Mr. Smythe to Mr. Gresham.
Port au Prince, Haiti, November 28, 1893.
(Received December 13.)
Sir: In answer to your No. 4, relating to the detention of sailing vessels, I have the honor to note your instructions and to suggest that an entirely new phase has been added to the question. I have by diligent inquiry and study of the matter reached the following conclusions: First, by custom the sailing vessels are permitted to discharge their cargoes direct into the warehouses of the consignees, and hence the customs agents have not the “ample security” suggested in your correspondence, having in fact only the “good faith” of the consignees and the “custody of the vessel.” It has been suggested that this custom has grown out of the necessities of the situation to some extent, because very often the consignee finds it convenient to realize on his cargo before paying the duties.
The disclosure of this state of affairs has prevented me from bringing the matter up in the way suggested, and leaves to this legation now as far as I can see only one course and that is that sailing vessels be placed on the same footing as steamers, which discharge the cargoes direct into the custom-house, and hence are not detained. The object of this dispatch (after replying to your No. 4) is to make it plain to the Department that the customs agents have no custody of the cargoes of sailing vessels, they having been allowed to deliver their goods direct to the consignees. Whether this may be the fault of sailing masters [Page 354]in not having proper “agreements” at their ports of clearance seems to be a question. At any rate the facts disclosed place the whole subject in an entirely new light, and I feel that I should report the new status to the Department.
Incidentally I may add that a change now, such as I suggest—(i. e.,) to place sailing vessels in the same category as steamers—would work more or less inconvenience to merchants who have been utilizing the time (so irksome to the masters of vessels) in disposing of enough of their cargo to pay off the duties.
At the first opportunity I shall endeavor to determine the attitude of the Haitian Government in the matter.
I have, etc.,