No. 267.
Mr. Evarts to Mr. Preston.

The undersigned, Secretary of State of the United States, has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the note of the 4th instant of Mr. Preston, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of Hayti, stating that he had been instructed to discuss directly with this Department the question raised by a protest of Mr. Langston, the minister of the United States at Port au Prince, against an act of the legislature of Hayti which levies a discriminating tax against citizens of the United States engaged in trade in that country.

It appears that Mr. Langston deemed it his duty to protest against the proposed discrimination, on the ground that the fifth article of the treaty of 1864, between the United States and Hayti, stipulates that the citizens of the contracting parties shall not be compelled to pay any contributions whatever higher or other than those that are or may be paid by native citizens.

Mr. Preston contends that this stipulation is not applicable to the case. The reasons which he assigns for this view are that such discriminations were not only made anterior to the treaty, but also even subsequently to the date of that instrument, without complaint on the part of citizens of the United States or their representatives.

The undersigned is not disposed to deny the correctness of this statement. Whether true or otherwise, however, this cannot be regarded as [Page 594] impairing the right to equality in respect to license taxes, which is clearly and positively conferred by the article of the treaty referred to. Citizens of Hayti are entitled to and would receive the same privilege in this country for the same reason.

Mr. Preston alleges that the question should be governed by the provision of the sixth or thirty-fifth article of the treaty, rather than by the fifth. Those articles, however, are obviously general in their stipulations, while the fifth is specific, and applicable to the very case in controversy.

The minister resident of the United States at Port au Prince had occasion during the Presidency of General Domingue to protest against a similar act of the legislature of Hayti. In consequence of that protest, the Haytian Government for the time being gave notice of its wish to terminate the treaty of 1864. That notice was, however, withdrawn by the subsequent government. Mr. Preston supposes that that withdrawal was conditional upon a similar withdrawal by the minister resident of the United States of his protest against the objectionable license law.

There is no proof in this Department, however, that any such condition was authorized or even entertained.

The treaty was concluded under very interesting circumstances, at a critical period in the history of this country. Its provisions are believed to have been well weighed by the parties. They are also believed to have been mutually advantageous in practice. It would be a subject of regret that such an instrument should be annulled when one of its stipulations should be found to interfere with an act of the Haytian legislature which imposes a discriminating tax upon citizens of the United States in that country.

It may be as Mr. Preston says, that the number of persons affected by that tax is not large; still, however small the number of citizens of the United States who may be required to pay the discriminating tax, this government has no discretion to waive their rights to equality, if, as is believed, they are protected by treaty.

It may also be said that if those numbers are few, it may be a matter for the consideration of the Haytian Government whether the pecuniary advantage which it would derive from exacting the discriminating tax would outweigh the inconvenience of hazarding its good faith in violating the treaty.

The undersigned avails himself of this occasion to renew to Mr. Preston the assurances of his high consideration.