The Marquis de Montholon to Mr. Seward
Sir: I had the honor on the 13th of October last to transmit to the Department of State the text of the law promulgated in France 16th of May, 1866, in relation to the merchant marine. I at the same time requested your excellency to be so good as to let me know whether the American government was disposed to grant to our ships in the ports of the Union the like treatment as that law stipulated in flavor of American ships in the ports of the empire.
The minister for foreign affairs reminds me, in a despatch which I have just received, that, article 4 of the law of 16th May being applicable at and from the 1st of January next, it is indispensable, in order that we may be enabled, from that date, to extend to the American marine the benefit of its provisions, that we should receive, preliminarily, the assurance of full and complete reciprocity. The minister, Mr. de Moustier, instructs me, in consequence, to call anew this question to the attention of your excellency. I should, therefore, be much obliged to you, Mr. Secretary of State, if it should be possible for you, to put me in position to make known to my government, before the expiration of the time indicated for putting in force our new legislation, whether the federal government is disposed to consent to the suppression of the tonnage duties now levied on our merchant vessels in the United States. American legislation having anticipated cases of this kind, the minister for foreign affairs hopes the solution of this affair is not of a nature to involve delay or difficulty.
Accept, Mr. Secretary of State, the assurances of my high consideration.
Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.[Page 288]