Mr. Hay to Mr. von Holleben.
Washington , June 2, 1899 .
Excellency: As I had the honor to inform you on the 16th ultimo, I on that date requested the Secretary of Agriculture, to whom your note of March 10 last had previously been referred, to expedite a reply thereto with as little delay as possible.
In that note you cite the provisions of the act of Congress, approved March 1, 1899, relative to the inspection and analysis of articles imported into the United States supposed to be dangerous to the public health, and asked for information, as follows:
- Whether there are any legal provisions in the United States relative to the use of paint on toys, and if so, what the nature of those provisions is.
- Whether, if there are no such positive provisions in the United States, the positive restrictions which have been adopted in Germany, as regards the use of paint on toys, as they appear from the law, are considered sufficient by the United States Government.
- As to the result of any analysis that may have been made by the United States Department of Agriculture of toys imported from Germany.
- As to the regulations which have been adopted by the Federal Government and by the several States relative to the adulteration of food and drink, which are referred to in the act of Congress of March 1, 1899.
In reply to your first inquiry, the Secretary of Agriculture, whose response is before me, states that his Department has made no examination of the laws of the several States relative to this question, and that therefore he is not in a position to answer authoritatively, but he adds that where there are no specific statutes he has no doubt but that general statutes will apply, but that their construction would be under the jurisdiction of the several courts.
With reference to your second inquiry, Mr. Wilson is unable to express an opinion as to the sufficiency of the German law, as much depends upon its application under the influence of local interests. Whether the law is or is not sufficient can only be determined by the actual results which follow its application.
With reference to your third inquiry, the Secretary of Agriculture states that the paint on a considerable number of toys has been analyzed, some of these toys having been made in Germany, and that a portion of the German toys were painted with compounds of lead, chromium, cobalt, and other poisonous paints.
Relative to your fourth inquiry, Mr. Wilson states that it is understood that numerous laws in regard to the purity of articles of food have been adopted in the various States, and that others are under consideration both in Congress and in State legislatures. As State legislation is entirely distinct from Federal legislation, and as its enforcement is not under the jurisdiction of the Federal Government, the Secretary of Agriculture has not compiled the statutes or the decisions which have been made in regard to them.
The importation of articles into the United States comes, however, exclusively under Federal jurisdiction, and it is entirely within the province of Congress to legislate in regard to importations, and for the [Page 310] executive departments to enforce such legislation without regard to the laws of the several States. That is, it is the duty of the Federal Government to protect the people of the various States from impure, adulterated, or poisonous articles imported from other countries.