Mr. Gray to Mr. Gresham.

No. 275.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the Department’s dispatches Nos. 177 and 208, respectively, dated January 29 and April 10, 1894, relative to discriminating duties levied and collected by the Mexican Government from American vessels.

On receipt of your No. 177, and under date of February 12, 1894, I addressed letters of inquiry, to obtain the information desired by the [Page 400] Department, to the American consuls at Vera Cruz, Tampico, Mérida, Acapulco, Mazatlan, and Guayinas, ports of Mexico. These letters were identical with the one addressed to Mr. Schaefer (see inclosure No. 1).

The delay of this reply to your No. 177 has been occasioned by the failure of the consuls fully to answer my inquiries. I herewith inclose copies of all correspondence in the case, including requests by me for further information.

It appears from advices (see inclosures) that the Mexican Government continues to levy and collect discriminating duties from American vessels.

I am, etc.,

Isaac P. Gray.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 275.—Discrimination by Mexico against American vessels.]

Mr. Gray to Mr. Schaefer.

My Dear Sir: The Mexican Congress enacted a law on the 12th of December, 1883, granting certain deductions in import duties upon foreign goods imported into Mexico in Mexican vessels. In view of said discrimination by the Mexican Government in favor of Mexican vessels, the Secretary of the United States Treasury, in pursuance of section 2502 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, issued on the 24th of May, 1889, circular 9402, directing that a discriminating duty of 10 per centum ad valorem, in addition to the import duties paid on goods imported in vessels of the United States, should be levied and collected upon goods imported in Mexican vessels, and it was further ordered by the Secretary of the Treasury that $1 per ton should be collected from Mexican vessels entering United States ports, instead of 3 cents per ton therefor, collected under the act of June 19, 1886.

The Mexican Government, through its minister at Washington,1 has informed the Department of State that the provisions of the Mexican law of December 12, 1883, under which said discrimination was made in favor of Mexican vessels, has been repealed, that foreign vessels are now placed by Mexico on an equal footing with Mexican vessels, and requesting the Government of the United States to suspend its said circular 9402, and to discontinue its discriminating tonnage dues.

I am instructed to ascertain whether or not the Mexican Government continues to discriminate in any manner, either by rebates or otherwise, against American steam vessels or American sailing vessels, or the cargoes of either, imported into or exported from Mexico, from or to the United States, or from or to any other foreign country. For a full understanding of the nature of this inquiry your attention is invited to the inclosures enumerated below.

You will please give the matter your particular attention and report to me at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely yours,

Isaac P. Gray.
[Page 401]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 275.]

Mr. Schaefer to Mr. Gray.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your communication of February 12, with inclosures as stated.

In reply will say that the discrimination against all foreign sailing vessels still continues, and if any orders not to collect the $1.50 tonnage duty have been given, I have no knowledge of its noncollection; in fact, the contrary is the case. An American schooner, the Millie Williams, arrived here from Pascagoula, Miss., on January 18, 1894, laden with lumber, and the $1.50 per ton was collected on her cargo. Since then no American sailing vessel has arrived at this port laden with anything on which these dues could be collected. As you are doubtless aware, this duty is collected only from sailing vessels, steamers not being charged any tonnage duty. The discrimination is against all foreign sailing vessels. The Mexican sailing vessels do not pay the tonnage duty. I would say, however, that no Mexican vessel has come into this port from the United States since my arrival here, some eight months since, but that previous to that time the only charge against them was $50 for light-house dues. In all other respects, so far as I can learn, this tonnage duty is the only difference between charges for Mexican vessels and foreign.

While on this subject I wish to call your attention to a matter that appears to me could be remedied and would redound to the benefit of the American marine. I allude to the Mexican law governing masters and officers of national (Mexican) steamers. This law, in common with the general maritime laws of all nations, provides that masters, chief officers, and engineers of all vessels flying the Mexican flag shall be naturalized Mexican citizens.

The exceptions to this law should, in my opinion, be that a properly qualified engineer of any nationality should be permitted to ship in charge of the mechanical department of any national Mexican steamship. My reason for this is, that a thorough knowledge of the art of mechanical engineering can only be obtained by the Mexican citizen outside the limits of his country. As a consequence of this law, owners of steamships who would find it greatly to their advantage are prevented from nationalizing their steamers on account of being compelled to place the most important department of their vessels in the hands of inexperienced men. Could this concession be obtained, the American mariner would be benefited in other respects; the law could be complied with by the utilization of so-called “paper officers,” leaving the ship actually in command and under the management of practical American seamen and engineers.

I am, etc.,

Charles Schaefer,
U. S. Consul.
[Inclosure 3 in No. 275.]

Mr. Gibson to Mr. Gray.

Sir: I have been detained in answering your inquiry of February 12, 1894, for the fact that I could (not) until now get the necessary information.

