Mr. Hanna to
Buenos Ayres , 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 charge.
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 Argentine ports.[Page 3]
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.,