Mr. Sargent to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Berlin, April 13, 1883. (Received May 2.)
Sir: I have the honor to state that on the 22d March, 1883, I received a letter from Mr. Emile Neignouret, president of the Chambre Syndicale du Commerce des Saindoux et Safaisons d’ Amérique, Bordeaux, France, a copy of which is inclosed, informing me that the French papers were publishing a dispatch from Tilsit, Germany, stating that some cases of trichinosis existed in Tilsit, especially in the garrison, and that there were already thirteen deceased. He requested me to make inquiries on the subject, as the syndicate is doing its best to obtain the recall of the edict of prohibition of American meats in France, and had already serious promises from the French Government. They were, however, afraid the many, advices from Germany like the above would raise difficulties and prevent their success. He expressed the opinion that if there were such trichinosis it came from eating home meats and not from American salted meat. If the facts could be ascertained and vouched for by me it would aid them to obtain free importation in France.
Immediately on receipt of this letter, I wrote to the United States consular agent, Mr. Conrad Gaedeke, at Königsberg, the nearest consular officer to Tilsit, inclosing him a copy of it, and informed him that the question of the exclusion or admission of American pork products is now being agitated here and in France, and that he would much oblige me, and do the United States a service, if he would ascertain and inform; me promptly if these cases of sickness referred to exist, and, if so, if the pork was of American or other production.
The same day I wrote to Mr. Neignouret, stating that I had ordered an investigation to be made into the alleged cases of trichinosis at Tilsit by the nearest American consul, and if there were such, if they originated from eating American pork. I told him further that I find that all cases of alleged trichinosis are ascribed to American pork, even where the proof is open to any one that they arise from eating raw native or Hungarian pork; that interested parties spread such stories, and frequently the stories are entirely false, there being no sickness; that high German scientific authority states that there is not now and has not been for years any case of trichinosis in Germany from eating American pork.
The United States consular agent at Königsberg acknowledged receipt of my letter, under date of March 27, and promised immediately to try to ascertain and inform me as soon as possible of all the facts in the matter.
I am now in possession of his report, under date of April 9, in which he informs me that fourteen cases of trichinosis have occurred at the garrison at Tilsit, being early in March, all very light, and everybody now recovered. It is officially stated him that the soldiers did not receive the infected meat in the ménage of the caserne, and it is not possible to state where they got it, and not, therefore, whether it is of native or American production, but they probably got the pork from their relatives. * * *
I have to-day written to Mr. Neignouret, giving to him these facts, and calling his attention to the exaggeration or falsehood of the telegraphic account, in that no deaths had occurred; that the cases were all slight, and everybody had recovered, and pointiugout the certainty that, as the pork was probably furnished by, relatives, it was the local [Page 371] raw article, which is the ascertained cause of all known cases of trichinosis where the trouble has been taken to trace the cause.
I have also written to Mr. Gaedeke, thanking him for his promptness and efficiency in the matter, and stating that I should take pleasure in mentioning it to the State Department.
This correspondence tells its own story, and remark may be unnecessary. In this case thirteen persons are announced as already dead from trichinosis, and the fatal disease still raging, and American pork—that “unutterable flesh”—is swiftly assigned as the cause. The disastrous news is spread over the Continent to create prejudice against our productions and strengthen the hands of those who favor prohibition. When the Government officers, peculiarly informed, are questioned, it is found no deaths have occurred; that there were only some slight cases of sickness, and pregnant circumstances imply that American pork had nothing to do with the cases of sickness that did exist.
