Mr. Durham to Mr. Gresham.

No. 228.]


* * * * * * *

The question of the detention of sailing vessels for the payment of customs duties has been raised by the firm of Green, Knaebel & Co., copy of whose communication I inclose.1 * * * I inclose also a copy of my reply, in which I inform Messrs. Green, Knaebel & Co. that I have no instructions concerning the suggestion that a test case be made.

The records at the Department are so complete on this subject that it does not seem necessary for me to enter into a detailed report of the case. It seems that the custom of detaining sailing vessels was based originally on an executive decree, not confirmed by Congressional legislation. In Mr. Douglass to Mr. Blaine, No. 179, diplomatic, of June 27, 1891, Mr. Douglass quotes from the annual message of the President of Haiti to the National Congress to the effect that the executive department admits that there is no law for the detention of sailing vessels for the payment of duties. The Congress failed to take any action, and I was instructed to exercise my good offices in the matter. * * *

It has seemed to me that with this official statement from the President that no law existed for the discrimination against sailing vessels, two remedies were possible: either a decree from the President annulling the decree under which the vessels are detained, or a decision from a Haitian court that the detention is without warrant at law. The latter seemed to me to be the more practical, and I ventured to make the observation to that effect in my No. 71, of June 10, 1892. Since that time I have had no word from the Department on the subject.

I have, etc.,

John S. Durham.
  1. Enclosures not printed.