Mr. Uhl to Mr. Olney.

No. 283.]

Sir: Respectfully referring to my dispatch No. 253, of the 25th ultimo, in which I transmitted a copy and translation of a note which had just been received from the German foreign office, in reply to a note addressed to it by me, in regard to an alleged discrimination against American woods in the freight tariff on railways in Germany under Government control, I have the honor to inform you that upon receipt of the reply from Mr. Gartner to my letter, to which reference was made in the dispatch above mentioned, and upon examination of certain documents furnished by him bearing upon the question agitated, I concluded to again address the secretary of state for foreign affairs on the subject, and did so in a note, a copy of which is inclosed herewith.

I have, etc.,

Edwin F. Uhl.
[Inclosure in No. 283.]

Mr. Uhl to Baron Marschall.

F. O. 186.]

The undersigned, ambassador of the United States of America, has the honor to again invite the attention of His Excellency Baron Marsehall von Bieberstein, imperial secretary of state for foreign affairs, to the subject of an alleged discrimination adverse to the interests of citizens of the United States by the Prussian railway management in the matter of the collection of freight tariffs upon woods imported from the United States into Germany and transported over railways under Government control, and to inform his excellency that he has communicated the substance of the note of His Excellency Baron von Rotenhan, of the 22d ultimo, in relation thereto, to certain parties interested and engaged in shipping such American woods in Germany, and that after conference with these parties, and after a careful review and examination of the subject, including the opinions of German experts, the judgments of certain courts before which the question of such alleged discrimination has been raised and which have judicially passed upon the same, the undersigned is unable to agree with the conclusion reached by Baron von Rotenhan, as set forth in the said note, to wit, that neither the existing tariff, nor its execution, carries with it a differential treatment of wood of American origin. On the contrary, the [Page 241] undersigned is convinced that the present interpretation of the tariff by the Prussian railway management does result in an adverse and unjustifiable discrimination against woods imported from the United States, to the pecuniary disadvantage and injury of American citizens.

The asserted right to collect higher tariff in the transportation of American oak and pine than is collected from the oak and pine grown in middle Europe seems to rest upon the following hypotheses:

  • First. That these American woods belong to a particular species of a general class or genus, which general class is common to America and middle Europe, but which particular species is not cultivated for commercial purposes in middle Europe, and that there is a refined botanical distinction or difference between the American oak and pine and those of middle Europe, detected only in the appearance of the blossoms, leaves, or needles of the living tree, but not apparent or discoverable in the log, plank, timber, or lumber cut from the same.
  • Second. That these woods of American origin are of greater value than those of middle Europe.

As to the “first” above, the undersigned is advised and persuaded that it can with positiveness be asserted that there is no material or substantial difference whatever between the American product and that of middle Europe, and that no expert can distinguish an American oak or pine plank or board from one cut from a tree which grew in middle Europe. The undersigned is informed that not long since Mr. Carl Gartner, who is and has been for several years extensively engaged in shipping American lumber over Prussian railways, consigned certain Galician oak from Hamburg to Lennep, and that the railway management caused a sample to be taken from the car containing such shipment and placed it in the hands of an expert for examination, who certified, as such expert, that the sample so examined was American oak, whereas in truth it was cut from oak grown in Galicia.

As to the “second” point, the undersigned is assured that the American oak, pine, and maple are not of a greater value than the corresponding woods of middle Europe and that they do not sell for a higher price in the market; that they are devoted to the same use and have the same appearance; that they are not heavier, and that both belong to the same family. Some American oak is inferior to that of middle Europe, some is of equal value, but none is more valuable. In certain instances, according to the opinions of German experts, American white oak has been found of equal value to that of middle Europe, but not of a higher grade, either in its technical quality or the uses to which it is devoted, while the great part of American oak has been pronounced of inferior value.

In many contested causes in the German courts, in which testimony has been received as to these woods, German experts have given it as their opinion that the American pine and oak are at best of equal value to the oak and pine of middle Europe, and this conclusion has been reached from technical examination as to durability, hardness, and elasticity, from the uses to which the woods are devoted, from the prices L at which they sell, and from their specific weight. As to this, according to the authority of Forstmeister Dr. Jentsch, instructor in the Royal Academy of Forestry at Munden, American oak has a specific gravity of from 0.747 to 1.01, while that of German oak varies from 0.87 to 1.28.

The undersigned respectfully submits that it is entirely illogical and unjustifiable that in the application of the freight tariff’ a distinction should be made whereby, by reason of a refined and technical difference, [Page 242] apparent only upon examination of the living tree, American oak, pine, maple, and ash are required to pay a higher rate than the corresponding product of Russia, Austria, or Servia, because, forsooth, the leaves, blossoms, or needles of the living American trees differ slightly in appearance from those of middle Europe.

The undersigned has been informed that the proprietors of a large barrel factory, under the firm name of the M. B. Bodenheim Fassfabrik, at Cassel, has recently sued for and recovered the sum of about 8,000 marks, which represented the excess collected from him, according to the interpretation of the tariff hereby complained of, by the railway management upon certain American oak staves, which it was impossible to distinguish from the staves of middle Europe, the excess having been exacted upon the ground that the leaves or blossoms of the living American tree from which the staves were cut might have differed in appearance from the leaves or blossoms of the oak trees growing in middle Europe.

It is beyond doubt that, in formulating the tariff schedule in question, it was the intention of the framers thereof that only such woods as were used in the manufacture of valuable and expensive articles—for instance, mahogany, ebony, rosewood, etc.—should be subject to the imposition of the higher rate, upon the ground that, as the manufactured product represented a large valuation, it was but just that the raw material should be submitted to the payment of a higher rate than woods to be devoted to the manufacture of inexpensive articles. It will not for a moment be contended that oak and pine are employed in the manufacture of exceptionally rare or expensive articles.

The undersigned is informed that formerly these American woods were not subjected to the payment of the higher tariff rate now imposed, but that the present interpretation only obtained in recent years 5 and he is unable to comprehend upon what principle the exaction of a transportation rate upon a shipment of American oak or pine 50 per cent higher than upon a like shipment of Russian oak or pine of the same dimensions, the same weight, the same grade or quality, the same appearance, the same value, and devoted to the same uses, can be justified.

The undersigned has the honor to transmit herewith, with a request for their ultimate return, certain documents enumerated below, all bearing upon the question herein considered, and avails himself, etc.

Edwin. F. Uhl.