HELD AT WASHINGTON
FOR THE PURPOSE OF FIXING
A PRIME MERIDIAN
A UNIVERSAL DAY.
PROTOCOLS OF THE PROCEEDINGS.
WASHINGTON, D. C.
GIBSON BROS., PRINTERS AND BOOKBINDERS.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
I. Protocol, October 1, 1884 1
II. Protocol, October 2, 1884 13
III. Protocol, October 6, 1884 35
IV. Protocol, October 13, 1884 73
V. Protocol, October 14, 1884 113
VI. Protocol, October 20, 1884 151
VII. Protocol, October 22, 1884 195
VIII. Protocol, November 1, 1884 205
Final Act 199
Act of Congress authorizing the President of the United States to invite the Conference (ANNEX I) 209
Act of Congress making appropriation for expenses (ANNEX II) 209
Circular to United States representatives abroad bringing the subject to the attention of foreign governments (ANNEX III) 210
Circular to United States ministers extending invitation to foreign governments (ANNEX IV) 211
International Meridian Conference
HELD IN THE
CITY OF WASHINGTON.
SESSION OF OCTOBER 1, 1884.
The Delegates to the International Meridian Conference, who assembled in Washington upon invitation addressed by the Government of the United States to all nations holding diplomatic relations with it, "for the purpose of fixing upon a meridian proper to be employed as a common zero of longitude and standard of time-reckoning throughout the globe," held their first conference to-day, October 1, 1884, in the Diplomatic Hall of the Department of State.
The following delegates were present:
On behalf of Austria-Hungary—
Baron IGNATZ VON SCHAEFFER, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.
On behalf of Brazil—
Dr. LUIZ CRULS, Director of the Imperial Observatory of Rio Janeiro.
On behalf of Colombia—
Commodore S. R. FRANKLIN, U. S. Navy, Superintendent U. S. Naval Observatory.
On behalf of Costa Rica—
Mr. JUAN FRANCISCO ECHEVERRIA, Civil Engineer.
On behalf of France—
Mr. A. LEFAIVRE, Minister Plenipotentiary and Consul-General. Mr. JANSSEN, of the Institute, Director of the Physical Observatory of Paris.
On behalf of Germany—
Baron H. VON ALVENSLEBEN, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.
On behalf of Great Britain—
Captain Sir F. J. O. EVANS, Royal Navy.
Prof. J. C. ADAMS, Director of the Cambridge Observatory.
Lieut.-General STRACHEY, Member of the Council of India.
Mr. SANDFORD FLEMING, Representing the Dominion of Canada.
On behalf of Guatemala—
M. MILES ROCK, President of the Boundary Commission.
On behalf of Hawaii—
Hon. W. D. ALEXANDER, Surveyor-General.
Hon. LUTHER AHOLO, Privy Counsellor.
On behalf of Italy—
Count ALBERT DE FORESTA, First Secretary of Legation.
On behalf of Japan—
Professor KIKUCHI, Dean of the Scientific Dep't of the University of Tokio.
On behalf of Mexico—
Mr. LEANDRO FERNANDEZ, Civil Engineer. Mr. ANGEL ANGUIANO, Director of the National Observatory of Mexico.
On behalf of Paraguay—
Captain JOHN STEWART, Consul-General.
On behalf of Russia—
Mr. C. DE STRUVE, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. Major-General STEBNITZKI, Imperial Russian Staff. Mr. J. DE KOLOGRIVOFF, Conseiller d'Etat actuel.
On behalf of San Domingo—
Mr. M. DE J. GALVAN, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.
On behalf of Salvador—
Mr. ANTONIO BATRES, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.
On behalf of Spain,
Mr. JUAN VALERA, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. Mr. EMILIO RUIZ DEL ARBOL, Naval Attache to the Spanish Legation. Mr. JUAN PASTORIN, Officer of the Navy.
On behalf of Sweden—
Count CARL LEWENHAUPT, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.
On behalf of Switzerland—
Colonel EMILE FREY, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.
On behalf of the United States—
Rear-Admiral C. R. P. RODGERS, U. S. Navy.
Mr. LEWIS M. RUTHERFURD.
Mr. W. F. ALLEN, Secretary Railway Time Conventions.
Commander W. T. SAMPSON, U. S. Navy.
Professor CLEVELAND ABBE, U. S. Signal Office.
On behalf of Venezuela—
Senor Dr. A. M. SOTELDO, Charge d'Affaires.
The following delegates were not present:
On behalf of Chili—
Mr. FRANCISCO VIDAL GORMAS, Director of the Hydrographic Office.
Mr. ALVARO BIANCHI TUPPER, Assistant Director.
On behalf of Denmark—
Mr. CARL STEEN ANDERSEN DE BILLE, Minister Resident and Consul-General.
On behalf of Germany—
Mr. HINCKELDEYN, Attache of the German Legation.
On behalf of Liberia—
Mr. WILLIAM COPPINGER, Consul-General.
On behalf of the Netherlands—
Mr. G. DE WECKHERLIN, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.
On behalf of Turkey—
RUSTEM EFFENDI, Secretary of Legation.
The delegates were formally presented to the Secretary of State of the United States, the Honorable FREDERICK T. FRELINGHUYSEN, in his office at 12 o'clock. Upon assembling in the Diplomatic Hall, he called the Conference to order, and spoke as follows:
GENTLEMEN: It gives me pleasure, in the name of the President of the United States, to welcome you to this Congress, where most of the nations of the earth are represented. You have met to discuss and consider the important question of a prime meridian for all nations. It will rest with you to give a definite result to the preparatory labors of other scientific associations and special congresses, and thus make those labors available.
Wishing you all success in your important deliberations, and not doubting that you will reach a conclusion satisfactory to the civilized world, I, before leaving you, take the liberty to nominate, for the purpose of a temporary organization, Count Lewenhaupt.
It will afford this Department pleasure to do all in its power to promote the convenience of the Congress and to facilitate its proceedings.
By the unanimous voice of the Conference the Delegate of Sweden, Count LEWENHAUPT, took the chair, and said that, for the purpose of proceeding to a permanent organization, it was necessary to elect a President, and that he had the honor to propose for that office the chairman of the delegation of the United States of America, Admiral C. R. P. Rodgers.
The Conference agreed unanimously to the proposition thus made, whereupon Admiral RODGERS took the chair as President of the Conference, and made the following address:
GENTLEMEN: I beg you to receive my thanks for the high honor you have conferred upon me in calling me, as the chairman of the delegation from the United States, to preside at this Congress. To it have come from widely-separated portions of the globe, delegates renowned in diplomacy and science, seeking to create a new accord among the nations by agreeing upon a meridian proper to be employed as a common zero of longitude and standard of time reckoning throughout the world. Happy shall we be, if, throwing aside national preferences and inclinations, we seek only the common good of mankind, and gain for science and for commerce a prime meridian acceptable to all countries, and secured with the least possible inconvenience.
Having this object at heart, the Government of the United States has invited all nations with which it has diplomatic relations to send delegates to a Congress to assemble at Washington to-day, to discuss the question I have indicated. The invitation has been graciously received, and we are here this morning to enter upon the agreeable duty assigned to us by our respective governments.
Broad as is the area of the United States, covering a hundred degrees of longitude, extending from 66 deg. 52' west from Greenwich to 166 deg. 13' at our extreme limit in Alaska, not including the Aleutian Islands; traversed, as it is, by railway and telegraph lines, and dotted with observatories; long as is its sea coast, of more than twelve thousand miles; vast as must be its foreign and domestic commerce, its delegation to this Congress has no desire to urge that a prime meridian shall be found within its confines.
In my own profession, that of a seaman, the embarrassment arising from the many prime meridians now in use is very conspicuous, and in the valuable interchange of longitudes by passing ships at sea, often difficult and hurried, sometimes only possible by figures written on a black-board, much confusion arises, and at times grave danger. In the use of charts, too, this trouble is also annoying, and to us who live upon the sea a common prime meridian will be a great advantage.
Within the last two years we have been given reason to hope that this great desideratum may be obtained, and within a year a learned Conference, in which many nations were represented, expressed opinions upon it with singular unanimity, and in a very broad and catholic spirit.
I need not trespass further upon your attention, except to lay before you the subject we are invited to discuss: the choice of "a meridian to be employed as a common zero of longitude and standard of time reckoning throughout the world;" and I shall beg you to complete our organization by the election of a Vice-President, and the proper Secretaries necessary to the verification of our proceedings.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate from France, stated that on behalf of his colleague he would suggest that all motions and addresses made in English should be translated into French.
