Mr. Plumb to Mr. Seward.
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]