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While the German Government may properly decline to bind itself by the report of its own or any other commission for investigation into the truth or error of its own allegations that American pork products are dangerous to health, and into the soundness of the grounds which it has for striking a severe blow at our trade or manufactures, it may reasonably be expected to be * * * cautious how it lends itself to * * * statements against the interests of a friendly nation. * * * When the chancellor sent his request for the prohibitive ordinance to the Bundesrath he accompanied it by a memorial in which he did not give reasons based on the bills of health of the Empire, but cited at large from a printed pamphlet in German, * * * which pamphlet was a compilation of certain New York newspaper articles published in 1881, which, while condemning the prohibitory policy of the French Government, laid blame upon the Western packers, who, these alleged, put up meats before they were properly cured, and dwelt upon the carelessness of freight handlers, Western inspection, &c. The pamphlet also contained the opinions of French and German exporters that the complaints of the French authorities were unfounded from a sanitary standpoint, and the faults of careless packing could be remedied on through transit meats by having them overhauled at New York prior to shipment. The appointment of a certain firm of New York packers * * * was recommended for the purpose. This pamphlet was denounced by Herr Richter, in the Reichstag, as compiled in the interests of the firm alluded to, and as utterly unworthy as authority for the proposed exclusion. Of course it does not come anywhere near proof of danger of trichinosis from American pork. Imperfect packing may cause rotten pork, which no one would buy or use, but not trichinae 5 yet this unresponsive evidence stands as the basis of exclusion in this Empire to-day. Investigations might * * * [show] that the statements of the pamphlet in regard to packing are false, and that the supervision of the beforementioned firm is unnecessary. Every barrel of pork that reaches Europe bears its special testimony, and the interests of trade insure fidelity of means. If any steps were taken to ascertain in what condition packed pork reached Germany the conclusions were not added to the assertions of the pamphlet in the chancellor’s memorial; and the investigation carried on under orders of the State Department was not deemed worthy of notice.
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One effect of this prohibition is now obvious. The masses here are accustomed to reverence government, and look to it peculiarly for guidance in matters which, in different communities, it could not influence. [Page 372] The Government has condemned American pork products as dangerous to health. Its action fosters alarm in that connection, and it will take years to recreate the confidence in these which has been impaired.
To avoid multiplying dispatches I will here state that on the 10th there was a discussion on the bill amending “trades law.” In section 56b the federal council (Bundesrath) is authorized, in cases of necessity, to suspend for a certain period some of the provisions of sections 56 and 56a, the same right being conferred upon the appropriate state authorities for the individual states of the Empire. This is not the law regulating imports, which contains a somewhat parallel provision, it being therein provided that the council may suspend any importation temporarily in case of emergency.
During the discussion Dr. Baumbach proposed an addition to this paragraph, making it obligatory upon the federal council to submit its decrees to the Reichstag for subsequent approval.
State Minister Scholz declared himself decidedly opposed to this proposal, expressing the view that it would be detrimental to the dignity of the Government to see its decrees annulled so soon after their promulgation. He said the motion of Dr. Baumbach would make the authority conferred upon the federal council so entirely illusory that the united Governments would prefer to dispense with it altogether. The minister conceded that there existed in certain cases similar provisions, requiring subsequent parliamentary approval of decrees of the federal council, but past experience did not dispose him to advocate an extension of this principle. The proposed motion would confuse legal relations, and he must urgently request that it be rejected.
Deputies Heydemann, Maibauer, Dr. Réeand, and Dr. Bamberger, spoke in advocacy of Dr. Baumbach’s motion. The latter declared it to be of the greatest importance to oppose the principle set up by Minister Scholz. The proposed condition had the very practical purpose of compelling the united Governments to consider duly, before issuing a provisional decree, whether it was in harmony with the law, and whether it would receive the approbation of Parliament. For instance, if the united Governments had been compelled to submit to Parliament for subsequent approval the decree prohibiting the importation of American meat, he was convinced the decree would never have been issued at all. He, therefore, that there might be no question of the principle, would recommend the adoption of Dr. Baumbach’s motion.
Scholz, finance minister, felt called upon to protest energetically against the suggestion that the Government did not in every case maturely consider, before its issue, every provisional decree, and the necessity for subsequent approval could not make it more so.
After speeches by Dr. Hanel, Richter, and others, earnestly advocating the amendment, it was adopted by a small majority.
I have, &c.,