No. 263.
Mr. Langston to Mr. Evarts .

No. 16.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith inclosed the reply of the Honorable Felix Carrié, Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs, with regard to the imposition and exaction of one per centum on invoices of merchandise imported from the United States of America.

The reply is in no sense satisfactory. Its pretenses as to equalizing, upon more equitable and reasonable basis, the salaries of consular officers by the present method, greatly lessening their amount, and its claim that the Haytian Government may justly replenish its depleted treasury by such impositions, are sustained neither by considerations of law nor reason. Its pretense that under the present law no change is made in principle with regard to consular fees, that the same has been enforced for twenty years, and without protest, is not true and cannot be sustained. Formerly a fixed amount, accepted as reasonable, was exacted; now one per cent. is demanded; and one does not need to use his arithmetic but very little to demonstrate by the amount of the charge its illegality as well as the unsoundness of the principle upon which it is based. In view of these and kindred considerations, which I need not mention, I shall insist upon our demand already made.

I do not find that protest, on behalf of our government, was made against the passage of the present law while pending in the Corps Legislatif. Such protest I cannot but believe would have been wise.

I am, &c.,

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[Inclosure in No. 16.—Translation.]

Mr. Carrié to Mr. Langston .

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch of the 6th instant, relating to the law which fixes a tax to be collected for the consular viséing of invoices of goods imported into Hayti.

As you doubtless have remarked, this tax not only affects the invoices of goods which are exported from ports in the United States, it covers in a general and equal way all goods exported from foreign countries; it establishes no privileges, and in consequence cannot constitute any infraction, either in spirit or in letter, of our treaty with the Republic of the United States, which stipulates in its clauses that the country which you represent shall always be treated on the footing of the most favored nation.

For the first time that I have the honor to enter en rapport with you, my government charges me to give you the assurance that it will always do itself the duty of maintaining, very highly, respect for this treaty, evidently concluded for the reciprocal advantage of the two republics.

In entering with you upon the discussion of the question on which we differ in opinion, I must first remark to you that the consular tax has existed with us since 1858, as you may verify by reading our customs legislation, that it has never ceased to be collected, and that for twenty years or thereabouts it has provoked no protest.

The modifying law of the 23d of August has only regulated in a more equitable manner these charges of viséing. It has established true proportionate duties, and with regard to this point no one can find any fault.

Moreover, the government, having recognized that the sums to be collected for viséing exceeded the legitimate remuneration due our agents, has allowed them fixed salaries, and has thus created for itself, with the sums over and above these charges of viséing, that which was its right, and moreover its duty, a source of income destined to meet its numerous engagements, considerably augmented in these last years.

I now reach the most important point of the question, and I declare that the duty of one per cent. against which you protest does not reach the commerce with the United States, nor, to speak in a general manner, that which we carry on with all countries across the sea.

In reality, all expenses which usually are put down on invoices of goods purchased abroad, commission of purchase and of money advanced, freight, insurance premium, &c., are necessarily added by the importer to the cost price of the goods when he determines the cost price and the one of resale.

That which happens as to these different expenses cannot fail to occur as regards those of consular viséing. It is therefore in final our internal consumption which will support these last, as in the purchases it supports those enumerated hereinabove.

Another consideration which it is important to set forth is that Hayti does not regulate the foreign markets, but that, on the contrary, it is the foreign markets which regulate ours.

We cannot fail to purchase our provisions in the United States, and this proposition being true and incontestable, it is the prices of the American markets which govern ours. If the contrary were true, from the moment that we had established this duty of one per cent. the economical and indisputable fact would occur that all American goods exported to us would be lessened in proportion, and this is what has not happened; which will not happen.

This duty, then, does not in any way affect the productions of foreign countries, inasmuch as it continues to sell its goods at the same price. It affects our internal consumption, because with us the cost-price of the goods having increased they will be sold at higher prices.

For these reasons I believe myself authorized to say that in the law of the 23d of August there is no absence whatsoever of that sentiment of reciprocity which ought to exist in the commercial relations of our two republics, and I hope that you will be pleased to recognize this fact after the explanations which I have done myself the duty to give to you.

Besides, it is an acknowledged fact that nearly all nations have their charges for (chancellerie) chancellor and consular fees, which every country establishes and collects in its own way, according to its customs, its needs, and in the mode which seems to it the most advantageous.

You have better authority than I for knowing that, as regards the great republic which you represent, the sum total of this collection greatly surpasses the sum appropriated to the salaries of its agents abroad.

After this exposé, I do not believe that it is very necessary for me to dwell on the last paragraph of your dispatch, in which you express the hope that my government will hasten to suspend the execution of the law and give the order to refund the sum already collected in virtue of its provisions.

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The executive in our country has no such extended powers. It does not pertain to him to stop the effects of a law, which is moreover of his initiation, which the Corps Legislatif has voted, and which he himself has hastened to promulgate.

If I should examine with you the consequences which might result from such a determination, you would assuredly recognize all the gravity of it, and besides the discussion which has been established between us has thrown such a light on the question that there must no longer remain any room for controversy.

The Government of the United States, I hope, will admit with us that its commerce, not more than that of any other country, is in any way damaged by the tax established on the invoices of goods imported by us, a tax the principle of which has existed for twenty years in Hayti, and against which none of the nations who sustain relations of commerce and amity with us have as yet protested.

Please receive, Mr. Minister, the assurances of my very high consideration.

The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, &c.,