Mr. Gresham to Mr. Le Ghait.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 23d of December last, in which you ask an expression of the views of the Government of the United States relative to a proposition for convening an international commission for the unification of the systems of admeasuring seagoing vessels in the various countries concerned.

The matter was promptly referred to the Treasury Department, and I am now in receipt of a letter of the 30th ultimo from the Acting Secretary of the Treasury which contains the conclusions of that Department.

“While the Government of the United States recognizes the utility of uniformity among commercial nations in the methods of admeasuring vessels and is willing to cooperate in any practical measure to establish such uniformity, at the present time it is disposed to believe that more rapid progress toward the desired end can be effected through correspondence and through the concentration of efforts on the law-making branches of the governments of the commercial nations interested than through the convocation of an international conference. It is confirmed in its belief by a view of the parliamentary history of the establishment of the regulations for admeasurement in vogue in the various countries, subsequent to and based upon the adoption of the “Moorsom” system by Great Britain in 1854. It deems applicable in part to the proposition for an international tonnage conference the conclusions of the international maritime conference of 1889 concerning the proposed establishment of a permanent international maritime commission. Those conclusions, to which the delegates from Belgium, Chile, France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, and the United States assented were: ‘It seems to your committee that such a consulting body of experts would not serve the purpose for which it is intended to be created, viz, that of facilitating the introduction of reforms in maritime legislation, because the advice given by such a commission would not in any way enable the governments of the maritime nations to dispense with the necessity of considering the subjects laid before them and laying the proposals made to them, if adopted, before the legislative bodies of the different states. The consequence of instituting a body like that in question, on the contrary, would, it appears, be this: That merely another investigation of any scheme proposed with a view to reforming international maritime laws would have to be gone through before the opinions of the governments could be taken, and thus the course of procedure as it is now—by correspondence between the different governments—would be made more complicated instead of being simplified.’”

It should be observed that the British Government, so far as this Department is aware, has taken no steps to carry out the recommendations of the London International Statistical Institute to which you refer, and that the letter of that institute is based largely upon a report by Mr. M. A. N. Kiaer, director of the Norwegian Bureau of Statistics, whose Government has since (September 14, 1893) enacted a law covering the matter of admeasurements in Norway, and conforming, with certain exceptions, to the system now existing in Great Britain and the United States.

Accept, etc.,

W. Q. Gresham.