I beg to renew to you the assurance of my distinguished consideration.
Mr. Sherman to Mr.
September 13, 1878. (Received September
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
As regards the first subject, it would appear that the Belgian Government
has adopted the Moorsom system of admeasuring
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States which prevailed under the act of 1799, and which was superseded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
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.