[Page 402]

In replying I herewith inclose statement from William Lunn & Co., lumber merchants at this port. The same is self-explaining, though by no means as explicit as I would have liked.

You will see from this that all American vessels are required to pay $1.50 per ton at landing, also 5 per cent pilotage, as well as light-house dues in and out, which amounts to $50.

The inclosure shows plainly the amount paid by Lunn & Co. on six lumber vessels all landing between January 14, 1893, and January 14, 1894, and also shows the difference in the measurement here and the actual register tonnage. I wish to call your attention to the fact that there are no Mexican vessels landing at this port with cargo from ports in the United States. All of the six mentioned in inclosure are lumber vessels from Puget Sound and sailing under our flag.

I will make further investigations when the St. Paul arrives from San Francisco on the 4th of the coming month, and should I get further facts will report to you at once.

I am, etc.,

John S. Gibson, Jr.,
U. S. Consul.
[Subinclosure A in No. 275.]

Statement of dues paid by American vessels from January 14, 1893, to January 14, 1894, consigned to William Lunn & Co.

Name. Tonnage. Lighthouse. Pilotage. Total. Measurement here. Register tonnage. Discrepancy in measurements here and register tonnage.
American schooner Corona $724.77 $50.00 $51.12 $825.89 483.19 374.65 108.40
American schooner Zampa 583.74 50.00 56.37 690.11 389.16 366.48 22.68
English bark Mysterious Star 1 coal. 50.00 71.37 121.37
American schooner Mary E. Russ 362.09 50.00 55.00 467.09 241.40 223.70 17.70
American schooner Robert 939.35 50.00 70.12 1,059.47 626.23 585.22 41.01
American schooner Newsboy 938.96 50.00 75.12 1,064.08 625.98 559.37 65.51
American schooner Hueneme 704.31 50.00 44.25 798.56 469.54 346.77 112.77
American schooner Zampa 583.74 50.00 56.87 690.61
Total 4,836.96 400.00 480.22 5,717.18
[Inclosure 4 in No. 275.]

Mr. McCasky to Mr. Gray.

Sir: Your letter relative to discrimination against American shipping with its several inclosures, under date of February 12, reached this office February 27.

I have secured a list of charges imposed at this port and which I copy below. As far I can learn they are assessed without discrimination and follow the provisions of the general federal laws.

Foreign steamers and sailing vessels with cargo of general merchandise pay the following charges: Tonnage dues, $1.50 per register ton, paid only in the first port; pilotage, $1.75 per foot draft coming in, and the same going out; discharging, $8 in stamps; clearance of the custom-house, having cargo, $8; clearance of the captain of the port, [Page 403] $4; bill of health, etc., $4.50; certificate of call, 50 cents. The lighthouse at this port being the property of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, no light-house dues are paid here.
Foreign steam and sailing vessels having no special contract pay the charges enumerated in No. I, except tonnage dues. No tonnage dues are collected in this instance.
Steamers of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, and vessels carrying coal for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, and vessels carrying coal for the Pacific Mail Steamship Company under a contract with the Mexican Government pay no tonnage dues, and pilotage is reduced to $2 for each vessel, but payable at every port, at which all other charges are the same as in No. I.
As you are aware, vessels that come to Mexican ports to take out of the country lumber or timber are measured again in order to ascertain their capacity in cubic meters, in conformity with the international treaty of Constantinople, and tonnage dues are then paid on tons of cubic meters. German vessels are not subjected to remeasurement, but the captain of port takes the ship’s certificate, which, in the case of German sailing vessels and steamers, gives the measurement of the vessels in cubic meters.
I have never known, nor can I discover, that a vessel of any character, under the Mexican flag, ever discharged cargo here which she loaded in a foreign port.
Beside the Pacific Mail Steamship Company’s steamers there have been but four calls at this port in three years from vessels carrying the flag of the United States; two of these, loaded with coal, were consigned to the Pacific Mail Steamship Company and paid no tonnage dues, and a pilotage fee of only $2; the other two came to this port to have their capacity determined in cubic meters; this done, they took their cargoes at several small ports north of Acapulco. Vessels of all nations are treated the same in this particular, as far as I can learn.

From the information given above it will be perceived that data do not exist here to determine “whether or not the Mexican Government discriminates, in any way, either by rebates or otherwise against American steam vessels or American sailing vessels, or the cargoes of either, imported into or exported from Mexico from or to the United States, or from or to any other foreign country.”

This report would have been transmitted at an earlier date had I been able to secure the information which I desired sooner.

Trusting I may have given you some little information which may be of some value to you in the investigation which you are making, I beg to remain, etc.,

James F. McCasky,
U. S. Consul.
[Inclosure 5 in No. 275.]

Mr. Davis to Mr. Gray.

