No. 380.
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Curry.

No. 40.]

Sir: In continuation of the representations which this Government has to make on the practices of the Cuban customs authorities, adverse to the established agreement between the two Governments, I inclose a report of the consul-general at Havana.

This report shows, first, that Spanish vessels arriving at Cuban ports from Spain, not exceeding twenty days out, and sailing from Cuba with cargo to the ports of the United States are exempt in clearing from all tonnage duties in Cuban ports, while American steamers sailing from Cuba with cargo to the ports of the United States are required to pay, on clearing from Cuban ports, 62½ cents per ton on their cargoes if mail steamers, or $1.35 if not such, and, second, that Spanish sailing vessels arriving from Spain at Cuban ports and clearing from Cuba with cargo to the ports of the United States, pay in Cuban ports 25 cents per ton on their cargoes destined for the United States, while American sailing vessels clearing from Cuba with cargo to the ports of the United States pay in Cuban ports $1.35 per ton on their cargoes. Thus it is manifest that in the language of section 4231, Revised Statutes, “discriminating or countervailing duties on tonnage are levied upon vessels of the United States,” in Cuban ports.

The fact that exemption of Spanish steamers and the lower duties fixed for Spanish sailing vessels are made dependent upon certain conditions as to the domestic trade between the Spanish Peninsula and the Spanish Antilles does not affect the question as contemplated by the act of Congress cited.

It is understood that the Spanish Government has not, up to the present time, admitted the Antillean possessions to the benefits of the coastwise trade; but even if that should be done, it could not alter the situation as to the trade between the Antilles and the United States.

The object of Congress was to secure for American vessels engaged in the trade between this country and the Spanish possessions the same treatment in Spanish ports as was accorded in those ports to Spanish [Page 782] vessels engaged in the same trade. Section 4228, Revised Statutes, says that—

Upon satisfactory proof being given to the President by the Government of any foreign nation that no discriminating duties of tonnage or imposts are imposed or levied in the ports of such nation upon vessels wholly belonging to citizens of the United States, or upon the produce, manufactures, or merchandise imported in the same from the United States or from any foreign country, the President may issue his proclamation declaring that the foreign discriminating duties of tonnage and impost within the United States are suspended and discontinued, &c.

It will be seen from the correspondence had with the Spanish legation in this city in 1877 (F. R., 1878, pp. 8048), that Sr. Mantilla appealed to the provisions of this law in order to secure the exemption of Spanish vessels from the discriminating tonnage duties levied on Spanish vessels in the United States, and declared that Spain “has not levied on American tonnage any greater or other charges than she levied on Spanish tonnage,” and he supported this declaration by a certificate from the auditor of customs at Havana. Upon this declaration being confirmed by the ministry at Madrid, the Secretary of the Treasury directed the suspension of the discriminating: tonnage tax of which complaint had been made. The late tonnage regulations at Havana, based upon the Spanish law of July 20, 1882, referred to by Consul-General Williams, are in plain opposition to the declaration of Sr. Mantilla and the Madrid ministry, and they constitute such a discrimination against American vessels as calls for the enforcement of the corresponding measures indicated by Congress, unless at once revoked.

I am, sir, &c.,

T. F. BAYARD.
[Inclosure in No. 40.]

Mr. Williams to Mr. Porter.

No. 340.]

Sir: In compliance with your instruction No. 124, dated the 4th of November last, encharging me to investigate carefully the discrimination in tonnage dues practiced against American vessels in the ports of Cuba, as alleged by Messrs. James E. Ward & Co., of New York, in their letter addressed to the Department under date of 21st October last, I have now the honor to present you the following report, together with its accompanying correspondence, and upon which it is mainly based.

As the Department will perceive, both the report and correspondence will show that the allegation of Messrs James E. Ward & Co. is, because of the existence of the facts they mention, correctly founded.

The inclosed copies of this correspondence are numbered respectively from 1 to 13.

