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No. —.]


Washington, July 30, 1888.

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etc., etc., etc. : SIR: An act of Congress approved by the President on the 9th instant provided for an international marine conference to secure greater safety for life and property at sea. By this act the President is requested to invite the other maritime powers to take part in a conference, the objects of which are, in brief, to revise the present international regulations for preventing collisions at sea, especially with reference to sig. naling in fog; to revise the existing code of signals; to compare and discuss the various systems employed for the saving of life and property from shipwreck; to devise methods of reporting, marking, and removing dangerous wrecks and obstructions to navigation, and to establish uniform means of conveying to mariners warnings of storms and other information.

The great interest and importance of these subjects justify an extended reference to the principal objects of the proposed conference and to the steps already taken in the same direction.

Between 1863 and 1865 thirty-four of the principal maritime nations approved and made statutory a code of laws similar in all respects to that adopted by Great Britain in 1862 for preventing collisions at sea, thus responding to the invitation put forth by that Government in 1863 to examine that code in the interests of commerce at large, and to adopt the same orlike legislation if deemed suitable, according to their several needs.

Subsequently, in the light of experience tending to show the inadequacy of the statutes in question for the practical requirements of commerce, and acting upon a revised draft of laws formulated by a commis. sion appointed by the British Government, and by it submitted for the consideration of the maritime powers, most of the Governments interested accepted and approved the amended code, and united in giving it effect on the 1st of September, 1880.

During the decade which has elapsed since that code, now generally in operation on the high seas and in the jurisdictional waters of the several enacting states, was framed and considered a growing tendency is manifest to regard it as inadequate to the present needs of commerce, and especially in respect to the sound signals for use in fog, mist, or falling snow. The increasing number and speed of steam-vessels has greatly added to the dangers of collision in thick weather, and S. Ex. 53-88


the opinion has recently been expressed by the best authorities that the present system of signals for steam-vessels is insufficient.

The present international code of flag signals, which has been in use since its origin in 1856, is also believed to need careful revision. Experience has shown the necessity of extending the list of names of places and of words and conventional phrases, as well as the advisability of considering whether greater rapidity and accuracy in day and night signaling can not be attained.

With respect to the protection of life and property from shipwreck, no general international agreement in regard to on and off shore signaling or as to the modus operandi of the life-saving service of different nations, is known to exist. In spite of the utmost effort of those engaged in the Life-Saving Service of the United States, lives have been lost from foreign vessels stranded on our coasts because of a misunderstanding of our methods; and it is believed that the experience of other countries in this regard is similar to our own.

The destruction, or at least the frequent and accurate reporting of dangerous derelicts, is also a matter of the bighest importance, and it is obvious that this work can be thoroughly done only by means of the active co-operation of the principal maritime nations.

Closely connected with the subject of reporting derelicts is that of conveying warning of storms and of giving information of recently discovered dangers to navigation, and changes in lights, buoys, and other day or night marks, which probably can be best undertaken by the adoption of some carefully considered international system.

The alacrity with which the principal maritime states have responded by concurrent legislation to the ascertained requirements of modern developments of commercial navigation, whether on the high seas or in their several jurisdictional waters open to foreign shipping, and their readiness to consider, and when feasible to adopt, practical suggestions in the direction of uniformity and certainty of conveying intelligence at sea and for the benefit of sea-going vessels, whenever such have been proposed, leads the Government of the United States to anticipate that they will be now no less prompt and unanimous in agreeing to confer together for their mutual advantage, taking into consideration whatever measures may tend to secure additional safeguards to maritime in. tercourse.

By direction, therefore, of the President of the United States you will tender to the Government to which you are accredited a cordial invitation to be represented by as many delegates as may seem to it convenient, at an international conference to meet in the city of Washington on Wednesday, the 17th day of April, 1889, the purposes of such con. ference being to revise and amend the rules, regulations, and practice concerning vessels at sea, and navigation generally, and the “International Code of Flag and Night Signals ;” to adopt a uniform system of marine siguals, or other means of plainly indicating the direction in

which vessels are moving in fog mist, falling snow, and thick weather, and at night; to compare and discuss the various systems employed for the saving of life and property from shipwreck, for reporting, marking, and removing dangerous wrecks or obstructions to navigation, for designating vessels, for conveying to mariners and persons interested in shipping, warnings of approaching storms, of dangers to navigation, of changes in lights, buoys, and other day and night marks, and other important information; and to formulate and submit for ratification to the Governments of all maritime nations proper international regulations for the prevention of collisions and other avoidable marine disasters.

