No. 677.
Mr. Russell to Mr. Fish.

No. 58.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that a question which may interest United States merchants has arisen, as to the construction of articles 20 and 21 of the decree closing the port of Maracaibo L. C. for foreign commerce. The decree was inclosed in my No. 56.* Article 20 provides that any vessel dispatched from the United States or from Europe within thirty days from the promulgation of the decree, may discharge and reload with products of the country at Maracaibo, (San Carlos.) Article 21 provides that the decree shall take effect at San Carlos from the date of its publication there, saving the lapse of time given by article 20 to the vessels engaged in foreign commerce. (Literally, keeping in view the lapse.)

I endeavored, in vain, to obtain an official construction of this clause in time for the steamer. But I have only now received the unofficial statement of the minister of foreign relations, that, in the opinion of the minister of revenue, the thirty days begin to run, for a vessel coming to Maracaibo, from the date of the publication of the decree at Maracaibo. The decree was published here on March 16. It was published much later in Maracaibo; probably as late as March 26. And the question may become of practical interest, because it is quite possible that vessels may sail from the United States thirty days after March 16, without having had notice of the decree.

Since writing the above, I have received from the minister of foreign relations an assurance that government will abide by the favorable construction herein stated.

I am, &c.,

  1. Ante.