No. 311.

Mr. von Alvensleben to Mr. Bayard .


The undersigned, imperial German ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, has, in accordance with the orders he has received, the honor to make the following very respectful communication to Hon. Thomas F. Bayard, Secretary of State of the United States.

By a law of June 26, 1884 (an act to remove certain burdens on the American merchant marine and encourage the American foreign carrying trade, and for other purposes), section 14 (tonnage tax), it has been provided that vessels which sail from a port in North or Central America, in the West Indian Islands, the Bahama, Bermuda, and Sandwich Islands to a port, of the United States, shall pay in it, in place of the previous tonnage tax of 30 cents per ton a year, only 3 cents per ton, and not more than 15 cents a year, whilst vessels from other foreign ports have to bear a tax of 6 cents. This lowering of the tax to 3 cents has been gianted to the favored countries—Canada, Newfoundland, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and West Indian Islands, Mexico, and Central America, including Aspinwall and Panama—unconditionally and without regard to the taxes, however relatively high, these countries on their side levy on American ships.

Article IX of the Prussian-American treaty of the 1st of May, 1828, which has been lately, in the correspondence between the cabinets of Berlin and Washington concerning the petroleum railroad rates as well as because of the Spanish American treaty concerning the trade of Cuba and Puerto Rico, successively asserted by both Governments to be valid for all Germany, runs as follows:

If either party shall hereafter grant to any other nation any particular favor in navigation or commerce, it shall immediately become common to the other party, freely, where it is freely granted to such other nation, or on yielding the same compensation, when the grant is conditional.

The treaties which the United States in their time have concluded with the Hanse cities, Oldenburg and Mecklenburg, contain similar provisions. In accordance with the purport of these, Germany has an immediate claim, and without making any concession in return, to participate in the enjoyment of the tonnage-tax abatement to 3 cents per ton, which has been unconditionally conceded.

The undersigned is, in accordance with the view of the Imperial Government, above set forth, directed to claim from the Government of the United States for German vessels the abatement of the tonnage tax to 3 cents per ton, and to propose, at the same time, the repayment of the tonnage-tax which at the rate of 6 cents per ton has been overpaid since the law of the 26th of June, 1884, went into effect.

While the undersigned reserves for himself the right to make in due time proper proposals in reference to the abatement provided over and above this in the law of the 26th June of last year, dependent on certain conditions, and which (abatement) may in the future even exceed that of 3 cents per ton, according to the result of proper inquiries concerning the tonnage dues and other taxes, hereafter to be levied in German harbors, he has the honor to request very respectfully that the (Secretary of State will kindly take the proper course, so that German [Page 444] shipping may as soon as possible participate in the unconditional favor, to which it is entitled, of an abatement of the tonnage tax to 3 cents.

The undersigned has the honor to await, very respectfully, your kind answer in reference to this matter, and avails himself, &c.