Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 2, 1902
Mr. McCormick to Mr. Hay.
Vienna, April 1, 1902.
Sir: Finding that the inclosed communication of the Neue Wiener Tagblatt from a correspondent in New York had escaped the attention of the consul-general here, I have the honor to transmit it herewith for the information of the Department, believing that it contains sufficient matter of interest, especially as it pertains to the method of the customs officials in New York in applying and interpreting the tariff laws.
It is important that the consular officers in the United States should lose no opportunity to counteract the effect of such statements as are made in this article and contradict them when not in accordance with the fact.
I have, etc.,
austria-hungary and the united states—new york, middle of march.
It would not be surprising if the voyage of Prince Henry were to benefit likewise the relations existing between Austria-Hungary and America. The German-speaking Austrian is here without distinction, put in one pot with the subjects of the German [Page 35] Empire, and to make this distinction is not a matter which concerns the Americans in general. While the Prince was here, one could frequently see the American eagle side by side with the Austrian double-headed eagle, and your warship, which it is said will soon pay us a visit, will dispel many errors and teach the know-nothings the political difference existing between the two great German-speaking nations. The fault of this is greatly due to the amicable relations existing between Germans and Austrians, who are members without distinction of one and the same clubs, associations, and singing societies, cultivating the art of song which forms a strong tie between the native Americans and the immigrant Germans. The Germans who wish sincerely to live in friendship with the Austrians will certainly not object if the latter profit by the favorable combinations of the present hour. Whether the raising of the legation in Washington to an embassy will promote this end is somewhat doubted. Emigration from Germany to the United States has of late years decreased, thanks to the improved economic and industrial conditions, and there is no ground to believe that the number of emigrants will increase again. A vast contingent of emigrants, however, is still supplied by the Slavish districts of Hungary, and Pittsburg abounds with Slavs who there seek employment in the great steel works. The German-Austrians who come here through business or family relations soon become Americanized. The temptation held out is too great. Personal energy, which can not develop itself at home, soon develops here, success follows, and with it love of the adopted country, which is lacking, however, in the feeling which the old country inspired. And if once the bands of hymen twist themselves around the budding millionaire, then he and his offspring are forever the prey of the New World. An example of this is Mr. Charles Schwab, the clever director of the great steel trust, whom you recently had in Vienna.
Unfortunately, Austria, like all other European countries, suffers under the cruel tariff laws of the United States. It is not so much the height of the tariff rates of which European industries complain, as the provoking indiscrimination of the customs officials. To be prepared for the payment of high duties and to make one’s calculations accordingly is no difficult matter. Wages in Austria are low, the American is accustomed to pay high prices, and Austrian manufacturers might work profitably even when paying high rates of duty. But it is the uncertainty which makes the manufacturer and the agent shrink back. With incredible disregard for the rights and interests of those concerned are the tariff laws construed by the customs authorities, to-day this way, to-morrow that way; to-day it classes merchandise under one heading, to-morrow under another heading; imposes fines and acts as if bound by no law. It has happened that competing American trusts have sent spies to Austria who transmitted false reports to their firms touching the cost of production of their goods.
On the strength of such reports the American customs officials suddenly declare that an undervaluation of the merchandise has been perpetual and subject the goods to fines and payment of higher rates of duty, protest against which, according to the incredible provisions of the law, is inadmissible, and redress can be obtained only by appeal to the collector of customs of the port, which is illusory.
Reductions of customs rates of duty can scarcely be expected because the State has need of the revenue derived from this source, but a more uniform and less arbitrary treatment must be demanded by way of diplomatic intervention.
No one doubts but that Austrian industry has a future in America. Its furniture, for instance, has many admirers, the so-called Vienna secession style, which had such a success at the late Paris Exhibition, has the sympathy of many Americans; its elegant, pleasing, and delicate forms will accommodate themselves easily to the modern American apartment house, and its English style will be sure to please at once. Vienna articles, such as fancy goods, bronzes, and terra-cotta ware, would certainly meet with favorable reception.
There is only this to be feared—that these articles, being carefully finished, will be too expensive for the great bazaars of Sixth avenue, which supply half of New York, and not sufficiently refined for the luxury of Fifth avenue. The cheapness of the German manufactories and the taste of the Parisian workshops naturally contract the Vienna ateliers within narrow limits. America is trying to create new industries and to manufacture all those articles herself which lack of skilled hands or want of raw material seemed to have denied her. It produces already excellent glassware for the table of the workman and for the drawing room. It is content to-day to import raw hides and manufactures them already into elegant and durable gloves. That in many cases (for instance beet-root sugar) Germans are the instructors is certainly a matter flattering to our national pride, just as the gradual decrease of the European export in the two last-named articles is humiliating to that of Austria. Many Austrian goods bear foreign names—cloth from Brünn is called French; numerous other [Page 36] articles, sent down the river Elbe by reason of cheaper freight rates and shipped by way of Hamburg, pass off as German goods, and the Austrian export, to America is perhaps considerably larger than the official statistics show. One should think that America, with its wealthy population not averse to a good glass of spirits, would be a splendid market for the excellent Austrian and Hungarian wines, the more so as the domestic article grown in California and Ohio can hardly be said to be a fair substitute. The manner of adulterating wine, and producing it by chemical processess, has increased rapidly. Wines are passed off in America as Tokayer and Burgundy which never grew on European soil, and it almost seems as if that which we cherish most and constitutes one of the characteristics of its genuineness, namely, the peculiar flavor of the soil on which it has grown, renders it disagreeable to the taste of an American to whom the terrapin, with its taste resembling shoe leather, is a delicacy, and who therefore prefers a chemical preparation composed of vile substances.
I hope Austria will not let pass the opportunity which offers itself in the impending exhibition at St. Louis in order to enlighten America as to the value of its products. Nor will it be inopportune for Austrian manufacturers to take into consideration certain peculiarities and demands of trans-Atlantic agents and merchants and the American public at large. The latter rely upon the greater facilities of the manufacturer insuring a prompt supply of the goods ordered. Waiting is not to its liking. One needs here either cheap things by the dozen or very costly articles of the first class. Articles possessing a certain air of artistic workmanship, such as the Vienna mechanic likes to give even to articles of everyday use, are not appreciated here. Æsthetics is a different science here in the New World from what it is in Europe. It springs from the adaptability of an article to its use, from well-porportioned plainness, and rejects the purely ornamental. With the Vienna baroque style you can make no headway here. The desire to replace immediately parts lost or injured render necessary the production of a certain number of standard patterns or forms as perfect as possible, the parts of which can easily be exchanged, replaced, and are everywhere obtainable. This apparent simplicity, however, renders necessary trials, experiments, and the making of models to an extent unknown in Europe, where enterprise and capital are frequently lacking. Millions are spent in America for making studies to produce a special machine before a single specimen is placed on the market, while the German manufacturer demands the new pattern ready for use and continues to work with an old imperfect machine, when more perfect machinery has been for some time already in the possession of his competitor. The American also divorces manufacturing from the distribution of the product, and the Germans were farsighted enough to adopt the same principle. The manufacturing and export of goods should be things as distinct from each other as framing laws and administering laws. The more pronounced the distinction between the banker, the manufacturer, and the merchant, the easier will be the development of each. The American is surprised to find that this maxim is so little known in Austria, and believes that the manufacturer would do better by sharing the profits from his products with the merchant, whose care it will be to look to the increase of the export, and looks upon this practice as the first condition for the increase of Austrian export to the United States.