Mr. Vesey to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the reception of the circular of the department, No. 30, and dated the 24th of December last, directing me to forward to the department information as to the means adopted, in the country of my official residence, for the protection of the revenue, and the collection of duties in the passage of goods across the national frontier.
I beg to refer to the accompanying extract of the general instructions of this government to its officers upon the subject. The sheet marked A shows the formalities and regulations when foreign goods are imported and forwarded in transitu, or stored in public warehouses, with the privilege of entry for home consumption, or for re-exportation. The system is, I am informed by those who are in business, very complete, and a great prevention against frauds upon the revenue.
The national frontier is the custom-house boundaries; localities are designated on the line as stations, through which goods are allowed to be brought into the [Page 1364] country. Where canals or rivers form the “boundary, the legal landing places are designated by the government. The custom-house boundary is protected by a body of men who are uniformed and armed, and all other government functionaries are enjoined to render assistance, in case of need, to prevent frauds or smuggling. Goods passing the frontier must travel the roads prescribed by the government, and by daylight, from sunrise to sunset. The carrier, boatman, or person in charge of the goods, is obliged to report himself, on arriving in the country, at the nearest custom-house establishment, whether the goods are liable to duty or exempted; he must make a declaration of all goods, wares, merchandise or provisions under his charge. The form for this declaration is herewith transmitted, and marked B, with the general instructions for its use indorsed upon it. It is at the option of the party importing goods to enter them for home consumption and pay the duty at the frontier, or have them taken to a custom-house of the interior, more convenient to the owner. It is also optional to have the goods examined and verified, and the duty ascertained, either at the frontier or at any locality of the interior, where the amount may be paid. But in either case the goods are always in possession of the customhouse authorities in the transit from one place to another, and are kept under lock and key, or, where such mode is impracticable, one or more leaden seals (plombage) are attached to each package. A given time, according to distance, is allowed, and the carrier, with the owner of the goods, are justly and severally held responsible for the delivery at the place of destination and presentation at the custom-house. In order to insure the performance of these obligations, security must be deposited for the approximate amount of the duty, or a bond entered into by a third party. The bondsmen and the owners of the goods are held jointly and severally responsible for the payment. Under the same regulations goods may be stored at the depots of the frontier, or removed to other custom-houses within the limits of the German confederation, with the privilege of being entered for home consumption or re-exportation. The bondsman in this, as in all other cases, must be a third party, the return of the securities deposited, or release from the bond is granted upon a certificate being presented that the obligations have been complied with. All goods sent in transit, either to another custom-house or to the frontier for re-exportation, must be accompanied with a way-bill, granted by the custom-house, a copy of which, marked C and D, is herewith transmitted. The first named, 0, shows that the goods have been examined, and the amount of duty ascertained at the frontier, but allowed to be removed to another custom-house for the payment of the duty. Form D is used for goods that are removed under bond, either for storage in a public warehouse or for transhipment to another country. These documents are issued in duplicate, one given to the owner and the other to the carrier, and they are required to sign an obligation to faithfully comply with the terms and regulations set forth therein. When the goods are presented and over the frontier the way-bill is indorsed, the bondsman released, or the amount deposited refunded. The manner in which the record of way-bills is kept, and the receipts granted for the same, is exhibited in the copies of four forms, marked from E to H, herewith transmitted. No printed forms can be obtained at the customhouse here. To guard against frauds the forms are counted over to each clerk of a department, who is held responsible for the number received.
Goods must not exceed a reasonable time in reaching their destination, and in no case are way-bills granted for a longer period than four months.
No fees are exacted for the performance of any duties of public functionaries. The cost of leaden seals, roping, labor hire, &c., is charged by the customhouse; but officers and clerks receive no fee or gratuity.
Goods may be stored in the public warehouses for any term not exceeding two years. The charge for storage differs at different places, according to locality, but in no case is the charge more than three cents (American) per [Page 1365] month for one hundred weight (equal to 104 American) of liquids per month, and two cents for all other kinds of goods. The goods can never be removed until all claims of the government are satisfied. This being an inland town, the forementioned regulations and formalities apply to goods brought by common carriers or boats. The custom-house regulations in force were framed in 1838, but their main features apply to the modern transit by railroad; the companies are considered common carriers, and are held responsible as such; they are, therefore, exceedingly cautious, in receiving goods, to see that the custom-house regulations are strictly complied with. Declarations are made out in two languages, German and French; a translation of these documents, marked I and K, with copies of the forms attached, are herewith transmitted. I also transmit a translation, marked L, of the railroad convention between Prussia and France. This convention forms part of the commercial treaty lately concluded between the two countries; it defines the whole system, and might perhaps be found useful in the intercourse between the United States and Canada. I also beg to hand the department a book, marked M, containing the French-German treaty above alluded to, as well as the new tariff and correspondence of several German courts upon the subject. I annex a translation of the index; also a pamphlet, marked N, that examines the treaty and points out the advantages to be derived from it, and refers to statistics that may be considered interesting to the department. The accompanying book, marked O, is a hand-book for the use of custom-house officers in Germany; refers to the tariff and rules to assist the officer in the discharge of his duties, and points out the different bylaws of various parts of the German confederation.
In the hope, sir, that the foregoing will be considered satisfactory to the department, I have the honor to be, with the highest repect, sir, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.