Mr. Scruggs to Mr. Bayard.
Bogota, October 3, 1885. (Received November 13.)
Sir: Mr. Consul Dawson, of Barranquilla, informs me that during the suspension of mail communication between Bogota and the coast, he transmitted to the Department a copy and translation of the executive decree No. 173, of the 10th of February last, which somehow got through the lines. It levies a line of 50 per cent, on all consignees of merchandise who may have paid import duties thereon to the rebel authorities and may afterwards refuse to pay duty on the same goods to the Government. I infer from Mr. Dawson’s letter that some correspondence has passed between you and the Colombian minister in Washington on this subject, but he probably was not acquainted with its contents, or else assumed that I was already familiar with them, and the Government here informs me that it has had nothing from Dr. Becerra on the subject.
On the 19th instant an order was issued by the secretary of finance enforcing the decree of February last and specifying certain firms to be proceeded against without delay.[Page 222]
In the absence of instruction on the subject, I feel it to be my duty to remonstrate against this proceeding. In the course of my interview I told the minister for foreign affairs that, in my opinion, the principles involved in that decree would never be acquiesced in by foreign Governments whose citizens or subjects might suffer from it, and that I should write to the United States consul at Barranquilla to advise American consignees to allow their goods to be sold by order of the Government rather than pay the fines imposed.
In reply the secretary intimated that the decree was never intended to be enforced against neutral foreigners, and asked me to point out the names of any American citizen on the list.
Of course there are no American names on the list, and I suggested that some of the native firms might be merely consignees of American manufacturers and merchants, and that to avoid complications it might be well to so modify the decree as to exempt all foreign interests. He then asked me to embody my objections to the decree in such a written memorandum as might be used by him at the next regular Cabinet meeting, which I did, as per copy herewith submitted.
Thus the matter stands for the present. The decree has not yet been revoked, nor has it been enforced, and I have every reason to believe it will not be enforced against American consignees.
I have, &c.,
P. S.—The minister for foreign affairs sends me a private note, just as the mail is closing, to assure me that the decree referred to will be revoked.