No. 159.
Mr. von Schlözer to Mr. Evarts .


Sir: In the appendix to the papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States of last year, in addition to the two circulars issued by you in July and August, to your consular officers, the commercial reports furnished by those officers in obedience thereto are printed.

These documents have probably nowhere attracted more attention than in Germany. Their value has been generally recognized there, and in consequence of those reports, more earnest efforts have been made than before to ascertain what can be done by the United States and Germany to increase the trade between the two countries.

In the course of these investigations a circumstance has been found to exist which is very prejudicial to the development of German-American commerce, and which, consequently, gives rise to much complaint in German commercial and manufacturing circles. This is the system adopted by some American consulates in Germany on requiring samples of merchandise to be deposited with them prior to certifying the invoices.

The regulations prescribed for the use of the consular service of the United States for the year 1874 contain (§ 473) the following directions:

“They will, in all proper cases, require samples of the merchandise to be deposited with them, especially when the invoice descriptions of merchandise are not specific and full enough to enable them or the customs officers to judge intelligently of the market value without inspection of the merchandise itself. It is particularly enjoined upon consular officers at Aix-la-Chapelle, Berlin, Leipsic, Dresden, and Frankfort, generally to require samples of all merchandise imported from there of a nature to be sampled.”

These regulations afford various facilities, as regards the requirement of samples, which would be very advantageous to commerce if they were always complied with.

Certain American consulates in Germany, however—for instance, in the Rhine countries—constantly insist, under all circumstances, that the most accurate samples shall be delivered to them of every single variety of goods that are to be sent to the United States, even if the invoice description is “specific and full enough.” These articles are often of precisely the same quality as regards value, and differ only in color, style, width, length, and similar matters which do not affect their value in the slightest degree; nevertheless, the shippers are obliged to furnish samples of every such variety.

This requirement causes them great trouble and inconvenience, to which must be added another circumstance, possessing no less objectionable features.

In section 475 of the regulations, the direction is given that “all samples must be carefully preserved, with the cards or statements accompanying them, and must not be suffered to be inspected or seen by others than officers or agents of the government.”

Notwithstanding this regulation, repeated complaints have been made to the Imperial Government that the samples deposited by manufacturers with their invoices are frequently left open at several American [Page 235] consulates, where they can be seen and examined by visitors without molestation.

Persons engaged in the same business thus have an opportunity, by calling at the consulate, to become thoroughly acquainted, in a very short time, with the most important secrets of their competitors, and at once to imitate every novelty invented by the latter.

With a. view to remedying these evils, I have been instructed by my government very respectfully to submit the question to you, esteemed Mr. Secretary of State, in the interest of our commercial relations, whether it would not be possible to instruct your consuls in Germany, 1st, to require no deposit of samples in all cases in which they have no reason to doubt the correctness of the invoices, or the credibility of the declarers; 2d, in case the requirement of samples seems necessary, to content themselves with one sample for each kind of goods whose value is the same; and, 3d, not to allow such samples to remain exposed to the view of the public, and especially of the competitors of the manufacturers and merchants interested.

I should feel exceedingly obliged to you if you would be pleased to take these three points into consideration, and, in due time, to honor me with a reply.

Accept, &c.,