to Mr. Manning.
Washington , November 23, 1886.
Sir: I send herewith for your information a letter addressed to me by Messrs. F. Alexandre & Sons, of New York, complaining of a discrimination in the form of an alleged rebate of 2 per cent. of custom duties in favor of the importers of goods into Mexico from the United States, by the recently established Spanish transatlantic line of steamers.
The matter had been previously brought to the attention of the Department. From what could then be learned it did not appear that a discriminating favor of 2 per cent. rebate of duties was to be accorded to the goods for the benefit of the importers thereof; but that the company was to be paid a sum equivalent to 2 per cent. of the duties collectable on the foreign goods carried in its steamers to Mexican ports, such payment being in part satisfaction of the subsidy stipulated under its contract of August 21, 1886, with the Government of Mexico. The extracts from that contract furnished to me by Messrs. Alexandre & Sons seem to bear out this understanding of the arrangement Indeed any other is incompatible with the proviso of Article 9, that the company is to receive no payment on account of customs duties unless the total duties collected upon goods imported by its steamers shall amount to at least $50,000 each trip.
Nevertheless it is distinctly averred that there is practically a discrimination of 2 per cent. in the duties collected from the importers by that line, as appears from the letters addressed to Messrs. F. Alexandre & Sons by such houses as Maitland, Phelps & Co., H. Marquardt & Co., and M. Ecbeverria & Co.
It is desired that you will ascertain the precise nature of the arrangement made by Mexico with the Spanish line in respect of the 2 per cent. of customs duties; and if it shall appear that there is, in fact, a discrimination, and that less duties are levied and collected by the Mexican treasury from the importers of the merchandise carried by the Spanish line, you will take an early occasion to impress upon Señor Mariscal the unfriendly character of a measure which strikes directly at the American carrying trade with Mexico.
It is not a question of right under treaty or international law, but of the necessary effect of measures which, whether inimically designed or not, are distinctly hostile in their operation to the shipping interests of the United States. The Government of Mexico cannot fail to be aware of the earnest desire of the United States to increase friendly and intimate relationship with that Republic.
By the provisions of the shipping acts of 1884 and 1886 marked favors in the interest of neighborhood have been shown. For instance, all vessels [Page 669] bringing goods from Mexican ports, under whatever flag, are entitled to a considerable reduction of tonnage dues in our ports. It was not intended, and could scarcely be permitted, that this neighborly step on our part should be made use of to injure, if not destroy, the carrying trade of the United States, and exclude it from sharing in the enlarged intercourse which our legislation has created. It would be most unfortunate were our efforts toward impartial traffic with our neighbors to prove a failure and demand legislative change.
If such a conviction were to be forced upon the national legislature, it could not fail injuriously to affect the many opportunities which are continually presenting themselves for the development of our neighborly relations with Mexico. An adverse impression once created is not easily dispelled, and no one can be more interested in preventing any erroneous conception in this regard than the statesman in whose hands the foreign intercourse of Mexico rests, for Señor Mariscal has long resided in the United States and knows their true feeling toward Mexico.
I trust, therefore, you will receive from Señor Mariscal satisfactory explanation in relation to the subject.
For your farther information copies of Messrs. Alexandre’s first letter to me on the subject and of my reply of November 10 are inclosed. You will probably find the full text of the Spanish transatlantic contract in the official journal of Mexico.
I am, etc.,