Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Blaine.

No. 208.]

Sir: With reference to your instruction No. 201, of March 4, ultimo, in relation to the operation of the British contagious diseases (animals) acts upon the importation into Great Britain of cattle and sheep from the United States, I have the honor to acquaint you that, having considered the subject, it seemed to me advisable, before presenting it formally to the Marquis of Salisbury, to have an informal conversation with Mr. Chaplin, the member of the cabinet who, as president of the board of agriculture, is charged with the administration of the above-mentioned acts. Accordingly, on Wednesday the 26th ultimo, at a personal interview with Lord Salisbury, in which I merely introduced the subject, it met with his lordship’s immediate concurrence that I should arrange an interview with Mr. Chaplin, which it was thought might facilitate my subsequent correspondence on the subject with the foreign office.

In pursuance of an appointment, I thereupon called upon Mr. Chaplin on the 1st instant, there being present with him Mr. Brown, the professional officer of the board. As our interview was nearly an hour in length, I will not undertake to give more than its substance. I soon perceived that there was little if any ground for hoping for a change of Mr. Chaplin’s views that the reported cases of pleura-pneumonia in American cattle were all of the contagious type.

Mr. Brown expressed no doubt of the possibility of these cases being clearly distinguished from the noncontagious inflammation, and said that in slaughtering many of the noncontagious class of cases were discovered, but no account was made of them, the only published cases being those decided to be contagious. Upon my suggestion that the cases for 1888 and 1889 were in each year only about 1 in 6,000 of the cattle imported, indicating the absence of contagion on shipboard, the [Page 320]reply was, first, that the cattle thrown overboard at sea, of which they had no report beyond their number, might have died from such contagion; and, second, that their experience showed the disease to be a lurking trouble, which might not cause contagion within the time of a voyage, and possibly for months; and that the absence of contagion on shipboard, therefore, was not considered important as a test. The annual report of the department of agriculture for 1889 was presented in Parliament on the 31st ultimo, and will not be in print before the end of this month, but Mr. Chaplin referred to the fact that it shows 47 contagious cases from the United States in 1889, and added that 4 cases had been reported for 1890 (I have since learned of 2 more cases just reported). He said thereupon that, having in view the large sum he was asking for with which to stamp out the disease here, he could not, in the face of such reports, see his way to a relaxation of the present restrictions on our cattle.

Upon my mentioning the ten days’ limitation for slaughter as tending to force sales, it was said, as I understood, that that time is a reduction from a former fourteen days’ period, made at the wish of a large number of consignees of cattle; that in fact most of the cattle are slaughtered well within the limit; and that it was believed that an extension of the period would not affect the market, which is regulated only by the demand for consumption; and that it would require an enlargement of the cattle wharves, which are sometimes so choked, especially at Liverpool, that arriving vessels can not discharge their cargoes for several days. This was suggested as an indication that any benefit to the seller expected from a mere extension of the time for slaughter would be overcome by the competition of new arrivals.

Of course what I have already mentioned as Mr. Chaplin’s views in relation to the relaxation of the present restrictions upon cattle would influence him against yielding to a British pressure for the free importation of store cattle; but beyond that he, in a passing remark, indicated his belief that the desire in Great Britain for the free importation of cattle from the United States for fattening is entertained by very few; and that if the subject were mooted there would be great remonstrance from the farming community generally. It is clear that upon his present information he would not believe in the soundness of an argument for the free importation of store cattle based on the desire for it being popular here.

I do not believe I am in error in thinking that, aside from any consideration of protecting the home cattle market (which it may be improper to suspect as having influence), the anxiety in respect to pleuro-pneumonia in cattle, existing both in the board of agriculture and in the House of Commons, is so great as to prevent “free” importation of cattle from the United States until after cases in our cargoes determined here to be contagious are no longer to be found.

I inclose a clipping from the Parliamentary proceedings of the 1st instant, upon the second reading of the new bill for stamping out the disease among cattle in Great Britain, involving a large expenditure from the treasury, estimated at £140,000 per annum, from wbich it will be seen that the opposition cordially support the Government in the matter. As the case of the Netherlands is therein specially mentioned, it is interesting to note the application of the British acts to the cattle from that country, as shown in the report for 1888. The annual importation for 1875 and 1876 was over 81,000, the cattle being “free” or “not subject to slaughter.” Upon reports not before me, they were [Page 321]then made “subject to slaughter,” and from that time the annual importation averaged about 40,000. I have not the record of contagious cases before 1884, but for that year, and since, none were reported in cattle from the Netherlands, though they were not put on the “free” list until March 1, 1889.

In respect to sheep brought from the United States, which under the present rules are also required to be slaughtered within ten days after landing, the conversation led me to believe that the board of agriculture does not now fear contagion from our sheep, and would offer no objection to the United States being put on the list of “free countries” as to those animals, if the preventive laws of the United States as to the importation of sheep from countries in the British list of “prohibited countries” were satisfactory, subject, however, to “conditions of landing” of the character shown at page 17 of the inserted prefix to the Handbook—Contagious Diseases (Animals) Acts and Orders of Council, of which two copies are herewith sent. I was not prepared at the interview to make any statement as to the condition of our laws on the point indicated; and as I should not feel safe in reaching a conclusion from the examination I could make here (remembering, as I do, such obscure methods of legislation as were taken, for instance, in building up the “Signal Service” of the Army, and in the first enactment allowing parties to testify in United States courts), I beg that full information may be sent me.

If it shall appear that the safeguards are sufficient, it seems to me that it would be advisable to endeavor at once to deal with the restriction upon the importation of sheep as a separate matter, and make so much of a break in the wall.

In the matter of the proposal to station one or more of the veterinary inspectors of the Department of Agriculture of the United States at the British foreign animals wharves, it was intimated to me that there would be no difficulty about it, and that every facility would be given them to assist in tracing the history of animals reported as affected by contagious diseases.

There seems, therefore, to be nothing in the way of making at once the application desired by the Secretary of Agriculture, but I suggest that it might be advisable to indicate in the request the number at first thought to be needed. For the years 1888 and 1889 the landings of cattle from the United States were as follows:

Place of landing. 1888. 1889.
Bristol 2,910 13,068
Glasgow 14,807 33,394
Hull 1,248 2,855
Liverpool 70,727 143,434
London (Deptford) 52,492 99,902
Total 142,184 292,653

These figures perhaps indicate the propriety of stationing a chief inspector at London, who would visit Bristol and Hull when necessary, and a subordinate at Liverpool and another at Glasgow. I will therefore await a further instruction by cable or otherwise upon this suggestion and will, upon its receipt, hope to be able to make at once satisfactory arrangements on this point.

I have, etc.,

Robert T. Lincoln.