British minister and report of the Canadian privy council.

On the 26th of January, 1887, a revised list of cases of alleged ill treatment of our fishing vessels in Canadian waters was furnished by the Secretary of State to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, in which the above case is included, a copy of which, being Senate Executive Document No. 55 of the second session Forty-ninth Congress, is herewith inclosed; and in the report by Mr. Edmunds, from the Committee on Foreign Relations (No. 1683 of the same session), the case referred to was again published. And, as relating to the subject of the resolution now before me, the following pertinent passage, taken from the said report, may be of interest:

As regards commercial and other friendly business intercourse between ports and places in the Dominion and the United States, it is, of course, of much importance that regulations affecting the same should be mutually reasonable and fairly administered. If an American vessel should happen to have caught a cargo of fish at sea 100 miles distant from some Canadian port, from which there is railway communication to the United States, and should be denied the privilege of landing and shipping its cargo therefrom to the United States, as the Canadians do, it would be, of course, a serious disadvantage; and there is, it is thought, nothing in the treaty of 1818 which would warrant such an exclusion. But the Dominion laws may make such a distinction, and it is understood that in fact the privilege of so shipping fish from American vessels has been refused during the last year.

I also respectfully refer to Senate Miscellaneous Document No. 54, Forty-ninth Congress, second session, being a communication from the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries to Hon. George F. Edmunds, chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, dated February 5, 1887, which is accompanied by a partial list of vessels injuriously treated by the Canadian authorities, based upon information furnished to the United States Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries.

This list is stated to be supplementary to the revised list which had been transmitted to the committee by the Secretary of State January 26, 1887.

Of the sixty-eight vessels comprised in this list it is stated that six, to wit, the Nellie M. Snow, Andrew Burnham, Harry G. French, Col. J. H. French, W. H. Wellington, and Ralph Hodgdon, were refused permission to transship fish. None of these cases, however, were ever reported to the Department of State by the parties interested, or were accompanied by affidavit; nor does it appear the facts ever were investigated in any of the cases by the parties making the reports, which were obtained by circulars issued by order of the Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries. The concluding inquiry is as follows:

And also that he communicate to the Senate what instances have occurred since the 3d of March, 1887, of wrongs to American fishing vessels or other American vessels in the ports or waters of British North America, and what steps, if any, have been taken in respect thereto.

Soon after the passage of the act of March 3, 1887, the negotiation which had been proceeding for several months previously progressed actively, and the proposed conference and the presence at this capital of the plenipotentiaries of the two Governments, out of which the since rejected treaty of February 7, 1888, eventuated, had their natural influence in repressing causes of complaint in relation to the fisheries. Therefore since March 3, 1887, no case has been reported to the Department of State wherein complaint was made of unfriendly or unlawful treatment of American fishing vessels on the part of the Canadian authorities in which reparation was not promptly and satisfactorily obtained by the United States consul-general at Halifax.

A single case of alleged unjust treatment of an American merchant vessel, not engaged in fishing, has been reported since March 3, 1887. This was the ship Bridgewater , which was first brought to the attention of the Department of State by the claimant by petition filed June 1, 1888.

On June 18, 1888, legal counsel, who appeared and desired to be heard, filed their formal authority and the claim was at once duly investigated, and on June 22, 1888, a communication was addressed by the Secretary of State to the British minister, which sets forth the history of the claim, and a copy of which is herewith transmitted; and of this formal acknowledgment was made, but no further reply has been received.


Grover Cleveland, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives