No. 265.
Mr. Langston to Mr. Evarts.

No. 21.]

Sir: I have heretofore, as an inclosure to my No. 16, transmitted a copy of the dispatch of the Hon. Felix Carrié, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, dated December 13, 1877, having reference to the imposition of one per centum on invoices of merchandise shipped from the United States to the ports of this republic. I have the honor to transmit herein inclosed a copy of my reply thereto, and to state that I await the answer of the Haytian Government; as soon as it is received, I shall transmit it.

With sentiments, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 21.]

Mr. Langston to Mr. Carrié.

Sir: Please accept my grateful acknowledgments for your reply of the 13th instant, to my dispatch of the 6th instant. Referring to a conversation had with you this morning, I beg to state, as you already understand, that your communication just mentioned is not satisfactory to my government. Whatever may be true in regard to the general application of the consular imposition and exaction referred to, it is still the judgment of the American Government that it contravenes and infracts that commercial reciprocity as between that government and the Haytian which is enjoined at once by the spirit and letter of the treaty of 1864, and I am persuaded that under the circumstances, with a treaty subsisting between the two nations, an imposition which might, indeed, be equal and general in its application as construed in the light of recognized principles and usages in the absence of such treaty, might be anything other than just and reasonable as interpreted in the light of such treaty, and as applied to either nation being a contracting party thereto. In view of this fact, and with due consideration of the object, the terms and the past and accepted interpretation of the [Page 428] treaty as well as the relations of perfect, firm, and inviolable peace and sincere friendship “prevailing between our governments,” in all of the extent of their possessions and territories, and between their people and citizens, respectively, without distinction of person or places, it is respectfully submitted that no other position can be justified by law or reason, than that assumed by my government, especially as the contracting parties sought, in making the treaty, “to place their commercial relations upon the most liberal basis.”

With regard to the consular tax as established by the law of 1858, and subsequently altered and fixed by the law of 1877, it cannot be admitted that the principle upon which the two laws are based, and the charges determined, are identical. According to the former a definite and fixed charge, determined in each case by the value of the invoice of merchandise, is established, with limit fixed and charge prohibited above a certain amount; as from $1 to $100, 50 cents; and as from $20,001 and above, $10. In no case can the consul or commercial agent collect for authentication of in voice a sum exceeding $10.

Whereas, under the law of 1877, the rule of 1 per centum on the amount of invoices of merchandise is established, and the consul or commercial agent may charge according to the value of the invoice whatever amount is justified by this rule, there being no limit as under the former law. An invoice of $50,000, according to the latter law, yields, in the form of consular charges, $500. For like service in making authentication of invoice, whatever the amount, the consular agent of my own government receives only $2.50. The consul or commercial agent of your government receives 15 per cent. of the amount collected for himself. In the case supposed he gets $75, while the government receives $425.

It will be found quite difficult, it is believed, to justify, upon any accepted principle of reason or law, such imposition. If certainly cannot be justified, as you claim, upon the ground that the law of August 23, 1877, regulates in a more equitable manner consular charges, and establishes true proportionate duties; nor upon the principle that it reduces the remuneration due your consular agents. In fact, it greatly increases their compensation. Nor upon the principle that it does not reach our commerce, since your own citizens are the consumers and must pay these charges as well as the original cost of the merchandise. You will agree with me that in proportion as merchandise becomes, by reason of government impositions, costly, the number of persons able to purchase it is decreased, and commerce is disadvantageously affected accordingly. The people of your government form no exception to this rule, and American merchants in this case may very properly enter their complaints, and my government its protest. Nor can it be justified upon the principle that your government increases thereby its revenues, and is thus enabled to meet more readily its liabilities. A nation may very well and justly augment her revenues by legitimate impositions; it may be her duty to do so, in view of her obligations and to maintain her credit; but impositions exacted in violation of treaty engagements cannot be supported in view of any such consideration. The treaty obligation is binding, and to be observed at all events; to its maintenance the national good faith is solemnly pledged.

The abstract right of the Haytian Government to act in such matters, to make impositions according to her discretion, is not denied. It is only when charges of the kind herein referred to, contravening treaty engagements, and being so excessive as virtually to constitute an export tax, as in this case, that my government remonstrates.

Hence it is, as in my former dispatch with reference to this subject, the discontinuance of this exaction and provision for refunding amounts which may have been wrongfully collected, are respectfully but earnestly urged.

With assurances of high consideration I am your obedient servant,