Mr. Choate to Mr. Hay.

No. 424.]

Sir: I have the honor to report that I was recently waited upon by the agent-general for New South Wales in London, and the agent-general for one of the other Australian colonies, in reference to the alleged operation of the United States navigation laws upon Hawaiian international commerce, and especially as affecting trade between Australasian and American ports in vessels not wholly owned by Americans and registered in the United States of America. Their desire was to obtain some relaxation of the strictness of those laws as affecting such trade.

To my suggestion that the more usual course would be to present the matter to you through the British embassy at Washington, they said that they were aware of that, but had obtained permission from the foreign office to approach me on the subject.

As the matter appeared to be of some importance, and apparently no such relief as they sought could be obtained except through legislation, I told them that if they would present the matter in writing I would transmit it immediately to you, and had no doubt that it would receive due consideration.

Accordingly, the agent-general of New South Wales has now addressed to me a letter on the subject, which I inclose, and shall await your instructions as to any answer to be made thereto.

I have, etc.,

Joseph H. Choate.

Mr. Copeland to Mr. Choate.


Sir: At the request of the government of New South Wales (whose representative I am in London), and with the concurrence of the governments of the other Australian colonies represented by their several agents-general, I have the honor to informally approach you on the following subject, having first obtained the assent of Her Majesty’s Government to the adoption of this somewhat unofficial course of procedure.

The subject on which I am about to address your excellency has reference to the provisions of the United States navigation laws, so far as they relate to Hawaiian international commerce.

Owing to the application of the laws in question, it has become impossible for any of the mail steamers trading between Australasian and American ports to carry passengers and goods between the United States and Honolulu, unless such steamers are wholly owned by Americans and registered in the United States of America.

As that trade has hitherto represented a very valuable portion of the commerce of this route, Australasian owned shipping is now placed under very serious disadvantages, and in this connection I may mention that the new steamship Moana, which was only recently placed on the San Francisco line by the United Steamship Company [Page 202]of New Zealand, will have to be withdrawn from that service unless some concession is accorded by your Government with respect to the laws referred to.

Further, those laws are so stringent that produce of the United States, even when for convenience of carriage is being sent to a foreign port for transshipment, can not be landed at Honolulu by an alien vessel, and the effect of this has been that the Australian-Canadian mail steamers have lost the trade of Tacoma and Seattle, the produce of those places having hitherto been sent to Vancouver, British Columbia, for shipment to Honolulu.

I may mention that when Hawaii was annexed to the United States it was anticipated by the Australasian colonies that at any rate an interval of some years would have to “be allowed to elapse between annexation and the application of the American navigation laws to the Hawaiian territory.

The whole of the colonies composing the Commonwealth of Australia are unanimous in their desire that the United States Government may be induced to adopt such means as may be available to them for relaxing these restrictions on our international trade. In New South Wales the question has been raised and also debated in Parliament, while the chambers of commerce and representative men have strongly urged upon the Government that some action should be taken in the matter as soon as possible.

As an inducement to your Government to favorably entertain this question, I may point out that in addition to the commerce between the United States and the other Australasian colonies (including New Zeland), a large trade is being rapidly developed between your country and the mother colony of New South Wales. Last year (1899), 9 American steamers and 60 sailing vessels from the United States entered the ports of New South Wales, conveying no less than 87,000 tons of your goods; while, during the same period (1899), 8 American steamers and 60 sailing vessels left New South Wales, conveying to your ports 79,798 tons of our goods. As a further instance of this rapid development it may be noted that the value of our imports from your country in 1895 amounted to £624,268, whereas for last year (1899) those imports had swollen to £2,219,319. On the other hand, the value of our exports to your country, which in 1895 amounted to £683,606, had increased to £2,392,281 in 1899. So that our total trade with the United States last year amounted to £4,611,600, having grown to that sum from £1,307,874 in 1895, during a period of only four years.

I would further urge on your attention the fact that the greater portion, if not the whole, of the American goods for which New South Wales provided a profitable market, were allowed to enter our ports free from the imposition of any customs duties, besides being liberally treated with respect to port charges, etc., and I venture to suggest that such commercial liberality on our side is entitled to considerate treatment from the Government of the United States of America.

In conclusion, I beg therefore to ask that your excellency will be so good as to make representations to the United States Government with a view to such relaxation being made in the application of their navigation laws as will permit of passengers and goods being conveyed, as formerly, by Australasian-owned shipping between American ports and Honolulu, at least for some years to come.

I have, etc.,

Henry Copeland,
Agent-General for New South Wales.