The PRESIDENT inquired whether the proposition made by the Delegate for France met with the approval of the Conference, when it was unanimously agreed to.
The PRESIDENT thereupon said that he was ready to lay before the Conference the subject of the election of Vice-President.
Count LEWENHAUPT, the Delegate of Sweden, stated that elections in such large bodies were always difficult, and inquired whether it was necessary to have a Vice-President. He further said that for his part he had every reason to hope and to expect that the services of a Vice-President would not be required.
It was thereupon agreed that a Vice-President should be dispensed with.
The PRESIDENT then stated that the next business was the election of Secretaries; but suggested, in view of the proceedings already had, and of the necessity of some consultation in regard to the matter, that the election might be postponed till to-morrow.
Mr. VALERA, Delegate of Spain, stated that he saw no reason why the nomination of Secretaries could not be made just as well at present as at any future time.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, inquired what would be the functions of the Secretaries.
The PRESIDENT in reply said that an acting Secretary had been appointed by the Secretary of State, who was at the same time a stenographer, and that the principal labor of keeping the records of the Conference would devolve upon him; that nevertheless regular Secretaries of the Conference had to be appointed, for the purpose of examining and verifying the protocols from day to day, which would be the more important in the event of the records of the Conference being made in two or three different languages, and that these Secretaries ought no doubt to be members of the Conference, in order to give the requisite authenticity to the acts thereof, and, in view of the character of the proceedings, should be specialists and informed as to the subjects under discussion.
Mr. SOTELDO, Delegate of Venezuela, said that he thought the Conference should adjourn until to-morrow, as they had done already enough to-day in settling its organization; that by adjourning over it would give an opportunity to the delegates to consult as to the functions of the Secretaries, and who would be most likely to be qualified for those functions; that there were gentlemen from different countries who were not familiar with the English language, and by to-morrow the Conference could determine as to the languages in which the proceedings should be had, although, as it seemed to him, that the proceedings should be recorded in French and English. He then moved that the Conference adjourn until to-morrow.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, stated that he agreed with what had been said by the President, that the Conference should have Secretaries who were specialists, and that the proceedings should be recorded in two languages. By adjourning till to-morrow he thought that the delegates would have an opportunity to reflect upon the subject, and to come back prepared to vote upon it.
The PRESIDENT then stated that if any delegates wished to make propositions in regard to the proceedings to-morrow it would be in the power of the Conference to proceed to the consideration of those subjects after the election of the Secretaries, and he suggested to the Delegate of Venezuela (Mr. Soteldo) that the motion to adjourn be withdrawn for the present.
The Delegate of Venezuela thereupon withdrew his motion.
Mr. FREY, Delegate of Switzerland, said that, in his opinion, the order of proceedings to-morrow should be first a general discussion.
Mr. VALERA, Delegate of Spain, stated that he thought the proceedings should be recorded in two languages at least, and that Secretaries conversant with these languages and specially acquainted with the subject matter pending before the Conference should be selected; that, in order to have the record of the proceedings accurate, officers qualified in this way were requisite, and that it would be preferable to elect these officers after consultation among the members of the Conference, which could be had between now and the meeting to-morrow.
Count LEWENHAUPT, Delegate of Sweden, said that he saw no difficulty in deciding now that the order of proceedings to-morrow would be first the election of the Secretaries and then a general discussion, and he moved that this proposition be adopted.
The Conference then unanimously agreed to the proposition.
Professor ABBE, Delegate of the United States, inquired whether it would not facilitate the action of the Conference to-morrow if the President appointed a committee now who could nominate the Secretaries.
The PRESIDENT replied by asking whether it would not be better to select this committee at a subsequent meeting, rather than at the first meeting, which was held to-day.
Commander SAMPSON, Delegate of the United States, then gave notice that at the session to-morrow he would bring before the Conference the question whether the meetings shall be open to the public or not, and that he would, at the proper time, also make a motion for the purpose of determining the sense of the Conference as to the propriety of inviting distinguished scientists, some of whom are now in Washington, and who may desire to be present at the meetings of this Conference, to take part in the discussion of the questions pending.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, stated that in regard to the first proposition—that is, as to making the proceedings public, he would object, inasmuch as he thought that by opening the doors of this Conference to the public nothing could be gained, while the proceedings might be embarrassed or delayed by such a course.
Professor ADAMS, Delegate of England, stated that he did not favor the first proposition to make the proceedings of this Conference public, but he did agree with the second proposition, and thought it was a very important and valuable one.
The PRESIDENT remarked that the propositions made by the Delegate of the United States of America were merely in the nature of a notice, and that they were not before the Conference at the present time, and, consequently, were not the subject of discussion; still he thought that much good could be elicited from this interchange of opinions in a preliminary way.
Captain STEWART, Delegate of Paraguay, said that he thought that it would be a very good thing, in view of the proposition to make the meetings public, to invite all the world to the Capitol for the discussion of these subjects.
Professor ABBE, Delegate of the United States, stated that it would be perfectly practicable to have the discussions of the Conference printed in full from day to day for our own official use, and that the public might thereby be made familiar with the proceedings if it were necessary.
The PRESIDENT announced that arrangements had been made by the State Department whereby the proceedings of each day would be printed and furnished in time for the examination of the members of the Conference before the next meeting, and that they would be printed in two languages, French and English; but that these records or protocols could not be regularly verified until the Conference shall have appointed duly authorized Secretaries.
Baron VON SCHAEFFER, Delegate of Austro-Hungary, asked that a list of the delegates be presented to each of the members of the Conference.
The PRESIDENT replied that he would instruct the acting Secretary (Mr. Peddrick) to have the list prepared.
Upon the motion of Mr. DE STRUVE, Delegate of Russia, the Conference then adjourned until to-morrow, (Thursday,) the second instant, at one o'clock p. m.
SESSION OF OCTOBER 2, 1884.
The Conference met pursuant to adjournment in the Diplomatic Hall of the Department of State, at one o'clock p. m.
Austria-Hungary: Baron IGNATZ VON SCHAEFFER. Brazil: Dr. LUIZ CRULS. Colombia: Commodore S. R. FRANKLIN. Costa Rica: Mr. JUAN FRANCISCO ECHEVERRIA. France: Mr. A. LEFAIVRE, Mr. JANSSEN. Germany: Baron H. VON ALVENSLEBEN, Mr. HINCKELDEYN. Great Britain: Sir F. J. O. EVANS, Prof. J. C. ADAMS, Lieut.-General STRACHEY, Mr. SANDFORD FLEMING. Guatemala: Mr. MILES ROCK. Hawaii: Hon. W. D. ALEXANDER, Hon. LUTHER AHOLO. Italy: Count ALBERT DE FORESTA. Japan: Professor KIKUCHI. Mexico: Mr. LEANDRO FERNANDEZ, Mr. ANSEL ANGUIANO. Paraguay: Capt. JOHN STEWART. Russia: Mr. C. DE STRUVE, Major-General STEBNITZKI, Mr. KOLOGRIVOFF. San Domingo: Mr. DE J. GALVAN. Salvador: Mr. ANTONIO BATRES. Spain: Mr. JUAN VALERA, Mr. EMILIO RUIZ DEL ARBOL, and Mr. JUAN PASTORIN. Sweden: Count CARL LEWENHAUPT. Switzerland: Col. EMILE FREY, Professor HIRSCH. United States: Rear-Admiral C. R. P. RODGERS, Mr. LEWIS M. RUTHERFORD, Mr. W. F. ALLEN, Commander W. T. SAMPSON, Professor CLEVELAND ABBE. Venezuela: Senor Dr. A. M. SOTELDO.
Chili: Mr. F. V. GORMAS and Mr. A. B. TUPPER. Denmark: Mr. O. S. A. DE BILLE. Liberia: Mr. WM. COPPINGER. Netherlands: Mr. G. DE WECKHERLIN. Turkey: RUSTEM EFFENDI.
The PRESIDENT stated that the first business before the Conference was the election of Secretaries.
Mr. DE STRUVE, Delegate of Russia, stated that it was his opinion that it would be very difficult to elect Secretaries by a direct vote, and he proposed that the selection of the Secretaries be left to a Committee to be appointed by the President; that the Committee present the names of the officers selected to the Conference, and that these Secretaries be four in number.
