No. 246.
Mr. Langston to Mr. Evarts.

No. 133.]

Sir: Referring to my dispatch No. 112, I have the honor to advise you that the “identic protest” of the English, French, and German Governments, made to the Haytian Government, against the consular exactions of the law of the 23d of August, 1877, was, on the 7th instant, answered by the government addressed.

A copy of the reply made to the representative of the French being, as I am informed, identical with that made to the representative of the German government, together with a copy of the paragraphs of the reply made to the representative of the English Government, which are omitted in the other replies, I herewith transmit to you, with translations.

I am advised that the representatives named propose to transmit, at once, such replies to their several governments for further instructions.

Of course, in view of the position heretofore taken by the Haytian Government on this subject, such replies were to be expected.

I am, &c.,

[Page 555]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 133.—Translation.]

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to acknowledge the reception of your dispatch of the 23d of January last, as the result of an exchange of communications between the cabinets of Paris, Berlin, and London, you addressed me to protest against the provisions of the law of the 23d of August, 1877, relative to consular taxes.

Permit me, in the first place, to recall the following principles, which seem to me to be a truth incontestable. The modification of the tariff of customs of a people is a legal measure against which one cannot be opposed. It exercises there its right of sovereignty, whether it applies after its conviction and acquired experience the principle of the protective system with all its exclusions, or the commercial liberty in all its extension. In the case under consideration Hayti has not made engagements with any nation that its tariff of customs should never be modified, and, in doing it, it has not, I believe, injured any international contract.

I am about to have the honor to submit to your appreciation some arguments which already I have had occasion to formulate upon the subject of the legitimacy of our consular taxes.

It is not correct to say that the law of the 23d of August, 1877, has had for object to create new resources for the Haytian treasury, “in levying upon foreign commerce a veritable tax.” The charges of visa of invoices of merchandise sent to Hayti constitute an impost which weighs only upon the Haytian consumer. Foreign commerce pays them at our consulates and is reimbursed thereof with a commission in advance by the importer of Hayti, who in his turn adds them to the current price of the merchandise offered to the consumption of the country. It is therefore in reality this last one only who has to his charge the sums paid for consular visas.

The consular tax received from 1858 to 1877 never gave place to any contestation; the modifying law against which you protest to-day has had nevertheless for effect to regulate, after a manner more conformable to justice and equity, the receipt of charges of consular visa, in substituting charges proportional to charges fixed. I cannot believe that a proposition of this kind can be of a nature to cause disapprobation.

All governments receive consular charges, collected according to the mode which they believed it right to establish in conforming themselves to the usages, to the political customs of their country, and to the necessity of the moment; no one can contest in these governments the right to modify their consular tariffs, to lessen them or to increase them.

Another argument works in our favor. Does not one often see a state subject to taxation, negotiable paper, stocks, bonds, &c., and even the annuities upon the national, state, and public funds abroad? The foreign holders residing upon the territory of another state, are they not really governed by the legislation of a country which is, not theirs? Do they not pay that impost received to the profit of another state? A fact of this kind does not raise, notwithstanding any reclamation on the part of governments, and does not provoke, even, discussion by publicists.

The law of the 23d of August, 1877, in its consequence and its results, does it offer anything which can be compared to the fact which I have just had the honor to cite to you?

I have only submitted here, in response to your dispatch, the general points of a debate which may be extended, and the details of which, when they shall be made clear, will show the question in its true light. Nevertheless, I hope, Mr. Minister, that the considerations which I have just presented will suffice to convince you of the legitimacy of the imposition, the maintenance of which I here defend, and for which the government has asked the vote of the Corps Legislatif as much in point of duty as in point of right.

Be pleased to accept, Mr. Minister, the assurances of the distinguished sentiments with which I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

The secretary of state of foreign affairs,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 133.—Translation.]

Difference of the text of the Response of the Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs relative to the consular taxes of Hayti, addressed to the representative of H. B. M.

  • 2d paragraph.—On the 12th day of January, 1878, this department received from the minister resident of H. B. M. a protest upon this subject, to which it replied on the 16th of the same month. Up to the day of your dispatch the British legation having made no objection to the arguments presented by my government to justify [Page 556] the law in question, it was reasonable to suppose that this affair was settled between my department and the legation, whose silence could imply an acceptation of the exposé which had been made to it.
  • 10th paragraph.—In this dispatch I have resumed the discussion undertaken upon this question by this department on the 16th of January, 1878, by adding a new argument to these already presented to the legation. I hope, sir, that the general considerations above mentioned will suffice to convince you of the legitimacy of the impositions whose maintenance I defend, &c.