to Mr. Walker.
Washington , March 6, 1888.
Sir: I have to call your attention to the following facts, in respect of which your prompt action is desirable.
The Boston Ice Company, a partnership composed exclusively of citizens of the United States, has been for more than twenty-three years engaged in the business of shipping ice, lumber, and general merchandise [Page 412] to the cities of Aspinwall and Panama, in the Republic of Colombia, for sale by the agents or representatives of the company, and is now engaged in such business. It appears from papers laid before the Department that the shipping of ice to the cities of Aspinwall and Panama and the selling of such ice therein constitutes the principal part of the business of this ice company, in which part of its business it has a large amount of capital invested and many agents and officers employed. Indeed, the Boston Ice Company appears to be the only importer and dealer in ice in the two important cities named.
It appears that on November 21, 1887, President Nuñez promulgated a decree, countersigned by Mr. Eestrepo, minister of the treasury, for establishing a monopoly of the importation and sale of natural ice in the department. This decree you will find published in the Diario Oficial of November 24, 1887. It provides that the Government of Colombia reserves to itself the monopoly of the importation and sale of natural ice in the department of Panama; that the Government may grant said monopoly or privilege to an individual or to a company either by private contract or at public auction; that the grantee of such privilege may transfer it to another individual or company with the previous assent of the Government, and that from the day whereon the grantee of said privilege enters into the enjoyment thereof no individual or company shall import ice into said department of Panama without the consent of said grantee.
On January 21, 1888, Mr. Restrepo, minister of the treasury, issued a printed invitation for proposals or bids for the concession suggested by the above decree, with a form of the contract which would be required, a translation of which is herewith inclosed. You will probably have no difficulty in procuring a printed copy of this invitation in Spanish on making request in the proper quarter.
You will then ascertain and report whether, under the laws and usages of Colombia to which the native citizens of that Republic are subject, a monopoly in any article of trade or commerce is allowable, and whether the contract of concession suggested by Mr. Restrepo, minister of the treasury, is in conflict with the laws and usages of the United States of Colombia.
If you should discover that the granting of such a monopoly as is proposed in this concession is not warranted by the laws of Colombia, you will report the same to this Department and await further instructions.
If you should, on the other hand, discover that such a monopoly is not inconsistent with the usages and laws of that country, you will then make known unofficially to the minister of foreign affairs the ruinous result upon the business of the Boston Ice Company of enforcing such a decree on the conditions outlined in the proposed concession, and of the utter discouragement to the investment hereafter of any American capital, or the promotion of any American enterprise, if such a fate should await other American citizens who, like the company in question, have for more than twenty years lent the aid of their capital and business energies in faithful subordination to the laws of Colombia in the development of the convenience, comfort, and health of the people of that country.
The spirit of the treaty of 1846 is one of closest amity between the two countries, and under the terms of this treaty, especially under article 35, the active good offices of the United States have been exerted with the highest benefit to the Republic of Colombia.
It would be well for you to impress the minister with the fact that the [Page 413] severance of interests between the inhabitants of the two countries must necessarily be followed by a diminution of personal good feeling $ and it would be deeply regrettable if a check should now be given to the immigration of American citizens of reputation and wealth into Colombia, where their presence has been heretofore only productive of great good to that country and also to themselves.
As following these views, it would be well for you in a friendly manner to see whether a modification of the terms contained in the seventh article of this concession could not be obtained.
It is not the disposition of this Government to interfere in any way with the administration of the laws of another and a friendly power, but where the interests of American citizens have been sought to be secured by treaty and are unexpectedly exposed to invasion and injury it is part of the duty of one friendly government to point out to another the injurious results that must necessarily follow.
It is the wish of this Government that the overflow of numbers capital, and energy from the United States into the Republic of Colombia, should continue to benefit both countries, and that they shall understand that it is the part of friendship to point out all circumstances that may tend to jeopardize the good feeling that should be encouraged to exist between the citizens of the two countries. Monopolies are held in the United States to be obnoxious and to be violative of sound public policy, as being in restraint of trade and destructive of that equality which should exist before the law, and be followed by a government with the citizens under its control.
No condition could be held valid which deprived a citizen of the right to appeal to the protecting power of his own Government, for that is secured to him by the eternal principles of justice as reflected in well-known international law.
The United States have no reason to believe that any discrimination against its citizens is intended by the Government of Colombia, and therefore, in presenting this subject to the foreign office, you will do so personally and not officially, frankly stating the friendly object with which the present dispatch to you is penned; that is, to prevent injuries to important interests of citizens of the United States lawfully engaged in business in Colombia, following the laws of that country, and giving it the benefit of their capital and enterprise.
I am, etc.,