Count LEWENHAUPT, Delegate of Sweden, stated that it was generally understood among the delegates that Mr. Hirsch, one of the delegates from Switzerland, should be elected a Secretary, as he was a Secretary of the Conference held at Rome, but as he has not yet arrived, he proposed that the Conference elect only three Secretaries to-day.
Mr. DE STRUVE, Delegate of Russia, stated that he believed that Mr. Hirsch would soon arrive, and he accepted the amendment just offered.
The original motion, as modified by the amendment, was thereupon unanimously agreed to.
The Chair appointed the Delegate of Russia, Mr. de Struve, the Delegate from Spain, Mr. Valera, the Delegate from France, Mr. Lefaivre, and the Delegate from Sweden, Count Lewenhaupt, as the Committee to select the Secretaries.
The Conference thereupon took a recess, to enable the Committee to consult and report.
Upon the reassembling of the Conference, the Delegate of Sweden, Count Lewenhaupt, announced that the Committee had selected for Secretaries the Delegate from Great Britain, Lieut.-General Strachey, the Delegate of France, Mr. Janssen, and the Delegate from Brazil, Dr. Cruls.
The report of the Committee was then unanimously adopted by the Conference, and the Delegates named as Secretaries signified their acceptance of the office.
Mr. DE STRUVE, Delegate of Russia, moved that the President direct the Acting Secretary to arrange the seats of the Delegates according to the alphabetical order of the countries represented. He added that it would be a great convenience to the members to have their seats permanently fixed.
The motion was unanimously agreed to.
Commander SAMPSON, Delegate of the United States, then presented the following resolution:
Resolved, That the Congress invite Prof. Newcomb, Superintendent of the United States Nautical Almanac; Prof. Hildgard, Superintendent of the United States Coast and Geodetic Surveys; Professor A. Hall; Professor De Valentiner, Director of the Observatory at Karlsruhe; and Sir William Thomson, to attend the meetings of this Congress.
General STRACHEY, Delegate of England, stated that, as he understood this resolution, it would not necessarily authorize the parties invited to take any part in the discussions.
The PRESIDENT stated that the resolution seems merely to invite the gentlemen to be present.
General STRACHEY, Delegate of Great Britain, stated that he thought it necessary to clear up this matter a little; that if the gentlemen invited could not address the Conference, it seemed very little use to have them invited; that it was not for their own advantage but for that of the Conference that the invitations were extended to those scientific gentlemen, and therefore he thought it was the intention in inviting them to have the benefit of any information which they might desire from time to time to express on the subjects before the Congress. He thought that if any remarks on the part of these gentlemen were presented to the Conference, with the assent of the Congress, through the President, that would doubtless meet all the requirements of the case.
The PRESIDENT inquired whether the Delegate of Great Britain meant that the remarks should be presented in writing.
General STRACHEY, Delegate of Great Britain, replied that that would not necessarily be the case.
Prof. ABBE, Delegate of the United States, inquired whether the persons named in the resolution were the only ones to be invited.
The PRESIDENT replied that it was so, so far as the Chair was informed, but that it would be in order at any time to add new names in the same way.
Prof. ABBE, Delegate of the United States, stated that this was a matter which he had very much at heart, and he would like to observe that some of the nations which were invited to send Delegates to this Conference had failed to do so, and that it would be a courtesy to invite persons of those nations to be present.
Commander SAMPSON, Delegate of the United States, stated that after consulting with a number of the delegates he drew the resolution, and that it was suggested to him this very morning that possibly there might be a difference of opinion as to whether these gentlemen should take part in the discussion, and that that was the reason why the first resolution merely proposed to invite them to be present. He stated that he proposed subsequently to submit another resolution authorizing these gentlemen to take part in the discussion; that he thought that the original intention was to confer an honor on certain distinguished scientists, and that it would be well for the Conference to limit the invitation to gentlemen of that character.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, stated that he was opposed to the proposition to admit to the deliberations of this Conference gentlemen, no matter how distinguished or eminent they might be, who were not specially delegated by their Governments as members of this body. He questioned the power of the Conference to admit to its discussions persons who were not regularly appointed to vote upon the subject at issue; that this was an international conference created for the purpose of obtaining an interchange of views from the representatives of the different Governments; that it would extend the scope of the work before this body to entertain the views and opinions of persons not authorized to speak for the Governments whose Delegates are here; that there would be a great divergence of opinion among such men, and the result would be rather to embarrass than to help this Conference to an accord. He insisted that the matter was exclusively governmental, and, while he would be happy to extend any courtesy to men distinguished in science, such as the gentlemen who are proposed to be invited, he felt constrained to oppose the proposition under the circumstances.
The PRESIDENT stated that he understood that the resolution did not propose to confer a vote upon the gentlemen invited, but simply to enable them to lay any information before the Conference which they might have upon the matter at issue.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, contended that the resolution was intended to authorize these gentlemen to deliberate, and he thought that the inconvenience would be very great of extending this privilege to persons not authorized to represent their Governments. He did not think it was reasonable or fair that his opinions should be questioned or opposed by the opinions of men not authorized to speak for their Governments.
Gen. STRACHEY, Delegate of Great Britain, said that as he had taken upon himself to make some remarks both as to the manner in which the gentlemen should be invited and the extent of their rights when invited, he wished to say that while he agreed with much that had been said by the Delegate of France, he held that these gentlemen should have an opportunity of expressing their views; that they were not to come here merely to listen to the proceedings, but that they should themselves be heard.
The PRESIDENT directed that the resolution be read in French, and then put it to the vote, when it was unanimously adopted.
Commander SAMPSON. Delegate of the United States, then offered the following resolution:
"Resolved, That the gentlemen who have just been invited to attend the meetings of the Conference be permitted to take part in the discussion of all scientific questions."
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate for France, then stated that it was not in accordance with the object of this Conference that private individuals, not authorized by their respective Governments, should be permitted to influence the decision of this body, and that, while it was very proper to extend courtesy to such learned gentlemen as were invited, it surely was never intended that they should participate in our proceedings.
Gen. STRACHEY, Delegate of Great Britain, said that it would, perhaps, save trouble if he stated his views on the point under discussion, which he apprehended were generally in accordance with those of the representative from France. He said that, if he were permitted, he would read a resolution, which he suggested might be accepted as a substitute for that pending before the Conference, and it was as follows:
"Resolved, That the President be authorized, with the concurrence of the Delegates, to request an expression of the opinions of the gentlemen invited to attend the Congress on any subject on which their opinion may be likely to be valuable."
The PRESIDENT inquired in what way they would express it.
Gen. STRACHEY, Delegate of Great Britain, stated that it would be orally.
The PRESIDENT replied that the resolution undoubtedly read that way.
Gen. STRACHEY, Delegate of Great Britain, stated that the language, "to take part in the discussion," employed in the resolution of Commander Sampson, would mean that the persons invited would be in a position, of their own motion, either to reply to remarks made, or to state their own views, or to take part in the discussion just as the Delegates are entitled to do.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, stated that he hoped that the proposition of the Delegate of Great Britain would not be pressed until a vote was had upon the original resolution.
The PRESIDENT then put the resolution to a vote; but, being unable to determine from the viva voce vote whether it was carried or not, he stated that the roll would be called.
Mr. FREY, Delegate of Switzerland, stated that he thought before the vote was taken a decision should be had upon the question, how the Delegates were to vote—whether as nations or as individuals.
The PRESIDENT announced that it had been the custom in all such conferences to vote as nations, each nation casting one vote, and that no other way seemed practicable; and that in conformity with this ruling the roll would be called and the vote taken by nations.
The roll was then called, when the following States voted in the affirmative:
Costa Rica, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, San Domingo, Salvador, Switzerland, Venezuela.
And the following in the negative:
Austria-Hungary, Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hawaii, Japan, Paraguay, Russia, Spain, Sweden. United States,
The PRESIDENT then announced that the ayes were 8 and the noes 13, and that the resolution was lost.
Gen. STRACHEY, Delegate of Great Britain, then renewed his resolution, which was as follows:
"Resolved, That the President be authorized, with the concurrence of the Delegates, to request an expression of the opinions of the gentlemen invited to attend the Congress on any subject on which their opinion may be likely to be valuable."
No discussion arose upon this resolution, and it was adopted.
Commander SAMPSON, Delegate of the United States, then offered the following resolution:
"Resolved, That the meetings of this Congress be open to interested visitors."
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, stated that he considered this a subject of grave importance; that this was an official and confidential body; scientific, it was true, but also diplomatic; that it was empowered to confer about matters with which the general public have now nothing to do; that to admit the public to the meetings would destroy their privacy and subject the Conference to the influence of an outside pressure which might prove very prejudicial to its proceedings, and that he would object to this resolution absolutely.
