Mr. Sargent to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Berlin, February 24, 1883. (Received March 13.)
Sir: Referring to my No. 109, of February 17, acknowledging my receipt of your telegraphic instruction, dated the 15th, and stating my reading the same to Count Hatzfeldt, imperial secretary for foreign affairs, and stating the importance of the subject from the American stand-point, &c., I have now to report that the Bundesrath, on the 18th, unanimously approved the decree of prohibition of American pork products, taking no notice of the proposal of the President, if the same was brought to their notice by the imperial foreign office.
I have no official statement of the decree as yet. The Berliner Tageblatt of last evening contains the following:
As we announced, the Bundesrath has approved the ordinance on the prohibition of the importation of American pork, with some reservations, which seem to contradict the reasons given for prohibition, viz, that the meats are unhealthy. For instance, the commerce in such meat is not only permitted to German ships with other countries, but it is also allowed to the Hanse towns to supply their ships with such meats.
The permission, according to rumor, has been given on the ground of the existing laws.
The power of the Bundesrath to issue such ordinances rests upon the Zollverein laws, and especially upon Article 2 of them. The Hanse towns, which stand outside of such Zollverein, do not thus come under the provision in question, and to obtain their adhesion the reservations were added.
Immediately upon the action of the Bundesrath becoming known to me, I prepared and sent to Count Hatzfeldt a note, a copy of which is inclosed, in which I called his attention to the honorable Secretary’s telegram which I had submitted to him on the 17th instant, stating that I had promptly conveyed the proposal of the President through the only possible official channel to the imperial Government, and that it had been also widely published in the German newspapers, where it would unofficially reach the Bundesrath. I requested that an official copy of the late ordinance of the Bundesrath might be furnished to me, so that I might notify my Government of the exact terms of the response or constructive refusal made to this request of the President upon a matter of very much importance to the United States, and deeply affecting the trade relations of the two countries.
I, however, expressed my impression that the ordinance could only go into effect by the express approval of the imperial executive, and therefore asked leave to again call the attention of the imperial secretary to the proposal of the President, and to repeat what I had said at our interview of the 17th instant, that the United States view with concern this ordinance designed to destroy an important part of its export trade with Germany; that the United States had had the whole question of the soundness of American pork, the modes of rearing hogs and preparing the products for market, carefully and impartially examined, and are convinced by the report made to it, a copy of which I inclosed, that the attacks made upon the great article of product are unjust and prejudiced, and not in any degree warranted by the facts in the case. This being so, I stated that the President confidently relies upon the result that would follow the examination by a German commission, and invites the imperial Government to send such an one, and await its report before striking down an industry that not merely furnishes all the animal [Page 340] food to large classes in Germany (a consideration more immediately addressing itself to the imperial Government), but causes great loss to the people of the United States, whose capital is involved and labor employed in preparing pork products for market.
I suggested further that there is no emergency in this matter that cannot await ordinary modes of dealing with questions of such moment, there being no apparent reason why this ordinance should be enforced this month, or year, more than last or the next, as there is no epidemic caused by German consumption of American pork, not even a well-authenticated instance of casual sickness; that high German scientific authority stated that the very rare cases of trichinosis found in Germany for years past have arisen from eating raw German and Hungarian pork, and that no case whatever is traceable to American pork, which is so cured as to be harmless.
I suggested that where the evidences of harm done are so shadowy, and are opposed by carefully grounded statements, and the interests involved are so great, the request of the President for investigation might well commend itself to the imperial Government as reasonable and statesmanlike, and consonant with the kindly relations existing between the two countries, a sense of which on the part of his imperial and royal majesty had been recently conveyed to me by the chancellor on the occasion of the generous relief extended by the citizens of the United States to the sufferers of the Rhine Valley. Believing the imperial Government to be animated by the sentiments expressed in the chancellor’s communications, I believe it would not desire that the American Government or people should rest under a sense of injustice from the execution of this measure, yet such a consequence seemed inevitable where all modes of honest investigation had been exhausted by the American Government, with the result of apparently proving this product sound, and where daily experience shows none of the assumed inconvenience to either German or American health, and where the imperial Government is formally and courteously asked to look into the whole subject for itself before acting upon possibly interested advice, or in the absence of any thing worthy the name of evidence. I therefore asked for a response to this proposal of the President, that investigation be had, and that meanwhile this serious blow to American interests be suspended.
I deemed it best to add, that as the United States are a large and growing consumer of German manufactures, and the food they export to Germany is their principal article of exchange, the laws of trade must dictate their obtaining the goods they import elsewhere if the equivalent which they furnish is refused. This would probably result even if the Congress did not meet the issue by legislation, under the belief that another motive than the unsoundness of American pork products caused this exclusion; though such a belief could not obtain, if fair investigation on the spot by German experts showed dangerous and peculiar unsoundness to exist. I expressed a hope that this many-sided question may be tested as its importance deserves.
As this question is a burning one, I have acted in advance of the receipt of your detailed instructions by mail, and keep you advised of progress, without waiting for the imperial secretary’s reply to this note.
I have, &c.,