  • Inclosure No. 1 is a copy of my letter of December 9 last, addressed to Messrs. Hidalgo & Co., agents in this city for both the Alexandre and Ward lines of American steamers, the first plying between New York and Vera Cruz, and touching each way at this port for passengers and freight, and the second running exclusively between New York and Cuban ports.
  • Inclosure No. 2 is copy of their answer thereto, dated the 11th of December.
  • Inclosure No. 3 is a copy of the letter addressed by me to Messrs. Lawton Brothers, agents of the Morgan line of American steamers, plying between New Orleans, via the West Florida ports, and Havana; and who are, as well, agents of the steamers of the Plant Steamship Line, running between Tampa Bay and Havana via Key West.
  • Inclosure No. 4 is copy of their answer thereto, dated 10th December.
  • Inclosure No. 5 is copy of my letter, dated December 12, 1885, addressed to Mr. George Marsden, an American ship-broker, who has been for many years established in this port, having, therefore, a wide experience in the matter under investigation.
  • Inclosure No. 6 is copy of his answer, under date of December 17.
  • Inclosure No. 7 is copy of the letter dated the 19th of December last, which I directed to Mr. Louis Placé, a ship-broker of this city, intimately acquainted with the facts mentioned in the letter of Messrs. James E. Ward & Co., as will be seen in his answer thereto, marked No. 8.
[Page 783]

Also, and as confirmatory of the allegation presented by Messrs. James E. Ward & Co., will be found, under inclosure No. 10, the copy of the letter dated the 12th instant, received from Don Joaquin Fernandez, the collector of customs of the port of Havana, in answer to my letter of inquiry addressed to him the day previous, copy of which is accompanied herewith as inclosure No. 9.

You will be pleased to observe that, according to this letter of the collector, the several discriminations herein set forth are practiced pursuant to the law of commercial relations, dated at San Ildefonso the 20th of July, 1882, to be found on page 113 of the accompanying printed copy of the Cuban customs tariff.

First discrimination.

It will be seen from the accompanying letters of Mr. George Marsden and Mr. Louis Placé that Spanish steamers arriving from Spain in periodical trips of less than twenty days, and almost any steamer nowadays can do it within the limit, and leave again loaded with cargo for the United States, pay neither inward nor outward tonnage.

But, in contrast to this, all regular trading American steamers running between the United States and the island pay 62½ cents per ton on both inward and outward cargo.

To illustrate the effects of this law against American steamers I will cite, singly, the following actual occurrence as a sample of its workings:

The Spanish steamer Herman Cortes, which arrived here in the early part of last August in less than twenty days from Barcelona, Spain, as will be seen by this correspondence, brought of inward cargo equal in tons to 1,460, and after discharging loaded up with an outward cargo of sugar for New York, equal in tons to 2,100, making, jointly, of inward and outward cargo a bulk equal in tons to 3,560, but upon which the Herman Cortes paid no tonnage dues whatever.

Now, in opposition to this, under the same customs law, had a regular trading American steamer brought to and carried away from Cuba the same amount of cargo, then her tonnage dues at the rate of 62£ cents per ton would have amounted in Spanish gold to $2,225.

The extent of favor enjoyed in this case by Spanish steamers over their American rivals trading between the United States and Cuba is so great that it is evident, under the operation of the handicapping discrimination, it will be quite impossible for American steamers to compete with Spanish steamers in carrying sugars to the United States from this island the day the supply of the latter’s tonnage becomes sufficient to meet the freight demand of this market, and as Spanish steamers are all built in the ship-yards of Great Britain there is no doubt, to this end, as to the prolificness of the source from which they are to draw.

Second discrimination.

