Since my return I have taken every suitable occasion to urge the subject upon
the attention of the minister for foreign affairs, and, with his assent,
upon various senators and deputies. Yesterday I sent Mr. Ribot the letter a
copy of which is herewith inclosed. He has already told me that he should
communicate its substance at once to Mr. Jules Roche, the minister of
commerce, and to Mr. Meline, former president of the Chamber and now
president of the commission on the budget.
I do not believe that French statesmen now think there is any real reason for
continuing the prohibition of American pork, unless it be the danger of
arousing prejudice and alarm among French farmers, and this I have tried to
prove groundless. But they will be sure to want to trade. “If we withdraw
this decree for you, what will you do for us?” is likely to be the form in
which, more or less directly, the case will be presented. The present
condition of the clause in the House tariff bill putting works of art on the
free list suggests to us one reply. The appeal of Bordeaux fruit-growers
against advances in duties on certain of their products which do not seem in
any serious way to come into competition with us may offer another, and the
complaints of the minister of commerce about our more stringent requirements
for the legalization of invoices at the Paris consulate, particularly as to
the exaction of original bills, may be thought to afford a third. In any
case, I venture to think it important that the point should be considered
before final action on these subjects.
[Inclosure in No. 198.]
Mr. Reid to Mr.
Legation of the United States,
Sir: Referring to previous correspondence
concerning the French prohibition of American pork, and to recent
conversations on the subject, I venture to remind Your Excellency that
my Government is attentively waiting for the fulfillment of the hopes
aroused by your unofficial conversation with and messages to Mr.
You will recall that, while advising you of my earnest efforts to procure
the desired [Page 284] removal of
needless or unjust restrictions upon your trade, I pointed out once more
that the greatest obstacle arose from what our people consider the
persistent injustice of France in continuing the prohibition of a great
staple American product on the indefensible ground that it is
unwholesome. Your Excellency was good enough then to intimate that,
under certain conditions, the Government might be willing to propose the
repeal of this prohibition.
Such a step now would be most timely and could not fail to have a
While the belief was current that this course would be speedily taken,
the House of Representatives voted to remove the existing duty of 30 per
cent, on pictures and statues. Seeing now that it is not taken, and
beginning to believe that it will not be, the Senate committee has
already amended the tariff bill by reimposing this duty, and there is
danger that the Senate will approve their action. It is only candid to
explain that the majority of the Senators and Representatives, including
especially those from the great corn-growing and pork-producing States,
regard the attitude of France as without warrant in fact and unfriendly.
This old and growing feeling arises, unlike your recent complaints about
our tariff bills, from no mere objection to the size of the duty you
choose to impose (although within recent years you have greatly
increased it) or to minor details in your custom-house method. It
springs from a grievance more serious and deep-seated—your persistent
discrimination in favor of the products of Germany, Italy, England, and
other countries against those of your historic friend, which you
absolutely prohibit on the charge of their bad quality.
We ask the repeal of this prohibition as an act of naked justice, too
long deferred. It has been excused only by alleging the unhealthfulness
of American pork. Now, this product is perfectly known not to be
unhealthful, and we no longer hear of any serious belief in any quarter
that it is. Your Academy of Medicine long since decided in its favor.
Your own exposition gave it the highest award last year in competition
with all the world. After that award, through a letter which I had the
honor to address to your predecessor, Mr. Spuller, we challenged and
invited a most rigorous examination by your scientific experts, and it
was made, to their apparent satisfaction. We forwarded all the
information that was then asked and have never been told that it was
insufficient or that any more was desired. Certainly, it seems to us
that there is no reason to seek for more. This pork is cheap and
wholesome and enormously used, but nowhere so much as by our own people.
They are the largest pork-consuming nation in the world, and yet, from
the time the disease of trichinosis was first; observed, down to this
day, it is believed that there have not been in the United States so
many actual deaths from it altogether as there have been in a single
year from strokes of lightning. There is not an authentic case of the
disease known to be recorded, except when the pork was eaten raw.
If it were a question of importation among a nation of savages, possibly
here might be a valid reason for its exclusion, but not in the nation
that marches at the head of the civilization of Europe.
