Mr. Hanna to
the United States,
November 20, 1887. (Received
January 5, 1888.)
Sir: A most important bill has passed both houses
of the Argentine Congress, fixing a basis of a contract with Mr. Robert P.
Houston, representing English capital, for the construction and operation of
two lines of ocean steamers, one to ply between the north of Europe and the
River Prate, the other between New York and Buenos Ayres. The Spanish text
of this measure and translation are annexed as inclosures hereto.
It will be seen the agreement gives Mr. Houston a guaranty of 5 per cent per
annum on a sum not exceeding $6,250,000, for the construction of ten
steamers, of 4,000 tons each, including four light-draught steam-launches
for landing and river service for the North Europe line.
These steamers are to carry the mails for the Argentine Government free of
In case of war the Government to use them at will, or to have the right to
take them absolutely by purchase. Each steamer is to carry eight cadets for
instruction in arts of seamanship. The ships are all to carry the Argentine
flag. The ships are all to carry Argentine doctors. Duration of the guaranty
to be fifteen years. Arrivals and departures to be weekly to and from
The European ships to have refrigerators of sufficient capacity to carry
3,000 slaughtered sheep, or their equivalent in other fresh meats. These are
the most prominent elements of the contract for the European ships.
The ships to run to New York will not contain refrigerators, but the other
general features are the same. The details are quite extended. It is a
tremendous scheme, and in some of its parts quite puzzling. The guaranty for
the New York ships is to be 5 per cent, on a capital of $1,800,000, but
annual expenditure in no case to exceed $90,000. This is not as much as was
offered our own people and entails many objections and difficulties not
imposed by that proposition. But our people interposed too many suggestions,
and halting so long, have been left out, at least for the present. Houston
proposes, without stops except at coaling stations, to run his ships at the
rate of 16 miles per hour, stopping nowhere between this and New York north
of Montevideo, and making the run from New York here in less than eighteen
days. I have just returned from a call on the minister of foreign affairs,
who has the formulation of the contract in charge, and found him in a very
happy frame of mind over the situation. He assured me the first ship would
run from New York here in April next. Doubts are, however, freely expressed
by other steam-ship companies about Mr. Houston’s ability to perform his
agreements. I will have more to say about this contract, but for the present
have given only its most general features.
I have, etc.,
[Inclosure in No.
Terms agreed upon between the Executive and Robert
Patterson Houston for direct navigation between northern Europe and
the ports of the Republic.
- The National Government proposes an animal guaranty of 5 per cent,
upon a capital of £1,250,000 for the construction of ten
steam-ships, for the direct navigation between the ports of northern
Europe and the Republic, and for the construction of four lighters,
to be used in the waters of the Republic for the transportation of
immigrants and their cargo brought by said steam-ships.
- The immigrants shall be English, Swedes, Norwegians, Germans,
Danes, Dutch, Belgians, French, and of such other nationalities as
the National Government may indicate.
- The vessels shall carry the mail free.
- In case of war the Government shall have the right to use said
steam-ships as transports under conditions which shall be agreed
upon. If used as cruisers or men-of-war, the Government will pay the
original cost of them.
- On each vessel the Government may place eight naval cadets, to be
educated in practical seamanship.
- Should the profits of the company exceed 10 per cent., one-half of
the excess shall accrue to the Government.
- The accommodations for first and second class shall be reduced as
much as possible, the preference being given to third-class
- The 5 per cent, guaranty shall commence in the same proportion as
the vessels are finished and run from the day they leave for the
ports of the Republic, including the four steam lighters, which
shall be of light draught and suitable for the navigation of the
Parana and Uruguay Rivers.
- The velocity of the ten vessels shall be 16 knots per hour.
- For the completion of this contract Houston shall present to the
Argentine legation in England, where the vessels will be built, the
vouchers of the cost of each one, and if the same is considered
excessive the amount shall be established by experts.
- The duration of this contract shall be fifteen years.
- The route shall be direct from the north of Europe to the ports of
the Republic—vessels touching only at Montevideo and at such points
as are customary for coaling; but on their return they can touch at
- One of these vessels shall arrive at least once a week in the
ports of the Republic.
- Government cargo shall have a rebate of 40 per cent, except coal
and iron, which shall have 20 per cent.
- It being in the interest of the company to transport as many
immigrants as possible from the north of Europe, it will establish
at its own cost such agencies as it may deem necessary to bring
about the current of immigration.
- The price of passage for immigrants shall be agreed upon between
the Government and the company without any implication that the
company renounces any benefit or premium which the Government may
accord at any time to those who bring in immigrants.
- In each of the vessels running from Europe to the Republic, the
company shall place a freezing apparatus with the capacity of
carrying at least 3,000 sheep, or their equivalent in beef.
- The fourteen steamers mentioned shall fly the national flag, and
each one-will be named for one of the Argentine provinces.
- On the expiration of the guaranty, the vessels will continue under
the Argentine flag while sailing to or from the ports of the
- Each vessel will carry an Argentine doctor, or one of some other
nationality, who shall have passed an examination in the Republic;
said doctor shall be named by the Government and accepted by the
- Fifteen months from the execution of this contract the service
shall begin, and within two years from same date all the vessels
shall be running.
- It is understood that this company is completely independent of
that which Mr. Houston has already established between Liverpool and
the ports of the Republic, which may continue as before.
Terms agreed upon between the Executive and R. P.
Houston, for direct navigation from the United States to the ports
of the Republic.
- Mr. R P. Houston binds himself to establish a direct line of
steamers between the United States and Buenos Ayres, which shall
begin running within five months from the signing of this contract
by the Argentine Government.
- The line shall be served by three or four steamers of the same
class and condition as the three for the North European service, and
must be built in the same time as fixed for the others, but without
- In the mean time, the line shall be served by such other steamers
as Houston shall place in suitable condition for cargo and
accommodations of passengers.
- The guaranty shall be 5 per cent, on a capital of £360,000,
maximum of said vessels.
- The other conditions for the contract for the North European
service are applicable to this.