Mr. Palmer to Mr. Blaine.

No. 8.]

Sir: Referring to the Department’s No. 13, of the 22d ultimo, I have the honor to report that, in the absence of a reply on the part of the Spanish Government to a note of the legation of May 7, 1888, presenting the claim for the remission of excessive duties imposed at Havana in 1884, on coffee shipped by Messrs. Calixto, Lopez & Co., of New York, I addressed a communication of the 9th instant to the minister of state, requesting early action on the claim.

[Page 683]

On yesterday I received from the foreign office a note, dated the 9th instant, and written, apparently, before the receipt of my note of the same date, communicating a royal order, providing for the return of the amount of duty in question to Messrs. Lopez & Co. The entire correspondence is transmitted.

I have, etc.,

T. W. Palmer.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 8.]

Mr. Curry to Mr. Moret.

Excellency: I am instructed by my Government to invite your attention to the following facts and to ask for such action as will be adequate to the relief of the injured parties.

The commercial agreement entered into at Madrid between Spain and the United States on February 13, 1884, had for its object the abolition of the differential duties on the part of Spain and the retaliatory duties on the part of the United States, mutually imposed prior to that time on the trade between the United States, Cuba, and Porto Rico, and conversely between those islands and the United States. Such was the original interpretation and execution of the agreement. The United States promptly removed the retaliatory duty of 10 per. cent, ad valorem which had been imposed since 1834 upon the products of and articles proceeding from the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico, in Spanish vessels, placing them on an equal footing with American vessels in the ports of the United States. On the part of Spain, it was likewise simultaneously enforced in the islands, and the customs authorities began to collect import duties, as stipulated in said agreement under the third column of the Cuban tariff, on all cargoes brought to the islands either in American or Spanish vessels from the United States regardless of national origin. As a consequence, merchandise, the product of other countries which had been carried to the United States and entered there in bond, and had been trans-shipped afterwards to Cuba, paid only the same rates of tariff duties as those collected upon the natural products of the United States.

Messrs. Calixto, Lopez & Co., of the city of New York, under the impression, very naturally, that the agreement would be executed in accordance with the interpretation above mentioned, on the 16th of February, 1884, shipped in the port of New York on board the American steam-ship Saratoga, bound for Havana, 286 bags of Venezuelan coffee. On the lauding of this coffee, the custom house authorities of Cuba, a sudden change having been made in their original interpretation, exacted a differential duty, collecting under the fourth instead of under the third column, and thus compelled an excess of payment of $67.56 Spanish bank bills, and $608.11 Spanish gold, over and above what would have been paid if the coffee had been imported from New York in a Spanish vessel.

Complaint against this discrimination being made to the United States consul at Havana, and all the necessary proofs being made he remonstrated before the governor-general, and asked that the error be corrected. On the refusal of the Cuban authorities to remit the excess the case was reported to the Government of the United States, but action was suspended in consequence of the pendency of negotiations to secure a harmonious construction of the modus vivendi. It would be quite superfluous to enter into the old and adjusted controversy over the word, “procedencias,” or to renew the argument of the right of a signatory power to change an interpretation of an agreement without the assent of, or consulting with, the other party. The protocol signed by your excellency and myself, in December last, confirming and continuing the agreement previously made in Washington, has brought the two governments into oneness of view on the disputed points. The vessels of both nations in the carrying of cargoes from the United States to Cuba are placed upon an equal footing.

The submission of the claim of Messrs. Calixto, Lopez & Co. to have refunded the excess paid by them is made to your excellency with complete confidence, because the amendments since made to the vague language of the modus vivendi of February, 1884, have settled the principle. It would seem, therefore, both equitable and just, that cases which arose pending the controversy as to the construction of the agreement, should be decided in accordance with the principles which both governments have sanctioned.

I feel well assured that your excellency and myself can readily dispose of this [Page 684] claim in a satisfactory manner, and that the Spanish Government will not deny to a vessel of the United States the favor accorded to a Spanish vessel making a like voyage and carrying the like merchandise under the same conditions.

I avail, etc.,

J. L. M. Curry.
[Inclosure 2, in No. 8.]

Mr. Palmer to Marquis de la Vega de Armijo.

Excellency: I have been instructed to recall to the attention of the Government of Her Majesty the claim of Messrs. Calixto, Lopez & Co., of New York, for the return of $67.56 Spanish hank bills, and $608.11 Spanish gold, excess of duty paid on 286 bags of coffee shipped from that city for Havana on the American steam-ship Saratoga, in February, 1884.

The facts and details of this claim were presented at length in the note of this legation of May 7, 1888, to which no reply has been received, and to which I now beg to call your excellency’s attention.

At the same time I will request your excellency to urge upon the ministry of ultra-mar an early and favorable settlement of the case, which, like several others growing out of this same cause, has been for a long time pending in that department.

I avail, etc.,

T. W. Palmer.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 8.—Translation.]

Marquis de la Vega de Armijo to Mr. Palmer.

Excellency: I have the honor, in reply to your note of May 7, 1888, to transmit, to your excellency the royal order of June 26 last, which has been sent to me by the minister of the colonies.

“Considering the documents of the case prepared in consequence of the note of the representative of the United States which was transmitted to this Department by the ministry of state with the royal order of the 18th of last May, in reference to the erroneous interpretation of the Havana custom-house of the commercial agreement between Spain and the United States in applying the fourth instead of the third column of duties to a shipment of 286 bags of Venezuelan coffee, imported into Cuba in February, 1884, by Messrs. Calixto, Lopez & Co. Considering the agreement referred to and the royal orders of November 22, 1886, and of March 12, 1887, the first declaring that the amount of duty credited the treasury from 1884, the date of the first agreement, in consequence of the application of the third column of the tariff instead of the fourth, by which the duty ought to have been assessed, should be regarded as an accomplished fact, and as giving no right to reclamation (on the part of the Government), and the second, providing that merchandise imported in American vessels into the islands of Cuba and Porto Rico, should pay duty by the third column, irrespective of the place whence they proceed, the King (whom may God protect) and in his name the Queen regent has decided that the amount of duty be returned to Messrs. Calixto, Lopez & Co., which was paid by them on account of the application of the fourth instead of the third column of the tariff to the coffee im-imported.”

By royal order I transmit this to your excellency for your information and that you may notify the representative of the United States.

I avail, etc.,

El Marquis de la Vega.