No further discussion being had, the PRESIDENT, after a viva voce vote of doubtful result, ordered the roll to be called, when the following States voted in the affirmative:
Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Paraguay, Salvador, Spain. Venezuela,
And the following States in the negative.
Austria-Hungary, Brazil, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hawaii, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, San Domingo, Sweden, Switzerland, United States.
The PRESIDENT then announced that the ayes were 7 and the noes 14, and that the resolution was therefore lost.
The PRESIDENT then said that there would doubtless be some preliminary general discussion on the subject before the Conference, and suggested that if Delegates desired to be heard upon the subject it would be expedient to give an intimation to the Secretary.
Prof. ABBE, Delegate of the United States, then said: I have been requested to present to the Conference the communication that I hold in my hand, and in doing so wish to offer the following resolution:
"Whereas several persons desire to submit to this Conference inventions, devices, and systems of universal time: therefore,
"Resolved, That the Conference will acknowledge the receipt of such communications, but will abstain from any expression of opinion as to their respective merits."
Professor ADAMS, Delegate of Great Britain, said that the Conference should be very cautious in admitting the devices and schemes of people who have no connection with this body; that there are, no doubt, many inventors and many people who have plans and schemes which they wish to press upon the Conference, and that it was probable that the Conference would be subjected to very great inconvenience if they took upon themselves even the burden of acknowledging the receipt of these communications.
The PRESIDENT stated that he had received several Communions of this character, one proposing that Jerusalem should be taken as the prime meridian.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, proposed that the Conference should appoint a committee to examine the different papers submitted by outside parties, and to make such suggestions as they might deem proper after examining the papers.
Mr. VALERA, Delegate of Spain, said that it seemed to him the proper course of proceeding for the Conference was to take up the subject article by article, and treat it in that order; that there were presented to the Conference certain well-defined propositions, and that besides these there were the resolutions which had been adopted by the Conference at Rome, which could be used as a basis for the discussions of this Conference; that in that way the Delegates would have before them some precise subject-matter, and after discussion, if any proposition needed to be altered or amended it would be in the power of the Conference to do so, but that unless some regular method of proceeding were adopted the sessions would be prolonged indefinitely, and the Conference would be confused by a multitude of irrelevant propositions that might be presented to them.
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, stated that it seemed to him that to invite a general discussion upon the subject, which has undoubtedly a great many heads, the best method would be the one just suggested; that by having a well-defined course much time would be saved, and there would be a precision in the proceedings, which undoubtedly is always valuable; that in this way the discussion could be kept within bounds, but unless there is some proposition pending before the Conference it is impossible to say whether any discussion is in order or out of order; that it seemed to him there should be some well-defined propositions laid before the Conference, and those propositions could easily be gathered, not only from what has gone before, not only from the Conference which has been held in Rome, but from the acts of Congress and the circulars of the Secretary of State, under which this body has been organized.
The PRESIDENT stated that if these communications from outside parties were brought before the Conference it would entail a great deal of labor.
The resolution of the Delegate of the United States, Prof. ABBE, was then put to the vote, and was negatived.
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, then presented the following resolution:
"Resolved, That the Conference proposes to the Governments represented the adoption as a standard meridian that of Greenwich passing through the centre of the transit instrument at the Observatory of Greenwich."
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, remarked that the proposed resolution seemed to him out of order, and that his colleague, Mr. Janssen, desired to address the Conference on the subject. He went on to say:
The competence of the Conference can give rise to no long debate among us. Let us remark, in the first place, that no previous engagement exists, on the part of the Governments, to adopt the results of our discussions, and that consequently our decisions cannot be compared to those of a deliberative congress or an international commission acting according to definite powers.
We have no definite powers, or rather, we have no executive power, since our decisions cannot be invoked executively by one Government towards others.
Does this mean that our decisions will be wholly unauthoritative? An assembly which numbers so many eminent delegates, and in which there is so much scientific knowledge, must certainly be regarded with profound respect by all the Powers of the world. Its powers, however, must be of a wholly moral character, and will have to be balanced against rights and interests no less worthy of consideration, leaving absolutely intact the independence of each individual State.
Under these circumstances, gentlemen, it seems to me that our course is already marked out for us. From our Conference is to be elicited the expression of a collective wish, a draft of a resolution, which is to be adopted by the majority of this assembly, and afterwards submitted to the approval of our respective Governments.
This is our mission. It is a great one, and has a lofty international bearing. We must, however, realize its extent from the very outset, and not go beyond its limits.
An appeal has been made to the decisions of the Conference held at Rome. But, gentlemen, I beg leave to remark that that Conference was composed entirely of specialists, and that it did not meet for the purpose of examining the question in an international point of view. This Conference is composed of various elements, among which are scientists of the highest standing, but also functionaries of high rank, who are not familiar with scientific subjects, and who are charged with an examination of this question from a political stand-point. It is, moreover, our privilege to be philosophers and cosmopolitans, and to contemplate the interests of mankind not only for the present, but for the most distant future.
You see, gentlemen, that we enjoy absolute freedom, and that we are in nowise bound by the decisions of the Conference held at Rome. It is even desirable that those precedents should be appealed to as little as possible, inasmuch as we have scientists among us who are regarded as authorities in both the Old and the New World, and who are perfectly capable of directing us in technical matters, and of furnishing all the information that we can desire. I will say even more than this: The results of the Conference held at Rome are by no means regarded as possessing official authority by the Governments that have accredited us; for if those results had been taken as a starting point, there would be no occasion for our Conference, and our Governments would simply have to decide with regard to the acceptance or rejection of the resolutions adopted by the Geodetic Congress at Rome.
Everything, however, is intact, even the scientific side of the question, and that is the reason why we have so many Delegates possessing technical knowledge among us.
The PRESIDENT stated that he considered the resolution entirely in order, and likely to bring about a discussion upon the very point for which this Conference was called together; that the resolution was open to any amendment that might be offered, could be altered from time to time if necessary, and, if it did not meet the sense of the Conference, could be defeated.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, inquired whether this proposition did not demand an immediate solution.
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, replied that no such thing was contemplated.
Prof. JANSSEN, Delegate of France, then spoke as follows:
GENTLEMEN: I formally request that the resolution just proposed by my eminent colleague and friend, Mr. Rutherford, be held in reserve, and that it may not now be pressed for discussion.
It is wholly undesirable that a proposition of so grave a character, which forestalls one of the most important resolutions that we shall be called upon to adopt, should be put to the vote while our meeting has scarcely been organized, and before any discussion relative to the true merits of the questions to be considered has taken place.
This would be inverting the proper order of things and reaching a conclusion before having examined the subject before us.
Before discussing the question of the selection of a meridian which is to serve as a common zero of longitude for all the nations of the world, (if the Congress shall think proper to discuss that point,) it is evident that we must first decide the question of principle which is to govern all our proceedings; that is to say, whether it is desirable to fix upon a common zero of longitude for all nations. I therefore formally ask for the withdrawal of Mr. Rutherford's proposition.
The PRESIDENT stated that as something had been said about the Conference at Rome, he desired to say that he had carefully abstained from any allusion to it, and that the delegation of the United States found no allusions to it in their instructions; that, so far as the Chair understood the resolution offered by the Delegate of the United States, it was simply to bring before the Conference the consideration of the subject of a prime meridian; that he did not understand that even the Delegate who presented the motion offered it as an expression of his own opinion on the subject, but that he had carefully stated, when he had brought the resolution before the Conference, that it was for the purpose of enabling the Delegates to proceed to an immediate discussion. He added, further, that the resolution was quite open to amendment in case the Delegates from France desired to amend it.
Commander SAMPSON, Delegate of the United States, stated that he wished to offer the following as a substitute for the resolution already pending:
"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Congress that it is desirable to adopt a single prime meridian for all nations in place of the multiplicity of initial meridians which now exist."
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, then announced that he accepted this substitution in place of the first resolution.
General STRACHEY, Delegate of England, stated that if he rightly understood the remarks made by the Delegate of France, Mr. LEFAIVRE, he thought that it was intended to call attention to the ultimate form in which the resolutions of this Congress should be recorded. He referred to the address which the Secretary of State of the United States (Mr. FRELINGHUYSEN) made to the Delegates on their assembling, in which he said: "You have met to discuss and consider the important question of a prime meridian for all nations. It will rest with you to give a definite result to the preparatory labors of other scientific associations and special congresses, and thus make those labors available."
