No. 382.
Mr. Curry to Mr. Bayard.

No. 58.]

Sir: Referring to instructions Nos. 39 of February 23, 40 of February 24, 45 of March 8, and 56 of May 4, 1886, I have the honor to state that I have had frequent and earnest personal interviews with the minister of state, in which I have brought to his attention the complaints of my Government as to the manner of observance of the commercial agreement of February 13, 1884, and the different treatment of cargoes of foreign products carried by our vessels to Cuba and Porto Rico from that accorded to those carried by Spanish vessels. In order to give a more pormanent and satisfactory understanding of the contention of the United States I added to the oral discussion a memorandum, a copy of which I inclose. This I submitted on the 10th of April last, and invited for it a careful examination and study. On the 26th of the same month I addressed to the minister a short note, a copy of which is inclosed, calling attention to the memorandum and urging that early action be taken in regard to the matters referred to therein. * * *

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 58.]

memorandum for señor moret.

I. Maritime associations, ship, owners, shipping merchants, and exporters in the United States continue to present to my Government petitions and protests respecting the manner in which the commercial agreement of February 13, 1884, is being observed by the Spanish authorities. The method of the enforcement of this agreement by the Spanish authorities, as the Spanish Government is fully advised, has been a source of repeated and earnest complaint on the part of the shipping and exports interests of the United States, and is far from being satisfactory to my Government.

II. A reference to the commercial and diplomatic relations which preceded and led to the agreement shows that the main object of that compact was to abolish the discriminating flag-duties which the two Governments had established in the trade between the United States and the Spanish Antilles, and this is plainly stipulated in Articles 1 and 2.

III. The suppression of the differential flag-duties provided for in Article I necessarily meant that in the trade from the United States to Cuba and Porto Rico the American flag and the cargo covered by it should be treated in those islands precisely upon the same terms as the Spanish flag. If this had not been the case, my Government would have had no power to enforce Article II. Your excellency will see that the agreement is a simple executive act on the part of the United States. The authority to enter into and execute it was derived solely from section 4228 of the Revised Statutes. By this section Congress empowered the President to suspend the discriminating duties imposed upon the products and vessels of certain foreign countries, including the Spanish Antilles.

The express condition on which the authority to suspend was granted was that satisfactory proof should be given that no discriminating duties were imposed upon the vessels of the United States and their cargoes.

The notice given by the Spanish Government, after signing the agreement, that it would put it into execution on the 1st of March following, was accepted by my Government as a sufficient proof under the act of Congress I have cited, and the President’s proclamation was accordingly issued, suspending the 10 per cent discriminating duties imposed on Spanish vessels, carrying into our ports cargoes from Cuba and Porto Rico. It appears, however, that Spanish vessels are permitted to carry foreign goods transshipped in American ports to Cuba and Porto Rico, and have them admitted under the third column of the tariffs of those islands, while similar goods, carried in American vessels, are required to pay the higher duties of the fourth column. This, as it must be apparent to your excellency, is a manifest discrimination against the American flag, the imposition of a different duty, and consequently a violation of Article I of the agreement. [Page 796] The President of the United States is authorized to continue the suspension of the I discriminating duty so long as the reciprocal exemption of vessels of the United States and their cargoes shall continue, “and no longer.”

IV. My predecessor, Mr. Foster, very earnestly, nearly two years ago, called the attention of the Spanish Government to the matter, and declared, as he was perfectly competent to do, that if his Government had understood that the agreement would be so construed and observed by Spain, it never would have been signed or put in execution. It appears from Mr. Foster’s communication that the then Spanish minister of state acquiesced in the view taken by the Government of the United States, and slated that he had recommended to the minister of ultramar that a royal order be issued placing American vessels in the Antilles upon the same footing as Spanish vessels in respect to foreign goods carried by them.

I am instructed by my Government to ask the prompt, careful, and serious attention of the Spanish Government to this continuing grievance in the confident hope that early measures will be devised in consonance with the stipulations of a formal agreement and the reasonable views of the United States. It would be a source of deepest regret if the President, most anxious to avoid any possible irritation with a Government between which and the United States most amicable relations exist, should be forced by the unwarranted interpretation, placed upon the agreement of 1884, to withdraw the suspension of the 10 per cent, discriminating duty. This can be avoided by the action indicated by Señor Elduayen, in placing American vessels; upon the same footing as Spanish vessels. The liberal and friendly spirit manifested i by the present ministry justifies my Government in the belief that the action it seeks can be brought about at an early day, and encourages me to expect from your Excellency such immediate measures as will effectuate the spirit and letter of the agreement of February 13, 1884.

In continuation of the representation which my Government has heretofore made, and regrets to be under the necessity of repeating, on the practice of Cuban authorities, adverse to the established agreement between Spain and the United States, I may state 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, I 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. 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 I sailing vessels clearing from Cuba with cargo to the ports of the United States pay in i Cuban ports $1.35 per ton on their cargoes. Thus discriminating or countervailing duties on tonnage are levied upon the vessels of the United States in Cuban ports.

The laws of the United States authorize the President, on certain conditions of reciprocity, for which satisfactory proof shall be given, to suspend or discontinue the discriminating foreign duties on tonnage and imports. The object of Congress was to; secure for American vessels the same treatment as was accorded to foreign vessels. In 1877 Señor Mantilla appealed to the provisions of the law in order to secure the exemption of Spanish vessels from the discriminating duties levied on Spanish vessels in the United States, and declared that Spain “had not levied on American tonnage any greater or other charges than she levied on Spanish tonnage,” and he supported his 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 suppression of the discriminating tonnage tax of which complaint had been made. The late tonnage regulations at Havana, based upon the Spanish law of July, 1882, are in plain opposition to the declaration of Señor Mantilla and the Spanish ministry, and unless they are revoked they constitute such a discrimination against American vessels as calls for the enforcement of the corresponding measures indicated by Congress.

The instructions of my Government are so explicit that I must beg your Excellency’s early and favorable attention to the matters embraced in this memorandum.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 58.]

Mr. Curry to Mr. Moret.

Excellency: I take the liberty of renewing, in strong terms, the wish that the Government of Her Catholic Majesty may find it agreeable to heed the earnest desire and expectation of the United States for the removal and correction of the grievances [Page 797] emphasized in my memorandum. Every day’s delay complicates the trouble and increases the number of wrongs. These differential flag duties and the obnoxious consular tax collected in American ports have been so often brought to the attention of your Excellency’s predecessors that my Government daily looks for such action from the present enlightened ministry as will correct serious existing abuses, and put both Governments in a more favorable condition for conforming their commercial policy to the obvious interests of the two countries.

I am, &c.,