No. 1115.
Mr. Bayard to Mr. Scott.

No. 126.]

Sir: Your dispatch No. 187, of the 3d instant, in which you inform the Department that Venezuela threatens to close her ports against the island of Curaçao and that you believe that American commerce will [Page 1638] be seriously affected in the event the threat is carried out, and submit the matter to this Department, has been received.

This Government would view with great concern such a measure as that indicated in your dispatch, whereby the ports of Venezuela might be closed to the products and merchandise of the United States destined for Venezuela and transshipped en route in the port of Curaçao from one American vessel to another. A similar question occurred in 1882–’83 touching the decree of the Venezuelan Government imposing 30 per cent, additional discriminating duty on goods imported from foreign countries but transshipped en route in a foreign colony (see volumes of Foreign Relations 1882, 1883). This Government instantly and earnestly remonstrated against that measure, which struck a blow at a large and legitimate traffic carried on between the United States and Venezuela under the flag of the United States, and the justice of our representations was admitted, as will be seen by reference to the amendatory decree of 26th of January, 1883, by which it was declared:

Art. 1. The fruits, merchandise, and effects which may come from the United States of North America, or from Europe, dispatched for Venezuela, with all the documents required by the law for the regimen of the custom-houses, may be transshipped in foreign colonies from vessel to vessel in order to proceed to their destination, and will be considered as of direct procedencia from the ports of origin.

Article 2 of that decree furthermore provides that goods for transshipment as aforesaid may, in the absence of the transshipping vessel at the time, be landed and re-shipped when transportation offers, under certain formalities to establish that the continuity of the direct importation from the country of origin to Venezuela is not broken.

This decree takes no notice of the nationality of the flag under which this direct continuous importation may be effected, and indeed no discrimination could well be set up against the carrying flag when the measure obviously concerned only the direct importation of merchandise from the port of original shipment.

As the bulk of the commerce between the United States and Venezuela is now conducted there could be no room for any flag discrimination, even if such were contemplated. The goods are carried continuously under the flag of the United States. The steamers of the “Red D Line” (Philadelphia, Carácas, Valencia, and Maracaibo) are all American vessels, registered according to our laws, and the transference of merchandise, by the way, from one to the other of these ships does not break but on the contrary make manifest and complete the continuity of the voyage.

Proper regulations for documenting the merchandise so carried and transshipped to establish the fact that the importation is direct are easy to frame, and if limited to accomplishing their express purpose could not well be the occasion of objection.

But the proposal of Venezuela to “suspend all sort of commercial relations between its territory and that of the neighboring Dutch colonies” would be a subject of deep and legitimate concern if its effect were to suspend commercial intercourse between the United States and Venezuela, and in such case could not fail to provoke earnest remonstrance and suggest undesirable countervailing measures if insisted upon.

With the correspondence contained in the Foreign Relations for 1882 and 1883 before you, and with the light thrown on the subject by the archives of your legation, you have ample grounds and arguments for contesting the proposal of the Venezuelan Executive, and, if possible, [Page 1639] preventing its taking a shape so detrimental to the commercial interests of the United States and Venezuela.

I am, etc.,

T. F. Bayard.