He added that the object at which they should aim was to put together a series of resolutions which could be presented to the various Governments whose representatives are here present, with a view to inducing them to accept the decision which may be arrived at by this Conference, and, finally, to put that decision in a diplomatic form—a form which shall be more definite and precise than the mere resolutions which would be adopted by a purely scientific body; this he understood to be the position to be adopted by the Delegates to this Conference. He then said that it seemed to him that it would be necessary, after settling the original shape of the resolutions, that they should be reconsidered and afterwards put together in an orderly way, in a manner which would give a regular and satisfactory record of the proceedings; that it appeared almost certain to him that the discussions would be desultory in their nature, but that ultimately a revision would be had after the rough-hewing of the blocks out of which the edifice was to be formed; that he had no wish, at the present stage of the discussion, to go into the merits of the question presented; that, for his part, he thought it more prudent to abstain, but that with reference to the remarks of his honorable friends from France, he could not agree that they should set aside what occurred at Rome; that the discussions at Rome were most valuable; they went thoroughly into the whole question, and he apprehended that every gentleman in the Conference was possessed of the records of what occurred there.
He continued by saying that he thought that the Delegate from France, Mr. LEFAIVRE, went a little beyond what was strictly right in saying that we should shut our eyes to what occurred there; that, for his own part, he was obliged to pay attention to what occurred there; that some of the most eminent scientific men to be found in any country met there and fully discussed the questions now before us, and that the Delegates here present were now called upon to revise what occurred there.
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, said that the Delegate from France, Mr. LEFAIVRE, in his remarks, insisted that we should first establish for what purpose the Delegates were here assembled; that he wished to refer to the circulars sent out by the Government of the United States, under which this Conference was called together. He said that he could assert, without fear of contradiction, that in those communications the President stated that it was believed to be a foregone conclusion that a prime meridian was desirable; that that was the basis on which the President acted in giving his invitation; that how he came to that conclusion he does not state—whether or not the proceedings at Rome had anything to do with it, but he thought that they had a great influence on the mind of the President; that, doubtless, his action was not determined solely by that, and, therefore, that the Secretary of State first made a tentative application to see whether a proposition for another Conference was acceptable, and that he found all countries here represented answering the circular in the affirmative; that they agreed with him that a conference for this purpose was desirable.
He continued by saying that the Secretary of State then sent a second invitation to the different nations to send Delegates, who were to assemble here on the first of October, 1884, for the purpose of establishing a prime meridian and a universal time. He added that it seemed to him a great loss of time to go over the question whether a prime meridian was or was not desirable; that the Delegates were sent here for the purpose of agreeing upon a prime meridian. He then asked why this Conference should lose time in discussing that question.
The resolution offered by the Delegate of the United States, Commander SAMPSON, was then unanimously adopted as follows:
"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Congress that it is desirable to adopt a single prime meridian for all nations in place of the multiplicity of initial meridians which now exist."
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, then renewed his original resolution, as follows:
"Resolved, That the Conference proposes to the Governments represented the adoption as a standard meridian that of Greenwich, passing through the centre of the transit instrument at the Observatory of Greenwich."
Mr. JANSSEN, Delegate of France, stated that he wished to reiterate the objections that he had already offered to the first resolution, and spoke as follows:
GENTLEMEN: Mr. Lefaivre, my honorable colleague, and I are of the opinion that the mission of this Congress is chiefly to examine questions of principle.
I consider that we shall do a very important thing if we proclaim the principle of the adoption of a meridian which shall be the same for all nations.
The advantages of such a meridian have been felt by the geographers and navigators of all ages. France might claim the honor of having sought to accomplish this reform as early as the seventeenth century. It is not to be expected, therefore, that France, at this late day, will seek to place any obstacles in the way of the adoption of an improvement which would by this time have been adopted if the use of the meridian which she proposed, and which she had caused to be generally accepted, had been continued.
We therefore fully agree with you, gentlemen, as to the principle of a common international meridian, impartially defined and wisely applied, and we think that if the Congress should cause a useful reform, which has been so long expected, to be finally adopted, it would render a great service to the world, and one that would do us the highest honor.
This point being gained, is it proper for us to proceed to the adoption of such a meridian? We think not, unless we are assured by a previous declaration as to the principle which is to govern the selection of that meridian. Without such a declaration, we should have no power to begin a discussion on an undefined subject, and we are not authorized to pledge ourselves.
I must even add that our acquiescence in the principle of an international meridian could not be maintained if the Congress proceeded to a choice at variance with the exclusively scientific principles which we are instructed to maintain. Thus, in the very interest of the great principle which we all desire to see adopted, it would, to my way of thinking, be wiser to confine ourselves to a general declaration which, by uniting the opinions of all, would sustain the principle with all the authority possible. The principle having once been adopted, our Governments would subsequently convoke a conference of a more technical character than this, at which questions of application would be more thoroughly examined.
Mr. VALERA, Delegate of Spain, stated that it seemed to him the order of proceeding for this Conference was very well laid down in the invitations addressed by the President of the United States to the different countries and in the articles which were formulated at Rome; that if these were taken up one after the other and discussed there would be a clearly-defined line of action for the Delegates; that if an article was not satisfactory it could be altered or amended, or could be rejected; but if the propositions were taken up one at a time and the discussions directed to these propositions, the Conference would be more likely to reach a definite result than in any general discussion.
The PRESIDENT stated that, so far as he understood the proposition, there was no desire to press it to an immediate vote; that it was quite proper for the Delegate from France to offer any other proposition, as suggested by the Delegate of Spain, in lieu of the motion now pending; that so far as the Chair was concerned it seemed to him that the Conference could at once proceed to the discussion of the general subject of a prime meridian under the pending resolution; that if the Delegate from France desires to make any other proposition, or offer anything else in a distinct form, he will be listened to with great attention and with profound respect.
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, remarked that the Delegate from France, his learned friend, Mr. JANSSEN, had expressed the opinion that the Delegates had not the power to decide upon any particular meridian, but that they were sent here merely to discuss this principle, namely, whether a general meridian was desirable. He added that he was, of course, not in possession of the instructions which the Delegates from France received from their own Government, but that he found among the instructions received by the Delegates of the United States from their Government a copy of one of the communications made by the President of the United States to France, as well as to the other nations, through the Secretary of State, in which was this language:
"I am accordingly directed by the President to request you to bring the matter to the attention of the Government of ——, through the Minister for Foreign Affairs, with a view to learning, whether its appreciation of the benefits to accrue to the intimate intercourse of civilized peoples from the consideration and adoption of the suggested common standard of time, so far coincides with that of this Government as to lead it to accept an invitation to participate in an International Conference at a date to be designated in the near future."
The Delegate of the United States continued by saying that the whole object of this Conference was not to establish the principle that it is desirable to have a prime meridian, but to fix that prime meridian; that that was the object of the meeting, and that it seemed to him that there must be some misapprehension on the part of the learned gentleman from France in thinking that this Conference has not the power to fix upon a prime meridian; that as to our organization, the Delegate of France (Mr. Lefaivre) spoke of its not being sufficiently complete to take up this subject at present, but that it seemed to him that the Delegates undoubtedly were ready to hear and express arguments pro and con in regard to that question; that he supposed that every Delegate had studied this matter before coming here, and that he did not think that any Delegate would be likely to come here unless he knew, or thought he knew, some thing about this matter.
Mr. VALERA, Delegate from Spain, announced that he had no power to pledge his country on this subject; that his authority merely extended to the power of recommending to his Government such resolutions as this Conference might adopt.
Count LEWENHAUPT, Delegate of Sweden, then said: "I desire to state in the protocol that I have no power to engage my Government by my votes on the different questions which will be submitted to this Conference, and that, therefore, these votes must only be considered as an engagement on my part to recommend to my Government the decisions for which I vote."
General STRACHEY, Delegate of Great Britain, said that in the name of the Delegates of Great Britain he wished to state that they were in the same position, but that would not prevent them or this Conference from forming an opinion and expressing it.
The PRESIDENT stated that on behalf of the Delegates from the United States they had no power except that of discussion and recommendation.
Mr. DE STRUVE made, on behalf of the Delegates of Russia, a declaration identical with that made by the Delegate of Sweden.
Baron VON ALVENSLEBEN, Delegate from Germany, made the same announcement on behalf of his Government.
Mr. FERNANDEZ, Delegate from Mexico, made the same announcement.
