No. 218.
Mr. Noyes to Mr. Evarts.

No. 439.]

Sir: Referring to the telegraphic correspondence, which has passed between the State Department and this legation, upon the subject of a decree of the French Government prohibiting the importation into France of American pork, I have the honor to inclose herewith—

The report of Mr. Tirard, minister of agriculture and commerce, and the decree of the President in French.
Translation of the report and decree.
Copies of telegrams from and to State Department on the subject.
Copies of my dispatches, to the minister for foreign affairs of the French Republic.

In addition to the information communicated by these documents, I have the honor to report that immediately upon the promulgation of the decree, February 19, 1881, I took measures to acquaint myself with the facts and circumstances which led to this summary action, more fully, if possible, than appeared in the report of Mr. Tirard.

On Sunday morning, the 20th instant, I received your telegram, and the same day, addressed to the minister for foreign affairs, the communication expressing, by your authority, the regrets of my government. On Monday, the 21st, and Tuesday, the 22d, I had interviews with Mr. Barthélemy St. Hilaire, and on Wednesday, the 23d, by appointment, with Mr. Tirard, minister of agriculture and commerce, I was informed by both these ministers, that the necessity for the decree was found in the fact that numerous inspections of American pork had recently been made by most competent scientific men; that the meat was taken at a random, from many different packages, or consignments, and that all, or nearly all, was found to be infected with trichinæ that in the estimation of the Government of the French Republic, the preservation of life and health was a matter more important and imperative than any consideration of trade and commerce; that the resolution of the government had only been taken after full investigation, mature reflection, and great pressure of public opinion; that the decree, while it undoubtedly affected injuriously American commerce, was not less severe and appreciable to the French traders and population, as American pork entered largely into the daily consumption of a great number of the poorer classes of Frenchmen; that the maintenance of the decree would depend upon the necessity, and that it would be revoked as soon as the occasion for it had disappeared, or had become so rare as to warrant its recall.

I assured the ministers referred to that I was incapable of urging or suggesting any action on the part of the French Government, which would imperil life, or the public health; that I fully appreciated all which had been said upon that subject; but I ventured to suggest, that among fifteen millions of my countrymen very little meat was consumed, other than American pork; that among that great number of persons this constituted a part of their daily food; that among thirty-five millions more of our population pork was eaten interchangeably with other meats, and that no danger to life or health had resulted from such consumption and use. I also cited England, where a vast amont of American pork is used, and where no disastrous effects have followed. I represented that it was inconceivable to my government, that different and dangerous consequences could follow its consumption in France. I corrected the statement contained in the report of Mr. Tirard, as to the prohibition of importation of such meats into Germany, Austria, and Spain, on the authority of our ministers in those countries. I represented the magnitude of the interest involved; the disastrous consequences which would follow the continued operation of the decree, and in the name of my government asked for its revocation, or suspension, until such time as the subject could receive a fuller and more searching investigation.

I inquired if any actual cases of sickness or death, resulting from the use of American pork in France had been officially reported. I [Page 398]was answered that while no certain case could be cited, there were numerous cases where it was believed, or suspected, to have been influential in producing said results. I said that I would venture to affirm that no case could be found, in France or elsewhere, in which death or illness had resulted from the use of American pork well cooked, even if infected as claimed. I also said that this disease was not confined to American pork, but was far more common in France and Germany, by reason of the inferior and less healthful substances upon which the hogs of those countries were fed and fattened.

I called attention to the fact that this decree had been published without notice, and that it became immediately operative; that American pork, to the value of many millions of francs, had arrived in France, and was awaiting delivery, or was on the sea in transitu; that bills on account of payment for these consignments had been drawn and discounted, and that these drafts would be continually arriving in Paris, would be protested and would cause financial ruin to many who had acted in good faith, and who had made their shipments without notice of this decree, or the facts upon which it purports to be based.

