Mr. Adee to Mr. Powell.
Washington, October 5, 1903.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of Mr. Battiste’s No. 1330, dated September 12, 1903, inclosing copy of a letter from Messrs. C. Lyon Hall & Co., relative to the law of August 13, 1903, passed by the Haitian legislature, imposing a license tax on all foreigners doing business in Haiti, which native citizens are not required to pay. Mr. Battiste correctly states that it is in violation of Article V of the treaty of November 3, 1864, between the United States and Haiti, which provides that our citizens shall not “be compelled to pay any contributions whatever higher or other than those that are or may be paid by native citizens.” He asks for instructions for the legation’s guidance.
Discriminations by the Haitian Government of this character against foreigners in plain violation of their treaty rights, have repeatedly been brought to the notice of this Department, which has uniformly insisted upon the observance of the treaty stipulations so far as they affect our citizens. In 1876, when the Haitian Executive had promulgated a decree subjecting foreign merchants, etc., to the payment of a license not required of Haitians, Secretary Fish said (instruction No. 261, March 13, 1876):
The Department is clearly of opinion that the fifth article of the treaty between the United States and Haiti of the 3d of November, 1864, was intended to protect and should protect our citizens from any discriminations in matters of trade to the advantage of Haitian citizens. Consequently, we can not acquiesce in the license law or decree to which your dispatch refers. If, therefore, there should be any attempt to apply such a law to citizens of the United States, you will protest against it, and will, in the name of your Government, claim from that of Haiti the damages which may be sustained in consequence of the contribution which the license would require.
In 1893, when our minister reported that a bill was pending before the Haitian legislature subjecting aliens to a personal tax not shared [Page 378]by native Haitians, Secretary Gresham said (instruction No. 7, November 27, 1893):
From every point of view, so far as citizens of the United States established in business in Haiti are concerned, the proposed act appears to violate the reciprocal equality of treatment stipulated by international treaty, and should be so dealt with by you in the event it becomes law and an attempt is made to apply it to citizens of the United States.
And in 1897, when you reported that a new law had been enacted by the Haitian Chamber of Deputies authorizing the levying of discriminatory taxes upon foreign merchants, etc., in Haiti, Secretary Sherman, after reciting the provisions of Article V of the treaty of 1864, expressed the opinion that the law was in direct contravention of the treaty and instructed you to acquaint the Haitian Government with this Government’s views.
The Department now reaffirms these views, and insists, as it has done in the past, upon the observance by Haiti of the provisions of the treaty in question and of the rights of American citizens which are guaranteed thereby, and if they have been compelled to pay the discriminatory tax provided by article 55 of this law you are authorized to protest to the minister of foreign affairs against such action and to ask that the amount or amounts so paid be refunded to them.
It is also stated that in the same law there is a provision for levying a “passport tax” of $5 on voyagers crossing the Atlantic Ocean and $2 on those voyaging in the Antilles, traveling first class. This tax appears to be a purely municipal one, and if imposed indiscriminately there would seem to be no ground for contesting it.
I am, etc.,