Mr. Ewing to Mr. Gresham.

No. 97B.]

Sir: Referring to my dispatch No. 83,2 I have the honor to state that the 3d of October, 1894, I addressed the following communication to the Count de Merode, secretary for foreign affairs for Belgium:

Legation of the United States,
Brussels, October 3, 1894.

Count: I have the honor to call your attention again to the ministerial decree of the 25th of August, 1894, prohibiting the landing of American cattle in the ports of Belgium, and I desire most respectfully to submit to you the following suggestions:

1. Between the 19th day of April and the 2d day of September of this year there were disembarked at the port of Antwerp 3,376 head of American cattle.

The carrying of this stock was by Belgian shipowners, and the beeves were sold at Antwerp and at Brussels. This trade had been induced and was established by the efforts of citizens of Belgium. This trade has been entirely destroyed by the decree above referred to and diverted to Havre and Liverpool.

2. The United States Government has established stringent rules and regulations with a view of preventing if possible the exportation from that country of diseased cattle. Veterinary inspectors are stationed at all the stock yards in the United States for the purpose of procuring a complete record of all the cattle destined for export.

This record is a complete history of each animal from the time it leaves the farm until it reaches the stock yards. These veterinary inspectors are required to inspect all export cattle, every one of which is properly tagged. A report of each cattle-carrying steamer which leaves the United States is sent to the Government veterinary inspector at the port where the steamer lands. Those reports contain the exporter’s name, the name of the steamer, the number of cattle, and the tag number of each animal. In case any disease should be discovered, the veterinary inspector is required to cable the tag number of the animal to the United States Department of Agriculture, when immediate steps are taken to retrace the animal in question to the farm from which it came. Out of the immense number of American cattle shipped to England since the 1st of April, 1891, to the present time, about seventy cases of what the English authorities claimed to be pleuro-pneumonia have been discovered, and those all prior to November, 1893. Each and every one of these cases was cabled to Washington and the animals successfully traced without finding a single case of pleuro-pneumonia on the farm from which the alleged cases came or anywhere in the neighborhood, and I am authorized by the Secretary for the Department of Agriculture of my Government to say that not a single case of contagious pleuro-pneumonia has been known to exist anywhere in the United States during the past three years, notwithstanding the incessant effort of the Department to discover the disease during the interval above stated.

3. Out of the 3,376 head of American cattle landed in Belgium between the 19th of April and the 2d of September of this year, only two cases of illness of any kind have been discovered, and as to those cases a difference of opinion existed between the United States veterinary, Dr. Wray, who examined the lungs of the animals, and the Belgian veterinary authorities.

These two bullocks came on the steamship Minnesota in a cargo of 350 head. This cargo was shipped from Baltimore on the 29th of July, and arrived at Antwerp on the 14th of August of this year, all the cattle in apparent good condition.

[Page 26]

Prior to the issuance of the ministerial decree, 291 head of those cattle had been killed, only two of which were in any way affected, and they so slightly that they were permitted to be sold in the market. The remaining 59 head were afterwards slaughtered at the “abattoir public,” and were found in good condition.

Since that time, under the exceptional conditions contained in the decree, another cargo of American cattle has been slaughtered at Antwerp without finding any evidence of disease.

4. It would not be profitable and I have no desire to enter into the controversy between the medical authorities as to the nature of the malady in question, but readily concede the wisdom of the minister of agriculture, industry, and public works in taking the precautionary measures effectuated by his decree of the 25th of August. It was but reasonable that he should rely solely on the examination and the opinions of the Belgian medical authorities and to have taken the benefit of any doubt which may have existed as to the nature and character of the malady in question.

5. My Government is sensible of and appreciates the prompt and courteous action of the minister for agriculture, industry, and public works in making the exception embodied in paragraph 2 of the decree, and relying on the assurance contained in your excellency’s letter of the 7th of September that it is the wish of the Government of the King that circumstances may permit as soon as possible the withdrawal of the decree of the 25th of August, 1894, instructs me to again bring this matter to the attention of His Majesty’s Government and, in view of the facts hereinbefore stated, to respectfully request that the said decree will be at an early date withdrawn.

