No. 122.
Mr. Dichman to Mr. Evarts.

No. 19.]

Sir: In connection with my No. 18 I beg to submit to the Department the inclosed copy of a letter (and translation) from the Hon. Salvador Camacho Roldan, in answer to certain inquiries made by me on the subject of the revenue of Colombia, and the amount of export and import trade. From the figures therein presented the Department will be able to obtain a general view of the movements of trade in this country. In connection therewith I would respectfully call attention to the following.

The population of Colombia is estimated at about 3,500,000, (as soon as I shall be able to obtain the exact figures upon this subject I shall communicate them). Assuming this as a basis, it is seen that the amount of taxation, or revenue per capita for national purposes, is only about $1.20 per annum. The taxation for state purposes varies, but 1 am informed is equally light.

The amount of produce exported annually is only about $3.44 per capita, and the amount of imports per capita is only about $2.86 per annum.

It will also be seen that cotton goods form the leading article, if not the bulk, of the importations, and that any steps which will give to the American manufacturer the exclusive control of this market for cotton goods, will as a necessary consequence, bring to the United States the purchase of all other articles imported into this country.

In the items of revenue, if it is necessary to explain, that the income from the post-office and telegraph is the gross income, and that the expenses of conducting both these branches of the public service exceed the amount of the revenues derived from them.

From the rent or subsidy paid by the Panama Railroad Company the sum of $25,000 is paid annually to the state of Panama.

The inquiry upon the subject of the quantity of tobacco exported to the United States prior to 1860, was for the purpose of being able to lay before the Department the information as to the largest amount which had ever been exported to the United States under a low rate of duty, and otherwise the most favorable circumstances.

While the figures herein submitted are official, I would respectfully suggest that they be examined in connection with the reports of Mr. E. P. Pellet, our consul in Barranquilla, who is very exact in his information, and who, from his position at the principal seaport of this republic, will be able to give correct accounts of at least eight-tenths of the foreign trade of this country. It will readily be seen by the Department, from the figures herein submitted, that considering the area and situation of this republic, its great extent of sea coast, the fertility of its soil, and the wealth of its mineral resources, the amount of its revenue and foreign commerce is very small.

While in some respects the reasons for this are found in the influences of a tropical climate, yet the chief cause of this lack of material development is without doubt the insecurity which attaches to property on account of the instability of the government.

I am, &c.,

[Page 257]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 19.—Translation.]

Mr. Roldan to Mr. Dichman.

My Dear Sir: I have the pleasure to answer your inquiries contained in your note of the 15th ultimo.

1st. Revenues of the United States of Colombia.

Those of the national government are estimated for the present fiscal year (September 1, 1878, to August 31, 1879) at ‘$4,200,000. Those of the year which ended with August 31, 1878, will amount to very nearly $6,000,000, but this figure is supposed to be occasioned by the extraordinary increase of importations of one year of peace after another year of war, in which latter the importation of merchandise from abroad was not sufficient for the necessities of commerce.

2d. From what sources they proceed.

The revenues of this country are derived—

From the duties on importations.
From the sale of salt derived from the salt-works belonging to the government.
From the subsidy paid by the Panama Railroad Company.
From the income of the post-office.
From the income of the telegraphs.
From miscellaneous receipts of little importance.

The customs tariff is actually high, and weighs upon the value of foreign merchandise a little more than 36 per cent. ad valorem, and yields, one year with another, $2,500,000.

The income from the salt-works consists in the difference between the cost of production of salt and the price at which it is sold at the national salt-works. The cost of production of salt (of the rock salt from the mines, and of the salt from salt springs, the former costing about 20 cents per cwt., and the latter about $1, more or less, on an average) is about $240,000 annually, and yields more than $1,250,000. There are about 350,000 cwt. of salt sold per year, at a mean price of $3.20 per cwt.

The Panama Railroad Company pays annually a rent of $250,000.

The post-office yields about $50,000 annually.

The postage is 5 cents for a letter weighing 10 grains, within the limits of any State, and 10 cents for letters which are carried through more than one State. The land routes for the mails are, more or less, about 1,800 leagues per week.

The telegraph yields about $40,000. The number of leagues of wire reach about 600.

The miscellaneous receipts consist in the yield from national property, fines, the Bolivar Railroad, &c.

The Bolivar Railroad, recently bought by the nation, is five leagues long, cost $600,000, yields from $90,000 to $100,000 annually, and requires from $70,000 to $80,000 annually for repairs and operating expenses.

3d. Exportations of Colombia in one year.

More or less, $12,000,000, distributed thus:

Gold and silver in bars and coined $3,500,000
Quinia 80,000 cwt 2,500,000
Coffee, 20,000 cwt 3,200,000
Tobacco, 50,000 cwt 1,250,000
Hides, 180,000 500,000
Divi-divi and dye-woods, 8,000 tons 300,000
India-rubber, balsam of tolu, cattle on foot, corn, raw sugar, &c 450,000
Straw hats 350,000

In this amount are not comprised the exportations from the Isthmus of Panama, nor those from the eastern territories, there being no custom-houses nor means to obtain statistics in either.

4th. Importations of Colombia in one year.

Approximately, $10,000,000. The difference between exportation and importation covers the cost of transportation, duties, &c. Two-thirds of the importation in value consist in cotton, wool, hemp, linen and silk goods, which pay three-fourths or more of the duties on importations. Cotton goods represent themselves alone more than half of all the importations, and pay in reality more than 50 per cent. ad valorem in custom duties.

5th. Quantity of tobacco exported, to the United States before 1860.

There are no statistical data on this point, but I have private information that there was an important commerce in cigars between 1851 and 1858. A Mr. Moore, an American, had contracts to manufacture cigars for the United States, representing [Page 258] three or four millions of cigars annually. And from Cartagena and Santa Marta, considerable quantities were carried to the United States. According to my recollection, the value of these exportations was not below $300,000 annually. The cigars were cheap which, after paying duty, could be sold at from $2.50 to $3 a hundred. It seems to me that this commerce disappeared with the changes which were made in the tariff iii the United States in 1857 and 1863.

Accompanying, you will please find a pamphlet which I had published in 1874, in which you will find some data upon the subject of your inquiries.

In the reports of the Hacienda (revenue and finance) which I have the pleasure also to send you, you will also find some information more detailed.

I am having prepared several statistical tables upon the fluctuations of the revenues, the importations and exportations of this country in the last six years, which I will send later to you.

With, &c.,