Sir: I have thus far delayed responding to your dispatch of February 12, 1894, with inclosures from the Secretary of Treasury requesting information concerning discriminating rebates, etc., in favor of Mexican vessels, in the hope of soon being able to formulate a reply based upon official records. This, however, I have not yet been able to do. Mean [Page 404] while I beg to advise you that, from all the information I have been able to procure from ship masters and agents, as well as from inquiries prosecuted by John Waddle, consular agent at Progreso, a copy of whose letter bearing date March 19, 1894, I herewith inclose, I am satisfied that no such discrimination as is contemplated in your dispatch or its inclosures exists in my consular district.

I am, etc.,

M. L. Davis.
[Inclosure 6 in No. 275.]

Mr. Waddle to Mr. Davis, the consul at Merida.

Sir: The result of my inquiry re information required by U. S. legation, Mexico, is as follows:

The rebate of 2 per cent custom duties on Mexican vessels, given as a stimulus to their own flag, has been removed at this port; that American vessels bringing foreign merchandise to this port pay equal to any other nationality except those carrying mails, which pay no light dues; also Mexican coasting vessels carrying mail are free from light dues. This favor is extended to all nationalities trading with Mexico. Called mail steamers by permission of the Mexican Government run free of light dues.

My informant, although a Government employé, does not give this officially, as it should come from the collector of customs; therefore, call it casual information collected in the port. Otherwise, authority to ask the collector personally if you think it necessary.

I am, etc.,

John Waddle.
[Inclosure 7 in No. 275.]

Mr. de Cima to Mr. Gray.

Sir: Your favor of the 12th ultimo has not been answered sooner on account of my being ill.

I have looked up the matter closely, and have been in consultation with several officials and prominent merchants at this port and two American sea captains, and have ascertained that there is no discrimination going on either in favor or against any nationality as regards port charges.

As to the collections of duties on goods from the United States, nothing can be said, as only American vessels do the traffic, there being no Mexican vessels in this consular district that can do other than coast traffic, excepting the steamship Alyandro, which formerly made yearly trips to San Francisco to be repaired, but is now so disabled that she had to be put here in the docks for repairs.

All foreign vessels are put on a level with American vessels, and the fees they have to pay are alike. In only one particular is there any difference.

[Page 405]

The German vessels pay their tonnage dues according to the number of tons represented in their register, whereas the American vessels are remeasured, and always pay from 30 to 50 per cent more than they should pay according to their register.

I also take the liberty of calling your attention to the poor will shown our vessels. On the 28th of February the American schooner Viking sailed from this port to Altata with general freight from San Francisco. She arrived at the bar of Altata, according to the vessel’s log book, March 3 at 6 p.m., and was compelled to wait for a pilot. On the fourth day after their arrival they saw a small steamer about 100 yards ahead of them, and, thinking it was the pilot, they hove anchor, but the chain broke, losing 15 fathoms of chain and the anchor. They waited for awhile, and, seeing that no pilot appeared, they sailed back to Mazatlan to buy a new anchor, being absolutely necessary so as to enter the port of Altata, and arrived here March 8 at 5 o’clock p.m., according to the log book. Forty-five minutes after anchoring, seeing that the authorities did not visit the vessel, the captain came ashore so as to inform his agents of the cause of his return, and get a new anchor.

The captain of port, hearing this, went to the vessel to take possession of her, but the captain had already returned; however, they fined him $500, but the fine was reduced to $25. After purchasing a new anchor the vessel set sail again for Altata.

Hoping to receive your further orders, I am, etc.,

Arthur de Cima,
Acting Consul.
[Inclosure 8 in No. 275.]

Mr. Maguire to Mr. Gray.

Dear Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letters of February 12 and March 28, in relation to discriminating charges against American tonnage.

I beg leave to state that I have presented the question to the honorable collector of customs and he now has the matter under advisement. On next Monday I am promised a reply in an official form.

The fact is that discriminations are made to the extent of $1.50 a ton against registered sail vessels of the United States. This charge applies to all sail vessels other than national Mexican vessels arriving at a port in Mexico laden with general cargo or lumber.

On February 12, 1894, the American schooner Fannie Whitmore arrived at the port of Tampico with a cargo of pine lumber from Sabine Pass. On the 7th day of March the said schooner paid to the collector of customs $881.22 as a tonnage tax on 587.48 tons.

The official United States registered-tonnage certificate is not recognized; a new measurement is made or an addition of 28.3 per cent is added to the United States register to make the tonnage conform to the Constantinople standard, by which the authorities claim to be governed. This method of measurement is said to apply to all vessels, national or foreign. The charge against a United States registered sail vessel of 1,000 tons at $1.50 per ton equals $1,500. By this new [Page 406] measurement this sail vessel would be charged as of 1,283 tons at $1.50 per ton, which would equal a payment of $1,924.50.

