Mr. Sargent to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Berlin, January 1, 1883. (Received January 19.)
Sir: I have the honor to report that a very strong feeling of opposition has been aroused in Berlin and other German cities, as well as in the manufacturing districts generally, against the threatened exclusion of American pork products.
Strong protests are being sent in to the Bundesrath, and committees of merchants and others have visited the capital to protest against the measure. Editorials in leading papers have fully exposed the falsity of the excuses for exclusion.
If this were strictly a Government of public opinion in the American sense, these general public appeals, backed as they are by solid reasoning upon indisputable facts, would prevail, and the project would be abandoned. But this is far from being the case, and the prospect is stronger than ever that the decree will be issued. I am informed that Mr. Bottischer, the imperial minister of the interior, informed a protesting delegation during the past week that the measure would certainly be adopted.
It is believed in some well-informed quarters that this will be done in a day or two, to anticipate the impending discussion in the Reichstag, which was adjourned until its next sitting, about the middle of January, when the opponents of prohibition will undoubtedly make a strong showing against both the policy and the legality of the measure.
There is considerable feeling on the part of the opponents of prohibition in the Reichstag in view of this threatened snap judgment, and a leading member of that body characterized it to me as “a mean trick.”
The pretense of sanitary reasons is becoming the thinnest veil, which has been torn into shreds, and which is now apparently only insisted [Page 325] on as an excuse to the United States. The Berliner Tribune, a powerful organ of the Progressists, clearly showed in an article published on Saturday, the 30th ultimo, that it appears from official reports that from 1877 to 1879 there was an average of thirty-three deaths per year in Germany from trichinosis, and that the average has increased since then 5 and yet it asserts there has not proved to be one case of death, or even disease, from eating American pork.
On the other hand, it is shown that the methods of preparing export meat in the United States are absolute death to trichinӕ. It says that in every case of death or disease from eating pork it has been from the use of freshly-slaughtered German, Russian, or Hungarian pork. It holds that the American assertion that diseased meat is never exported from our country is maintained, and such meat is too rapid in decomposition to be prepared for export. In a word, as it shows, there is no sanitary objection to American pork. It gives the true explanation of the agitation by saying that it is a thorn in the flesh of German proprietors that a pound of American pork can be sold here for 10 pfennige less than the home product.
If the move of keeping out the half a million cwts. of American pork, imported into Germany yearly, could succeed, then their greatest rival is out of the way, and they will fix prices to suit themselves.
Of course, if the public is not to be benefited, the great landholders are.
It the price of pork rises 5 pfennige per pound, a hog of 300 pounds gains 15 marks in value on present prices, and the result is that the large farmers who slaughter yearly from 500 to 1,000 head have a gain of 7,500 to 15,000 marks.
It is no wonder that the hog-raiser works in the interest of his pocket-book against the importation of American meat. “But woe to the poor, who pay to him the 15,000 marks! Woe to the hungry, who imagine that it is a duty of the Government not to make the means of living exorbitant!”
The falsity of the pretense of sanitary reasons, and the real motives, are here clearly exhibited, directly under the eyes of the council.
A similar showing is made in yesterday’s National Zeitung. Both papers show that the present is, above all, an improper time for such a measure. There exists no reason for helping German agriculturists, for this year’s harvest has been remarkably abundant, while American crops have fallen off, and consequently American exports to Germany, leaving the German farmers a nearly clear field and good prices) and these conditions cannot be changed until the harvest of 1883.
But Europe needs American agricultural products, for it cannot feed itself, but must pay for these with its labor.
It is also pointed out that Germany is likely to be a great gainer by the proposed reduction of the American tariff.
The Americans cannot be convinced that the meat which they freely eat without injury is unwholesome, or that the measure is not a selfish, injurious blow at their interests. The danger of reprisals is pointed out 5 and it is suggestively stated by the Tribune that because the French have recently been buying railroad supplies of Austria instead of Germany, probably getting them cheaper, a mere private corporation business, not involving governmental action, the German press has been clamorous for reprisals by overtaxing champagnes.
If the action of a few Frenchmen can raise such stormy calls for reprisals, what will the Americans think on seeing their pork prohibited while Russian pork is allowed to come in?
The Tribune sees in this measure new powder for the guns of the social democrats, and deprecates the adoption of a measure where the gains must be so little and the damage is certain to be so great.
I have given the substance of these newspaper articles, that you may see that there is no lack of light shed on the subject.
I have sought by every means to oppose the measure, and have lost no opportunity to expose its true character and to show that the health of American swine is unimpaired and American swine products are entirely wholesome. I do not think these latter propositions are now seriously disputed by people of intelligence. The movement is merely selfish, and in disregard of the interests of the United States. The only argument which would be effective against the measure would be the fear of reprisals. We could not insist upon any people receiving from us articles deleterious to health, but we can as little submit to the exclusion of our products upon false pretenses—pretenses so obviously false as in this instance.
I have, &c.,