to Mr. Bell.
Washington, February 8, 1886.
Sir: In your dispatch No. 82 of 14th December last you made a comprehensive and valuable report touching the Sumatra tobacco trade. * * *
It is unfortunate that the impression should have so largely gotten abroad in Holland that the tariff act in this respect was intended to especially disfavor Sumatra tobacco or that it permits the wrapper tobacco of other countries to enter at lower rates of duty. The measure is believed to have been intended to favor the production, in the United States, of tobacco especially prepared for wrappers, of which large quantities are exported even to cigar-making countries, like Cuba. Comparatively little of the world’s tobacco production is adapted to this use and our legislation, based on the characteristics of the home-grown leaf, could not be expected to traverse the wide areas of production in order to make sure that no other country or district produced a leaf having the same features but applicable perhaps to other uses.
The tariff distinction being between “wrappers” and “fillers,” it was necessary that no sudden line should be drawn, and that provision should exist for the legitimate mixed packages, in which the leaf, taken as it comes on the field, may be partly of wrapper quality and partly of the “fillers” grade. The law being intended to prevent harshness to bona fides shippers of mixed leaf, the bona fides of the transaction is of the essence of the application of the law. * * *
I inclose for your information a copy of a circular instruction, issued by the Secretary of the Treasury on the 3d instant to the collector of customs at New York, which provides for breaking up mixed bales, classifying [Page 747] the wrapper and filler grades separately, and assessing duty on each.
This circular is sent to you in advance of its formal publication, in order that you may be prepared to meet any remarks on the subject coming from the minister of foreign affairs.
As a fact, wrapper and filler tobacco from Sumatra respectively enter the United States at the same rates of duty as wrappers and fillers from any country whatsoever. The treatment being equal, there should be no room for complaint. * * *
The minister for foreign affairs must surely recognize the propriety of a tariff distinction between wrappers and fillers. He must also admit that any definition of wrapper-tobacco leaves must be faulty which does not comprise those leaves suitable and intended for use as wrappers. Wrappers must possess at least three requisites. They must be large enough, they must be thin enough, and they must be of sufficiently even fineness of texture. The tariff act makes the union of these three requisites necessary to the imposition of the higher duty.
If the law should be found to discriminate, in fact, against Sumatra tobacco; if the leaf produced there answers to the definition of wrappers, but cannot be used fer wrapping, that fact should be made clear. It is observed that the minister’s representations to you on this point are vague. It is one thing to allege existence of discrimination; it is another to show wherein the fact of discrimination consists. You should exhibit a frank readiness to hear any statement of fact the minister may make to you. If Sumatra tobacco cannot be used for wrappers, but through any technical error of classification is made dutiable as such, it should be easy to demonstrate the fact and devise a remedy. But if the real trouble of the case should prove to be that Sumatra wrappers suitable and intended for use as wrappers are made dutiable as wrappers in common with wrapper leaf from any other part of the world, the complaint of the Dutch Government would seem to lose whatever force it may derive from the allegation of discrimination.
I am, &c.,