No. 505.
Mr. Westenberg to Mr. Fish.


Mr. Secretary of State: I have had the honor to receive your excellency’s note of the 31st of December last, inclosing one from the Secretary of the Treasury, in relation to the abolition, by the American Government, in favor of the Netherlands, of the discriminating duty of 10 per centum, which is now levied upon the productions of countries lying to the east of the Cape of Good Hope, when brought to America indirectly from European ports, which abolition is asked for in consideration of the abolition by the government of the Netherlands of the discriminating duties which have hitherto been levied in the Dutch East Indies, and of the general reduction of import and export duties in those possessions.

Your excellency desires to be informed whether, by the words discriminating duties are to be abolished in principle on and after January 1, 1874,” it is to be understood that all duties of this nature are henceforth de facto and really abolished and moreover, whether the government of the Netherlands asks the United States to abolish the discriminating duties on tea and coffee, basing its request upon article 5 of the [Page 788] convention of August 26, 1852, or whether it asks the abolition of all discriminating duties in general which are now levied upon East Indian productions, “as a question of international policy and comity outside of treaty obligations.”

I have deemed it my duty to refer to my government, in order to be able to give your excellency a satisfactory reply to these questions.

As regards the first question, I hasten to inform you that, on the 1st of January last, all discriminating duties were really and actually abolished in the East Indies, and that the advantages accruing therefrom are granted provisionally to the American commercial flag, in the legitimate expectation that the United States will, on their part, desire to abolish the discriminating duty of 10 per centum now levied upon East Indian productions when brought to America via Dutch ports in Europe.

It is to be understood by the term in principle, that the abolition by the Netherlands of discriminating duties in the East Indies, although it has already been provisionally granted, in accordance with the liberal policy of the government of the Netherlands, has only been so on condition of reciprocity. Should this reciprocity not be granted, the government of the Netherlands reserves the right to re establish the discriminating duties.

As regards the second question, the government of the Netherlands does not base its request exclusively upon the fifth article of the convention of August 26, 1852, and it is, moreover, unnecessary to appeal to ideas of “international policy and comity.”

The government of the Netherlands, in making this request, does, indeed, take the fifth article of the convention of August 26, 1852, as its point of departure, but it regards the question as purely one of reciprocity, based as much upon the principles which were observed at the time when our treaties of commerce with America were concluded, as upon the principles which govern the commercial relations of the United States with other nations.

It is, therefore, essential not to lose sight of the fact that the point in question is by no means a favor to be granted to the Netherlands, but an equivalent for the advantages granted to America, which advantages, resulting from the provisions of the new East Indian tariff, are multiform.

In view of these considerations, your excellency will, I hope, be convinced that no other government could be permitted to ask for the abolition of the discriminating duty of 10 per cent, aforesaid gratuitously, basing its request simply upon the condition of the usage of the most favored nation, granted to it by treaty. I may also add that, in general, the levying of discriminating duties seems to have always been regarded by the Government of the United States as a retaliatory measure, as appears from the negotiations for the convention of August 26, 1852, between the Netherlands and the United States, at which time duties of this nature were not levied in America.

The stipulation proposed at that time in the Dutch draught, viz, “the privilege granted to the Netherlands by the present tariff act of the United States, as to coffee, the growth or production of the possessions of the Netherlands, imported from, the Netherlands, is continued,” was rejected by the Government of the United States, on account of the discriminating duties then levied in the East Indies.

Although no discriminating duties were then levied in America, the Government of the United States desired to reserve the right to introduce them, in order thus to exercise a certain pressure upon the government [Page 789] of the Netherlands. I refer, as regards these negotiations, to the notes of the Treasury Department of January 12 aud June 12, 1852.

Finally, I take the liberty to remind your excellency that, quite recently, discriminating duties were established in America on goods imported under the French flag, in retaliation for a similar measure adopted by the French government, and that, as soon as France had abrogated this measure, the United States in turn abolished the discriminating duties referred to.

It cannot but be regarded as evident that, in accordance with these principles and these precedents, the abolition of discriminating duties on goods shipped in transitu from one of the contracting parties should be considered as the natural and just consequence of the abolition, in its favor, of the discriminating duties levied upon goods produced by the other contracting party.

While taking the liberty to commend the foregoing to the kind attention of your excellency, I entertain at the same time the confident hope that you will appreciate, in the explanations asked for by you, the justice of the arguments used for the abolition, in favor of the Netherlands, of the said discriminating duty of 10 per cent, upon the productions of countries lying to the east of the Cape of Good Hope, and brought to America indirectly via Dutch ports in Europe, and that you will therefore recommend to the Congress of the United States the adoption of this measure, which is a matter of reciprocal interest, and one of importance to American commerce.

I avail, &c,