Mr. Sherman to Mr. Storer.

No. 2.]

Sir: It seems proper, before you enter upon the duties of your post, to direct your especial attention to a matter which, for a number of years past, has been the occasion of correspondence between the Governments of the United States and Belgium, and which, by reason of the obnoxious and differential treatment of the matter in Belgium, has become a subject of grave concern to this Government.

I refer to the prohibition of American cattle, sheep, and fresh beef by Belgium, as being a serious and apparently arbitrary interference with the trade of this country, which has been adopted and maintained without any adequate reason.

The instructions on file in your legation will show the elaborate proof submitted by this Government that no dangerous diseases of cattle and sheep exist in this country which would endanger the live stock of Belgium, and that no diseases have, in fact, been communicated by the [Page 33] cattle of this country to those of Belgium. Even assuming, for argument’s sake, that such diseases did exist here, or had been shown to be communicable, the regulations adopted by Great Britain, whereby animals are allowed to be landed and slaughtered at the wharves under quarantine restrictions would he a complete protection. No such measure of relief is, however, afforded. On the contrary, the Belgian prohibition goes much further, and extends to dressed beef. This prohibition is entirely unnecessary in fact, and is the more objectionable in as-much as the Government of the United States inspects and certifies to the healthfulness of all beef which is permitted shipment to all European countries. The subject is one of obvious interest to both countries and the benefits of the trade are mutual, as are the disadvantages of its prohibition. A populous country like Belgium, of comparatively limited area, must necessarily look abroad for a notable share of its food supplies and naturally must look in the most healthful and cheapest market, which the United States are prepared to furnish. An unrestricted trade in meat-producing animals and other products, if they received fair treatment in the Belgian markets, would doubtless soon develop and become an important item of our agricultural exports, while the quality and price of such products would benefit the Belgian consumer.

The immediate occasion of this instruction is found in a letter received by me from the Secretary of Agriculture, under date of May 22, with which is included a letter addressed by Messrs. Thomas Ronaldson & Co., of Antwerp, to their London house, in which certain statements in the matter are said to have been made in the course of an interview of the Antwerp Chamber of Commerce with Minister De Bruyn, at Brussels. Copy of these is inclosed for your fuller information.

It is desired that as soon as practicable after you shall have entered on the duties of your office you shall seek an interview with the minister for foreign affairs, and, if possible, through his kindly intervention, obtain opportunity to confer with the minister having charge of the matter in question. You will endeavor to impress upon the Belgian authorities the earnest conviction of the Government of the United States that the exclusion of American cattle from Belgium is as indefensible in point of fact as their prohibition of our meat products is irrational. You will invite their attention to the fact that the United States, notwithstanding their enormous area and the vast production of marketable live stock, have accomplished what no European government appears to have yet succeeded in doing under much more favorable auspices, and have exterminated pleura-pneumonia in this country. You will show the extraordinary precautions taken in the transportation of cattle through our own territory, and in their exportation therefrom, to insure absolute healthfulness at every stage from the breeding farm to the ship. You will advert to the elaborate measures adopted by this country to inspect all animal food products before exportation, and to testify to the healthfulness thereof—a system which, if it exists in any country in Europe, can not be more thoroughly organized or effective than ours is. And, without appearing to make any threatening prognosis, you will advert to the bad effects which the continuance of this causeless Belgian prohibition of our meat animals and meat products must invariably create in the minds of the national legislators, and the danger that countervailing action of some kind may be taken. It is the earnest desire of this Government to avoid all retaliatory measures, as well as pretext for retaliation.

As the Belgian Government must abundantly know by this time, the United States Government has gone out of its way to meet the technical [Page 34] and often apparently unreasonable objections of foreign governments and has adopted at great cost to itself a Federal inspection of food products unequaled in thoroughness and in the magnitude of its operations by any system of inspection known in other countries; and that, through the concurrence of the national Congress, laws have been passed giving to the executive officers of this Government powers of inspection and repression which the domestic interest of our farmers and consumers might not alone have sufficed to accord. If the true objection in Belgium, or in any other quarter, be not against a condition of the product which it is sought to export, but against any exportation of food animals or food products from this country to Belgium, it is but due to international comity that the facts should be frankly viewed, in order that they may be dealt with in equal frankness.

You will report from time to time the result of the representations you are instructed to make, and should it be represented to you that the prohibitory measures of Belgium rest upon or respond to the prohibitory legislation of England, Germany, or any other country, you may confer with the United States representatives in those countries, communicating for their information such facts in this relation as you may be able to obtain.

