No. 569.
Mr. Bayard to Sir L. S. Sackville West.

Sir: With reference to your note of the 19th ultimo, submitting for the consideration of this Government certain correspondence on the subject of a concession granted by the Porte for the erection and maintenance of thirty lights in the Red Sea, etc., and inquiring whether this Government is prepared to agree to the Turkish proposals, I have the honor to inform you in reply that the competent authorities of this Government are not in favor of accepting the proposals in question, for the reasons set forth in the inclosed copy of a report of the chairman of the Light-House Board.

I have, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.
[Page 797]

Vice-Admiral Rowan to Mr. Fairchild.


Sir: The Board has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Department letter, dated April 2, 1888, transmitting a letter from the State Department, dated March 30, 1888, with its inclosure, a note from the British minister at this capital, asking the views of this Government as to a proposal made by the Government of Turkey as to the erection and maintenance of thirty lights in the Red Sea, on the coast of Arabia, and in the Persian Gulf. This Government is asked as to whether the Turkish proposals should, in its opinion, be agreed to, and if not as to what lights its trade requires, and what dues this Government is prepared to pay for them.

In reply, the Board begs leave to say that our trade in those waters is exceedingly small. It appears from the current report of the Commissioner of Navigation (see page 207) that but three American vessels used the Suez canal during the year 1885, and it is surmised that a part of these were naval vessels.

From this it would appear that the trade of the United States, at least at present, requires few, if any lights in those waters.

It has been the policy of this Government to exact no light dues for vessels entering its ports. The stand was taken in the early days that civilization required that America should, by her Light-House Establishment, her harbor improvements, her Coast Survey, and her Life-Saving Service, do what she could as a duty to humanity at large to insure safety to those who sought her shores. No reason is seen by the Board for changing the policy at this day.

Now the United States maintains 914 light-houses, 23 light-ships, 77 steam or hot-air fog-signals, 140 clock-work fog-signals, 361 day beacons, 3,886 buoys of all kinds, on its 9,959 miles of its ocean, gulf, and lake coast-line, besides its 1,107 stake lights on its long line of rivers, at a cost, last year, of $2,597,400, without mentioning the cost of their establishment.

This Government has been restive under the claim of other Governments that its commerce should pay light dues. How much has been paid by American ships for light dues it is hard to say. But it was stated by Mr. Abbott Lawrence, our minister to England in 1851, in his discussion with Lord Palmerston, that in the previous three years the light dues collected by Great Britain amounted to between £400,000 and £500,000, and that the United States had paid one-fourteenth of all. This would make our payment, say, $160,000 for that year. As an instance it may be well to state that the American Steamship Line of Philadelphia paid as light dues on its four steamers during the years 1875, 1876, and 1877, $36,000, being at the rate of $250 per voyage for each of the one hundred and forty-six voyages made by them; but the amount paid directly as light dues is only a small proportion of what has been paid indirectly.

This Government has from time to time made efforts to extinguish the light dues paid in foreign countries by its commerce. It has, from time to time, represented to the British Government the impropriety of these exactions, and it has always been listened to with respectful consideration, but has been put off with promises that the matter shall receive further and favorable attention in the future. It has been more successful with other countries.

Under the treaty of Washington, of April 11, 1857, it was agreed that $393,011 be paid to Denmark to extinguish what were known as sound dues.

Under the treaty of Berlin, of 1861, it was agreed that about $36,000 should be paid to Hanover to extinguish what were known as the stade dues theretofore levied on our trade on the Elbe River.

Under the treaty with the Belgians, made at Brussels July 20, 1863, it was agreed that the United States should participate in the benefits of the treaty made on April 19, 1839, between the King of the Belgians and the King of the Netherlands, by which it was agreed that $550,000 should be paid to the King of the Netherlands in annual installments in return for the extinguishment of the Scheldt dues. Of this sum the United States agreed to pay its proper share, and doubtless the payment to Belgium of $61,584 mentioned in the disbursement for 1872 for the extinguishment of the Scheldt dues closes the account. While the dues thus extinguished were of various kinds, light dues in each case entered into them as one of their items, and the Governments to which the dues were paid bound themselves by the treaties requiring their payment to keep the lights and aids to navigation in good order thereafter.

In conclusion, the Board begs leave to say that it is of opinion that it should be [Page 798] the policy of this country to refrain from entering into any treaties by which it should be required to pay any further light dues, and also that it would be the part of wisdom for this country to take all proper measures to have the light dues now exacted against its commerce by any Government extinguished as soon as practicable.

I am, etc.,

S. C. Rowan,
Vice-Admiral, U. S. Navy, Chairman.