To diplomatic officers abroad.
Washington , July 9, 1887.
Sir: In the act of Congress approved June 19, 1886, entitled “An act to abolish certain fees for official services to American vessels, and to amend the laws relating to shipping commissioners, seamen, and owners of vessels, and for other purposes,” the following provisions are found:
Section 11. That section fourteen of “An act to remove certain burdens on the American merchant marine and encourage the American foreign carrying trade, and for other purposes,” approved June twenty-sixth, eighteen hundred and eighty-four, be amended so as to read as follows:
“Section 14. That in lieu of the tax on tonnage of thirty cents per ton per annum imposecl prior to July first, eighteen hundred and eighty-four, a duty of three cents per ton, not to exceed in the aggregate fifteen cents per ton in any one year, is hereby imposed at each entry on all vessels which shall be entered in any port of the United States from any foreign port or place in North America, Central America, the West India Islands, the Bahama Islands, the Bermuda Islands, or the coast of South America bordering on the Caribbean Sea, or the Sandwich Islands, or Newfoundland; and a duty of six cents per ton, not to exceed thirty cents per ton per annum, is hereby imposed at each entry upon all vessels which shall be entered in the United States from any other foreign ports, hot, however, to include vessels in distress or not engaged in trade: Provided, That the President of the United States shall suspend the collection of so much of the duty herein imposed, on vessels entered from any foreign port, as may be in excess of the tonnage and light-house dues, or other equivalent tax or taxes imposed in said port on American vessels by the Government of the foreign country in which such port is situated, and shall, upon the passage of this act, and from time to time thereafter as often as it may become necessary by reason of changes in the laws of the foreign countries above mentioned, indicate by proclamation the ports to which such suspension shall apply, and the rate or rates of tonnage duty, if any, to be collected under such, suspension: Provided, further, That such proclamation shall exclude from the benefits of the suspension herein authorized the vessels of any foreign country in whose ports the fees or dues of any kind or nature imposed on vessels of the United States, or the import or export duties on their cargoes, are in excess of the fees, dues, or duties imposed on the vessels of the country in which such port is situated, or on the cargoes of such vessels; and sections forty-two hundred and twenty-three and forty-two hundred and twenty-four, and so much of section forty-two hundred and nineteen of the Revised Statutes as conflicts with this section, arc hereby repealed.”
Section 12. That the President be, and hereby is, directed to cause the governments of foreign countries which, at any of their ports, impose on American vessels a tonnage tax or light-house dues, or other equivalent tax or taxes, or any other fees, charges, or dues, to be informed of the provisions of the preceding section, and invited to co-operate with the Government of the United States in abolishing all lighthouse dues, tonnage taxes, or other equivalent tax or taxes on, and also all other fees for official services to, the vessels of the respective nations employed in the trade between the ports of such foreign countries and the ports of the United States.
Section 17. That whenever any foreign country whose vessels have been placed on the same footing in the ports of the United States as American vessels (the coastwise trade excepted) shall deny to any vessels of the United States any of the commercial privileges accorded to national vessels in the harbors, ports, or waters of such foreign country, the President, on receiving satisfactory information of the continuance of such discriminations against any vessels of the United States, is hereby authorised to issue his proclamation excluding, on and after such time as he may indicate, from the exercise of such commercial privileges in the ports of the United States as are denied to American vessels in the ports of such foreign country, all vessels of such foreign country of a similar character to the vessels of the United States thus discriminated against, and suspending such concessions previously granted to the vessels of such country; and on and after the date named in such proclamation for it to take effect, if the master, officer, or agent of any vessel of such foreign, country excluded by said proclamation from the exercise of any commercial privileges shall do any act prohibited by said proclamation in the ports, harbors, or waters of the United States for or on account of such vessel, such vessel, and its rigging, tackle, furniture, and boats, and all the goods on board, shall be liable to seizure and to forfeiture to the United States; and any person opppsing any officer of the United States [Page 1136] in the enforcement of this act, or aiding and abetting any other person in such opposition, shall forfeit eight hundred dollars, and shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and, upon conviction shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
Copies of the act above quoted, and of the prior act of June 26, 1884, are inclosed herewith for your information. Circumstances having heretofore delayed the extension of the general invitation authorized by section 12 of the act of 1886, as above quoted, you are now instructed to invite the Government of _____ _______ to co-operate with the Government of the United States toward the contemplated ends.
It will be seen that the provisions of the sections above quoted are broad enough to cover either a reduction or a complete abolition, by reciprocal action, of tonnage and equivalent charges on navigation; and it is open to any foreign country, in all or any of whose ports a less charge is made than that now imposed in the ports of the United States, to obtain forthwith a reduction of the charge in the United States, on vessels coming from such port or ports, to an equality with that levied in the port or ports designated. An example of this is furnished by the arrangement lately entered into between the Government of the United States and that of The Netherlands, as shown by the inclosed copy of the President’s proclamation of April 22, 1887,* whereby complete exemption from tonnage dues is secured to all vessels of whatever nationality, entering ports of the United States from the ports of The Netherlands in Europe, or from certain named ports of the Dutch East Indies.
It is to be observed that the invitation herein contained is extended equally to all countries, both those having ports within the geographical zone to which, under the shipping acts of 1884 and 1886, the rate of 3 to 15 cents per ton applies, and those which have no ports within that zone and to which the rate of 6 to 30 cents per ton now applies. The rate of 3 to 15 cents per ton was geographical and involved no test of flag. The object and intent of the present invitation is to deal, on the basis of reciprocity, with countries as nationalities, whether situated within or without the geographical limits referred to.
Besides extending the invitation herein authorized, you are also instructed to ascertain whether, in the ports of _____ ______, or in any dependency thereof, any discrimination exists-against vessels of the United States as compared with the vessels of ______ _______(other than those engaged in the coasting or colonial trade), or the vessels of any third country. If such discrimination be found to exist, its precise nature and extent should be reported, when this Government will be in a position to determine how far the commerce between the United States and the ports of such country (if such ports are found within the defined geographical limits), or how far the vessels of such country (if it be outside of the geographical limits aforesaid), are to be restricted in or excluded from the privileges created, either under the express provisions of the shipping acts of 1884 and 1886, or under the special arrangements of reciprocity effected under the authorizations of those acts and proclaimed by the President.
In communicating the invitation herein contained, you will convey the fullest assurance to the minister for foreign affairs of its entire friendliness, and the desire of the United States to treat the commerce and flag of _____ _____ on the footing of the most complete reciprocity in those matters to which the invitation relates.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Secretary of State.