Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 1, 1879
Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Evarts.
Peking, July 6, 1878. (Received September 2.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith, for your information, a copy of a dispatch addressed to Prince Kung by Mr. Seward, in October last, and the response of the prince, received some few weeks ago.
The subject of this correspondence was the issue of transit passes for native produce to be exported from the province of Szchuen, and it was caused by the refusal of the customs intendant at Hankow to continue the issue of such papers, since Ichang, which is an open port, is nearer to the province named. Mr. Seward requested that the former custom be adhered to, and the prince yielded a modified assent.
Mr. Seward, as you will see from his letters to Prince Kung and Mr. Consul Shepard, considered the proposed temporary arrangement to be satisfactory.
I have, &c.,
Mr. Seward to Prince Kung.
Sir: In the month of April last, the consul of the United States at Hankow applied to the intendant on behalf of Mr. M. A. Jenkins, an American citizen, for the usual transit certificate under which to bring from Chung King, in Szchuen, certain white wax, raw silk, saffron, and rhubarb. The intendant responded that the application must be made at. Ichang, that port being open to trade and on the route between Chung King and Hankow. The consul then applied to the intendant at Ichang, and the latter after some time agreed to issue the required paper, the transit dues to be paid at Ichang, and the produce shipped under bond for Hankow. As there are no American merchants at Ichang, and until the present time no foreign vessels running between that port and Hankow, the plan proposed did not appear practicable, and the consul has asked my intercession to secure a continuance of the old system, under which passes were applied for at Hankow, and the transit dues paid there.
It would seem that there should be no difficulty in arranging a matter which is so simple in its character.
Whether transit dues are paid at Ichang or at Hankow is the same thing for the revenue, but for the merchant resident at Hankow the requirement to pay them at Ichang, and to give a bond under which the produce may be taken forward to Hankow is very oppressive, especially at the present moment when there is no consular official at Ichang, no foreign firms, and no regular communication with Hankow. Moreover, there is no requirement of the treaties that produce brought out under transit certificates shall be taken account of, or the dues paid at the port nearest to the place of production or purchase. It would seem optional, under the 7th rule of the supplementary treaty, for the merchant to elect the port of shipment, and this privilege has been freely conceded heretofore. Produce has been taken from near Chefoo and Tientsin to Chinkiang, and from ports north of Chinkiang, by that port to Shanghai. Doubtless, inquiry would show that a similar procedure has prevailed at other points.
I beg leave, therefore, to ask your imperial highness to give the subject careful attention. I feel sure that the interests of trade will be best consulted by an adherence to the system heretofore observed, and that no departure from it should be allowed without a thorough examination into all considerations involved.
I have, &c.,,
Prince Kung, chief secretary of state for foreign affairs, herewith makes a communication in reply:
I have had the honor to receive your excellency’s dispatch, of October 26 last, stating that an American merchant at Hankow desired to export from Chung King, in Szchuen, certain white wax, raw silk, and other articles; that the intendant at Hankow informed the consul that, as Ichang was an open port, the transit certificate must be issued by the Ichang intendant, and that that officer agreed to issue the certificate, but required that the transit dues be paid at Ichang. Upon this, your excellency observes that at the present time, there being no United States consul nor American merchants at Ichang, and no foreign vessels running between that port and Hankow, you feel bound to call my attention to the matter, &c.
This office forwarded a copy of your excellency’s letter to the northern and southern superintendents of foreign trade, and to the viceroy of Hupeh and Hunan, with instructions for a report upon the subject. I am now” in receipt of the earlier and later responses of these officers.
From the statements of the Ichang intendant and others, it appears that an English firm at Hankow has exported Szchuen produce from Ichang, paying the transit dues at Ichang, and, in the absence of steamers at that port, has sent the merchandise to Hankow for shipment. The exportation of local produce from Szchuen by the American firm of M A. Jenkins & Co., is, in its conditions, similar to the transactions of the English firm, and should be guided by the same rule.
If it be said that there is no United States consul at Ichang, Mr. Consul Shepard, of Hankow, has also jurisdiction at Ichang. If it be said that there are no American merchants at Ichang, and no steamers regularly running thither, British mercantile houses will be established at an early moment, steamers will be put upon the route, and American merchants will closely follow. Besides, in advance of the establishment of steamship lines, native boats may be hired to carry produce to Hankow for transshipment to steamers, all of which considerations have in view mercantile interests.
As it is held that in the absence of steamers and American merchants the payment of transit dues at Ichang is not convenient, a procedure may be allowed similar to the rules under which customs at Chin-Kiang collects duties on tea, for the Hankow customs Blank transit forms may be prepared by the Ichang intendant, and deposited with the customs at Hankow. Whenever a merchant provided with this form arrives at Ichang with native produce the Ichang customs will examine the goods as to quality, weight, &c., and affix upon the packages the stamp of the Ichang customs. The amount of regular and transit duties will also be determined, and a transit certificate given permitting the exporter to take his merchandise to Hankow, at which place the customs will collect the dues. For the time being, because there are no American merchants and no steamers at Ichang, this procedure will be quite satisfactory, but will be terminated when merchants establish themselves and steamers appear at Ichang.
Upon this report I beg leave to remark that the plan proposed by which the Ichang customs will issue transit passes in blank for merchants living at Hankow, and by which these merchants can pay the transit duties to the customs at Hankow for the Ichang customs, appears to meet entirely the convenience of the merchants concerned. I ought, therefore, to approve the temporary procedure proposed. I have accordingly addressed the northern and southern superintendents, of foreign trade and the viceroy of Hupeh and Hunan, instructing them in this sense, and beg leave thus to inform your excellency.
His Excellency George F. Seward, &c., &c., &c.,
Mr. Seward to Prince Kung.
Sir: I have had the honor to receive your imperial highness’s dispatch of the 15th ultimo, in response to my communication, ‘having regard to the issue of transit passes to an American merchant at Hankow to enable him to export native produce from Szchuen.
Your imperial highness states that you learn from the northern and southern superintendents of foreign trade that it is proposed by the intendants at Ichang and Hankow that the first-named intendant shall issue transit forms in blank and deposit them at Hankow. Whenever a merchant provided with one of these forms arrives at Ichang with native produce, the Ichang customs will examine the goods as to quality, weight, &c., and affix upon the packages the stamps of the Ichang customs. The [Page 183] amount of regular and transit duties will also be determined, and a transit certificate given, permitting the exporter to take his merchandise to Hankow, at which place the customs will collect the dues. For the time being, because there are no American merchants, and no steamers at Ichang, this procedure will be satisfactory, but will be terminated when merchants establish themselves and steamers appear at Ichang. Your imperial highness states your approval of this proposal, &c.
I beg leave to say in response that the procedure suggested appears to be satisfactory, and I have instructed the consul at Hankow to inform the merchants at that port.
I have, &c.,
Mr. Seward to Mr. Shepard.
Sir: Recurring to your dispatch No. 10 of September 25, 1877, covering a correspondence had by you with the intendants at Hankow and Ichang upon an application of Mr. M. A. Jenkins for the issue of transit passes to enable him to export certain native produce from Szchuen, I have the honor to hand to you herewith a reply only recently received from the foreign office, to a note which I addressed them upon the subject last October.
You will see from the response of the prince that, as a temporary measure, transit passes may be taken out and transit dues paid at your port, on goods brought from the interior of Szchuen. I shall be glad to be informed whether, in your opinion, the arrangement proposed meets the requirements of the trade affected by it.
I am, &c.,