It will be understood by all states taking part in this conference that no questions relating to the regulation of trade and commerce are within the scope of the discussion, and that in the disposition of any questions which may be presented to the conference, no State shall be entitled to more than one vote, whatever may be the number of delegates representing it.

You will make this invitation known to the Government by reading this note to the minister for foreign affairs, and if desired, you will leave a copy with him. Your own discretion will suggest to you the most effective manner of making known the great interest taken by the President in the benevolent purposes of the proposed conference, and his desire and confident expectation that, in the universal interest of sea-faring humanity, the Government of — will receive and respond to our invitation in the same spirit in which it is extended. I am, sir, your obedient servant,



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No. -]


Washington, January 15, 1889. To

etc., etc., etc.: SIR: Referring to my instruction No. of the 30th of July last, which directed you to tender to the Government of an invitation to be represented at an international conference to meet in the city of Wasbington, on Wednesday, the 17th day of April, 1889, for the purpose of securing greater safety for life and property at sea, I have now to inform you that, owing to the unexpected delay in receiving the responses of important maritime countries, and in particular that of Great Britain, and in view of the limited time remaining within which to prepare the programme of the subjects to be brought before the conference, and communicate the same to the several Governments for their information and use in instructing their delegates, the President has deemed it advisable to postpone the meeting of the conference

until a later date permitting the seasonable completion of the necessary preliminary arrangements.

By direction of the President, therefore, I have to request you to inform the Government of -, through the minister for foreign affairs, that the meeting of the Conference in question, which was set for the 17th of April next, is postponed until some time in the early autumn of this year, 1889, and that the date, when fixed, will be communicated as soon as possible. I am, sir, your obedient servant,



Washington, February 27, 1889.
The Secretary of State presents his compliments to the –
and has the honor to inform him that the date for the meeting of the
International Conference to be held in the city of Washington for the
purpose of securing greater safety for life and property at sea, has now
been fixed by the President for Wednesday, October 16, 1889; that the
President bas appointed as delegates on the part of the United States:

Rear-Admiral Samuel R. Franklin, U. S. Navy; Commander William T. Sampson, U. S. Navy; Sumner I. Kimball, General Superintendent United States Life-Saving Service; James W. Norcross; John W. Shackford; William W. Goodrich, and Clement A. Griscom; and that these delegates have been directed to assemble in Washington at an early day with a view to formulating the definite programme of the Conference.

The Governments of Brazil, Chili, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Hawaii, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Nicaragua, Spain, Sweden and Norway, and Uruguay, have expressed their intention of being represented at the Conference.

The minister of the United States at has been instructed to communicate these facts to the minister of foreign affairs in that capital.




Washington, April 3, 1889. SIR: I have the honor to inform you that, in conformity with the instructions of the State Department of February 27, 1889, the delegates on the part of the United States to the International Marine Conference met on Monday, 25th ultimo, organized, and proceeded to the consideration of a detailed programme of the subjects to be considered by the International Conference for transmission to the sereral powers.

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This programme was completed on the 30th ultimo and is herewith inclosed.

The correspondence between the State Department and the British Government on this subject was examined, and in conformity with the intentions of our Government therein expressed, a consideration of the "International Code of Flag Signals” was excluded from the programme and a consideration of the “load line” was included. With this exception and this addition, the entire subject matter of the act of Congress of July 9, 1888, was arranged in general divisions, following as nearly as possible the precise language of the act. These general divisions were then carefully considered and each was arranged under subdivisions and subheads.

It is believed that this arrangement in detail is sufficiently broad to include all matters bearing directly upon the principal topics, and care has been taken at the same time to avoid extending the field of deliberations of the Conference beyond the limits indicated in the act of Congress and its interpretation by the State Department. Very respectfully,


Rear-Admiral, U. 8. N.,

President of the Board of American Delegates. Hon. JAMES G. BLAINE

Secretary of State.



(Framed by the American delegates, in accordance with instructions from the Department of State,

March, 1889. 1

GENERAL DIVISION 1. Marine signals or other means of plainly indicating the direction in which

vessels are moving in fog, mist, falling snow, and thick weather, and at night.



1. Visibility, number, and position of lights to be carried by vessels.

(a) Steamers under way.
(6) Steamers towing.
(c) Vessels under way, but not under command, including

steamers laying cable.
(d) Sailing vessels under way.
(e) Sailing vessels towing.
(f) Vessels at anchor.
(9) Pilot vessels.
(h) Fishing vessels.

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