In comparing the tonnage dues paid here by Spanish and American sailing vessels bringing inward and loading outward cargoes the following contrast offers itself: An American sailing vessel arriving here from the United States or any other part of the world with inward cargo, and clearing with outward cargo, pays $1.35 Spanish gold per ton of net register. But, as the opposite of this, a Spanish vessel coming from Spain with inward cargo pays 37½ cents per ton, and on her departure for the United States with outward cargo pays 25 cents per ton of net register. Now, assuming in this case a sailing vessel of the medium size of 500 tons net register as a standard of calculation and comparison, we arrive at the following results:

Tonnage dues on an American sailing vessel of 500 tons, net register, inward $675 00
Tonnage dues on a Spanish sailing vessel of 500 tons, net register, at 37½ cents inward, $187.50, and 25 cents outwards. $125 312 50
362 50

This difference, as the Department will observe, in view of the low rates of ocean freights that have ruled for years past, is quite an advantage in favor of the Spanish vessel over the American vessel, the amount, indeed, being more than sufficient to pay all the ordinary stevedores’ bills of the Spanish vessel.”

Third discrimination.

In this case, the contrast or difference lies between Spanish and American vessels arriving in ballast and departing with outward cargo for the United States. Accordingly, American sailing vessels which arrive here in ballast and leave with outward [Page 784] cargo for a home port pay $1 per ton net register for tonnage dues, while the Spanish vessel arriving from Spain and loading for the United States in same manner only pays 25 cents per ton of net register. Assuming, again, for the purpose of illustration, a sailing vessel of 500 tons net register as standard, we will reach the following result, viz:

500 tons net American register, at $1 per ton on outward cargo $500
500 tons net Spanish register, at 25 cents per ton on outward 125
375
Difference in favor of the Spanish vessel over the American vessel carrying cargo to the United States 375

Fourth discrimination.

In regard to the other discriminations to which Messrs. James E. Ward & Co. call the attention of the Department—such as the charging of higher import duties on products taken out of bond in the United States, not the growth or production of the United States, when loaded there by American vessels, over what is paid upon the same goods when loaded in ports of the United States and brought here by Spanish vessels, namely: Coffee in bond, Newfoundland codfish, East India rice, South American jerked beef, or Chinese groceries—I beg respectfully to annex, in answer, and to incorporate as a part of this report, copies of my official communication of November 17, 1884, and January 9, 1885, addressed to the governor-general of the island, as also copy of his excellency’s reply through the political secretary, Mr. Cassá, dated the 12th of January, 1885, and of which the Department was duly informed, in reference to the 286 bags of La Guayra coffee, shipped in New York on board the American steamer Saratoga, and upon which, regardless of the convention of February 13, 1884, between the United States and Spain, import duties were collected on this coffee under the fourth column of the customs tariff of Cuba, instead of under the third column, as the convention provides.

The excess of duties collected in this case over what the same coffee would have paid if it had been brought from New York in a Spanish vessel, was, as I then stated, $67.56 Spanish bank bills, and $608.11 Spanish gold.

I understand that this discrimination still exists, and as a matter of course, as long as it lasts, American ships, in this respect, cannot compete either, even in our own ports, with Spanish shipping.

I have, &c.,

RAMON O. WILLIAMS,
Consul-General.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 340.]

Mr. Williams to Messrs. Hidalgo & Co.

Dear Sirs: For the information of this office, I have to ask of you the kindness to tell me what are the rates of tonnage dues paid by you in this port on the Alexandre and Ward lines of steamers, for which you are the agents—namely:

  • First. When they come and return with cargoes which, jointly, exceed in tons their register tonnage; and
  • Second. When they come and return with cargoes which, jointly, are less than their register tonnage.

I have, &c.,

RAMON O. WILLIAMS,
Consul-General.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 340.]

Hidalgo & Co. to Mr. Williams.

Dear Sir: In answer to your letter of the 9th instant we beg first to refer you as regards the payment of tonnage dues on steamers of the Alexandre and Ward lines, to paragraphs 112 and 113 of the latest edition of the customs tariff, where you will find a [Page 785] copy of a royal decree dated Madrid, 25th August, 1867, which deals with the matter. Secondly we have to answer your questions as follows:

  • To the first. We pay duties according to net registered tonnage, less 6 tons.
  • To the second. Sixty-two and one-half cents per 1,000 kilograms of cargo imported and exported.

We have, &c.,

HIDALGO & CO.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 340.]

