No. 266.
Mr. Langston to Mr. Evarts .

No. 23.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith inclosed, in French and English, copies of the reply of the Haytian secretary of state for foreign affairs with regard to the one per cent. tax on invoices of merchandise shipped from the United States to Hayti. He maintains the position heretofore assumed by the government. As already stated, I do not regard his position as tenable, nor his arguments in this and his former [Page 429] dispatch as in any sense conclusive. I am prepared, therefore, to receive from you positive and decisive instructions on this subject.

In conversation with President Canal a few days ago on this subject, he intimated to me that any difference had between his government and my own with regard thereto might be settled, if need be, by arbitration. I replied that it seemed to me quite apparent that the imposition and exaction were plain violations of the treaty of 1864 and international reciprocity and good neighborhood, and so I believe.

I have been advised that the English minister has been instructed to enter the protest of his government against this imposition, and has already done so.

* * * * * * *

There are other infractions of the treaty which I am now investigating, and with respect to which I hope to be able to write you at an early day.

I await such further instructions on this subject as you may be pleased to give.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 23.—Translation.]

Mr. Carrié to Mr. Langston .

Mr. Minister: In the dispatch which I had the honor to address to you under date of December 13 last, in relation to consular charges established by the law of the 23d of August, 1877, I demonstrated—

That taxes extending in a general and equal way on all invoices from foreign countries cannot constitute any infraction of our treaty with the United States, which confers upon them, as upon us, the rule or the treatment of the most favored nation.
That they exist with us for the past twenty years or thereabouts, that they have never provoked any protest, and that the law of the 23d of August has only regulated them in a more equitable manner.
That my government had the indisputable right to make of them a source of receipt.
That they do not reach in any way foreign commerce, but that, on the contrary, they are supported by our interior consumption.
Finally, that the executive power of my country did not have the authority to suspend the execution of a law which is, besides, of his own initiation, and which he had hastened to promulgate.

Your dispatch of the 26th of December, notwithstanding it recognizes the real basis (bien fondé) of a part of my arguments, presents to me new objections. I have, therefore, thought it would be proper to determine, as I have done hereabove, the various points about which we differ, in order that they might be made definitively clear by the debate.

It is incontestable that duties which are collected in a general and equal manner on all invoices of goods of foreign countries cannot constitute any infraction, either in letter or in spirit, of a treaty which places a country under the rule of the most favored nation.

As regards this there cannot be any doubt, and whatsoever the interpretation which one may give to the treaty which exists between us, one will never be able to derive from it, in its application, that the United States are less favored than the other countries with which we cultivate commercial relations.

It is not possible to believe that the commercial reciprocity extends to such a degree as to require that the same duties be collected equally in two countries bound by a treaty, and as long as the exchanges are carried on freely and without difficulty, that no hinderance occurs to slacken the course of operations, that no overtax be imposed to a flag, &c., one remains within bounds of the treaty.

In the customs legislation of the United States, as in our own, the stipulations differ between each other, owing to various reasons.

The number of the population, the productive force, the riches—commercial, agricultural, or industrial—the morals of the inhabitants of each of the states, are generally that which imposes such economical legislation rather than another. Thus complete [Page 430] equality, absolute reciprocity, in matters of custom duties, are objects impossible to attain.

In admitting with me that the legislation to which we refer exists with us since twenty years, that it has never provoked any protest, you discuss that which I have set forth, that the principle of the charges which it establishes is identical to that of the charges of the law of the 23d of August, which does nothing other than regulate them in a more equitable manner.

The question of the principle appears to me not debatable (indiscutable), and I would add that, in my opinion, as well as in that of my government, real proportionate duties are always more equitable than fixed duties, or those which are established on figures, the error (Vécart) of which is too considerable.

In our old law of 1858, an invoice of $1 was paid as one of $100, and one of $10,001 as one of $20,000. To-day it is the amount of the invoice which determines that of the visa; it is the amount of business which determines that of the duty. Does this not seem more equitable to you, Mr. Minister?

As to that which concerns fixed duties, do you believe that it is just to levy a like charge of $2.50 on an invoice of $10 or $50,000?

You will allow me to take the high sum of $50,000, which you have chosen, notwithstanding that in the application one does not find an invoice of this amount expedited from the United States to Hayti. If I should take the reverse of this sum, I would be able to show that an invoice of $10, according to our law, would pay 10 cents for visa, and that our agent would legally only derive from it but 1½ cents for his pains arid care. The American commercial agent for the same service would receive $2.50, nearly two hundred times more than the compensation received by ours.

I do not believe that I said in my preceding dispatch that the just remuneration due our agents had been diminished. On the contrary, the law, in granting to them 15 per cent. of their charge of visa, has only sought to reimburse them to an equal amount to the one they formerly collected, and my government had thus created for itself a source of receipt of all over and above of these duties. This is what refers to the third point of the discussion, and one cannot contest such a right to a government when its source of receipt does not in any way affect the interests of other nations.

To the support of this fourth point, I have endeavored to make it appear that this tax of 1 per cent. was supported by our interior consumption, because, 1st. The importer of the goods necessarily adds this duty to his cost price. 2d. Hayti does not regulate the foreign markets, but that these last rule ours. 3d. If the contrary of this assertion were true, this duty of 1 per cent. would lessen in price American merchandise to that extent, which is not and which will not be.

To these arguments, which you do not refute, you object only that, in view of this duty, the merchandise increasing in proportion, the consumption of American provisions will decrease in Hayti, to which the merchants as well as the Government of the United States might object.

The principle that excessive duties will diminish the consumption in a country is an undeniable fact; nevertheless, it cannot be appealed, to under the circumstances, for the duty of 1 per cent. which we have added to our importation does not affect it but to the extent of about $100,000 on a total value of $2,000,000 collected, and if one estimates our population at a million of souls, it is easy to perceive that an annual tax of 10 cents more, weighing on every inhabitant, is not excessive, and is not of the nature to work a decrease of consumption.

In 1872, under the empire of our treaty with the United States, a law increased our import duties 25 per cent. The consumption of American products did not decrease with us, and the United States did not in any way protest against this law.

But in supposing this decrease in the consumption, which can only be proved by comparative statistics, can the obligation imposing on a nation to take from another, a fixed value of merchandise, which it would not have the power to diminish if its interests should require it to do so, be allowed?

Moreover, if this duty, purely fiscal, admits as consequence a decrease in the consumption, our import duties would suffer by it, and it seems to me that the first interested in the question would be the Haytian Government. One can then, as far as regards this, leave to it the care it will take not thus to exhaust its principal source of income.

I will not conclude, Mr. Minister, without dwelling once more on the last part of your dispatch, where you re-express the hope that I will issue orders to suspend the execution of the law, and order at the same time the restitution of sums already collected in execution of this law.

Such a manner of proceeding on the part of the executive would have very serious consequences, which it is not necessary to point out. Moreover, my government is firmly convinced that it has, in the question which occupies us, right and justice on its side, arid it hopes that that of the United States will recognize it likewise.

Be pleased to receive, Mr. Minister, the assurance of my very high consideration.

The secretary of state of foreign affairs,