Relations between governments are best and most enduring when they rest
upon a basis of mutual good will and mutual interest. Of the mutual good
will in the case of our countries there is happily no doubt; the world
has seen mere than a century’s evidence of it. But I would like to show
that the action we how ask is in the mutual interest of the two
countries; that it is greatly to the benefit of France; and that it is
specially in the interest of the very classes in France for which a wise
government always cherishes the most solicitous care and to which a
republican government is especially bound. This might seem to tend
towards a questionable discussion of your domestic affairs. Relying,
however, upon the courteous permission Your Excellency has given me to
pursue this phase of the question, I beg you to believe that, even with
this permission, I only do so in the firm belief that the facts
demonstrate your interests and ours to be harmonious and not
In the last year before the prohibition of American pork (1880) France
imported in all 38,722,300 kilogrammes of pork, of which 34,247,300
kilogrammes came from the United States. As your import from all other
sources has averaged for the past 3 years just about the same as it was
in 1880, say, in round numbers, 4,600,000 kilogrammes per year, it is
plain that you have not made up in duties on this article from other
countries what you have lost in duties from the United States. That
loss, at the old rate of duty, and assuming that there would have been
no natural growth in the business—a most unlikely supposition—would
still have been for the past 9 years of exclusion, in round numbers,
12,250,000 francs. At the present rate of duty, and assuming that the
advance was not too great to check importations, even if it did prevent
the natural growth of the business, your loss has been 2,911,000 francs
per annum, or, for the 9 years of exclusion, in round numbers,
26,000,000 francs which we should have paid into your treasury.
But, considerable as this sum seems, it would appear to be the smallest
part of your actual loss, for besides you have deprived your French
steamers of a valuable line of freight; you have deprived your grocers
and country peddlers throughout France of a staple and useful trade;
and, above all, you have deprived your people, particularly [Page 285] the poor laboring classes, of
a cheap and highly prized article of food which they used largely and
for which you have been able to furnish no adequate substitute.
Statistics of your importations and the regular quotations of your
domestic prices show that what you shut out from us you have not
supplied from other sources.
Surely, an abundant and cheap supply of healthful food for the laboring
classes is one of the most important essentials for the happiness of a
people, the growth of its productive energies in competition with
neighboring and rival countries, and the development of the national
These, then, are some of the things the exclusion of American pork has
cost France. In return what good has it done France?
Has it helped the national health? There has been no more disease from
eating pork in England or Belgium, where the American product is freely
used, than in France, where you deprive yourselves of it.
Has it helped the French farmer? He can sell the swine he grows for no
more now than he could before the prohibition, not even for as much.
Has it helped the consumer? He can buy French pork no cheaper now than
before the prohibition.
The figures on these points are most suggestive.
In June, 1880, before prohibition, and when, according to theories now
advanced in some quarters, the French pork-grower suffered from the
American competition, French swine sold, live weight, in Paris, at
136.61 francs per 100 kilogrammes. The same quality is currently quoted
now at 114 francs per 100 kilogrammes. The average price of French swine
for 1880 was from 20 to 30 per cent, higher than in 1889. In 1880 the
French laborer, if he bought French salted pork at all, paid for it the
retailers’ varying profits over the wholesale price of from 160 to 200
francs per 100 kilogrammes for sides and hams. Now, if he buys French
salted pork, he pays for the same qualities the retailers’ profits over
the current wholesale prices, substantially the same as in 1880, of from
160 to 200 francs per 100 kilogrammes.
The conclusion from these statements, and from the fullest comparison of
facts and prices that can be made, is irresistible.
France has no greater exemption from trichinosis than England or Belgium,
i. e., French health has not been
French swine are lower than before prohibition, i.e., French farmers have not been benefited.
The retail prices of French salt pork are no lower, i.
e., French consumers have not been benefited.
Who then has been? Only the small class of middlemen who are enabled to
exact yet larger profits in the absence of American competition and of
an adequate domestic supply at the season of scarcity, viz, the summer
But it may be thought, in spite of all this, that a return to the old
order of things would now injure the French farmer. To that suggestion
the current quotations of prices furnish a striking reply.
French swine, with American pork prohibited, are now selling in Paris for
86 centimes to 1.14 francs the kilogramme.
English swine, with American pork freely admitted, are now selling in
London for 2s. 6d. to 4s. 2d. per 8 pounds, or
82½ centimes to 1.37½ francs the kilogramme.