Mr. Williams to Messrs. Lawton Brothers.

Dear Sirs: For the information of this office, I have to ask of you the kindness to tell me what are the rates of tonnage dues paid by you in this port on the steamers for which you are the agents, namely:

  • First. When they come and return with cargoes which, jointly, exceed in tons their registered tonnage; and
  • Second. When they come and return with cargoes which, jointly, are less than their register tonnage.

I have, &c.,

RAMON O. WILLIAMS,
Consul-General.
[Inclosure 4 in No. 340.]

Lawton Brothers to Mr. Williams.

Dear Sir: In reply to your valued favor of yesterday’s date, we beg to inform you that the rate of tonnage dues paid in this port on the steamers for which we are the agents, is:

  • First. When they come and return with cargoes which, jointly, exceed in tons their register tonnage, 62½ cents per ton; and
  • Second. When they come and return with cargoes which, jointly, are less than their register tonnage, 62½ cents per ton, provided they carry, jointly, over 6 tons.

The tonnage dues are, in all cases, paid in Spanish gold.

We have, &c.,

LAWTON BROTHERS.
[Inclosure 5 in No. 340.]

Mr. Williams to Mr. Marsden.

Dear Sir: For the information of this office, I have to ask of you the kindness to tell me what are the rates of tonnage dues paid by vessels in this port, particularly steamers, namely:

  • First. When they come and return with cargoes which, jointly, exceed in tons their register tonnage; and
  • Second. When they come and return with cargoes which, jointly, are less than their register tonnage.

I have, &c.,

RAMON O. WILLIAMS.
Consul-General.
[Page 786]
[Inclosure 6 in No. 340.]

Mr. Marsden to Mr. Williams.

Dear Sir: In reply to your request, that I should make a statement of the tonnage dues which steamers and vessels have to pay in Cuba, I submit the following list of rates, and how charged:

American steamers:
Making periodical voyages, on cargo—
Inward, per 2,000 pounds per ton $0 62½
Outward, per 2,000 pounds per ton 62½
If cargo in and out exceed the net register tonnage, they pay per net register tons, less 6 tons 1 35
American steamers:
Not making periodical voyages, with cargo—
Inward, clearing in ballast, on net register ton 1 30
Outward cargo additional, per ton 05
American sailing vessels the same per ton $1 30 or 1 35
Spanish steamers:
Making periodical voyages, passing in less than twenty days from Spain or Spanish port, inward Free.
Loading outward for any port, including ports of the United States— Free.
From foreign port, via Spanish ports—
Cargo from Spanish ports Free.
Tonnage dues on cargo from foreign port $0 62½
Outward for Spanish port 25
Outward for foreign port 62½

You will notice that it appears Spanish steamers coming from Spain have an advantage over American steamers when they can take cargo from this island for the United States and be exempt of tonnage dues, while American steamers belonging to lines that run regularly, leaving here two or three steamers weekly, are subject to the payment of 62½ cents per ton on their outward cargo from Cuba.

Very respectfully,

GEORGE MARSDEN.
[Inclosure 7 in No. 340.]

Mr. Williams to Mr. Placé.

Dear Sir: For the information of this office I have to ask of you the kindness to cell me what are the rates of tonnage dues paid by vessels in this port, particularly steamers, namely:

  • First. When they come and return with cargoes which jointly exceed in tons their register tonnage, and
  • Second. When they come and return with cargoes which, jointly, are less than their register tonnage.

In addition, please state if Spanish steamers arriving here from Spain in less than twenty days, and leaving with outward cargo for the United States, pay or do not pay tonnage dues in this port.

I have, &c.,

RAMON O. WILLIAMS,
Consul-General.
[Inclosure 8 in No. 340.]

Mr. Placé to Mr. Williams.

Sir: In compliance with the desire you expressed in your favor of the 19th instant, I have the honor to inform you—

First. A foreign or Spanish mail steamer arriving with foreign goods only and clearing for any part of the world pays tonnage at the rate of 62½ cents for every ton [Page 787] imported and exported, if these do not exceed her net register tonnage, and if they should exceed her net register tonnage, pays according to the net register at the same rate of 62½ cents per ton, deducting 6 tons.

