No. 617.
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Curry.

No. 182.]

Sir: I inclose for your information a copy of a dispatch from our consul-general at Havana, concerning an exaction of differential duties in January last, at Havana, on the cargo of the American bark Sarah A. Staples.

I am, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.
[Inclosure in No. 182.]

Mr. Williams to Mr. Porter.

No. 591.]

Sir: I beg to inclose the copy of a letter dated the 3d instant, received at this consulate from Mr. H. N. Gay, master of the American bark Sarah A. Staples, which vessel arrived at this port on the 29th of January last with a full cargo of coals from the port of Cardiff, Great Britain.

This is the same American vessel to which I referred in my dispatch No. 589 of yesterday, as having had a question with the collector of customs about import duties.

On signing his charter-party for the voyage, as I am informed, the master agreed to pay out of his freight money any excess of import duties that might be charged by the Havana customs authorities on his cargo of coals over what should or might be collected upon the same cargo were it brought here by a British vessel. And an excess of $65.80 having been-collected, as stated by the master, over not only what would have been charged by a British but also by a Spanish vessel, he had to pay it, of course, by the terms of his charter-party.

But the collection of this differential duty being clearly in opposition to the memorandum of agreement between the United States and Spain, signed at Washington, October 27, 1886, I decided to bring the matter before the governor-general of the island. I did this by presenting him, in person, a remonstrance dated the 8th instant, copy and translation of which are herewith accompanied.

Meantime, awaiting the instructions of the Department,

I remain, etc.,

Ramon O. Williams.
[Inclosure 1 to inclosure in No. 182.]

Mr. Gay to Mr. Williams.

Sir: I arrived in this port on the 29th day of January last with the American bark Sarah A. Staples, of Philadelphia, raider my command, from the port of Cardiff, Wales, with a full cargo of coal, and consigned to Messrs. Barrios & Co. of this city.

On entering my vessel at the custom-house my consignees were informed that I should be obliged to pay a duty on my cargo of coal of 9f cents per ton, for the reason that my vessel was an American vessel proceeding from a British port.

[Page 993]

Upon making known this fact to you, you informed me that the said discriminating duty on American vessels had been removed, and I should not have to pay anything; but my consignees insisted that although a Spanish vessel would not have to pay such discriminating duty, still the custom-house authorities had notified, them that they had no knowledge of any such change in the regulations, and they should exact the said payment.

Upon clearing my vessel this day at the consignees I learn that they have paid for me into the custom-house the sum of $65.80 in Spanish gold, as appears in the disbursement’s account of my vessel, as discriminating duty on the coal, 710,500 kilos, at 9f cents, minus 5 per cent., and that they paid this amount under protest.

I am assured by my consignees that the money will eventually be paid back to me, but no time is stated.

I respectfully beg to lay these facts before you and request that you will please aid me to recover from the customs authorities the sum so unlawfully exacted of my ship.

H. N. Gay,
[Inclosure 2 to inclosure in No. 182.—Translation.]

Mr. Williams to the governor-general.

Excellency: In accordance with the instructions received from my Government I have to notify your excellency that Capt. H. N. Gay informs me, in a letter dated the 5th instant, addressed to this consulate-general, collector of customs of this port has ordered to be collected a differential import duty of 9f cents, less 5 per cent, per kilogram, amounting to $65.80 Spanish gold, upon the complete cargo of 710,500 kilograms of coal brought to this port on January 29 last in the American bark Sarah A. Staples under his command, from Cardiff, England.

I must also particularly inform your excellency that when the collector of customs was reminded by the consignee and captain that the collection ordered to be made constituted, in fact, an open infraction of the agreement of the 27th of October, 1886, between the United States and Spain, that high functionary replied that he had no knowledge of the said agreement, for there was no information in his office in regard to it.

In view of this strange declaration on the part of the collector, I beg to transcribe, in full, the preamble and article first of the memorandum of agreement between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Spain for the reciprocal and complete suspension of all discriminating duties of tonnage or imposts in the United States and in the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico upon vessels of the respective countries and their cargoes, viz:

“First. It is positively understood that from this date an absolute equalization of tonnage and impost duties will at once be applied to the products of and articles proceeding from the United States or from any foreign country in vessels owned by citizens of the United States to the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico, and that no higher or other impost or tonnage duties will be levied upon such vessels and the merchandise carried in them as aforesaid than are imposed upon Spanish vessels and their cargoes under the same circumstances.”

Therefore, excellency, the collector of the custom-house of Havana is unauthorized to levy either upon the tonnage or cargo of this vessel other than the same, but no higher, duties than under the same circumstances would be levied upon the cargo and “tonnage of a Spanish vessel, because of the coming of both from a foreign country, as is expressly stipulated by the agreement. This is exactly what my Government practices on its part under the second division of the said article, which says: “Under the above conditions the President of the United States will at once issue his proclamation declaring that the foreign discriminating duties of tonnage and imposts within the United States are suspended and discontinued so far as respects Spanish vessels and the produce, manufactures, or merchandise imported in them into the United States from Spain or her possessions aforesaid, or from any foreign country.” And in the third division the same article adds: “This memorandum of agreement is offered by the Government of Spain and accepted by the Government of the United States as a full and satisfactory notification of the facts above recited.”

In consequence, excellency, the Spanish steamers that run between New York and Vera Cruz, via Havana, pay to the Treasury of the United States the same but no higher duties of tonnage and impost upon the cargo they bring from Mexico than the American steamers; because the circumstances are the same, indeed, within the purview of this agreement, Mexico is just as much of a foreign country as England. The [Page 994] same treatment is given in the United States to all Spanish vessels and their cargoes when proceeding from any foreign countries. And this is the rule to he applied in the present case.

In view of the reasons above stated I have to ask your excellency, in the name of my Government, to be pleased to order the rectification of the account of duties upon the cargo of coals brought from England in the American bark Sarah A. Staples, with instructions that it be done in the same terms in which it would have been made if the vessel had been Spanish; and further, that due return be made of the said differential amount of $65.80, because so exacted by the faithful fulfillment of the aforesaid agreement between the United States and Spain, made the 27th October, 1886.

I have, etc.,

Ramon O. Williams.