No. 90.
Mr. Morton to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 490.]

Sir: My telegram of yesterday gave you the substance of the conversation I had in the morning with Mr. Paul Bert in view of his opposition to the free admission of our salted meats. Although I had often met Mr. Paul Bert in official circles and at my house, I felt some hesitancy in approaching, on this subject, an expert with whom I could not attempt to discuss the matter scientifically, and one who had taken in this instance a hostile stand to his own Government. I thought proper to first suggest the idea to the president of the council, who favored the suggestion and even advised me to see Mr. Paul Bert, and appeared as anxious as I am to reach a practical understanding with regard to this difficulty.

I opened the subject with Mr. Paul Bert by stating very frankly that I had not called to enter upon a technical controversy with so distinguished a scientist with reference to the question of trichinosis, but simply as an American as friendly to France as I knew he was to America, and to express the hope that a man of his liberal views could devise some plan of action which would give satisfaction to both countries. I added that the matter had taken a threatening aspect in the United States, that our people could not understand why American pork should be prohibited in France while similar products were admitted from all other countries; that my Government and people had become impatient after waiting so long for a settlement always promised but never reached, and that the American Congress would move in the matter unless action was taken by the French Government.

Mr. Paul Bert said he was very glad I had presented the case so frankly and on broad grounds, and asked permission to state as frankly his position.

In the first place he was not a protectionist, his political principles led him to favor competition, and upon that ground he would open all the French ports to our hog products.

In the second place, he did not believe in any of the absurd notions entertained by so many people in relation to trichinae and trichinosis. He knew that dead trichinae did not injure the meat; he knew that a certain amount of salt killed it; he knew that a certain degree of cooking destroyed it, and he knew that there were no epidemics of trichinosis in the United States, where the consumption of pork was larger than in any other country; but he also knew that live trichinae existed in American pork, for he had seen some, and that neither the salting nor the cooking always killed. If trichinosis was a malady affecting only individuals, he would not notice it. Some people would take it, some would die, others would recover, but trichinosis when once introduced in a country might become epidemic, and this was what he wanted to guard against. American and German pork were infected with trichinae, French pork was not. His only aim was to guard French pork in this respect. The true and proper mode of reaching this end would be to determine by scientific experiments the exact proportion of salt necessary to kill trichinae, and the exact length of time during which the meat is to remain in the brine, but this cannot be done in a few weeks, and not even in a few months. Inspection is, therefore, the [Page 139] only remedy available. But inspection on this side, is attended with insuperable difficulties, because to be effective it must apply to every piece of meat. Now on the other side this difficulty does not exist, because if trichinæ is not found in certain well known parts of a whole hog, the animal is free from it.

Mr. Paul Bert dwelt at length upon this subject in a scientific manner, which I regret I cannot explain with his accuracy, but which struck me as having force. He assured me that he was moved purely by scientific consideration 5 that very far from having any intention of obstructing our commercial relations, he was desirous of increasing them in every way, and that he had not the slightest concern with the French packers. He promised to take up the matter earnestly and to spare no effort to devise some plan which would be acceptable to us but repeated that in his opinion an American inspection would solve the difficulty much more easily than a French inspection. He was very careful, however, in pointing out that he meant a Government inspection, made by national officials under the supervision of the authorities at Washington, and not a local inspection made by State or city officers, in whom he would have no more confidence than in officials of the same kind appointed by the local authorities of France.

Mr. Paul Bert is to dine with me to-morrow with the president of the council and other members of the cabinet, and I may have something more to report in relation to this subject by the next mail.

I have, &c.,