Example.—The steamer Newport, from New York to Havana and hack to New York, which arrived at this port on the 4th of November ultimo, paid her tonnage dues as follows: 718 tons inward and 899 tons outward; in all, 1,617 tons, at 62½ cents each. Her register tonnage being 1,806 tons.

The steamer Niagara, from New York to Havana and back to New York, which arrived at this port the 12th of November ultimo, settled her tonnage dues as follows: 949 tons inward and 1,024 tons outward; in all, 1,973 tons, and as her net register tonnage is 1,661.60, paid tonnage on the net register at the same rate of 62½ cents per ton.

Second. Spanish steamers arriving with Spanish and foreign goods and clearing with cargo, pay tonnage dues as follows: On the goods from and for foreign countries 62½ cents per ton, imported and exported, provided same do not exceed her register tonnage. And the cargo from Spain to the Spanish Antilles is free of tonnage dues, provided the steamer has performed her voyage in less than twenty days from Spain; if the voyage exceeds twenty days the steamer has to pay the following tonnage dues: 37½ cents per ton of cargo landed, and 25 cents per ton of cargo loaded.

Example.—The Spanish steamer Cadiz, from Liverpool and Santander, which arrived in this port on the 17th of October ultimo, discharged 127 tons of cargo from Liverpool (balance of her cargo was for other Cuban ports), for which she paid 62½ cents each, and 290 tons from Santander, and as the voyage from Santander was accomplished in less than twenty days, the above 290 tons were free from tonnage dues.

Third. Spanish steamers from Spain arriving with cargo and clearing with cargo to a port or ports in the United States, provided the voyage from Spain is made in less than twenty days, are free from tonnage dues on the inward and outward cargo.

Example.—The Spanish steamer Hernan Cortes, from Barcelona, arrived at this port the 16th of August ultimo; discharged 1,464 tons of cargo and loaded 2,176 tons of sugar for New York; both inward and outward cargo was free of tonnage dues.

Fourth. An American sailing vessel from any part of the world with general cargo and clearing with cargo to the United States pays $1.35 per ton net register, while a Spanish sailing vessel from Spain with cargo and loading full or part cargo, to the United States only pays 37½ cents per ton of inward cargo and 25 cents per ton on the outward cargo.

Example.—The American schooner John. R. Bergen, from New York, with general cargo, which arrived at this port the 3d of November ultimo, and loaded at Havana for Philadelphia, paid $1.35 per ton on her register of 615.28 tons.

The Spanish brig Elisa, from Spain, arrived on the 27th of August ultimo, discharged 451 tons of cargo, paying 37½ cents per ton, took here 474 tons of sugar to New York, and only paid 25 cents per ton outward.

You will please notice the disadvantage of the American marine in these waters. While an American steamer has to pay 62½ cents per ton, the Spanish steamer from Spain bound to the United States does not pay one single cent of tonnage dues, and while an American sailing vessel has to pay $1.35 per ton with full or part cargo only the Spanish sailing vessel from Spain, loading for the United States only, has to pay 25 cents per ton.

Foreign steamers that are not mail boats, arriving and clearing with cargo other than coal, pay for every ton, net measurement, $1.35 per ton; arriving with cargo other than coal and clearing in ballast, $1.30 per ton; arriving in ballast and clearing with cargo, $1 per ton. Foreign steamers and sailing vessels bringing coals only, but in less quantity than their register tonnage, pay nothing per every ton occupied by coals, and for every ton not so occupied, 62½ cents per ton.

Please excuse my calling your attention to the fact that the difference between the measurement of the tonnage of American and Spanish steamers help the Spanish steamers considerably.

