Mr. Webster to Mr. Seward.
* * * * * * *
I will with pleasure present the books you advise me of, to the Bavarian government, as soon as they arrive.
In this connexion I would like instruction. The question is, ought the United States to be subjected to the payment of duties upon her own property sent by her to her consulates in foreign countries, for the proper and public use of the consulate, or for presentation to the government of that country?
I can find nothing upon the subject in the books at my command. In December, 1861, I made a presentation to a counsellor of the ministry for foriegn affairs, of my views of the case, verbally, and as a result received, free of duty, the case of stationery sent me by your excellency, a report of which will be found in despatches Nos. 8 and 9 of that year.
But the claim has been since revived at the custom-house in every instance of an arrival from the department, and in every instance enforced, with the exception of the case of books presented to the Bavarian government in April last; but even this exception was obtained after much labor and many vexatious delays, as reported in despatch No. 7 of the present year. Whether I shall succeed in being allowed to present the books, now announced as on the way, to the Bavarian government free of duty, remains to be seen.
Do Bavarian consuls in the United States pay duty upon supplies, &c., sent them by their government for their official use? If not, we should have equal privileges.[Page 1369]
I wish it to be distinctly understood that I make no personal claim of exemption from liability to pay custom dues upon anything I may import for my private use.
I am, sir, with great respect, your very obedient servant,
His Excellency William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington.