Mr. Plumb to Mr. Seward.

No. 45.]

Sir: As all measures adopted by this government initiating valuable reforms will undoubtedly be viewed with interest by the department, and as it is my duty to communicate such new laws as affect in any way our commerce with this country, I transmit herewith copy and translation of a decree issued under date of the 19th ultimo, which is of some importance in both particulars.

The object of the decree is the abolition of the system of national tolls upon all the highways of the republic, which has been continued in existence from the time of the vice-royalty. These tolls, from their excessive amount and the vexations of their collection, and latterly the state of abandonment into which the roads have fallen, have become a heavy burden upon the industrial movement of the country, and their suppression, which is to go into effect on the 1st of February of the coming year, will be hailed with great satisfaction.

The theory of the decree is twofold: first, the entire removal of the system of tolls; and, secondly, the providing of some other means of raising the funds necessary for the construction and preservation of the public roads.

For this latter purpose provision is made from four sources, viz:

1st. A tax of fifty cents per thousand on the value of all rural property.

2d. A tax of fifty cents per thousand on the value of mills and manufactories.

3d. A tax upon stages used for the conveyance of passengers of one cent per kilometer for the distance run.

4th. A duty of one dollar for every two hundred pounds weight upon all foreign effects introduced into the republic, special mention being made that this duty is to include machinery, agricultural implements, &c., that have heretofore been free.

A slight analysis will show where it is intended the burden of the future maintenance of the public highways of the republic shall rest.

The tax upon rural property, it will be seen, is so low that a farm of the value of ten thousand dollars, and which perhaps is now without the means of communication, will have to pay for this object of such vital importance for the disposition of its products, only the sum of five dollars per annum; and a mill or manufactory of the value of one hundred thousand dollars will pay but fifty dollars per annum.

But upon foreign commerce the duty which is now laid for this purpose, in addition to those previously existing, amounts to ten dollars upon every ton of merchandise or of machinery, and to a dollar per barrel upon flour, and so a dollar for every two hundred pounds weight of all foreign effects introduced into the republic.

The purpose of the decree in this respect is not left in doubt, for in the preamble the unsound principle is asserted that it is foreign com merce that makes the most use of the roads, and it is stated, therefore that commerce should chiefly furnish the funds for their construction and repair.

While ready to applaud all measures of practical reform, the interests of our commerce with this country compel me to call your attention to this feature of the present decree.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

[Page 387]

Department of Fomento, Colonization, Industry, and Commerce.–Section 3.

The citizen President of the republic has addressed to me the following decree:

Benito Juarez, constitutional President of the United Mexican States, to the inhabitants of the same, be it known, that—

Considering that the impost known under the name of “peajes,” (tolls on the public highways,) is the cause, to those who are subject to it, of detention and injury, which weighs particularly on the poorer class of the population;

Considering that it is desirable to adjust, as early as possible, the collection of taxes in such a manner as to facilitate the future establishment of the complete liberty of interior commerce;

Considering, finally, that the effects which, by this law, are to be taxed, are those which really make the most use of the roads, and should, therefore, supply the means for their repair;

I have thought proper, in use of the faculties with which I am invested, to decree as follows:

Article 1. The tax known under the name of “peaces,” (road tolls,) is abolished in all the republic.

Art. 2. To provide means for the opening and repairing of roads, the following taxes are established:

1. Fifty cents per annum per thousand on the value of rural property in the republic, payable every four months in advance.

2. Fifty cents per annum per thousand on the value of all manufactories and mills, payable also every four months in advance.

3. A duty of one dollar on every two hundred pounds upon all foreign effects introduced at the maritime or frontier custom-houses of the republic.

4. Enterprises of carriages for the transportation of passengers shall pay one cent for each kilometer of road over which their carriages run. This payment shall be made at the end of every month, computing the distance run by the number of trips each carriage has made during the month.

Art. 3. The collection of the taxes imposed by this law on rural property, manufactories and mills, shall be made by the respective chief treasury officers, and in the federal district by the office of direct contributions.

Art. 4. The collection of the duty upon foreign effects shall be made also upon machinery and other objects heretofore excepted from duty by law, and such exemption shall hereafter be enjoyed only by such objects as are included in the special privileges heretofore given, or that may hereafter be conceded. Such collection shall be made by the collectors of the maritime and frontier custom-houses, who shall place the funds so received at the disposal of the department of fomento, without the right, in any case, of diverting them from the use to which they are destined.

Art. 5. The department of fomento is authorized to change, when it shall be deemed necessary, the manner of collecting the imposts herein referred to.

Art. 6. The product of these imposts shall remain exclusively destined to the construction of the roads.

Art. 7. The imposts established by this law shall commence to be collected from the 1st of January, 1868.

Transitory article.—In order that the department of fomento shall not be without the necessary funds for the repairing of the roads, the collection of the tolls heretofore established shall continue until the last day of January, 1868.

Wherefore, I order that the same be printed, published, and circulated, and that due compliance be given to it.


To the citizen Blas Balcarcel, Minister of Fomento, Colonization, Industry, and Commerce.

And I communicate the same to you for your intelligence and the consequent ends.

Independence and liberty! Mexico, November 19, 1867.