While the steamship Newport, measuring 1,806 tons net, carries about 2,000 hogsheads of sugar, the Spanish steamer Leonora, measuring 1,853 tons, cleared from Cardenas the 2d day of May ultimo, with 3,440 hogsheads and 2,000 bags, and the Spanish steamer Guido, measuring 2,065 tons, cleared from Sagua on the 5th”day of May ultimo, with 3,736 hogsheads of sugar.

The Boletin Comercial of the 29th August last says:

“The immense number of the Spanish steamers (over forty steamers now running); their capacity, as most of them carry twice the cargo of an American steamer; the circumstance of paying the tonnage dues in the United States only once a year, they get full cargoes in Cuba to the United States and leaving from the United States to their European port also with full cargoes,—allows them to accept freight in Cuba at rates much more equitable than formerly paid.”

This immense quantity of British steamers running under Spanish flag (to save the difference of duties) between Liverpool, Havana and other Cuban ports; the immense quantity of cargo that comes to this island from Liverpool, owing to the advantages [Page 788] that the Liverpool steamers enjoy, by bringing cargoes not only from Liverpool but from “all parts of the world,” France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Italy, Holland, Sweden, Norway, that goes to Liverpool in transit for Cuba to meet the British steamer that tinder Spanish flag gives to all the goods from Europe the advantage of the “third column.” Advantages that the American steamers from New York ought to have if the agreement signed by the Government of the United States on the 14th of February, 1884, in which stipulating “American produce under American flag,” are the only articles that can be entered at our custom-house under the third column, and therefore driving away from New York considerable cargo that in transit’ from many ports in Europe could have been imported via New York.

Furthermore, this argreement, which prohibited American vessels from bringing cargo in transit via New York, allows the same to be done by Spanish vessels, owing to our custom-house regulations. Foreign goods under Spanish flag “third column” therefore Spanish vessels from New York can bring American goods and also foreign goods, all under the “third column.”

This advantage, given to the Spanish flag to the prejudice of the American flag by the American Government, is something incomprehensible.

Why are not American vessels allowed to carry cargo in transit “via New York” from France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Sweden, and Norway, when our customhouse is not prejudiced thereby? As said goods as above stated are forwarded to Liverpool to meet British steamers that under the Spanish flag bring them from Liverpool to this island, and this advantage is considerable in many respects, and one of them is that the Spanish steamers from Liverpool bring generally a full cargo to Cuban ports and their net register is fully covered by the inward cargo, this allows them to accept cargoes from Cuba to the United States to greater advantage than American steamers.

And referring to the argreement signed at Washington the 14th of February, 1884, please take due notice of the following observations published in the Boletin Comercial of the 5th of September ultimo, under the heading of “La linea de Circumvalacion:”

“Regarding the first article, published on the 28th of August, we said that in the agreement of navigation with which we have been occupying ourselves, the Americans renounced their monopoly, not having on the other hand any compensation whatever, as we proved in another article.

“Articles 2, 3, and 5 having been withdrawn from the agreement concluded at Madrid on the 2d of January, 1884, between Mr. Ruiz Gomez y Albacete for Spain, and Mr. Foster for the United States, Mr. Canovas del Castillo suggested that the particulars referred to were exclusively attributes of the Cortes, and that the Government was not authorized to make any agreement leaving only to the benefit of the United States the only advantage of their goods being entered at the custom-house under the ‘third column,’ which is the same that ‘all the goods that are imported under the Spanish flag pay from all the parts of the world.’

“Placed on same footing as European goods, what advantage did the Americans dream of obtaining over this resigning for this equality of duties the only monopoly of navigation trade that they really possessed?”

The Articles 2, 3, and 5 of the primitive agreement suppressed refer to:

(1)
The free importation of live fish from Key West.
(2)
The suppression of consular fees on manifest of cargoes.
(3)
The suppression of tonnage dues.

“Leaving to Americans the advantage of only small reduction of duties on their goods, which reduction has in fact only benefited Spain.

