Mr. Herhertz to Mr. Seward.
Cologne, October 29, 1877. (Received November 19.)
Sir: Referring to your separate circular of August last on the subject of commercial relations of the United States, which, in the consul’s, Mr. E. Beauchamp’s, absence, I found among the latest official papers of the consulate, I have the honor to say that the present moment appears to me to be favorable to the development and enlargement of trade between the United States and Germany.
In my opinion, American produce and its present decreased valuation are not sufficiently known here, and a corroborating reason lies in the military conditions of Germany and in their effect of absorbing vigorous hands and increasing wages. Machines replacing and facilitating common manual labor may therefore deserve attention at moderate prices; for instance, agricultural machines, implements, manure and hay forks, axes, hatchets, and other workmen’s tools, metal and wood working machinery, or for similar specific purposes; then, in other respects, furniture, glass-ware, jute, paper, carriages, harness-fittings, vehicles of different kinds, leather in various sorts, fire-arms, locks, nails, &c.
As articles of importation from the United States, I may further name under the head of victuals, in the first line, grains, and then meat, fish, cheese, butter, fruit, and, almost as nourishment, tobacco.
After these premises, it may be as well to take first into consideration the opposing elements that the most serious and well-meant endeavors to raise the mutual intercourse are likely to meet with.
In latter years American trade has been materially checked in Germany [Page 80]by the importation of articles of very inferior quality. I have cited some examples to Mr. Lee, the consul-general at Frankfort-on-the-Main, whose views, I am happy to say, are coinciding with my own in the essential questions of trade, and I have not hesitated to mention to him that German manufacturers look with an evil eye at importations from the United States, the more so as the commercial policy of Germany has made a bold advance in matters of import duties, and has relinquished the impost on wrought-iron and iron machinery. If the United States were inclined to open their coast, as we do, to free importation, such an idea would be hailed with pleasure, but, as long as this is not the case, opposition will have its sway, with an appearance of justice. Concerning the importation of American goods, I am of opinion that a careful selection should take place not only of merchandise, but also of the exporting houses. It will be necessary, I believe, to invite only firms of undoubted respectability, and, of course, waiving altogether the slightest notion of presumptuous advice, I would beg leave to suggest that a call might issue from the Department of State.
I deem it advisable to start with an exhibition solely containing American goods, arranged in such a manner as to give a particular survey, by means of samples, patterns, or models, as the case may be, of the articles above alluded to at Berlin, Cologne, and Frankfort-on-the-Main. There is a sort of affinity of the commercial character of every commercial town—Berlin for the north, Cologne as the key to the Rhine and center, Frankfort especially for the south of Germany. Articles suiting one district may not suit the other, and vice versa. Frankfort might take the lead; Berlin and Cologne follow in the track with branch exhibitions.
To carry out this idea, I think it would not be inappropriate, deferring, however, to the better judgment of those actually residing in the United States, if the Department of State invited the respectable trade, be this by official or unofficial papers, or by “separate” circulars, or privately by men of sound sense and high influence; and that the United States consuls might be designated as being ready and willing to facilitate and watch, as much as may be in their power, the first steps; and that afterward the matter may be taken in hand and continued by the merchants themselves. It seems not unlikely that, the ball being once set in motion, the respectable traders will soon be induced to come forward with their views as well as with their goods; and German houses of good standing would, I doubt not, soon follow the example with their home manufactures and natural products, textile fabrics, wines, mineral water, and the like. I am well aware of such commercial relations existing already in a great measure, but the object in view is to increase them, to draw the connections closer, and to maintain a more lively and continuous intercourse between the two nations.
I shall be glad of any instruction you may think proper to give me on this subject.
I have, &c.,