No. 123.
Mr. Dichman to Mr. Evarts.

No. 23.]

Sir: Before leaving Washington you were pleased to communicate to me your views on the subject of establishing regular and frequent communication by steamers between New Orleans and the ports of this country. I now take pleasure in submitting for your consideration the accompanying copies of correspondence, a synopsis of which is briefly as follows:

Inclosure No. 1 is a copy of a letter addressed to me by the president of the Illinois Central Railroad Company (asking for information), which explains itself, and which I made the occasion of my letter to the Hon. Salvador Camacho Roldan. This letter was written after several conversations on the subject, and the answer of the Hon. Salvador Camacho Roldan contains not only a great deal of valuable information on the commerce of this country, but also a statement as to the probability of the Colombian Government contributing to the enterprise, thereby showing a most gratifying desire to assist in cultivating closer commercial relations with our country.

To the views advanced by the Hon. Salvador Camacho Roldan, I desire to add, that to both the United States and this country it is of the greatest importance that the line of travel to Europe from Colombia should be by the way of the United States, in order to enable the people of both countries to become better acquainted with each other.

It is also deserving of attention in this connection, that the more regular and frequent exchange of mails would not only produce more intimate commercial relations, but I am also of the opinion that a reciprocal arrangement could be effected with this government whereby letters from the United States would be distributed free of postage here in exchange for a similar free distribution of Colombian letters in the United States, and that in this way the postage between the two countries could be reduced to five cents for letters of half an ounce.

* * * * * * *

I am, &c.,

[Page 259]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 23.]

Mr. Akerman to Mr. Dichman.

Sir: I am very anxious before the next session of Congress, to be able to satisfy some of our Western Congressmen and Senators of the great importance to the West of establishing a line of steamers between New Orleans and South American ports.

To assist in doing this, I would be obliged to you if you would send me any statistics in your power relative to the trade between the United States of Colombia and this country, and any other information which you may think useful to the end I have in view.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 23.]

Mr. Dichman to Mr. Roldan.

Sir: A request having been made of me by the president of the Illinois Central Railroad Company to obtain for him certain information bearing on the possibility of establishing and maintaining successfully a line of steamers between the ports of the United States of Colombia and the port of New Orleans, in the United States of America, I beg that you will permit me to ask you for an expression of opinion on this subject.

It is my intention to answer the inquiry made of me, through the State Department at Washington, in order that the correspondence may remain on file there, and that, if not now, perhaps at some future time, the expression of your views may serve as a basis of calculation for a similar enterprise.

The advantages resulting to both the United States of Colombia and the United States of America, if a regular line of mail steamers should be established between the nearest ports of both nations, are self evident.

As you have for many years given to the subject of the increased means of intercourse between the two countries much thought and study, I trust that this inquiry will not cause you too much inconvenience.

With sentiments of the highest consideration,

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 3 in No. 23.—Translation.]

Mr. Roldan to Mr. Dichman.

My Esteemed Mr. Minister: It is with much pleasure that I give an answer to your semi-official note of the 22d instant, in which you solicit an opinion from the department of foreign relations upon the advisability of establishing a line of steamers between New Orleans and the ports of our country.

For some years I have had the conviction that the commercial relations between the United States of America and Colombia had not all the importance at which they might arrive, solely for the want of lines of transportation, since Colombia produces many articles which are consumed extensively in the United States, and consumes many articles of European production which might be received, perhaps, with advantage from your country.

Colombia exports principally tobacco, quinia, coffee, gold, hides, straw-hats, caoutchouc, balsam, cotton, hard wood for railroad-ties, dye-woods and other coloring materials, tortoise-shell, preserves, cattle on the hoof, ivory-nuts, and mother-of-pearl.

I judge that of these articles, you receive only one-half or three-fifths of our exportations of coffee, half of the quinia, four-fifths of the hides, and insignificant quantities of all the rest.

The exportations of quinia and coffee have increased considerably in two years, perhaps doubled for your country, solely upon the introduction of the line of steamers (Atlas) recently to the ports of Sabanilla and Barranquilla.

[Page 260]

The abolition of duties upon these articles, which took place in 1870, has, of course, contributed to this result in a considerable degree.

It must be borne in mind that by the way of Maracaibo (Republic of Venezuela), more than two-thirds at least of the exportation of coffee from our country takes place, which appear probably in the United States as importations from Venezuela.

I estimate that only to the amount of 25 per cent. to 30 per cent. of our exportations (which amount from $12,000,000 to $14,000,000) seek a market in the United States.

The importation of American articles in Colombia does not exceed, perhaps, 15 per cent. of our total importation, which vibrates between $9,000,000 and $10,000,000, and which must have been more than $12,000,000 in 1877–’78.

The articles which are at present imported are flour and crackers; lard, butter, cheese, beef, and pork; furniture, to a small amount, for the coast States; soap, Florida water, and perfumery, drugs; printing materials; steamers for the Magdalena River, and articles for repairing the same; fire-arms; materials for dentists; agricultural implements (principally Collins).

We might import on a large scale, cotton and woolen goods, boots and shoes, felt and cloth hats, school furniture, printing and wall paper, printed books, blooded live stock, beer, fish, ice, watches and clocks, petroleum and lamps, gas-pipes, fixtures, &c., ready-made wooden houses in pieces, and many articles of glass and crockery and glassware from Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, which enjoy a very good reputation.

Regular lines of steamers between New York and New Orleans on the one hand, and Colon, Carthagena, Barranquiila or Sabanilla, and Rio Hacha on the other, touching, perhaps, as well at Maracaibo, Puerto Cabello, and La Guayra, will surely give, in my opinion, good results.

For passengers alone, more than $50,000 annually might be counted upon, and more than 50,000 tons of freight, belonging to the commerce of this country; not, of course, in the first two or three years.

I believe that in time it will be much more advantageous for our exporters of gold to send it to the United States instead of to Europe; for, with the same amount of gold, from two to five per cent. more sterling exchange can be bought in New Orleans and in New York than in London.

England sustains three semi-monthly lines of steamers with our coast; France, one, and Germany, one, aside from lines of sailing vessels. The establishment of a line of Spanish steamers is spoken of, and another line of French steamers proceeding from Bordeaux. Why should not the United States sustain one, situated as they are nearest to our coast? The establishment of a line of steamers between New Orleans and the Colombian ports, will require, in order to give the desired results, the establishment of commission houses, known to our merchants, and provided with funds to accept drafts against consignments, or to draw upon Europe for account of our exporters. It would require as well to initiate relations between this city, Baranquilla, Medellin, Cucuta, and Cali, with the merchants of Chicago, Saint Louis, Pittsburg, Cincinnati, Louisville, and San Francisco.

Such a line would not only be able to count upon the freights and passengers to and from the United States of Colombia, but also upon those of the West Indies, which already, are not to be depreciated, as well as the commerce of Venezuela, which, would not be inferior to that of our country.

In former years, we were disposed to grant a subsidy, of $30,000 annually to an American line of steamers, which, however, was not established. In our present condition, I judge that Congress will, perhaps, be willing to vote $10,000 annually, for two years, and somewhat more for the following years, if the rates of freight and passage would give real advantages to our commerce.

I suppose that you have the very interesting tables of exportations from Sabanilla to the United States for the one part, and Europe and the West Indies for the other, in the past year, published by Mr. Pellet, the consul of the United States, to which (tables) I refer more or less.

With sentiments of the highest consideration,

I am, &c.,