No. 467.
Mr. Lowell to Mr. Evarts.

No. 102.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose for your information a copy and translation of a circular issued yesterday by the director-general of customs, [Page 795] in which, are set forth such changes as have been made in the tariff by the bill of ways and means of 1878–’79. One or two of these affect American interests. The definition of what shall constitute a direct voyage from the Spanish West Indies to peninsular ports will, I trust, have the effect of saving our ship captains from some unjustifiable custom-house interferences to which they are now subjected.

You will see that the method of distinguishing crude from rectified petroleum has been defined anew, which seems an acknowledgment on the part of the Spanish Government that I was right, if not in my interpretation of the note as it formerly stood, at least in thinking it obscure.

You will observe the resolute pressure which the Spanish Government brings to bear on nations without special treaties.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 102.—Translation.]

Circular regarding the tariff.

[From the Gaceta de Madrid, July 23, 1878.]

The bill of supplies for the fiscal year 1878–79 having been published in the Gazette of this date, the director-general of this bureau communicates to you as follows the important directions which the said law contains in respect of custom-house dues:

The law referred to directs that “sugars from the Spanish provinces of America shall pay for the future, without distinction of classes, a duty of 17 pesetas and 50 centimos the hundred kilograms, net weight, estimated as the regulations direct, and that sugars produced in and proceeding from our possessions in Oceanica shall pay as duty the fifth part of that paid by those produced in and proceeding from Cuba and Puerto Rico.”

A new duty, therefore, of 17.50 pesetas on sugar from the American provinces is substituted for that of 22.50 pesetas in paragraph 233 of the present tariff; and as respects sugar from the provinces of Oceanica, it must pay a fifth part of this new duty of 17.50 pesetas, instead of a fifth of the duty on foreign sugars, which has been levied in accordance with section 9 of the present tariff. As these duties are on the net weight, estimated according to the regulations, the tare of 14 per cent, on the gross weight, as directed by the fifth section of the tariff for sugar of all classes in boxes or hogsheads, is continued. The law reduces the duties on certain imported articles as follows:

“Raw cotton, indigo, cacao, and undressed hides shall pay, when shipped from any European port, the duties assigned to them in the tariff of importations. Raw cotton shipped directly from foreign countries not in Europe shall pay one peseta less on every 100 kilograms than that assigned in the present tariff. Indigo, cacao, and undressed hides coming from such countries shall pay three pesetas less than the duty assigned for the same weight. And the reductions of duties established by articles 8 and 9 of the tariff for productions of the Spanish provinces in America and Oceanica shall be made in the duties collected on raw cotton, indigo, cacao, and raw hides imported from countries not in Europe.”

The above abatements of duty on raw cotton, indigo, cacao, and raw hides imported directly from countries not in Europe must be made on the duties fixed by sections 96, 62, 235, 236, and 183 of the tariff, and according as the said articles are the product of countries with which we have special treaties or not.

The reduction by one-half in the duties imposed by section 8 of the tariff on raw cotton, indigo, cacao, and raw hides produced in and imported from our American provinces shall be made on the amount remaining after subtracting the abatements established by law for certain articles imported from non-European countries, and the same method shall be followed in applying the reduction of four-fifths of the duties to which reference is made in article 9 of the tariff for the products of our provinces of Oceanica. In both cases the basis of the calculation must be the duty applicable to nations with which we have special treaties.

The port of clearance of vessels shall be ascertained by an examination of the manifest and ship’s papers, and in applying the above abatements and reductions of duties attention must be paid to note 3 of the tariff and article 317 of the customs ordinances. In another article the law directs, “That the voyages of vessels which, bringing products of our possessions beyond the sea, touch at American ports not belonging to Spain, in order to complete their cargoes, shall not lose the character of direct, provided [Page 796] that the original port of clearance he established in such manner as the administration (of the customs) may require.”