Expressing my thanks in advance for any courtesy extended in this matter, I profit, etc.,

James S. Ewing.

In answer to this communication I have just received from the minister for foreign affairs a letter, of which the following is a translation:

Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Brussels, January 8, 1895.

Mr. Minister: Owing to the appearance of contagious pleuro-pneumonia among the bovine animals disembarked at Antwerp in the month of August last, a decree of the minister of agriculture, dated August 25, 1894, subjected the animals of the bovine species coming from the United States of America to a quarantine of forty-five days.

The letter that your excellency had the kindness to address me on that subject the 3d of October last has been on the part of the competent administration the object of an attentive examination, and the intention of the Government of the King was to suspend, or at least to attenuate, the measure above referred to as soon as the sanitary condition would permit it.

Unfortunately new conditions have arisen to place the department under the obligation of increasing, on the contrary, the dispositions in question.

On the 25th of December last contagious pleuro-pneumonia was discovered on two steers coming from the United States of America, and disembarked at Antwerp on the 17th day of the same month, per steamship Canadia.

In the presence of such a condition of things, my colleague has felt obliged to issue a new decree that prohibits, until further order, the entry and the transit of animals of the bovine species coming from the United States.

In transmitting to your excellency two copies of the text of this decree, I wish to give you the assurance that the Government of the King will not fail to waive the new measure as soon as circumstances will permit to do so.

Please accept, etc.,

Merode Westerloo.

I inclose herewith a printed copy and translation of the order above referred to.

About the 17th of December last the United States veterinary inspector, Dr. Wray, paid me a visit, at which time he informed me of the occurrence with reference to the affected cattle at Antwerp.

He stated to me that he had examined the lungs of the animals; that they were affected in a similar manner to the animals first referred to, and that in his judgment the trouble was catarrhal pneumonia and not contagious pleuro-pneumonia.

It will be observed that a period of more than five months elapsed between the first and second discovery of what is claimed to be a contagious [Page 27] disease in American cattle disembarked at Antwerp, and about three months of time have elapsed since the attention of the Belgian Government was called to the question of withdrawing the ministerial order of the 25th of August, and the response to my communication.

Without submitting any comments or making any suggestions on the situation, I respectfully refer the matter to the Department, and ask for such instructions as may be thought necessary.

I have, etc.,

Jas. S. Ewing
[Inclosure in No. 97 B.—Translation.]

Decree of December 29, 1894.

The minister of agriculture, industry, labor, and public works, considering the law of the 30th of December, 1882, on the sanitary police of domestic animals, as well as the general administration regulations of the 20th of September, 1883, adopted in execution of this law; considering again the ministerial order of the 25th of August, 1894, subjecting to a quarantine of forty-five days animals of the bovine species shipped from the United States of America, contagious pleuro-pneumonia having been discovered among animals of this origin; considering that the same contagious affection was discovered on the 25th of December, 1894, in two animals shipped from the aforesaid country and disembarked at Antwerp on the 17th day of the same month; considering the advice of the veterinary inspection service, orders:

  • Article 1. The importation and the transit of animals of the bovine species coming from the United States of America are interdicted until ulterior disposition.
  • The direct transit of these animals can be made by railway only and in sealed wagons, and without being unloaded en route.
  • Article 2. By exceptional measure, animals of the origin indicated in the preceding article, in course of shipment before the 2d day of January, 1895, may be disembarked at Antwerp under the condition of being subjected in the port of that city to a quarantine of forty-five days at least, or may be directed toward a public slaughterhouse, to be there butchered in the delay provided for by the regulation dispositions.
  • Article 3. The order above referred to of the 7th of December, 1894,1 is repealed.

Léon de Bruyn
  1. Ibid., p. 50.
  2. This date here given should evidently be August 25, 1894.