No. 58.
Mr. Evarts to Mr. Van den Bossche.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 7th ultimo, in further relation to the conversion of the local taxes levied at Antwerp, and to say in reply that I have communicated the substance thereof to the Secretary of the Treasury, who observes in his responsive ‘letter on the subject, as follows:

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The questions for consideration raised in the note of the chargé d’affaires are chiefly two: first, as to the effect of the proposed conversion.

In the letter of this department, which you acknowledge and to which the Belgian note is a reply, a schedule was given of the present tariff of dues and a schedule of the proposed tariff; and a comparison of the two would indicate that a slight hut unimportant increase is contemplated. The note, however, states that the proposed conversion involves no increase of the tariff; and it is probably the fact that the duties, while apparently slightly increased per ton, are to be levied on a decreased tonnage, which wall be the result of the admeasurements under the Moorsom system.

The second question relates to the kind of tonnage which is to serve as a basis for the collection of the local taxes at Antwerp.

The Belgian Government proposes that these taxes shall be collected upon net tonnage; and as to American vessels, whose registers state only gross tonnage, the necessary deductions will be made to bring them within the Belgian rule, provided the same usage is accorded to Belgian vessels entering ports of the United States. If this is not agreed to, and American vessels pay navigation dues in Belgian ports upon their gross register tonnage, the Belgian Government will not object to Belgian vessels being compelled to pay in the ports of the United States the same duties according to their gross tonnage, unless a more favorable usage should be accorded to a third power, in which case Belgium would be entitled to the usage of the most favored nation.

It appears, therefore, to me, that so long as this government continues the present practice of collecting navigation dues upon the gross tonnage of American and foreign vessels, no complication can arise by reason of the different methods adopted by foreign nations, either separately or in concert, of stating taxable tonnage. Each must first ascertain the gross tonnage, for with that only has the United States to do; and so long as the present practice is continued the present regulations need not be altered.

As regards the “conversion” of the local dues on shipping at Antwert, the department has already expressed its views thereon, in its letters to the Department of State of the 13th of September, 1878, and the 27th of January last.

Observing that copies of the above-named letters were sent to your legation with the notes of this Department of September 19, 1878, and January 31 last, I avail myself of this occasion to renew to you the assurances of my high consideration.