Mr. VALERA, Delegate of Spain, remarked that this Conference was called together not merely to discuss the subject of a prime meridian, but to determine, so far as these Delegates were concerned, the propriety of adopting a particular prime meridian, and that his Government would decide afterwards whether it would accept what this Conference should recommend.
Dr. CRULS, Delegate of Brazil, stated that his Government authorized him to take part in the discussion, but not to commit his Government to the adoption of any particular proposition.
Mr. FLEMING, Delegate of Great Britain, said that he would like to call the attention of the Conference to the language of the act of Congress calling this Conference together, and that language runs as follows:
"That the President of the United States be authorized and requested to extend to the Governments of all nations in diplomatic relations with our own an invitation to appoint delegates to meet delegates from the United States in the city of Washington, at such time as he may see fit to designate, for the purpose of fixing upon a meridian proper to be employed as a common zero of longitude and standard of time-reckoning throughout the globe."
He added that he thought the object of the Conference clearly was to determine and to recommend; that although the word "recommend" was not used in the body of the resolution, it was certainly understood, and, as a matter of fact, the title of the joint resolution passed by Congress contains the word "recommend." It reads as follows:
"An act to authorize the President of the United States to call an international conference to fix on and recommend for universal adoption a common prime meridian, to be used in the reckoning of longitude and in the regulation of time throughout the world."
Baron von Schaeffer, Delegate of Austria-Hungary, then moved that the Conference adjourn until Monday, the 6th instant, at one o'clock, to enable Delegates to confer on this subject.
The proposition of the Delegate of Austria-Hungary was then agreed to, and the Conference adjourned to Monday, October 6, 1884, at 1 o'clock, p. m.
SESSION OF OCTOBER 6, 1884.
The Conference met pursuant to adjournment in the Diplomatic Hall of the Department of State, at one o'clock p. m.
Austro-Hungary: Baron IGNATZ VON SCHAEFFER. Brazil: Dr. LUIZ CRULS. Colombia: Commodore S. R. FRANKLIN. Costa Rica: Mr. JUAN FRANCISCO ECHEVERRIA. France: Mr. A. LEFAIVRE, Mr. JANSSEN. Germany: Baron H. VON ALVENSLEBEN, Mr. HINCKELDEYN. Great Britain: Capt. Sir F. J. O. EVANS, Prof. J. C. ADAMS, Lieut.-General STRACHEY, Mr. SANDFORD FLEMING. Guatemala: Mr. MILES ROOK. Hawaii: Hon. W. D. ALEXANDER, Hon. LUTHER AHOLO. Italy: Count ALBERT DE FORESTA. Japan: Professor KIKUCHI. Mexico: Mr. LEANDRO FERNANDEZ, Mr. ANGEL ARGUIANO. Paraguay: Capt. JOHN STEWART. Russia: Mr. C. DE STRUVE, Major-General STEBNITZKI, Mr. KOLOGRIVOFF. San Domingo: Mr. DE J. GALVAN. Salvador: Mr. ANTONIO BATRES. Spain: Mr. JUAN VALERA, Mr. EMILIO RUIZ DEL ARBOL, Mr. JUAN PASTORIN. Sweden: Count CARL LEWENHAUPT. Turkey: RUSTEM EFFENDI. United States: Rear-Admiral C. R. P. RODGERS, Mr. LEWIS M. RUTHERFURD, Mr. W. F. ALLEN, Commander W. T. SAMPSON, Professor CLEVELAND ABBE. Venezuela: Dr. A. M. SOTELDO.
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, said that the resolution offered by him at the last meeting omitted to state that the proposed meridian was for longitude, and he would offer the following as a substitute therefor:
"Resolved, That the Conference proposes to the Governments here represented the adoption of the meridian passing through the centre of the transit instrument at the Observatory of Greenwich as the standard meridian for longitude."
The PRESIDENT then asked if the Conference would permit the substitution to be made, and it was unanimously agreed to.
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, stated that he did not propose to press the resolution to an early vote, but that it was offered simply to elicit the opinions of Delegates on the subject. He further stated that, having heard that the Delegates of France, Mr. LEFAIVRE and Mr. JANSSEN, desired to present certain propositions, he would, for that purpose, move to withdraw for the time being the resolution offered by him.
No objection being made, the resolution was temporarily withdrawn.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, then made the following statement:
Our colleague, Mr. RUTHERFURD, having withdrawn his motion for the adoption of the meridian of Greenwich, we, the Delegates of France, after consultation with him, submit the following motion:
"Resolved, That the initial meridian should have a character of absolute neutrality. It should be chosen exclusively so as to secure to science and to international commerce all possible advantages, and in particular especially should cut no great continent—neither Europe nor America."
Sir F. J. O. EVANS, Delegate of Great Britain, then stated that he presumed the Conference could hardly pass by the important meeting held at Rome, where twelve of the thirty-eight Delegates were directors of national observatories, and where the subject of the conditions which should attach to a prime meridian were discussed without reference to any particular nationality; that these learned gentlemen came to the conclusion (which he thought was a very wise one) that the necessity existed for a prime meridian that it should pass through an astronomical observatory of the first order; that modern science demanded such precision, and therefore they excluded all ideas of a meridian being established on an island, in a strait, on the summit of a mountain, or as indicated by a monumental building. Looking at the subject in its various aspects, they came to the conclusion that there were only four great observatories which in their minds combined all the conditions, and this decision was unanimously received by that Conference. Those great observatories were Paris, Berlin, Greenwich, and Washington. He stated further that, having this in view, he thought this Conference should be particularly guarded, looking at the question from a scientific point of view, not to depart from the conditions laid down by the Conference at Rome; that he had no desire to advocate any one of the places enumerated, but merely mentioned them as satisfying all the conditions of science, which was so brilliantly represented at Rome.
Commander SAMPSON, Delegate of the United States, then said:
I can only attempt to anticipate the arguments which may be advanced by the learned Delegate from France in support of his resolution to adopt a neutral meridian. But it is our simple duty, in our present judicial capacity, to examine the question of a prime meridian from all points of view. With the object, then, of considering the question from another stand-point, I ask your attention for one moment. This Congress, at its last meeting, by a unanimous vote, declared its opinion that it was desirable to adopt a single prime meridian for the purpose of reckoning longitude. Further, it is fair to assume that the delegates here assembled, in answer to a specific invitation from the Government of the United States, and for a stated purpose, have come empowered by their respective governments to act upon the questions submitted for their consideration in the invitation.
At the last meeting, the Delegates from France left us somewhat in doubt regarding their views upon this important question of the powers of the delegates, or at least of their own delegation. But as they have to-day advocated the adoption of a neutral meridian, we may conclude that they have the necessary delegated power to fully consider and determine the main question before us—the selection of a prime meridian.
In the absence of any declared opinion to the contrary, we may take it for granted that the Delegates from all States here represented are deputed to "fix upon a meridian proper to be employed as a common zero of longitude throughout the globe," and to recommend the same for adoption to their respective Governments.
If, then, we are of one mind as to the desirability of a single prime meridian, and if we are fully empowered to make the selection, which may be taken as another way of saying that we are directed by our respective Governments to make the selection, we may proceed directly to the performance of this duty.
In the choice of a prime meridian, there is no physical feature of our earth which commends itself above others as the best starting point; nor does the form of the earth itself present any peculiarity which might be used as an initial point. If the refinements of geodesy should finally lead to the conclusion that the figure of the earth is an ellipsoid with three axes, yet the question of the direction of either of the equatorial axes must remain to such a degree uncertain that the extremity of the axis could not be assumed as the point of departure for counting longitude. Indeed, as an initial meridian must above all things be fixed in position, it would not answer to make its position depend upon any physical constant which is itself in the slightest degree uncertain; for in these days, when refinements in physical measurements are constantly leading to more and more accurate results, each advance in accuracy would necessitate an annoying change in the initial meridian, or, what would more probably result, the retention of the first chosen meridian, which would thus lose its dependence upon the original definition, and become as arbitrary as if taken by chance in the first instance.
We may then say that, from a purely scientific point of view, any meridian may be taken as the prime meridian. But from the standpoint of convenience and economy there is undoubtedly much room for a choice.
Considering this question of convenience in connection with the necessary condition of fixity already referred to, the prime meridian should pass through some well-established national observatory.
In making the choice of a prime meridian which is to serve for a great period of time, it is important to so fix and define it that the natural changes of time may not render it in the least degree uncertain. To this end, the nation within whose borders the chosen point may fall should engage to establish it in the most enduring manner, and protect it against all possible causes of change or destruction.
