No. 54.
Mr. Evarts to Mr. Delfosse.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 19th ultimo, together with a circular relating to a project for the “conversion” of the local dues now collected in the port of Antwerp, under treaty stipulations, and, having procured the views of the Secretary of Treasury thereupon, I hasten to communicate the same, inclosing herewith a copy of that officer’s letter in reply to the inquiry of this Department on the subject.

I beg to renew to you the assurance of my distinguished consideration.


Mr. Sherman to Mr. Evarts.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 19th ultimo, inclosing a copy of a note from the minister of Belgium in this country with regard to a project for the “conversion” of the local dues now collected in the port of Antwerp, under treaty stipulations, together with a translation of a circular on the subject; and you solicit from this department an expression of its views in connection with the project in question.

The papers submitted by the Belgian minister relate to the admeasurement of vessels in that kingdom, and to the proposed conversion of local dues collected from shipping in the port of Antwerp, which the minister says “is but a simple conversion, without any augmentation of existing dues.”

As regards the first subject, it would appear that the Belgian Government has adopted the Moorsom system of admeasuring vessels.

The department observes from a note by the translator of the papers received from the Belgian minister, that he has omitted from them the text of the Belgian law or regulations, “because,” he says, the regulations “do not differ essentially from the Moorsom system, which is found in the Revised Statutes of the United States” (section 4153). But it would seem that the British admeasurement law has been adopted, which, however, was not precisely followed in our own legislation.

Hitherto the registers of Belgian vessels have not been accepted at American ports, for the reason that the system of admeasurement has not conformed to that of the United States. It is understood that the Belgian old rule is not materially different from the rule of the United States which prevailed under the act of 1799, and which was superseded by the new method in 1865; and it depends upon the build of each vessel whether the change of the method of admeasurement increases or diminishes the tonnage thereof.

The registers of Belgian vessels not being as yet accepted at American ports, such vessels are admeasured for tonnage in the manner provided by law for vessels of the United States; and this practice must continue until the Belgian Government shall apply to this government to accept the registers of Belgian vessels in our ports without admeasurement on the ground of having adopted the Moorsom system, and that Belgian vessels are admeasured in conformity therewith, and on condition that a similar courtesy will be extended to American vessels in Belgian ports, when the proper instructions will be given to our collectors of customs.

As regards the second subject, the change proposed by the Belgian Government in the conversion of the dues collected of shipping at Antwerp, it appears to the department that inasmuch as the minister gives an assurance that the present dues shall in no wise be increased by the mode of “conversion” if it be adopted, there would be no cause of complaint by American shipmasters, provided the regulations to carry the change into effect shall throw no obstacles in the way of a speedy liquidation of the customs claims, and do not impose burdens upon them from which they are now free.

Very respectfully,