No. 435.
Mr. Smyth to Mr. Blaine.

No. 118.]

Sir: In view of the reported incorporation of an American line of steamers to ply between New York and West Africa, which line will do business at all the principal ports of Liberia, I deem it of the first importance to have our status as a friendly foreign nation in treaty relations with Liberia settled on a basis of the fullest liberality as to commerce that may be possible and consistent with our success and the healthful development of the young republic.

Therefore at this time I call your attention to the matter of ports of entry. “An act confining and restricting foreign vessels to ports of entry”:

Section 1. That from and after the 1st day of January, A. D. 1865, no foreign vessel or vessels arriving on the coast of Liberia from any port or place or Liberian vessel engaged in the foreign trade, shall be allowed to trade at any point or ports but at ports of entry that are now or may hereafter be created by the legislature of this republic.

Approved February 4, 1863.

While nothing is said of foreign resident factors or traders, public opinion regards them as restricted the same as vessels.

Under a liberal policy which was acted upon a short time ago, say four or six years, the then administration, favoring the presence of foreign merchants, requested the opinion of the attorney-general as to their right to extend their trading operations beyond ports of entry where they had houses or factories established, their right to ascend rivers and go to interior settlements for purposes of trade.

The opinion given by the attorney-general, William M. Davis, esq., was to the effect and intent that the right of the foreigners to trade up the rivers of Liberia and at the interior portions of the state, east of the Atlantic, not being denied, must be taken to be conceded.

The American firm of Messrs. Yates & Porterfield, of New York, acting upon this opinion, being established at Grand Bassa, pursued the [Page 738] course followed by Liberians of trading at and away from the port of entry eastward.

As the result of this action, the citizen traders of Grand Bassa made trouble, and finally the firm discontinued keeping an establishment in Liberia, and confined themselves to sending, as before, their vessels to the various ports of the republic. The whole correspondence as to this matter may be found fully and ably set out by my learned predecessor, Hon. J. Milton Turner.

There are great advantages connected with the establishment of foreign houses here, and the advantages are increased when foreigners are permitted to pursue trade in the same manner as Liberians, i. e., to re-establish factories up the rivers and at interior points where the trade is first met.

This course avoids the intervention of middlemen, Liberians and natives, secures cheapness in the purchase and barter of commodities, and necessarily increases the profits of the foreign trader; places him as to trade on all-fours with the Liberian. To discriminate against the foreigner in the aforementioned advantages common to Liberians is obviously unfair, and an injury to trade.

If the Department appreciates the advantage of having equal chances given to our enterprising citizens who may enter this commercial field, the timely use of necessary and proper means to have the law or laws clear and certain upon the subject cannot but suggest themselves to you. Of the means to be used, I would suggest, respectfully, the urging the benefits in protection and prestige the republic derives from our treaty stipulations with it, and the prosperity that must come to Liberia from the presence and use of foreign capital in the state.

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I have, &c.,