to Mr. Preston.
Washington, January 22, 1879.
The undersigned, Secretary of State of the United States, has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the note of Mr. Preston, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Hayti, of the 16th instant.
It states that his government has thought proper to transfer to its legation in this country the discussion which has heretofore been carried on with the legation of the United States at Port au Prince, relative to the act of the Haytian Congress of the 23d of August, 1877, authorizing certain charges by the consuls of that republic abroad on exportations from foreign countries to Hayti. With a view to show that those charges are not incompatible with the treaty between the United States and that republic, Mr. Preston quotes several articles of that instrument. These, however, are general in their terms and appear to have no special reference to the question at issue.
According to the preamble, one of the main objects of the treaty was to place the commercial relations between the two countries upon the most liberal basis.
The act of the Haytian legislature referred to cannot be regarded as in conformity with that stipulation. It authorizes the consuls of that republic to charge exorbitant fees on exportations from the United States; among others, one per cent. on the value of cargo of the vessel. This, besides being illiberal in its character, is tantamount to an export duty, acquiescence in which by this government would be a concession to that of Hayti of an authority in ports of the United States which has not been conferred on this government by the Constitution.
There is, however, a clause in the thirteenth article of the treaty, one of those cited by Mr. Preston, which seems to have a direct application to the point in dispute.
If the Haytian consular charges in the United States are so considerable as virtually to be an export tax, this would in effect contravene the stipulation which declares that no higher duties or charges shall be imposed in the United States on the exportation of any article to Hayti [Page 587] than such as shall be payable on the exportation of the like article to any foreign country. This clause is unconditional, and not only forbids this government from levying any such tax, but also a consul of Hayti at a port of the United States.
The preamble to the Haytian law in question expressly acknowledges that one of its objects was to benefit the treasury of that republic. Several of the other charges which it authorizes appear to be excessive. Such charges may not be uniform as prescribed by the laws of different countries. It is believed, however, that no other than Hayti has authorized them to such an extravagant amount as that provided for by the law referred to, or has required an export tax on merchandise. This Department had hoped that the remonstrances on the subject which had been addressed to that government through the United States legation in Hayti would ere this have led to a repeal or modification of that statute. This hope has, however, been disappointed, but as the charges complained of are believed to work a serious discouragement to trade, it is hoped that, as the Haytian Government is understood to be adverse to a policy leading to such a result, it will no longer delay removing the cause of the grievance.
It is believed that Mr. Preston is mistaken in saying that the United States is the only government which has complained of the effect of the statute referred to. According to reports from the legation of this country in Hayti, representatives of other governments have also pointedly complained to the same effect.
The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew to Mr. Preston the assurance of his high consideration.