File No. 5727/60.

The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador.

No. 80.]

Excellency: Supplementing my note of the 8th instant, I have the honor to inclose a copy of a letter received on yesterday from the Secretary of the Treasury touching on the question of the acceptance of certificates issued by foreign chambers of commerce.

I have, etc.,

Elihu Root.

The Secretary of the Treasury to the Secretary of State.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 8th instant, further in regard to the accrediting of special and confidential agents of this department to the German Government, with instructions to cooperate with German chambers of commerce, and the acceptance by appraising officers as competent evidence of certificates issued by such chambers of commerce, in which you state that you propose to inform other countries that these concessions will be applicable to them in so far as the conditions of the respective countries will permit.

[Page 496]

In so far as the question relates to the accrediting of special agents, I see no objection to making it generally applicable, but with respect to the acceptance of certificates issued by chambers of commerce it must be remembered that the Board of General Appraisers is a judicial, or at least a quasi-judicial body, being vested with the authority, under the ordinary rules of evidence, to determine the competency or incompetency of testimony adduced before them. I think it proper that certificates of value issued by chambers of commerce having semigovernmental status should be regarded by the board as competent evidence, but I do not think it right for the department to establish an arbitrary regulation compelling the board to accept as competent testimony the certificates of value of chambers of commerce which do not bear, as do the German chambers of commerce, an official relation to the Government.

A different departmental attitude on this question would undoubtedly result in embarrassment should the board reject as incompetent the certificates of unofficial chambers of commerce.


Geo. B. Cortelyou.