Officers of the customs will examine and compare the ship’s papers, in order to ascertain all the ports in which vessels referred to in the above order may have touched; and to the end that the merchandise on board may not lose the benefit to which it is entitled as coming from our transmarine provinces, they must be provided in all cases with a certificate of the custom-house at the original port of clearance, setting forth the number, class, marks, and numbers of the packages, the class of merchandise contained in them, the fact that they are the product of those provinces, of their shipping and exportation for the Peninsula and Balearic Islands.

Rectified petroleum and other rectified oils will continue to pay, under section 7, a duty of 5.50 pesetas, or five pesetas the hundred kilos, according as they are or are not products of countries with which Spain has a special treaty; and raw mineral oils, natural or distilled, of section 6, will continue to pay a duty of 41 centimos de peseta the hundred kilos when they fulfill the conditions of the note set forth at the end of this circular.

Extraordinary transitory impost of article 28 of bill of supplies of 11th July, 1877.

The new bill of supplies decrees:

That the extraordinary impost of article 28 of the bill of supplies of 11th July, 1877, on rectified petroleum and benzine, shall be raised to 17.25 pesetas the hundred kilos of weight, including that of the vessel containing it (envase); that raw natural petroleum shall pay 8.31 pesetas on the same weight; that cotton-seed and other vegetable oils made of grains and seeds shall continue to pay a duty of 20 pesetas the hundred kilos, gross weight; that cacao, palm, and other solid oils shall pay only the ordinary duty specified in the tariff; and, lastly, that from the 1st of July of the present year the above (extraordinary) imposts are suppressed upon all other articles of foreign commerce.

According to this last direction of the law, with the exception of the oils specified therein, the extraordinary transitory impost of article 28 of the supplies of 1877–’78, set forth in detail for every article in column 3 of the tariff, is suppressed, and said third column shall be considered as void and of no effect.

Rectified petroleum and benzine shall pay an extraordinary transitory impost of 17.25 pesetas the one hundred kilos, including the cases (envase), instead of the 12.50 pesetas which they have been paying under the same provision.

Crude natural petroleum shall pay under the same provision 8.34 pesetas the hundred kilos, including the cases (envases).

Cotton-seed and other vegetable oils from grains and seeds, including linseed and drying oils, shall pay an extraordinary transitory impost of 20 pesetas the hundred kilos, gross weight, instead of 25, as hithorto.

Cacao, palm, and other solid oils are for the future free from the extraordinary transitory impost.

All the oils above mentioned shall pay on their gross weight when they are contained in a single vessel. Whenever contained in more than one, the duty shall be ascertained in accordance with the prescriptions of the fourth direction of the tariff in respect of vessels and cases; and for the classification of crude and rectified petroleums, the note appended to this circular shall be observed.

Transitory impost established by article 18 of the bill of supplies of July 21, 1876.

The new bill of supplies also ordains—

“That the transitory impost of the tariff referred to in article 18 of the bill of supplies of July 21, 1876, shall continue to be exacted, with the exception of that paid by common and refined sugars, which shall be unified thus: Sugar of all classes, the product of and shipped from our transmarine provinces, shall pay 8.80 pesetas the one hundred kilos; that from any foreign country, 13.50 pesetas the one hundred kilos Crude natural petroleums shall pay the same transitory impost of 3.75 pesetas the one hundred kilos, including case (envase), that is paid by rectified petroleum and benzine.”

The rates of transitory imposts above referred to are those contained in folio 41 of the tariff, and will continue to be collected as hitherto on all the articles therein enumerated, with the following changes:

The difference of impost on classes of sugars which remains in force is now based on their origin, and accordingly the classification in sections 1 and 2 of said rates is annulled and replaced by the following:

Sugar of all classes, produced in and shipped directly from our transmarine provinces, 8.80 pesetas the one hundred kilos. Sugar of all classes, shipped from any foreign port, 13.50 pesetas the one hundred kilos.