Meanwhile the English working classes (and the Belgians as well),
competing with you in manufacture for the world, have the advantage of a
liberal and cheap supply of wholesome American meats. How great that
advantage is may be inferred from the following comparative statement of
the present prices, wholesale and retail, of French salt pork and the
corresponding wholesale prices of American salt pork delivered in
France, with an estimate of what the retail prices would now be at the
same advance upon the wholesale price which the retail dealers charged
in 1880. The figures include the present wholesale price of pork in
America, the present rate of freight, and the present French duties and
other charges. It is also to be noted that for the very cheapest kind of
American salt pork, wholesaling at 75 to 78 francs per 100 kilogrammes
and retailing for 90 to 95 centimes per kilogramme, there is no French
equivalent in the market.
Salt pork 1890.
|Wholesale (per 100 kilos.)
||Retail (per kilo.)
||Wholesale (per 100 kilos.)
||Retail (per kilo.)
||75 to 78
||.90 to .95
||130 to 165
||2.00 to 2.20
||95 to 100
||1.20 to 1.30
||175 to 200
||3.00 to 4.00
||150 to 100
||1.80 to 2.00
||130 to 145
||105 to 110
French fresh pork, retail, 1. 90 to 2. 10 francs per kilogramme.
It should he further noted that there is no real competition between the
American salted pork and the French fresh pork. They are sold to
entirely different classes, and the statistics do not show that the
price of French pork has at any time been affected by the presence or
absence of the American importation. French fresh pork is consumed only
roasted or broiled. The American salt pork is used for boiling with
vegetables, and for that purpose is highly prized by poor families,
particularly the lowest paid among the working classes. These are the
people who have felt the deprivation most keenly. With the same money
they could formerly have meat twice as often as at present, and could
have it in many places where the French salted pork, particularly in the
summer, is not procurable. American pork, being dry salted, is easily
carried to remote districts by traveling peddlers, and, unlike the
French article, is freely retailed in groceries. The great competition
among these grocers’ shops insures sale at a low profit, while the
magnitude of the business makes it a valuable addition to their
I have ventured upon no word of complaint against your duty on pork,
which in late years you have more than doubled. We fix our own duties
from our own view of the public need and can not take exception to your
doing the same. But, considering the large advance which you have
already made, you will allow me to suggest that, in our varied
experience on this subject, it has been found that lower duties often
produce greater revenues than higher ones. They permit a liberal
importation, which an excessive duty checks or destroys. Precisely for
that reason our House of Representatives has now voted to advance
certain duties to reduce an excessive revenue. In view of the facts that
the production of salt pork in France does not meet the demand, and that
your revenue is not excessive, it can not in this case be in your
interest any more than in ours to impose a duty which would check
importation from the country which has the largest supply and can
furnish it at the lowest rate.
It is hoped that in any case the facts and considerations here set forth
may be found sufficient to convince Your Excellency that the early
withdrawal of the existing decree would be an act alike of friendliness,
of duty, and of policy.
At the outset I ventured to explain that our people, from their point of
view, thought the prohibition unfriendly and unjust. Will you permit me
to add one more reason why it seems to them to be also, from your point
of view, unwise?
You have a product, to take one example out of many, more important to
France than pork is to the United States. We import it more largely than
you ever imported our pork. Nobody in the United States says that our
pork is diseased, but your own public men have again and again admitted
the adulteration of French wines. Never in late years in the Senate of
the United States has such a whisper been heard about our pork, but it
is less than a month since the French Senate has been debating a bill to
prevent a percentage of sulphates or of soda in French wines, which the
French Academy of Medicine pronounced deleterious to health; and in the
course of that debate it was openly admitted that other drugs were used,
against which it was not so easy to guard.
There is a growing and already successful wine industry in the United
States. Surely, it is not wise for French statesmen, by persistence in
what our people think a calumniation of our product, to drive American
statesmen to listen to French exposures of their own and to consider
whether, if France still prefers prohibition to duties, the United
States has not greater reason to do the same.
But I refuse to follow that thought. Keenly as we feel the indefensible
nature of your decree, we are most anxious to avoid even a suggestion of
possible retaliation. That is a path not to be entered lightly or
without full consideration of the mutual injuries to which it may
The business of diplomacy, at any rate, is to make trade easier and
national relations more cordial, not to embitter them. We prefer to
present the facts and rely upon French good will, French justice, and
I avail, etc.