Mr. Morton to
Treasury Department, Bureau of Navigation,
Washington, D. C., May 28, 1888.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the
receipt of the letter of the Acting Secretary of State relative to
tonnage dues stated to have been collected on the 25th of April last
from the master of the Dutch steamer Prins
Maurits, which vessel appears, from a statement by the
Netherlands minister, to have arrived at New York from Amsterdam
after having called successively at Paramaribo, Demerara, Trinidad,
Carúpano, Cumaná La Guayra, Puerto Cabello, and Port au Prince.
In reply to the request that the Department of State be furnished
information upon the subject of the above-named vessel, and of the
law governing the case, I have to report that no communication in
regard to the particular vessel named has been received from the
customs officers. This office assumes, however, that she was entered
at New York as being from some place not mentioned in any
proclamation relating to the exemption of vessels from tonnage dues,
and that the action of the collector of customs was in accordance
with the practice obtaining in such cases under the provisions of
section 11 of the act of June 19, 1886, amendatory of section 14 of
the act of June 26, 1884.
These acts require the collector of customs to impose dues “at each
entry” on all [Page 1344] vessels
which shall he entered from a foreign port not specified in any
proclamation suspending the dues. In the present case, if the vessel
was entered, say from Paramaribo, dues accrued under the existing
practice at the rate of 6 cents per ton, there being no suspension
of the collection of such dues by the authority of the President on
vessels entered from that port. Had she proceeded from Amsterdam and
called at Port au Prince for ordinary commercial purposes, entry
would have been made accordingly and dues levied at the minimum
rate. On entry from Amsterdam with cargo or passengers from that
port, she would have been exempt from dues under the President’s
proclamation, unless also entered from some other foreign port, not
Dutch or German. The acts cited have never been construed as
intending to put vessels trading, for instance, between Amsterdam,
Brazil, and the United States, on any better footing than vessels
trading between Brazil and the United States.
If the persons concerned consider themselves aggrieved, in such
cases, action can be taken by them as mentioned in section 2931,
Revised Statutes, whereupon the collector’s decision will be fully
considered and reversed if found erroneous.
It may be observed that each case must be decided upon its merits,
and that in the present instance the nationality of the vessel has
no bearing upon the action taken, which action would have been the
same had the vessel belonged to the United States.