When taken in connection with other requirements, to be mentioned hereafter, this character of permanence will be best secured by making the adopted meridian pass through an observatory which is under the control of the Government.
Such observatory should be in telegraphic communication with the whole world, in order that the differences of longitude from the prime meridian may be determined for any point. These conditions of convenience are so important that they may fairly be considered imperative. To fulfil them one of the national meridians now in use should be selected. To select any other than one of these meridians, or a meridian directly dependent upon one of them, and defined simply by its angular distance from one of these national meridians, would be to introduce endless confusion into all charts and maps now in use.
To select as a prime meridian one which shall be a defined angular distance from one of the national meridians, must have for its object either to remove some inconvenience which results from the use of the national meridian itself, or it must be to satisfy a desire to deprive the selected meridian of any nationality.
The inconvenience of east and west longitudes, which results from having the prime meridian pass through a thickly populated portion of the world, will be removed by reckoning the longitude continuously from O deg. to 360 deg.. At the same time an important advantage is secured by having the prime meridian occupy a central position with regard to the most densely populated part of the earth; because the distances which will then separate the various points from the central observatory marking the initial meridian will be a minimum, and consequently less liable to error in determination. The selection of a meridian by calculation, defined as a certain number of degrees east or west of one of the national meridians, would not thereby deprive the meridian thus selected of a national character; for though we may reckon longitude from a meridian passing through the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean, yet the initial point from which all measurements of longitude must be made would still remain one of the national meridians. Again, if any other than one of the national meridians were selected, or a meridian dependent upon one of them, as, for example, a neutral meridian in the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean, it would necessitate a change in all charts and maps.
It is hardly necessary to say that no scientific or practical advantage is to be secured by adopting the meridian of the great pyramid, or by attempting to establish permanent meridian marks over a great length of the selected meridian, for even in the present advanced condition of astronomical and geodetic science it is not practicable to establish two points on the same meridian at a considerable distance from each other with such a degree of accuracy as would warrant the use of them indifferently as the initial point.
As a matter of economy as well as convenience that meridian should be selected which is now in most general use. This additional consideration of economy would limit our choice to the meridian of Greenwich, for it may fairly be stated upon the authority of the distinguished Delegate from Canada that more than 70 per cent. of all the shipping of the world uses this meridian for purposes of navigation.
The charts constructed upon this meridian cover the whole navigable globe. The cost of the plates from which these charts are printed is probably 75 per cent. of the cost of all plates in the world for printing mariners' charts, and is probably not less than ten millions of dollars. As a matter of economy, then, to the world at large, it would be better to permit those plates to remain unchanged which are engraved for the meridian of Greenwich and to make the necessary changes in all plates engraved for other meridians.
A very natural pride has led the great nations to establish by law their own prime meridian within their own borders, and into this error the United States was led about 35 years ago.
Should any of us now hesitate in the adoption of a particular meridian, or should any nation covet the honor of having the selected meridian within its own borders, it is to be remembered that when the prime meridian is once adopted by all it loses its specific name and nationality, and becomes simply the Prime Meridian.
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, stated that he did not propose to take up much of the time of the Conference; that he had listened with great pleasure to the exhaustive speech of his colleague, Commander SAMPSON, but that he wished to say a few words about the conditions of permanence in the prime meridian to which allusion had just been made. He said that he would call attention to the fact that the observatory at Paris stands within the heart of a large and populous city; that it has already been thought by many of the principal French astronomers that it should no longer remain there; that it has been, interfered with by the tremors of the earth and emanations in the air, which prevent it from fulfilling its usefulness; that for several years past strenuous efforts have been made to remove the observatory from Paris to some other place where it may be free to follow out its course of usefulness, and that the only thing which keeps it there is the remembrance of the honorable career of that observatory in times past. He added that he was sure that there was no one here who failed to recognize its claims to distinction; that there was no one here acquainted with the past history of astronomy but looks with pride upon the achievements of the human intellect effected there. At the same time, however, if a change is to be made, if sentiment should give way to practical reason, a locality, no doubt, will be found which may be calculated to fulfil the requirements of a prime meridian better than that one.
As to the fitness of Greenwich, he said that the observatory was placed in the middle of a large park under the control of the Government, so that no nuisance can come near it without their consent, and that it was in a position which speaks for itself; that he would only add one word more in regard to this matter, and that is, that the adoption of the meridian of Greenwich as the prime meridian has not been sought after by Great Britain; that it was not her proposition, but that she consented to it after it had been proposed by other portions of the civilized world.
Mr. JANSSEN, Delegate of France, said: We do not put forward the meridian of the observatory of Paris as that to be chosen for the prime meridian; but if it were chosen, and we wished to compare it with that of Greenwich as to the accuracy with which it is actually connected with the other observatories of Europe, it would not lose by the comparison. The latest observations of the differences of longitude made by electricity by the Bureau of Longitudes of France and our officers have given very remarkable results of great accuracy. It is well known that what is important for a starting point in reckoning longitude is, above all things, that it should be accurately connected with points whose positions have been precisely fixed, such as the great observatories. There is, therefore, a slight confusion on the part of my eminent colleague, namely, that of not distinguishing between the conditions which require the exact connection of the starting point of longitudes with observatories, and the merits of the position of such a point in an astronomical aspect, which is here a matter of secondary importance.
Mr. LEFAIVRE, Delegate of France, said that he did not not know if his observation was well founded, but it seemed to him that what the Delegates of France had proposed had not been contested, but that the arguments used had rather been those in favor of the adoption of the meridian of Greenwich.
Mr. RUTHERFURD, Delegate of the United States, said that the observations which he had made were merely to be regarded as a negative of the proposition made by the Delegates of France, and not as a statement of the arguments in favor of the adoption of Greenwich.
The PRESIDENT said that the remarks of the Delegate of the United States were not out of order, inasmuch as they were intended to combat the proposition brought forward by the Delegate of France.
Mr. JANSSEN, Delegate of France, then spoke as follows:
GENTLEMEN: At the last session, when a proposition was made by my eminent colleague and friend, Mr. RUTHERFURD, to discuss and vote upon the adoption of the meridian of Greenwich as the common prime meridian, I thought it necessary to say that the proposal appeared to me prematurely made, and that we could not agree to the discussion proceeding in that manner. Mr. RUTHERFURD has informed me that he would withdraw his proposition for the present, in order to permit me to direct the discussion, in the first place, to the principle which should direct the choice of a common prime meridian. I here take the opportunity of thanking Mr. RUTHERFURD for his courtesy, and I no longer object to proceeding with the debate.
What we ask is, that after the general declaration of the second session as to the utility of a common prime meridian, the Congress should discuss the question of the principle which should guide the choice of that meridian.
Being charged to maintain before you, gentlemen, the principle of the neutrality of the prime meridian, it is evident that if that principle was rejected by the Congress it would be useless for us to take part in the further discussion of the choice of the meridian to be adopted as the point of departure in reckoning longitude.
We think, gentlemen, that if this question of the unification of longitude is again taken up after so many unsuccessful attempts to settle it as are recorded in history, there will be no chance of its final solution unless it be treated upon an exclusively geographical basis, and that at any cost all national competition should be set aside. We do not advocate any particular meridian. We put ourselves completely aside in the debate, and thus place ourselves in a position of far greater freedom for expressing our opinion, and discussing the question exclusively in view of the interests affected by the proposed reform.
The history of geography shows us a great number of attempts to establish a uniformity of longitude, and when we look for the reasons which have caused those attempts (many of which were very happily conceived) to fail, we are struck with the fact that it appears due to two principal causes—one of a scientific and the other of a moral nature. The scientific cause was the incapacity of the ancients to determine exactly the relative positions of different points on the globe, especially if it was a question of an island far from a continent, and which consequently could not be connected with that continent by itinerary measurements. For example, the first meridian of Marinus of Tyre and Ptolemy, placed on the Fortunate Isles, in spite of its being so well chosen at the western extremity of the then known world, could not continue to be used on account of the uncertainty of the point of departure. That much to be regretted obstacle caused the method to be changed. It became necessary to fall back on the continent. But then, in place of a single common origin of longitude indicated by nature, the first meridians were fixed at capitals of countries, at remarkable places, at observatories. The second cause to which I just now alluded, the cause of a moral nature—national pride—has led to the multiplication of geographical starting-points where the nature of things would have required, on the contrary, their reduction to a single one.