“Since this reduction has in no way increased the importation of the American goods, on the contrary it has diminished, especially as regards corn, potatoes, hay, corn-starch, and many other goods. According to this it is is evidently proved that all the advantages of the ‘ agreement’ are for the exclusive benefit of Spain obtained from the Americans by the ability, intelligence, and wonderful sagacity of the eminent political economists and statesmen, Messrs. Canovas del Castillo and Ruiz Gomez de Albacete, an ‘agreement’ which we must be permitted to style as a master work of diplomacy (obra maestra en diplomacia).”

Your obedient servant,

LOUIS PLACE
[Inclosure 9 in No. 340.]

Mr. Williams to the collector of customs of the port of Havana.

My Dear Sir: To the end that I maybe enabled to comply with an instruction received from my Government, I beg that you will please inform me if the Spanish steamers coming from Spain to the Island of Cuba in less than twenty days are exempt [Page 789] from the payment of outward and inward tonnage dues to the custom-houses of this island on exporting cargo either for Spain or for the United States. Should this be true, I beg that you will be pleased to inform me if the concession is granted under the authorization contained in article 11 of appendix 16, printed on page 111 of the official pamphlet entitled “Tariff of Customs of the Island of Cuba,” which reads as follows: “Spanish mail steamers will pay in accordance with the special contracts they may have with the Government,” or whether such concession is founded on some other authorization.

Also, with regard to Spanish sailing vessels coming from Spain, I have likewise to inquire of you whether the tonnage dues which they pay in the custom-houses of the island are, respectively, at the rates of 37½ cents inward and 25 cents outward, when exporting cargo either for Spain or for the United States, beseeching you at the same time to indicate to me the law upon which these rates are based.

I am, &c.,

RAMON O. WILLIAMS,
Consul-General
[Inclosure 10 in No. 340.—Unofficial.]

Mr. Fernandez to Mr. Williams.

Sir In reply to your attentive letter of the 11th instant, I have to inform you that it is true that Spanish steamers arriving from Spain to this island making periodic trips of less than twenty days are exempt from the payment of tonnage dues, both inward and outward, it mattering not for what port they may afterwards leave. This concession is effected under the authorization granted by the law of commercial relations of July, 1882, inserted in the New Tariff, published by this office on the 24th of June of last year, and, in consequence has nothing to do with the eleventh article cited by you.

With respect to sailing vessels and steamers not performing periodic trips from ports of Spain, they pay tonnage dues at the rate of 37½ cents per ton of 1,000 kilograms, discharged in ports of the island, and 25 cents for the cargo taken on board, without regard to the port of destination; this grant being also included in the law of commercial relations.

I am, &c.,

JOAQUIN FERNANDEZ.
[Inclosure 11 in No. 340.]

Mr. Williams to Mr. Cassá.

Excellency: I have the honor to present for your excellency’s consideration and decision the following case, which has been reported to this consulate-general by Mr. Manuel Lopez, now here, and partner of the firm of Messrs. Calixto Lopez & Co., of New York City, the facts of which are as follows, viz:

Those gentlemen, under the impression that the commercial agreement entered into between the United States and Spain, at Madrid, on the 13th of February last past, had for its object the abolition of the differential duties on the part of Spain and the countervailing or retaliatory duties on the part of the United States hitherto mutually imposed on the trade between the United States, Cuba, and Porto Rico, and conversely between those islands and the United States, did, on the 16th of last month, ship in New York, on board the American steamship Saratoga, bound for Havana, 286 bags of coffee, the product of the Republic of Venezuela, which had been carried from the port of La Guayra, in Venezuela, to the port of New York, in the United States.

But, regardless of the conditions of said agreement of the 13th of February, and on the landing of this coffee in the port of Havana, the customs authorities here have pretended to collect the import duties thereon according to the fourth column, instead of according to the third column, of the tariff ruling in the island.

In consequence, an excess of import duties has been assessed on said coffee of $67.56 Spanish bank bills, and $608.11 Spanish gold, over and above what it would have had to pay had it been brought from New York to Havana in a Spanish vessel.