The minister of agriculture and commerce finally assured me that all pork which had been shipped from America prior to the publication of the decree, should be admitted into French ports, and delivered to consignees, subject only to inspection, and the condemnation of such meat as might be found diseased. He also informed me that the government would diligently seek for expedients, in order to be able to abrogate the decree, without putting in jeopardy life and health.

In my interviews with both these ministers, I found them not unkindly disposed, and their assurances were frank and conciliatory. While no promise was made by either, the impression I gained was, that at no distant day, the decree would be revoked, and some thorough system of inspection substituted therefor. To this end I have utilized all possible influences, and shall continue to do so. I hope for favorable results.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 439.—Translation.]

Report to the President of the French Republic.

My attention has recently been called to the introduction into France, of large quantities of salted pork; meat (viandes de porc salées) imported from America. These meats are infected with trichinæ, and might endanger to a great extent public health.

The board of health (comité d’hygiene publique) of France, to which I have referred the matter, was unanimous in declaring that trichinæ introduced alive into the digestive organs of man communicated the malady, known as trichinosis, a disease, the terrible effects of which produces in nearly all cases death. In presence of so positive an affirmation, the government should take, without delay, proper measures to avoid the danger to which the population would be exposed by using the meats already introduced into France and delivered for consumption. I have therefore addressed a circular to the prefects, prescribing the indispensable culinary precautions to be taken, in order to destroy the pernicious effects of the trichinæ with which the pork coming from America, is infected. The largest publicity has been given by the prefects to this circular, which was also inserted in the Journal Officiél of the republic.

But the measures indicated, infallible, if strictly applied, have not seemed to me to afford a sufficient guarantee to the consumers of these meats, who belong mainly to the poorer classes of the population, against the risks they may incur, by neglecting or ignoring the precautions prescribed. I have concluded to combat the principle of the evil, and I have charged the committee of public hygiene to report by what practical [Page 399]means it would be possible to detect the presence of trichinæ in the salted pork before delivering it for consumption.

This inspection to be efficient should be made by competent men in a limited number of ports of entry, and in custom-houses of the frontier, specially designated for the introduction into France of pork meat coming from abroad.

It has been established that the introduction of these meats through the single port of Havre, where importation, it is true, the largest amount to not less than 29,000,000 or 30,000,000 kilograms per year, that is to say, an average of 2,500 tons per month. The inspection, by microscope, of meats thus imported, would require for every operation, a time relatively long, and such that it would not be possible to analyze accurately such considerable quantities, whatever might be the number of persons employed. The control therefore would necessarily be partial, and consequently inefficient and would give to the public a deceiving security which would embarrass the action of the government. I was therefore compelled to give up any scheme of inspection of imported pork meat, at least for the present.

Still, it is important to put an end to the real and permanent danger to which public health is liable by the introduction into France of meats notoriously infected with trichinæ. An efficient supervision seeming impossible, I consider it indispensable to interdict, without delay, on the whole border line of the republic, the importation of malted pork meats coming from the United States of America. Such a measure has already been taken by many states of Europe; in Russia, in Italy, in Austria, in Spain, in Portugal, and in Greece pork meats of this origin are no more admitted.

However, considering that pork meats of American origin enter largely into the alimentations of the poorer classes, I will continue to study the means of resolving the difficulties of this important question, giving at the same time to the consumers of these meats the guarantees they have the right to expect from a vigilant government.

Please receive, Mr. President, the homage of my respectful devotedness.

The minister of agriculture and commerce,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 439.—Translation.]

The President of the French Republic, on report of the minister of agriculture and commerce, based upon the advice of the committee of public hygiene of France.

Whereas, the introduction into France of salted pork meats notoriously infected with trichinæ presents the greatest danger to public health—


  • Article 1. The importation of salted pork meats, coming from the United States of America, is prohibited in the whole of the territory of the French Republic.
  • Art. 2. The minister of agriculture and commerce and the minister of finances are charged, each one in what may concern his department, with the execution of this decree, which will be published in the Journal Official and the Bulletin des Lois.


