No. 55.
Mr. Van den Bossche to Mr. Evarts.

Mr. Secretary of State: The Government of the King, my august sovereign, has taken cognizance of your excellency’s note of the 19th of September last, and has given special attention to the considerations which appear to have inspired the reply of the Washington cabinet to its propositions for the conversion of the local dues collected at Antwerp.

The Treasury Department seems to think that the Moorsom system for the admeasurement of vessels has already been adopted by the Government of the King. The latter has, it is true, adopted a plan of revision according to that system; but that plan has not yet received the legislative sanction. The question is therefore still open, and the cabinet will propose no solution to the chambers until all the foreign governments have expressed their views in relation to the plan of conversion which is the subject of the present negotiation.

The Government of the King, moreover, has no intention to adopt the English method pure and simple; the plan of the new regulations is based upon the Moorsom system, as in use in England, only so far as regards the gross tonnage of vessels, and as to the determination of the net tonnage it drops certain provisions of the English system, particularly those which fix the deductions to be granted for the machinery of steam-vessels, following in this respect the method in use in Germany, France, &c.

I will add, Mr. Secretary of State, that the Belgian authorities, while still regarding the old certificate as possessing an official and obligatory character, have for a few months past, when requested to do so, granted a supplementary certificate of admeasurement, drawn up in conformity with the prescriptions of the Constantinople Conference, to vessels passing through the Suez Canal.

The Government of the King has been pleased to observe the favorable disposition manifested by the Washington cabinet as regards the reciprocal acceptance without admeasurement of the registers of Belgian vessels in the United States and of American vessels in Belgium.

Nevertheless, it will be unable to make any proposition in this respect before having definitely modified its system of admeasurement.

The Secretary of the Treasury, in concluding the note which your excellency was pleased to communicate to the legation of the King, seems also to desire a declaration on the part of the Belgian Government to the effect that not only will the conversion of the local dues at Antwerp cause no increase of these dues, but that it will give rise to no obstacles to the speedy dispatch of vessels, and that it will impose no new burdens upon American ship-owners. The Government of the King would be willing to furnish such a guarantee to the Interests of navigation, especially as the adoption of the new system of admeasurement will probably enable it to exempt American vessels from the special admeasurement to which they are now subjected.

I flatter myself, Mr. Secretary of State, that these explanations will induce the Government of the President to fully approve the propositions which Mr. Delfosse had the honor to submit to your excellency by his note of August 12, 1878. I hope, at all events, that you will be pleased to submit them to a thorough examination.

I avail myself of this occasion, Mr. Secretary of State, to renew to your excellency the assurance of my highest consideration.