A registered American sail vessel arriving at a port in Mexico coal or coke laden is exempted from the payment of the aforesaid tax of $1.50 per ton; if said vessel takes in cargo outward bound, she has to pay the tonnage tax.

All steamers, no matter with what laden, are admitted without paying a tonnage tax.

The tariff of the Republic of Mexico promulgated January 25, 1885, and now in force, article 18, imposes a duty, or tax, of $1.50 per ton on all foreign sail vessels laden otherwise than with coal or coke.

Article 20, page 4, exempts Mexican vessels from tonnage dues. Article 21 makes pilotage compulsory on foreign vessels. In addition to pilotage, a compulsory fee of $12 is exacted at this port, said to be for the use of the pilot boat. With Mexican vessels the employment of a pilot and the use of the pilot boat is optional. This is a decided discrimination, from the fact that the so-called pilot boat is merely an open yawl boat, unfit to go outside except in a smooth sea. Frequent instances occur that masters of vessels become impatient at the delay, and sail or steam inside the jetties without the aid of a pilot or the use of a boat, yet payment has to be made for boat and pilotage. No doubt but that the Federal authorities would remedy the evil by supplying a proper pilot boat if their attention were directed to the subject.

I am, etc.,

Jno. Maguire,
U. S. Consul.
[Inclosure 9 in No. 275.]

Mr. Maguire to Mr. Gray.

Dear Sir: I inclose you the official response to my inquiry as to discriminations against American vessels.

I find that I was misinformed as to one particular; that is, the charge of tonnage dues in sail vessels arriving with coal. This response asserts that sail vessels arriving with coal or arriving in ballast are not charged tonnage dues upon going out when laden with national goods.

The item of discrimination is against American sail vessels arriving at a Mexican port laden with lumber or general cargo. They are charged $1.50 Mexican currency per ton, not of the register, but upon a new measurement, which makes them pay 28.3 per cent in addition to their United States register; for instance, a 1,000-ton vessel pays dues on 1,283 tons.

Pilotage for American steam or sail vessels is compulsory also. At this port a fee of $6 in and $6 out is collected for the use of a pilot boat. The pilotage of Mexican national vessels is optional. The charges per foot are based on the Mexican standard of 11 English inches to the foot.

No legal discrimination is made as to American steam vessels. No tonnage tax is collected under any circumstances.

Hoping that I have made myself clear on this subject, I am, etc.,

John Maguire.
[Page 407]
[Subinclosure A in No. 275.—Translation.]

Mr. Castello to Mr. Maguire.

Agreeably to your verbal request bearing on the memorandum you handed me touching information you sought regarding the light-house and tonnage dues imposed on Mexican and foreign vessels in their movements at this port, I beg to hand you a statement explanatory of the different methods pursued, as set forth in your memorandum.

Your obedient servant,

José F. Castello.

[Subinclosure B in No. 275—Translation.]

Data given by the Maritime Custom-Home to the consul of the United States of America, Mr. John Maguire, as to the manner in which light-house and tonnage dues are paid by foreign steam and sailing vessels, and cases wherein Mexican vessels are subject to charges.

Foreign steam vessels are exempted in all cases from tonnage dues, paying only light-house charges, $100 at entry and $100 on departure, in the following manner:

When they arrive in ballast and depart in the same manner they do not pay dues, but if they come in ballast and depart loaded with national products, they pay, on departure, $100.

Should they enter loaded and depart in ballast or loaded with national products, they shall pay in either case $100 on entrance and $100 on departure.

Foreign sailing vessels are subject to tonnage and light-house dues amounting to $25 entrance and $25 on departure, as follows:

When these vessels enter loaded with general merchandise they shall pay tonnage in proportion to their register and light-house dues of $25 on entrance and $25 on departure, even if in ballast.

If they arrive in ballast and depart loaded they shall not pay any tonnage dues, and pay only light-house dues of $25 on departure.

If they arrive loaded with coal and general merchandise they shall pay tonnage charges only on the said general merchandise and not on the coal, which is exempted therefrom; but they must pay light-house charges, to wit, $50 on entry and departure.

When they arrive loaded with coal alone, whether they depart in ballast or loaded, they shall not pay tonnage dues, but light-house dues on entry and departure.

If they come in ballast and depart likewise they are not subject to these charges.

In general: Foreign sailing ships shall not pay tonnage dues, provided they enter loaded with coal or in ballast, and shall only pay light-house dues in the rare event of entries in ballast and departing in the same manner.

Mexican steam and sailing vessels are only subject to light-house dues when they are loaded with foreign merchandise bound for any of the ports of the Republic. They are exempted from tonnage dues in all cases.

  1. See correspondence with Mexican legation at Washington, pp. 397, 308.