893.841 Surtax/11: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Minister in China (MacMurray)

302. Your 771, July 28 [29?], 3 p.m., and your 773, July 29, 5 p.m. Department by its telegram No. 280 of July 9, 2 p.m., authorized you to instruct Cunningham to clear American vessels without customs clearance provided shipping companies were prepared to face risks involved and preferred this procedure to payment of tonnage surtaxes under protest. In that instruction Department stated that this Government was not prepared to instruct American shipping [Page 445] interests as to the policy which they should follow in this matter as the Government was not prepared to assume the obligation to protect the companies against such taxes by use of military or naval forces. Department assumes that you have communicated this to Cunningham. For discussion of limitation upon the authority of the Executive to use armed forces of the United States in the absence of authority from Congress please see Department’s telegram 214 of September 8, 1924, 5 p.m.95

When it authorized above action Department had not been informed of the apparent intimate connection between the Chinese Maritime Customs and the collection of tonnage as well as other surtaxes. It now appears that if the procedure suggested by Cunningham in his telegram to you of July 7, 9 p.m.,96 were followed the Chinese Maritime Customs Administration would not only refuse to clear American vessels but might refuse them all customs privileges. This Government is not prepared to proceed to the extreme measures suggested in Cunningham’s telegram of July 28, 6 p.m., repeated in your 771, and set up in Shanghai, independent of the Maritime Customs, machinery for the collection from American citizens of Chinese tonnage and customs dues. Even assuming that it would be possible to set up such machinery in Shanghai and to insure its operation within the port of Shanghai by the use of the armed forces of the United States, it could not be guaranteed that American cargo so landed in Shanghai would not be treated by the Chinese as smuggled cargo and confiscated when it passed into territory under Chinese control.

  1. See Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. i, p. 371.
  2. See telegram No. 705, July 8, from the Minister in China, p. 434.