No. 273.

Mr. McLane to Mr. Bayard.

No. 73.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 35, under date of August 31, 1885, in reply to my No. 58, of August 13.

Although I have not modified the opinion expressed in that dispatch as to the intention of the French Government, I have thought it judicious, in pursuance of the intimation given in my No. 53, of August 7, to submit to the consideration of this Government a resume of the entire discussion of this question since the original decree of prohibition, concluding with the renewed statement of my own opinion that the failure of the Chambers to act upon the bill providing for the inspection of foreign meats, and for the admission of American meats after such inspection, imposed upon the Executive of this Government the duty of repealing the original prohibitory decree, no longer warrantable, as you well express it, by the only considerations to which it appeals for justification.

[Page 378]

I banded this résumé to the minister of foreign affairs in person two days ago, advising him that you regretted the failure of this Government to remove the invidious distinction against the United States, because of its prejudicial effect upon public opinion there, and I added a very strong expression of my own conviction that this failure on their part would not only alienate to some extent the friendly feeling now existing between the two countries, but would excite the disposition to retaliatory legislation against the importation of French products.

Mr. de Freycinet did not concede the point that the adjournment of the Chambers relieved the Executive from its obligation to defer action until the passage of a law providing a satisfactory system of inspection, as he insisted that the legislature, as a body, never ceased to exist, and could in no sense be said to have expired, since the pending legislation could be continued by the new Chamber from the point at which it was left by the one which had adjourned in August. Nevertheless, upon all the other points involved, he seemed disposed to concede the reasonableness of our contention.

I determined to present this résumé of the question at this time because the new Chamber, though meeting in November, will not engage itself in matters of current legislation until January, when the powers of its members shall have been verified and the new President of the Republic shall have been elected.

I thought it desirable in this manner to exhaust the discussion, as far as the present Government of this country was concerned, so that the President of the United States might be able, in December, in his communication to Congress, to report, if he deemed it expedient, the actual relation of the two Governments to this question.

* * * * * * *

I have had some further conversation with Mr. de Freycinet this morning, and while he declines to give any information as to the final determination of the Government, he promises to bring the matter to the special attention of the minister of commerce, and make it a subject of special consideration by the council of ministers; and in making this statement he dwelt upon the embarrassment he felt at taking any decision in the premises which conflicted with the deference due from the Executive to the legislature, having in view the request of the latter to await the passage of a law for the efficient inspection of all imported meats.

Herewith inclosed I send a copy of my note to Mr. de Freycinet, presenting a résumé of this question, for which I am indebted to Mr. Vignaud, who was present with my predecessors in all their conferences with the ministers of foreign affairs of this Government, and who analyzed with care the debates both in the Chamber and in the Senate upon the bill for the efficient inspection of all imported meats.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 73.]

Mr. McLane to Mr. De Freycinet.

Sir: On the 18th of February, 1881, the French Government, acting upon the alleged discovery of trichinae in America, prohibited all pork imported from the United States. This step on the part, of France was followed by several other states of Europe, which based their action upon the same motive, A great American industry, giving a prosperous [Page 379] export trade, was thus denounced to the world as a source of danger to public health. Considering that in the United States, in Great Britain, and in Belgium there were millions consuming American pork without any danger to life or to health, my Government, through General Noyes, who was then United States minister at Paris, protested against the prohibition, and urged a reconsideration of the subject. (General Noyes to M. Barthelemy St. Hilaire, February 22, 1881.)

In the mean time my Government, although satisfied that the action of France was unwise and injurious, proceeded to investigate the matter. It did so thoroughly, and the result appeared perfectly satisfactory. Not only were the alleged ravages of trichinae disproved, but it was shown that unusual precautions had been taken to insure that none but the healthiest animals should be slaughtered for packing, and that, although trichinae had been detected in sundry cases, it was very far from being as widespread as in other countries, and that the American process of packing and curing secured to the consumers of American pork a much greater immunity from trichinosis than that enjoyed by consumers of European pork.

