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Special Message

December 23, 1876

To the House of Representatives:

When Congress adjourned in August last the execution of the extradition article of the treaty of 1842 between the United States and Great Britain had been interrupted.

The United States had demanded of Her Majesty's Government the surrender of certain fugitives from justice charged with crimes committed within the jurisdiction of the United States, who had sought asylum and were found within the territories of Her British Majesty, and had, in due compliance with the requirements of the treaty, furnished the evidence of the criminality of the fugitives, which had been found sufficient to justify their apprehension and commitment for trial, as required by the treaty, and the fugitives were held and committed for extradition.

Her Majesty's Government, however, demanded from the United States certain assurances or stipulations as a condition for the surrender of these fugitives.

As the treaty contemplated no such conditions to the performance of the obligations which each Government had assumed, the demand for stipulations on the part of this Government was repelled.

Her Majesty's Government thereupon, in June last, released two of the fugitives (Ezra D. Winslow and Charles J. Brent), and subsequently released a third (one William E. Gray), and, refusing to surrender, set them at liberty.

In a message to the two Houses of Congress on the 20th day of June last, in view of the condition of facts as above referred to, I said:

The position thus taken by the British Government, if adhered to, can not but be regarded as the abrogation and annulment of the article of the treaty on extradition.

Under these circumstances it will not, in my judgment, comport with the dignity or self-respect of this Government to make demands upon that Government for the surrender of fugitive criminals, nor to entertain any requisition of that character from that Government under the treaty.

Article XI of the treaty of 1842 provided that "the tenth article (that relating to extradition) should continue in force until one or the other of the parties should signify its wish to terminate it, and no longer."

In view, however, of the great importance of an extradition treaty, especially between two states as intimately connected in commercial and social relations as are the United States and Great Britain, and in the hope that Her Majesty's Government might yet reach a different decision from that then attained, I abstained from recommending any action by Congress terminating the extradition article of the treaty. I have, however, declined to take any steps under the treaty toward extradition.

It is with great satisfaction that I am able now to announce to Congress and to the country that by the voluntary act of Her Majesty's Government the obstacles which had been interposed to the execution of the extradition article of the treaty have been removed.

On the 27th of October last Her Majesty's representative at this capital, under instructions from Lord Derby, informed this Government that Her Majesty's Government would be prepared, as a temporary measure, until a new extradition treaty can be concluded, to put in force all powers vested in it for the surrender of accused persons to the Government of the United States under the treaty of 1842, without asking for any engagement as to such persons not being tried in the United States for other than the offenses for which extradition had been demanded.

I was happy to greet this announcement as the removal of the obstacles which had arrested the execution of the extradition treaty between the two countries.

In reply to the note of Her Majesty's representative, after referring to the applications heretofore made by the United States for the surrender of the fugitives referred to in the correspondence which was laid before Congress at its last session, it was stated that on an indication of readiness to surrender these persons an agent would be authorized to receive them, and I would be ready to respond to requisitions which may be made on the part of Her Majesty's Government under the tenth article of the treaty of 1842, which I would then regard as in full force until such time as either Government shall avail itself of the right to terminate it provided by the eleventh article, or until a more comprehensive arrangement can be reached between the two Governments in regard to the extradition of criminals--an object to which the attention of this Government would gladly be given, with an earnest desire for a mutually satisfactory result.

A copy of the correspondence between Her Majesty's representative at this capital and the Secretary of State on the subject is transmitted herewith.

It is with great satisfaction that I have now to announce that Her Majesty's Government, while expressing its desire not to be understood to recede from the interpretation which in its previous correspondence it has put upon the treaty, but having regard to the prospect of a new treaty and the power possessed by either party of spontaneously denouncing the old one, caused the rearrest on the 4th instant of Brent, one of the fugitives who had been previously discharged, and, after awaiting the requisite time within which the fugitive is entitled to appeal or to apply for his discharge, on the 21st instant surrendered him to the agent appointed on behalf of this Government to receive and to convey him to the United States.

Her Majesty's Government has expressed an earnest desire to rearrest and to deliver up Winslow and Gray, the other fugitives who had been arrested and committed on the requisition of the United States, but were released because of the refusal of the United States to give the assurances and stipulations then required by Great Britain. These persons, however, are believed to have escaped from British jurisdiction; a diligent search has failed to discover them.

As the surrender of Brent without condition or stipulation of any kind being asked removes the obstacle which interrupted the execution of the treaty, I shall no longer abstain from making demands upon Her Majesty's Government for the surrender of fugitive criminals, nor from entertaining requisitions of that character from that Government under the treaty of 1842, but will again regard the treaty as operative, hoping to be able before long to conclude with Her Majesty's Government a new treaty of a broader and more comprehensive nature.


Ulysses S. Grant, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/203599

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