Mr. Blaine to Mr. Belmont.
Washington , May 1, 1889.
Sir: I have to acknowledge with satisfaction the receipt of your No. 12, of the 10th ultimo, whereby you acquaint me with the favorable action of the Government of Her Majesty the Queen Regent, upon the complaint heretofore urged by this Government, that in the collection of tonnage dues on the entrance and clearance of vessels in the Island of Cuba the customs authorities of that island had persisted in a serious discrimination against vessels of the United States as compared with Spanish vessels, in that the latter were favored, by reduction of or exemption from tonnage dues because of a previous or subsequent voyage between Cuba and the peninsula.
It is gratifying to observe the statement of the Marquis de la Vega de Armijo, in his note to you of the 1st of March last, a translation of which accompanies your dispatch of the 16th ultimo, that on the 26th of February, 1889, the governor-general of Cuba was notified that it had been found that in the collection of this class of duties there had been an infringement of the stipulations of the existing commercial agreement and a failure to observe the “absolute equality” with which Spain engaged to treat the vessels of the United States and those under her own flag. It has not been at any time doubted that the sense of justice of the Spanish Government would recognize the force of the considerations heretofore presented by this Department in its instructions to your predecessor. The result now beached is welcome as removing a notable obstacle to the full and natural interchanges of the United States with their nearest and most productive neighbors of the West Indies.
The note of the Marquis de la Vega de Armijo only mentions orders of refund having been given in the solitary case of the Uranus, which was brought forward as an illustration of the inequality complained of in the Department’s instruction of February 28, 1888, rather than as the occasion of that complaint. It appears from the reply of his excellency that the subject is broadly dealt with, to the end of settling the important principles involved; and it is therefore assumed that the orders given to the governor-general of the Island of Cuba are ample to remedy other cases of erroneous and excessive collection of tonnage dues which may be duly shown, to the disadvantage of American vessels engaged in the same or similar voyages with favored Spanish vessels. You will make inquiry on this point, and if it should appear that the reparation announced in the note of the minister of state only extends to the case of the Uranus you will ask that steps be taken to make the remedy effective in all proper cases of like unwarrantable exactions.
I am, etc.,