The facts thus elicited constrained my Government to represent to yours that the decree prohibiting the importation of pork from the United States was unwarranted, and that the United States Government deemed itself rightfully entitled to a prompt and effectual modification of the prohibitory action of France. (General Noyes to M. B. St. Hilaire, June 22, 1881.)

In March, 1882, the Chamber of Deputies passed a bill repealing the prohibitory decree and providing for a liberal system of inspection.

At this time it was well established in France that trichinae which may be found in American pork is absolutely inoffensive, the salt killing the animaleulæ, or reducing it to such a state that the slightest cooking destroyed it. French scientists of the highest grade and reputation admitted the fact, the minister of commerce, Mr. Tirard, was reconciled to the repeal of the decree of prohibition, and the Academy of Medicine, as well as the board of health, so advised the Government.

The Senate nevertheless rejected the bill, but its action was well understood to be based not upon any doubt as to the innocuousness of American pork, but simply upon the ground that the Government could reverse the decree of prohibition by an executive decree without any legislation to that effect.

In March, 1883, Mr. Morton reopened the subject with Mr. Challemel Lacour, who was then minister of foreign affairs. He reminded him that the decree prohibiting American salted meats had now been in force for more than two years, while similar products from other countries were freely admitted; that there could be no valid reason why this exceptional measure should be applicable to the United States. He expressed the hope that the French Government after considering all the evidence before it, would place the United States upon the same footing as all other friendly nations by revoking the obnoxious decree.

This earnest request not being noticed by Mr. Challemel Lacour, on the 20th of October, 1883, it was renewed in emphatic terms. On November 15, 1883, Mr. Morton received from Mr. Jules Ferry the positive assurance that the French Government was animated with a strong desire to give this question a most liberal solution and at the earliest possible moment.

Two weeks after, November 27, 1883, a decree was issued revoking the prohibitory one of February, 1881, no condition being attached to the revocation. The minister of commerce, in a circular to the prefects, simply stated that the committee of public hygiene had ascertained both scientifically and experimentally that pork loses all danger of infection by trichinosis if it is salted with care, and that the only thing that the authorities had to do was to be sure that the imported pork put on the market was fully cured.

This matured action was not well received in the Chamber of Deputies, and oh the 22d of December, 1883, after a long debate, it passed a resolution expressing the wish that the admission of American pork be delayed until the adoption of a bill providing for a system of inspection of all foreign meats. In consequence of this resolution a new decree December 28 suspended the application of the one canceling the original measure of prohibition.

In June, 1884, the law referred to was introduced in the Chamber, but many months having passed without its being called up, Mr. Morton again pressed the matter, and both your excellency and Mr. Legrand gave him the assurance that it would shortly be discussed, and that a solution would soon be arrived at. Under date of May 12, your excellency confirmed in writing these assurances to Mr. Morton, all of which he duly communicated to his Government. The Chamber, however, adjourned without any change having taken place in the measures so unwarrantably adopted four years ago.

I respectfully, but earnestly, submit that this discrimination against an important branch of the trade of a friendly nation is, under the circumstances, absolutely unjustifiable, and that it cannot be maintained without alienating in some degree the good understanding which has so long existed between France and the United States.

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I do not in the least contest the right of the French Government to close its ports to an unwholesome product, or to shut its markets to all foreign products of a certain kind; nor do I deny its legitimate right to levy upon such products any duty it may think proper; hut the case here is quite different. It is no longer contended that American pork is unhealthy, yet the existing prohibition applies only to it.

I take the liberty therefore of urging the propriety of settling this long-pending difficulty by the same mode which created it—a decree of the Executive rescinding the one establishing the prohibition.

I can understand well that your Government hesitated to take such a step in presence of a resolution of the Chamber requesting delay until the passage of a proposed bill applicable to the case, but the Chamber which made this request failed to pass this bill, and as its powers have expired it can never do so.

I avail, &c.,