[Page 790]

I am therefore compelled to remonstrate before your excellency against the action of the customs authorities in the case, as being contrary to the intent and meaning of the said agreement of the 13th of February last, promulgated in the Official Gazette of this city, in its issue-of the 23d of April of the present year, and according to which, as your excellency will observe on reference thereto, it is explicitly stated that the object of the agreement was the mutual concession of tariff advantages between the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico and the United States.

The same decree, article 1, also declares that, “in virtue of the authority granted to the Spanish Government by Article 3 of the law of the 20th July, 1882, that the duties of the third column of the Cuban and Porto tariffs shall be applied, which implies the suppression of the differential or flag duties to the products and merchandise proceeding from the United States.”

The fact of this collection of an excess of import duties in the case cited constitutes, beyond all doubt, the imposition of a discriminating duty against the American flag in Cuban ports, which was suppressed by the agreement of 13th of February, 1884.

It is also in contravention to the law of the Congress of the United States, by which the President was authorized to accept the agreement of Februaty 13, 1884, for it is opposed to the perfect reciprocity upon which said Congressional authority is based.

Again, had this coffee been brought first from La Guayra to Havana, and from thence shipped in a Spanish bottom to the United States, no more duties would have been collected there than had it been shipped in an American bottom; that is, the shipping of both nations would have been placed on a perfect equality in the ports of the United States.

Neither is it reasonable to suppose that the Government of the United States would ever have entered into an arrangement by which the vessels of foreign nations should be favored in the loading of cargo in American ports over American vessels, yet such is what is implied by the interpretation of the agreement of the 13th February ultimo by the Havana customs authorities.

Therefore, relying upon your excellency’s clear judgment and good desires for the promotion of commercial relations between the United States and Cuba, I have to ask that it be ordered through your excellency’s superior authority, in view of the foregoing, that no more duties be collected on the said 286 bags of coffee of Messrs. Calixto Lopez & Co., of New York, than if they had been brought to Havana in a Spanish vessel.

Trusting in an early reply from your excellency for transmission to the honorable the Secretary of State at Washington,

I remain, &c.,

RAMON O. WILLIAMS,
Consul-General.
[Inclosure 12 in No. 340.]

Mr. Williams to Mr. Cassá.

Excellency: On the 17th of November last I had the honor to address your excellency an official communication upon the subject of a discriminating import duty collected by the customs authorities of this city upon 286 bags of La Guayra coffee, transshipped in the port of New York on board the American steamer Saratoga for this port, to which communication I have not as yet received an answer.

In consequence, and in obedience to special instructions, dated Washington the 30th ultimo, from the honorable the Secretary of State of the United States, I have now most respectfully to ask your excellency to be pleased, to inform this office at your earliest convenience of the decision that the island government may have reached upon the subject, to the end that I may accordingly communicate the same to the honorable the Secretary of State, adding, by instruction, that the Government of the United States certainly expects that an engagement like that of February, 1884, which proposes to abolish all differential duties, should be interpreted so as not to discriminate against any cargo carried in an American vessel.

I have, &c.,

RAMON O. WILLIAMS,
Consul-General.
[Page 791]
[Inclosure 13 in No. 340.—Translation.]

Mr. Cassá to Mr. Williams .

[General government of the Island of Cuba, secretary’s office, political bureau, general business.]

Sir: In answer to your communication of the 17th of November last and 9th instant, referring to the collection of customs duties on 286 bags of coffee, the product of the Republic of Venezuela, proceeding (procedentes) from the United States in the American steamer Saratoga, his excellency the governor-general, after a hearing with the department of the treasury, has been pleased to decide that you be informed, as I now have the honor to manifest, that the 286 bags of coffee have been appraised under the fourth column of the tariff, in accordance with the decision given by this general government on the 30th of May last, which ordered that the benefit of the third column could only be enjoyed by the products of the United States imported under the American flag, a circumstance foreseen in the treaty between the United States and Spain, the said benefit corresponding only to the products of that nation proceeding from the same, but not to the products of other countries, though they come from ports of the United States.

God guard you many years.

FRANCO. CASSÁ.