1078-1079

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Reports of Committee on Foreign Relations 1789-1901 Volume 6 pp1078-1079 300dpi scan (VERY LARGE!)

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made through your own officers, that the landing of the troops was not necessary, you would not land them? In other words, the thing is still left entirely in your charge?

Mr. Belknap. Yes; but if I do not comply with the request and anything happened detrimental to the United States I am responsible. The regulations hold me to that.

Senator Butler. It has become a question of tweedledum and tweedledee between Mr. Blount and Mr. Stevens-one is a request and the other a command. Suppose Admiral Skerrett had declined, on his responsibility, to take down the flag and send his troops back on the ship, and anything had happened to the American legation and American life and property, Admiral Skerrett would have been responsible?

Mr. Belknap. Yes.

Senator Frye. Would he not have been tried by a court-martial?

Mr. Belknap. Yes.

Senator Frye. And would he not have read the Naval Regulations, which are law, to determine whether he had obeyed the regulations?

Mr. Belknap. Yes.

Senator Butler. The same responsibility rested on Admiral Skerrett in declining to obey the order as rested on him in obeying it-if anything had happened to American interests in Honolulu by the American troops remaining on shore, he would have been responsible. So that the responsibility is pretty well understood to be that an Army or Navy officer sent off on an expedition of that kind is vested with a certain amount of discretion?

Mr. Belknap. He is to determine in his own mind what the interests of the Government demand. During this last cruise I sent officers and men up to the capital of Korea, 40 miles from Chemulpo. I received a telegraphic order to cooperate with the minister, and when the minister sent to me for a force I dispatched it to him in conformity with the order of the Secretary of the Navy to cooperate with the minister.

Senator Butler. You did it on your own responsibility?

Mr. Belknap. On my own responsibility, in interpretation of the orders of the Secretary, the wishes of the minister, and of my own personal knowledge of Korean affairs.

Senator Frye. Before this order of the Secretary of the Navy, given to Admiral Skerrett to obey the orders of Mr. Blount, did you ever know of any such order?

Mr. Belknap. I never heard of it.

Senator Frye. Did you ever know of a minister or commissioner in a foreign country making such an order as Mr. James H. Blount made to Admiral Skerrett? I refer to the one I have just read.

Mr. Belknap. Never. As I said before, it is the most peremptory order I ever saw in print.

Senator Frye. The order of Capt. Wiltse to the officers who took the troops on shore is as follows:

"Sir: You will take command of the battalion and land in Honolulu for the purpose of protecting our legation, consulate, and the lives and property of American citizens, and to assist in preserving public order."

Now, I would like to ask you what are the rights of officers in command of ships in foreign countries touching the matter of preservation of public order? That part of Capt. Wiltse's order was not in response to the request of Mr. Stevens. He said nothing about public order;

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he adopts the old diplomatic form of expression, protection of life and property; whereas Capt. Wiltse in his order uses the additional expression, "assist in preserving public order." What do you understand to be the rights of a commanding officer with regard to preserving public order in foreign countries?

Mr. Belknap. All the foreign countries are not alike as regards the conduct of ships of war. There are small governments where the fleets would act differently from what they would in larger countries; but the landing of a force is a grave act and should always be well considered.

Senator Butler. And I suppose they are in large measure controlled by the treaty stipulations of those countries?

Mr. Belknap. In great measure; but in Honolulu there is not a street, there is not a precinct, there is not a corner of it where an American is not living or has not his business and property, and to protect that property it is necessary, in case of a riot, where the police can not control, to land a force from a ship.

Senator Frye. Then you would say that Capt. Wiltse, if in his judgment he thought there was liability of a riot and the likelihood of the destruction of American property, had a right to order his troops ashore, one of his purposes being to preserve public order?

Mr. Belknap. Yes, I would have done the same thing under the same circumstances.

Senator Frye. So that when you landed your troops in 1874, notwithstanding the fact you knew the result of landing those troops and interfering with that mob to preserve public order would result in the maintenance of King Kalakaua on the throne, you would have done what you did by way of landing the troops and putting down the riot?

Mr. Belknap. Yes.

Senator Frye. It is not for the officer or minister to take into consideration what would be the effect of such landings and putting down of riots; he is concerned simply in the fact that they are landed for the purpose of protecting life and property?

Senator Butler. That is true in time of peace, not in time of war?

Mr. Belknap. In time of war it would be a different question.

Senator Butler. For instance, you would not feel warranted in landing a force at Rio now?

Mr. Belknap. No, so far as I understand the situation at this distance.

Senator Butler. Mr. Frye asked you some questions with regard to the power of naval officers. Suppose you were in charge of the Charleston, we will say, at the port of Liverpool or Copenhagen, and you were ashore and a riot were about to break out, would you feel authorized to land a force to protect American property?

Mr. Belknap. No, unless the Government confessed its inability to afford protection.

Senator Butler. So that it is not universal?

Mr. Belknap. No.

Senator Frye. How about Panama?

Mr. Belknap. In Panama we have the right by treaty. I landed there myself.

Senator Butler. But it is not a universal rule?

Mr. Belknap. No.

Senator Butler. It is done in pursuance of some treaty stipulations between our Government and the government where the troops are landed.


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