No. 779.
Mr. Fish to Aristarchi Bey.

Sir: Referring to your note of the 19th of March last, in regard to the measurement of vessels and tonnage dues on the Suez Canal, and to my reply of the 24th of the same month, I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of a letter, under date of the 20th instant, addressed to this Department by the Secretary of the Treasury, containing his views upon the subject.

I avail myself, &c,


Mr. Richardson to Mr. Fish.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letters dated the 2d and 25th of March last, respectively, relating to a note addressed to you by the Turkish minister, in which he states that the solution of the tonnage question will be greatly aided by the consent of a great maritime power like the United States, to avail itself of the scientific results which have been attained by the labors of the international tonnage commission, recently concluded at Constantinople, and expressing the hope that this Government will make a favorable decision to be communicated to his government.

In reply to your suggestion that the conclusions of the commission may deserve consideration, and your request for an expression of the views of this Department in regard to the matter, I beg to state that the system of admeasurement established by Congress in 1864, and now in use in this country, has become familiar to the officers of the Government and to all concerned; and that as the laws in regard to the amount of tonnage dues to be collected are based upon that act, any change therein would affect, to some extent, the revenues derived from tonnage. It may also be observed that no change could be made, without the sanction of Congress, the contemplated early adjournment of which body would probably prevent a proper consideration of the subject, even if its attention were drawn thereto.

For the reason stated, and in view especially of the information * * * that the tonnage question is far from settled, and that there is no immediate prospect of its satisfactory solution, I recommend that no action be taken, at least before the next regular session of Congress, looking to the adoption of the measures proposed by the commission. If at that time it should be found that the whole matter, so far as it relates to the tolls of the Suez Canal, has been satisfactorily adjusted, and that there [Page 1164] is a general disposition on the part of the principal maritime powers to adopt the conclusions of the commission, I shall be happy to give the subject a more extended consideration, and to recommend legislation which will make our present system conform to the recommendations of the commission in all respects as it is understood already to do in regard to the most essential particulars. In the meantime I should be pleased to be apprised of any further information touching the subject which you may receive.

I have, &c,