to Mr. Fish.
Washington, October 23, 1878.
Sir: Referring to the dispatches numbered 277 and 278 of your predecessor, Mr. Heap, in relation to a tax proposed to be levied on shipping by the Government of Tunis for the maintenance of the lights on the coast of that country, I transmit herewith a copy of a letter, under date of the 16th instant, addressed to this department by Mr. Hawley, Acting-Secretary of the Treasury, and of the communication of Bear-Admiral Rodgers, chairman of the Light-House Board, which accompanied it, upon the subject.
You will bring to the knowledge of the Tunisian Government the substance of the communication of the Secretary of the Treasury. It is desirable that the proposed tax should, however, have the unequivocal assent, of all the foreign powers represented at Tunis, and that, besides being so limited as not to impose any onerous burden on vessels visiting [Page 934] that country for purposes of trade, it should be stable and not subject to increase. In the somewhat analogous case of the Cape Spartel light on the coast of Morocco, the desired object of relieving the local treasury from the cost of its support was attained by means of an international convention to that end. Although such a course is neither recommended nor advisable in the present instance, it is understood that the action of the Tunisian Government in taxing shipping in part defrayment of the expense of its lights rests on international assent until such time as, in the interests of commerce, it may be wholly done away with.
I am, & c.,