No. 759.
Mr. Boker to Mr. Fish.

No. 126.]

Sir: I have the honor herewith to transmit a copy of the report of the commission which lately sat at the Sublime Porto, for the purpose of interpreting the words “tonneau de capacité,” as found in the firman granting the concession to the Suez Canal Company, together with a translation of the same into English.

It will be observed that the commission decides against the construction put upon the phrase by Mr. de Lesseps, a judgment which would condemn the company to refund the tolls which have been paid under protest since July 1, 1872. It is not, however, supposed that Mr. de Lesseps will submit to this decision without a struggle but that he will seek some other method of obtaining his own way, which, as a solution of all difficulties, that eminent gentlemans seems to consider to be his mission upon earth.

I am, &c,


[From the “Levant Herald.” July 17, 1873.]

the suez canal.

Vizieral letter to the Khedive.

On Tuesday the letter addressed to the Khedive by the grand vizrer, and containing the interpretation given by the Forte to article 17 of the Suez Canal concession, was communicated to the foreign representatives at Constantinople.

The following is a translation of this document:

Highness: As your highness is aware, the Suez Canal Company was in the habit, [Page 1122] from the opening of the canal up to the 1st July, 1872, of levying a due upon vessels passing through the canal of 10 francs for every ton registered upon the ship’s papers, without this mode of levying being confirmed by the imperial government. Since the 1st July, however, the company has, also without the sanction of the Turkish government, levied the same due according to a new system which it has adopted for the measurement of vessels. This measure did not fail to excite the protests of foreign powers.

It was agreed between the latter and the canal company to refer to the imperial government for an interpretation of the clause in the concession accorded by the Egyptian administration to the Suez Canal Company, on the 2 Rebi-ul-enel, 1272, and confirmed by imperial firman on the 2 Zileadé, 1282, whereby it is laiddown that the due upon vessels passing through the canal shall not exceed 10 francs per “ton of capacity.”

Consequently, and seeing the necessity of removing all grounds for the existing protests by elucidating this clause, the council of ministers has deliberated on the question, and has studied it attentively and profoundly. Now, in ratifying the act of concession above mentioned, the Porte has never, in reality, understood the expression “ton of capacity” occurring in a certain passage of the concession, otherwise than in an absolute sense; it has understood the expression in the sense of the tonnage specified on the papers of vessels belonging to different nationalities. For it is obvious that vessels of every nation traversing the canal must be subjected, according to the provisions of the concession, to an equal tax. As, however, the different governments have not yet adopted a uniform system of measurement for their vessels, it was necessary to employ the expression “ton of capacity” in general, so that the expression should be applied to the uniform measurement which would later on be adopted by every government as well as by the imperial government for its marine. According to this order of ideas, it would be natural to adopt a system of measurement which would give the available capacity with the closest approximation. As, therefore, the Moorson system is evidently the one which approaches the most of all the existing systems of measurement to the available capacity of vessels, the Sublime Porte is of opinion that the net tonnage fixed according to that system should be adopted. In case, however, that the powers, or M. de Lesseps, should not agree to maintain this system, it will be necessary to convoke an international commission for the purpose of choosing an available system of measurement. For it is evident that the imperial government cannot select a definitive tonnage measurement which has not yet been approved and adopted by the other powers.

Such being the result of the debate of the council of ministers, and His Imperial Majesty to whom their decision has been referred having approved of this decision, I hereby inform your highness of the said decision, in order that your highness may take your measures in consequence.