Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 52.djvu/90

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know more thoroughly the situation as it presented itself six years ago. It is a satisfaction to know that every assumption which they made has been justified, and every prophecy in which they indulged has been fulfilled by subsequent events.

From the beginning they sought to have the conference at Washington conducted upon the assumption that all political or international questions, rights, or privileges should be ignored; that facts should first be determined, causes got at as far as possible, and remedies proposed, as if an individual were the sole arbiter of the question, and the benefit of the whole people only considered. In fact, at one stage of the conference the following question was submitted as a possible means of clearing the way to what seemed to the Americans to be the real function of the joint commission: "Suppose that one individual controlled the whole matter of killing seals on the Pribilof Islands, in Bering Sea, in the North Pacific, and wherever any of this herd of fur seals are found during their entire life, and suppose that the end in view was to so conduct the killing that the largest possible number of commercially valuable skins could be obtained every year perpetually—that is to say, that the owner or controller would be forever benefited in the highest degree by the existence of the herd; under these conditions, what would be the best method of killing—by hunting at sea under the most perfect and complete regulations and restrictions that are possible, or by killing males only on land under the most perfect and complete regulations and restrictions that are possible?"

But from the start it was evident that the British commissioners were determined to discuss and consider all questions from a diplomatic and political standpoint. There was to be difficulty in agreeing upon conditions; greater difficulty in determining causes; and practical disagreement as to remedies. At the very first conference strong objection was urged against a part of the letter of instructions which the Secretary of State had communicated to the American commissioners, and which they, in turn, communicated to their British colleagues, receiving in exchange the instructions sent by Lord Salisbury. The obnoxious paragraph was that in which the American commissioners are informed that they need not concern themselves with the question of "the exercise of complete jurisdiction by the United States for the protection of seals," it being declared that this made it impossible to consider matters relating to the manner of taking seals upon the Pribilof Islands. This assumed obstacle to a full discussion of the problem threatened to interrupt and delay the conferences, notwithstanding the repeated declaration of the Americans that it did not exist, and it became necessary to suggest that there seemed no occasion for concern on the part of the