By the President of the Republic.

The minister of agriculture and commerce:


The minister of finances:


* * * * * * *

[Inclosure 3 in No. 439.]

Mr. Noyes to M. Barthélémy St. Hilaire.

Sir: I am instructed by Mr. Evarts, Secretary of State, at Washington, to convey to your excellency an expression of the profound regret entertained by the Government of the United States, that your excellency’s government should have deemed it [Page 400]advisable to issue the decree of the 18th instant prohibiting the importation of American pork into France.

I need not remind your excellency that the influence of such a decree is far reaching and most detrimental to the commercial interests of the United States. Speaking in the name of my government, I beg leave to express the hope that further consideration, and a fuller investigation of the facts which led to the decree, may result in its revocation.

In the mean time I beg to be informed as to the circumstances which have induced your excellency’s government to adopt the extreme measure set forth in the decree, in order that I may promptly make known the facts to my government.

I take this opportunity to renew to your excellency the assurance of the distinguished consideration with which I have the honor to be, your most obedient servant,

[Inclosure 4 in No. 439.]

Mr. Noyes to M. Barthelémy St. Hilaire.

Sir: Referring to our conversation of this morning, regarding the decree of your excellency’s government, prohibiting the importation into France of American pork, I beg leave to submit, for such consideration as your excellency may deem them entitled to, the following observations:

The preparation and sale of pork constitute one of the most important industries of the United States, and a vast amount of capital is invested in the same. The maintenance for any considerable time of the decree in question would result in the financial ruin of thousands of our business men. Pork, to the value of many millions of francs, is now afloat, on its way to France, or has already arrived, and is waiting delivery. Bills for payment on account of these consignments have been drawn and discounted, and the drafts will inevitably go to protest in Paris if this decree remains in force. I trust, therefore, that it will not be considered strange that my government and countrymen entertain a deep feeling on this subject.

The decree was issued without notice, and became immediately operative. Therefore, there was no opportunity afforded to provide against the immediate disastrous effects and loss occasioned thereby.

I appreciate fully the considerations regarding the public health, referred to by your excellency in our interview of to-day, and should be loth to urge or suggest any action which would imperil either life or health. But I respectfully suggest that in the United States there are probably fifteen million persons who consume daily American pork, to the exclusion of all other kinds of meat. Thirty-five million more habitually partake of pork, interchangeably with other kinds of meat. No disastrous consequences have followed, and neither life nor health has been endangered. Under such circumstances, and with such unlimited means of knowledge, it seems to my government and people inconceivable that the infection or disease complained of, and which purports to form the basis of the decree, can be so general or extensive as to warrant the summary measure adopted by the French Government; and I respectfully suggest that the disease complained of is not confined to American pork, but is quite as common to that of France and other countries. In American pork it is certainly exceptional, and comparatively rare, as a long and extensive experience has assured my government and countrymen.

Considering, therefore, the interests involved, and the facts to which I have alluded, I beg leave to express the hope that the decision arrived at by your excellency’s government may not be considered final and irrevocable, but that the decree may be at least so modified as to admit American pork into French ports subject to rigid inspection and condemnation of such, if any, as may be found diseased.

My government very respectfully, but most urgently, protests against the decree, as now in force, and urges a reconsideration of the subject, with a view to the revocation of the order and the adoption of some other expedient not injurious to American trade and commerce, and not incompatible with the welfare of the French people.

I beg to be informed, in as much detail as is convenient, as to the extent of the inspection of American pork, upon which the order was based, the relative amount of such meat found to be defective, and as to whether any actual cases of sickness or death in France, resulting from the use of American pork, have been officially reported.

I avail myself of this occasion to renew the assurances of the distinguished consideration with which I have the honor to be, your excellency’s most humble and obedient servant,