Mr. Wallace to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Constantinople, April 21, 1882. (Received May 11.)
Sir: In the matter of collection of excessive duties upon American alcohols in the port of Smyrna, I am constrained to notify you again that there is little, if any, hope of bringing the Porte to an observance of our treaty rights.
Mr. Duncan, United States consul at Smyrna, informed me by note received last Sunday that—
Mr. Alexander Sidi, an American, and perhaps the largest merchant here of any nationality, expects next week a cargo of 2,100 barrels of alcohol from Lanman & Kemp, one of the leading New York exporters, to be followed soon by other similar cargoes. The difference in duty between 8 per cent. as authorized by our treaty and the 32 per cent. imposed will amount on this cargo alone to between 2,000 and 3,000 Turkish pounds.
He will make the first payment under protest, as I advise him, reclaiming the difference. But can nothing be done to compel the Turkish Government to respect our treaty while it remains unchanged?
Already three notes of protest upon this subject, as strenuous in terms as regard for courtesy would permit, had been addressed to the Porte from the legation, the first one dated November 17, 1881; the second, January 11, 1882; the third, March 18, 1882. Copies of these protests were immediately inclosed to the Department.
On the 31st December, the minister of foreign affairs, Assim Pasha, replied to my note of November 17, declaring the action of the customs [Page 506]officers at Smyrna a mistake attributable to a wrong construction of a certain article of the new regulations which were the subject of protest.
The other notes have not as yet been answered in writing.
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Upon receipt of the information quoted from Consul Duncan’s letter, I called to see his excellency the minister, hoping he might by this time be able to give me some satisfaction about the business. The visit was on last Tuesday. As an introduction, I told him that an American was sending a large cargo of alcohol to Smyrna, and that it would arrive this or next week, making it a matter of renewed importance that the Article XIV of the new regulations should be canceled, and that the order to that effect should be sent to Smyrna immediately. I requested to know if any action had been taken by the Porte in the matter. He admitted no action had been taken. I reminded him he had admitted in a note to me that the customs officials at Smyrna were under a mistake as to the interpretation of the new regulations sent to them. To that he replied:
Well, if we recall the regulations, we have no means left to prevent smuggling and the evasion of the tax upon mastic. I think you might lend us that much help.
I told him there was no room to doubt the willingness of my government to lend aid to His Majesty in every way proper, but it could not do so to the sacrifice of the right of its own citizens; that it would be unreasonable if my government consented to stand by and permit another government to take large sums of money out of the pocket of Americans who were claiming its protection.
I reminded him of his failure to answer my objections, both verbal and written; that the last time I spoke to him on the subject, he suggested that I go and see the chief of the customs bureau and speak to him; that upon my objecting to such a course as out of the rule, he had agreed himself to send for that official and get information as to how the question stood. I asked if he had done so. Upon his replying that he had not had time, I told him that by my direction Mr. Gargiulo had called upon that official and received from him the reply that nothing had been ordered to be done in the business, and that he could do nothing without an order from the Porte. I told the minister further * * * that I had come to know of him what was meant to be done; that the only question in the case was the rightfulness of the collection of 48 paras per oke in addition to the 16 paras allowed by the treaty; that he had admitted it was in excess of the provisions of the treaty; that our right and his duty were equally plain. He then said the question was a specialty; that he was not sufficiently advised of it to make an argument with me; but that he wished to inform himself about it, and for that purpose he suggested that I consent to let Mr. Gargiulo meet a Mr. Bertram, one of the chief customs officers here, and talk the business over before him. I asked him when the interview should take place. He said on Thursday (yesterday). I remarked that it was the policy of continuance over again, but that it would not be right for me to refuse. With that I adverted to another subject, and shortly after came away.
Yesterday, at the hour specified, Mr. Gargiulo went to the Porte and met not Mr. Bertram merely, but two other officials, one of them a lawyer of the department.
Instead of canvassing the subject then in presence of the minister, the party were sent into a room by themselves. * * *
The officials representing the minister did not know what they were [Page 507]there for, and Mr. Gargiulo had to tell them. They insisted upon the proposition that without such a regulation as the one we objected to the government would not be able to prevent smuggling and collect the excise tax upon mastic. Mr. G. answered that the question had reference to the treaty, and he was there to speak of that alone. To be brief, nothing came of the interview except an admission from the lawyer that the treaty was plain, and that the new regulation was not less plainly in violation of it, and that the Turks knew it. In the midst of the talk a messenger appeared and called Mr. Bertram to go to the palace. It was agreed before separation that the party should hold another meeting next Monday.
I have it in mind with respect to the next meeting to direct Mr. Gargiulo to attend it as per appointment, but to inform the gentlemen, that he must excuse himself from further conversation upon the subject unless they can show him they are authorized to finally settle all questions involved.
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Possibly you will excuse me if I take up the cargo proposed to be imported by Messrs. Lanman & Kemp and use it to show the effect of the regulations as against our treaty. Their importation will be 2,100 barrels of alcohol (40 gallons to the barrel), on which there would be collectible as follows:
|Amount of duties by treaty stipulation||$3,652 00|
|Amount of excise claimed if paid in advance||10,956 50|
|Dues to be paid in advance||14,608 50|
|Amount of overtax if excise be not paid in advance||2,695 60|
So that instead of paying $3,652, as stipulated by the treaty of commerce of 1862, the agent of Messrs. Lanman & Kemp in Smyrna must submit to a tax amounting to $17,304.10.
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I have the honor to again submit the matter with request for instructions.
It is for me to obey your directions, and I will do so with pleasure; at the same time it may not be improper for me to remark that in my judgment nothing further is to be hoped from protests and remonstrances.