Mr. de Bounder to Mr. Bayard .
New York , June 19, 1885. (Received June 22.)
Sir: The first part of section 14 of the act of Congress of June 28, 1884, “to remove certain burdens on the merchant marine,” has modified the rate of and the manner of collecting the tonnage duty; that duty is now 6 cents per ton for vessels coming from ports other than those of Central and North America, from Mexico, Colombia, and from the British possessions and 3 cents for vessels coming from ports situated in these latter countries, while it is not to exceed, in the former case, 30 cents per ton per annum for the same vessel, and 15 cents in the latter case.
According to Article XII of the treaty of 1875 between the United States of America and Belgium, any favor or immunity, any privilege in matters relating to customs or navigation that shall be granted by the United States Government to another State, shall be immediately granted to the subjects of Belgium, gratuitously if the favor is gratuitous, and on the same compensation or its equivalent being given if the favor is conditional.
Now this reduction to 3 cents for vessels coming from a given zone is categorical and absolute; it constitutes a general favor, granted gratuitously and unconditionally, to certain specified countries; it consequently should have been made to apply to vessels coming from Belgium as soon as the act of June 26, 1884, went into operation.
Nevertheless, Belgian owners of steamers plying between Belgium and the United States of America complain that the duty of 6 cents per ton is still required on their vessels.[Page 65]
It will be sufficient, I am sure, for me to call your excellency’s attention to this fact to induce you to request your honorable colleague of the Treasury Department to issue orders to the end that vessels coming from Belgium may be assimilated, as regards the payment of tonnage dues, to those coming from Central and North America.
By the second paragraph of the fourteenth section of the aforesaid act of June 20, 1884, the President is authorized to reduce and even to suspend the collection of the tonnage duty in the case of vessels coming from ports situated within the zone indicated, but this suspension or reduction is made subject to certain conditions; and proclamations issued by the President on the 31st of January and the 7th of August last removed all duties on vessels coming from certain ports situated within the zone in question, because no tonnage or light-house dues were collected in those ports. I avail myself of this occasion to beg your excellency to be pleased to inform me what documents my Government will have to produce in order to secure, the case arising, the same advantage for vessels coming from Belgium.
Thanking your excellency in advance for your mediation and good offices, I have, &c.,