The last section of the tariff will include not only crude natural petroleum not hitherto [Page 797] mentioned in the tariffs of transitory imposts, but also rectified mineral oils and benzine, which shall pay 3.75 pesetas the one hundred kilos, including the envase.

(Here is omitted a section referring to the internal duties exacted at the gates of cities.)

Navigation dues.

Concerning these imposts the law contains the following changes:

“Vessels employed in the direct traffic of merchandise and passengers between the peninsula and our foreign possessions shall be considered for the payment of imposts on loading, discharging, and passengers, as coasting vessels, and shall therefore pay in accordance with the rates established for trade of the first class. The reduction to one-fourth of the tonnage dues established by article 11 of the decree of June 28, 1874, conceded to iron ore by the decree of the 21st July, 1876, is conceded also to mineral coal and coke, and the same reduction shall be made in the municipal duties as is made to iron ore.”

Accordingly, the directions of articles 255 and 258 of the customs ordinances are modified in respect to tonnage and passenger duties, the direct commerce between the peninsula and our transmarine provinces being considered as of the first and not of the third class, and payment is to be made of 75 centimos de peseta for each ton of 1,000 kilos of merchandise discharged and of 50 centimos de peseta for every passenger landed.

In the same manner article 267 of the said ordinance, so far as tonnage and passenger dues are concerned, shall be understood as modified, since direct commerce between the peninsula and our transmarine provinces is to be considered of the first class, and payment is to be exacted of 50 centimos de peseta tor every ton of 1,000 kilos of goods and the same for every passenger taken on board.

Article 270 of the ordinances is modified in its last two paragraphs as follows:

“Vessels laden with iron ore, mineral coals, or coke shall pay only a fourth part of the tonnage dues according to the threefold classification, and in the same way the local duties levied on importations for the repair of harbors shall be reduced to a fourth on iron ore, mineral coals, and coke.”

For the levying of tonnage dues on vessels plying between the peninsula and transmarine provinces the gross weight set forth in the manifests, with such corrections as may result from examination, shall serve as a base.

In all other respects the ordinances remain in force as regards navigation dues, and as by the law as above cited the voyages of vessels from our transmarine provinces, which, bringing products thereof, may touch at foreign American ports to complete their cargoes, do not lose their character of direct, this concession shall only be considered to apply to such part of the cargo as shall have been taken on board in such provinces, the requirements above set forth having first been complied with.

Period within which the modifications of the laws shall take effect.

The reduction of duties set forth in the law shall apply to all consignments made after the day on which the bill of supplies is published, including merchandise warehoused or in bond.

And, as respects increased duties, they shall be remitted only on vessels and merchandise which shall be duly proved to have left their port of clearance before the promulgation of the law.

Various provisions.

The importation and forwarding of articles subject to extraordinary transitory imposts in that part of the law which remains in force; as also the transitory and municipal duties; the penalties for omissions and frauds, together with all the special incidents that may arise in the administration and collection of these imposts, shall be subject to the rules in force for the collection of customs.


By virtue of what is ordained in the law concerning duties on crude and rectified petroleums, note 6 of the tariff is repealed, and both for the collection of ordinary and extraordinary duties those shall be understood as natural crude petroleums which have a dark greenish color and decided smell, a want of transparency, containing essential oils which are volatilized at a temperature below 60° centigrade, and when distilled at a heat of 230° centigrade leave a considerable residuum.

Petroleums resulting from the first distillation of schists, distinguished by their dark yellowish color and a density of 900 to 920, or from 68 to 57½ degrees of the centesimal areometer, equivalent to 24.69 to 24.48 degrees of that of Cartier, shall also be rated as natural petroleums.

All other mineral oils which do not combine these properties shall be considered as rectified. When customs officers are not entirely satisfied that crude petroleums combine [Page 798] all the above conditions, they will immediately consult the proper authorities, forwarding samples to the central bureau.

God guard you many years.


Administrator of Customs at——.