A copy of this instruction will be furnished to the United States ambassadors at London and Berlin for their information.

Respectfully, yours,

John Sherman.
[Inclosure in No. 2.]

Mr. Wilson to Mr. Sherman.

Sir: I have the honor to inclose for your information a copy of a letter from Messrs. Thomas Ronaldson & Co., Antwerp, Belgium, addressed to their London house, and handed to this Department by Messrs. Patterson, Ramsay & Co., steamship agents and brokers, Baltimore, Md.

The prohibition of American cattle, sheep, and fresh beef by Belgium is a serious, and apparently arbitrary, interference with the trade of this country, which has been adopted and maintained without any adequate reason. No diseases have been communicated by the cattle of this country to those of Belgium, and there are no dangerous diseases of such animals existing here which would endanger the live stock of that country. But even if there were such diseases the regulations adopted by Great Britain, allowing animals to be landed and slaughtered at the wharves, under quarantine restrictions, would be a complete protection. The prohibition of dressed beef apparently has no grounds for its support except the desire of the Agrarian party to prevent competition. This is the more evident as our Government inspects and certifies to the healthfulness of all beef which is permitted shipment to European countries. A prohibition for such a purpose ought not, however, to be tolerated by this Government, and I would urge for your consideration the question as to whether the time has [Page 35] not come when the Belgian Government should be plainly informed that the prohibition of American products must inevitably and speedily lead to the prohibition of Belgian products by this country.

It appears from the letter of Thomas Ronaldson & Co., that Minister De Bruyn would not be surprised at receiving such a communication from this Government, and that it might lead to a reconsideration of the orders now in force. An unrestricted trade in meat-producing animals and their products, if it received fair treatment in the Belgian markets, would soon develop and become a very large item of our agricultural exports. I trust that the Department of State will take up this matter and press it vigorously until American exporters receive just and fair treatment in the markets of Belgium.

Very respectfully,

James Wilson, Secretary.
[Subinclosure in No. 2.]

Messrs. Thos. Ronaldson & Co., London.

Dear Sirs: Cattle prohibition: We beg to advise you that in compliance with our persistent demands the chamber of commerce have obtained an interview with Minister De Bruyn at Brussels a day or two ago.

The deputation consisted of Mr. W. Linden, president, and Mr. Corty, secretary, of the chamber; Mr. Morren, representing the importers from the Plate; and Mr. Gregoir, representing the importers from the United States.

At the interview these gentlemen fully exposed the present position, and obtained an expression of opinion from the minister which fully confirms what we have always said, viz, that only direct pressure from the Governments interested, in the shape of a threat of retaliation, will bring about a withdrawal of the prohibitory restrictions.

The Plate shippers are now interested, seeing that by a recent ministerial order all cattle and sheep coming from the Plate or elsewhere, except the United States and Canada, must be slaughtered within three days of being landed here. In the case of the United States and Canada cattle are, of course, absolutely prohibited: Now, it is evident that this new restriction means total prohibition against Plate importations, because to compel importers to slaughter within three days would land them every time in a huge loss, as there is no tremendous demand in this small country, as there is in London, Liverpool, etc.

The minister stated that in regard to sheep he thought the measures were too drastic, and that he would be prepared to assist importers when the various shipments arrived, but this without making any definite amendment of the law.

As to cattle, he stated that the pressure brought to bear upon him by the agricultural party was such that he could not see his way to do anything but strictly follow the law as laid down by the royal and ministerial decrees.

When the deputation pointed out that it was illogical to close the frontier against cattle coming from the River Plate, where diseases had never been known, and from the United States and Canada, where only one case (and that contested) of pleuro-pneumonia had ever been stated, while the frontier was continually open for some time to cattle coming from Holland and Germany, where pleuro-pneumonia and foot-and-mouth disease were continually prevalent, he replied, “Yes, it was illogical, but it was the law and he had to follow it.” He added that until the countries interested made a direct threat of retaliation, so that he might go to the agriculturists and show them a good reason for reopening the frontier, nothing would be done. This is what we have always said, and we are more than ever convinced that until the Government at Washington do insist, nothing will be done to relieve us of these scandalous prohibitory restrictions.

We hand you herewith copy of a circular issued by Mr. Gregoir, which confirms what we have now advised you as to the interview with Minister DeBruyn. Please return this, as we wish to send it by Tuesday’s mail to Messrs. Patterson, Ramsay & Co., to whom we shall also send copy of this letter.

Yours, very truly,

Thos. Ronaldson & Co.