In the seventeenth century, Cardinal Richelieu, in view of this confusion, desired to take up again the conception of Marinus of Tyre, and assembled at Paris French and foreign men of science, and the famous meridian of the Island of Ferro was the result of their discussions.
Here, gentlemen, we find a lesson which should not be lost sight of. This meridian of Ferro, which at first had the purely geographical and neutral character which could alone establish and maintain it as an international first meridian, was deprived of its original characteristic by the geographer Delisle, who, to simplify the figures, placed it at 20 degrees in round numbers west of Paris. This unfortunate simplification abandoned entirely the principle of impersonality. It was no longer then an independent meridian; it was the meridian of Paris disguised. The consequences were soon felt. The meridian of Ferro, which has subsequently been considered as a purely French meridian, aroused national susceptibilities, and thus lost the future which was certainly in store for it if it had remained as at first defined. This was a real misfortune for geography. Our maps, while being perfected, would have preserved a common unit of origin, which, on the contrary, has altered more and more.
If, as soon as astronomical methods had been far enough advanced to permit the establishment of relative positions with that moderate accuracy which is sufficient for ordinary geography, (and that could have been done at the end of the 17th century,) we had again taken up the just and geographical conception of Marinus of Tyre, the reform would have been accomplished two centuries sooner, and to-day we should have been in the full enjoyment of it. But the fault was committed of losing sight of the essential principles of the question, and the establishment of numerous observatories greatly contributed to this. Furnishing naturally very accurate relative positions, each one of these establishments was chosen by the nation to which it belonged as a point of departure for longitude, so that the intervention of astronomy in these questions of a geographical nature, an intervention which, if properly understood, should have been so useful, led us further away from the object to be attained.
In fact, gentlemen, the study of these questions tends to show that there is an essential distinction between meridians of a geographical or hydrographical nature and meridians of observatories. The meridians of observatories should be considered essentially national. Their function is to permit observatories to connect themselves one with another for the unification of the observations made at them. They serve also as bases for geodetic and topographical operations carried on around them. But their function is of a very special kind, and should be generally limited to the country to which they belong.
On the contrary, initial meridians for geography need not be fixed with quite such a high degree of accuracy as is required by astronomy; but, in compensation, their operation must be far reaching, and while it is useful to increase as much as possible the number of meridians of observatories, it is necessary to reduce as much as we can the starting points for longitudes in geography.
Further, it may be said that as the position of an observatory should be chosen with reference to astronomical considerations, so an initial meridian in geography should only be fixed for geographical reasons.
Gentlemen, have these two very different functions been always well understood, and has this necessary distinction been preserved? In no wise. As observatories, on account of the great accuracy of their operations, furnish admirable points of reference, each nation which was in a condition to do it connected with its principal observatory not only the geodetic or topographical work which was done at home—a very natural thing—but also general geographical or hydrographical work which was executed abroad, a practice which contained the germ of all the difficulties with which we are troubled to-day. Thus, as maps accumulated, the need of uniformity, especially in those that referred to general geography, was felt more and more.
This explains why this question of a single meridian as a starting point has been so often raised of late.
Among the assemblies which have occupied themselves with this question, the one which principally calls for our attention is that which was held at Rome last year; indeed, for many of our colleagues the conclusions adopted by the Congress of Rome settle the whole matter. These conclusions must, therefore, receive our special attention.
In reading the reports of the discussions of that Congress, I was struck with the fact that in an assembly of so many learned men and eminent theorists it was the practical side of the question that was chiefly considered, and which finally determined the character of the resolutions adopted.
Thus, instead of laying down the great principle that the meridian to be offered to the world as the starting-point for all terrestrial longitudes should, have above all things, an essentially geographical and impersonal character, the question was simply asked, which one of the meridians in use among the different observatories has (if I may be allowed to use the expression) the largest number of clients? In a matter which interests geography much more than hydrography, as most sailors acknowledge, because there exist really but two initial hydrographic meridians, Greenwich and Paris, a prime meridian has been taken, the reign (practical influence) of which is principally over the sea; and this meridian, instead of being chosen with reference to the configuration of the continents, is borrowed from an observatory; that is to say, that it is placed on the globe in a hap-hazard manner, and is very inconveniently situated for the function that it is to perform. Finally, instead of profiting by the lessons of the past, national rivalries are introduced in a question that should rally the good-will of all.
Well, gentlemen, I say that considerations of economy and of established custom should not make us lose sight of the principles which must be paramount in this question, and which alone can lead to the universal acceptance and permanence of its settlement. Furthermore, gentlemen, these motives of economy and of established custom, which have been appealed to as a decisive argument, exist, it is true, for the majority in behalf of which they have been put forward, but exist for them only, and leave to us the whole burden of change in customs, publications, and material.
Since the report considers us of so little weight in the scales, allow me, gentlemen, to recall briefly the past and the present of our hydrography, and for that purpose I can do no better than to quote from a work that has been communicated to me, and which emanates from one of our most learned hydrographers. "France," he says, "created more than two centuries ago the most ancient nautical ephemerides in existence. She was the first to conceive and execute the great geodetic operations which had for their object the construction of civil and military maps and the measurement of arcs of the meridian in Europe, America, and Africa. All these operations were and are based on the Paris meridian. Nearly all the astronomical tables used at the present time by the astronomers and the navies of the whole world are French, and calculated for the Paris meridian. As to what most particularly concerns shipping, the accurate methods now used by all nations for hydrographic surveys are of French origin, and our charts, all reckoned from the meridian of Paris, bear such names as those of Bougainville, La Perouse, Fleurieu, Borda, d'Entrecasteaux, Beautemps, Beaupre, Duperrey, Dumont d'Urville, Daussy, to quote only a few among those who are not living.
"Our actual hydrographic collections amount to more than 4,000 charts. By striking off those which the progress of explorations have rendered useless, there still remain about 2,600 charts in use. Of this number more than half represent original French surveys, a large part of which foreign nations have reproduced. Amongst the remainder, the general charts are the result of discussions undertaken in the Bureau of the Marine, by utilizing all known documents, French as well as foreign, and there are relatively few which are mere translations of foreign works. Our surveys are not confined to the coasts of France and of its colonies; there is scarcely a region of the globe for which we do not possess original work—Newfoundland, the coasts of Guiana, of Brazil, and of La Plata, Madagascar, numerous points of Japan and of China, 187 original charts relative to the Pacific. We must not omit the excellent work of our hydrographic engineers on the west coast of Italy, which was honored by the international jury with the great medal of honor at the Universal Exhibition of 1867. The exclusive use of the Paris meridian by our sailors is justified by reference to a past of two centuries, which we have thus briefly recalled.
"If another initial meridian had to be adopted, it would be necessary to change the graduation of our 2,600 hydrographic plates; it would be necessary to do the same thing for our nautical instructions, (sailing directions,) which exceed 600 in number. The change would also necessarily involve a corresponding change in the Connaissance des Temps."
These are titles to consideration of some importance. Well, if under these circumstances the projected reform, instead of being directed by the higher principles which ought to govern the subject, should take solely for its base the respect due to the established customs of the largest number and the absence on their part of all sacrifice, reserving to us alone the burden of the change and the abandonment of a valued and glorious past, are we not justified in saying that a proposition thus made would not be acceptable?
When France, at the end of the last century, instituted the metre, did she proceed thus? Did she, as a measure of economy and in order to change nothing in her customs, propose to the world the "Pied de Roi" as a unit of measure? You know the facts. The truth is, everything with us was overthrown—both the established methods and instruments for measurement; and the measure adopted being proportioned only to the dimensions of the earth, is so entirely detached from everything French that in future centuries the traveller who may search the ruins of our cities may inquire what people invented the metrical measure that chance may bring under his eyes.
Permit me to say that it is thus a reform should be made and becomes acceptable. It is by setting the example of self-sacrifice; it is by complete self-effacement in any undertaking, that opposition is disarmed and true love of progress is proved.
I now hasten to say that I am persuaded that the proposition voted for at Rome was neither made nor suggested by England, but I doubt whether it would render a true service to the English nation if it be agreed to. An immense majority of the navies of the world navigate with English charts; that is true, and it is a practical compliment to the great maritime activity of that nation. When this freely admitted supremacy shall be transformed into an official and compulsory supremacy, it will suffer the vicissitudes of all human power, and that institution, (the common meridian,) which by its nature is of a purely scientific nature, and to which we would assure a long and certain future, will become the object of burning competition and jealousy among nations.