No. 140.
Mr. Angell to Mr. Evarts.

No. 59.]

Sir: I inclose herewith replies which I have received from our consuls at Ning-po and Canton to my circular making inquiries about tonnage dues, and duties on imports and exports.

You will observe in them the same difference of testimony as you have seen in the consular replies previously forwarded. They agree that no discrimination is made in respect to vessels which report to the foreign customs. In respect to the native craft—the junks—Consul Lord, while affirming that no one can know what is the practice, yet doubts whether any discriminations exist. Consul Lincoln, on the contrary, reports that it is generally believed by foreigners that at Canton the tonnage dues on native craft and the duties on native goods imported in them, are at least 30 per cent. less than on foreign vessels and their cargoes.

These statements go to confirm the theory I have previously advanced that the usage differs in respect to junks at different ports. How far our government, which excludes altogether all foreign vessels from engaging in our coasting trade, may deem it necessary to take this into consideration, it is not for me to suggest.

I have, &c.,

[Page 212]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 59.]

Mr. Lord to Mr. Angell.

No. 137.]

Sir: I have had the honor to receive your dispatch No. 6, in which answers are requested to certain questions relating to the taxes levied in China on American commerce compared with those levied on the commerce of her own people or the people of other countries.

In reply I will here quote your questions and answer them seriatim.

First. “Are any other or higher tonnage dues exacted in the open ports of China from the vessels of the United States resorting thereto than are paid by Chinese vessels or any foreign vessels engaged in like trade therewith?”

So far as concerns vessels that are required to report to the general customs—the customs under foreign inspection, (and this includes all vessels under foreign flags, and all Chinese vessels that are registered), there is but one rule—they all pay the same tonnage dues. There are, however, a good many native vessels that are not registered; or they are not so registered as to be required to report to the imperial customs. They report to the local customs only. And what, if any, tonnage dues they pay we have no means of ascertaining. But they are engaged only in the coast trade and fisheries and rarely if ever carry foreign goods. The presumption is that the charges to which they are subjected are not larger than they would be if they were registered, as in that case they would apply for registers; and that they are not much smaller, as some do apply for registers.

Second. “Are any other or higher customs duties of import exacted in China from American citizens importing merchandise thither than are paid by Chinese subjects or the citizens of the most favored power, importing the like merchandise into China?”

No. So far as duties are collected by the imperial customs there is but one law and one practice. The tariff rules and shows no favor or disfavor to nationalities. And what is true of imports is true of exports.

Third. “Is there any discriminating or additional customs duty imposed upon merchandise, whether of American or foreign origin, entering the open ports of China in vessels of the United States, which is not imposed upon the like goods entering these ports in Chinese vessels or in vessels of any foreign power?”

No. Vessels, persons, and goods in China are both, in law and practice, treated equally. No favors or disfavors are shown to any one or to anything. Nor do I see how any discriminations could arise under the favored-nation clause, found, I believe, in all the treaties, so far as foreign nationalities are concerned. China might make discriminations in favor of her own vessels, her own goods, and her own people; but as yet she has not done it. Of course, I speak as before intimated, only so far as relates to the imperial customs. What may be the practice in the local customs, which still have control over a large portion of the old junk trade, no one can know. But so far as this port is concerned, I doubt whether any discriminations exist.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 59.]

Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Angell.

No. 65.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 4, of the 22d ultimo.

In reply I have to say that during my administration of this office I have never known of an instance at this port wherein higher tonnage dues have been exacted from merchant vessels of the United States than are prescribed by the treaty of 1858 (article 16), or than are paid by merchant vessels of other foreign countries. The same remark applies to duties on imports and exports in foreign craft.

I cannot state positively whether the tonnage dues exacted from native merchant sailing-vessels are the same or not, as it is impossible to obtain reliable information from the authorities at the native custom-house, where all such craft enter and pay dues and duties. It is, however, firmly believed by foreigners that the tonnage dues on native craft and duties on goods imported in them are at least 30 per cent. less than on foreign vessels and their cargoes. This remark does not, however, apply to the Chinese Merchants’ Steam Navigation Company’s steamers as they enter and pay dues and duties at the foreign customs.

[Page 213]

I regret that I do not clearly comprehend your meaning as to “what answer to these inquiries will describe not only the law, but also the practice of the authorities, &c.” The foregoing, I think, is as descriptive of the practice at this port as I am at present able to give.

I have &c.