893.841 Surtax/30: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Consul General at Shanghai ( Cunningham )

Legation has repeated to Department your telegram requesting instructions regarding desire of Shipping Board to clear West Ison and Liberator through Consulate “Provided Customs decline to issue clearance upon tender of legal tonnage dues only.”

Department assumes that you have its telegrams to the Legation Numbers 302 of July 30, 7 p.m., and 314 of August 11, 6 p.m., (repeated to you as Legation’s No. 134 of August 13, noon) dealing with question of consular clearance for American vessels.

Article 22 of the Treaty of 1858 provides as follows: “If the Consul permits a ship to leave the port before the duties and tonnage dues are paid, he shall be responsible therefor.” This, of course, only makes the Consul responsible if the ship leaves port without the payment of treaty duties and tonnage dues. You have been informed by the above-mentioned instructions that this Government is not prepared to establish in the consulates in China machinery for the collection from American citizens of Chinese tonnage and customs dues, for, while this might be a comparatively simple matter as long as it only involved the collection of tonnage dues, the situation would not be so simple if, as indicated by your telegram of July 27, 3 p.m.,8 customs duties are involved. Obviously the Consul could not undertake to pass upon question of customs duties in all of its ramifications without setting up the most elaborate machinery which it would not be practicable to do. This would not only require the protection of ships and cargoes, but might conceivably entail the following of goods after removal from customs and while en route to Chinese hands in the interior. Obviously this Government cannot be committed to such an undertaking.

In any case in which you have satisfied yourself that the duties on the goods have been paid, and the shipowner has made a legal tender of the treaty tonnage dues which have been refused and the company desires to take the risk and will adequately guarantee you against any claim for these dues, there would be no objection to your issuing consular clearance to the ship. It should be made clear, however, that neither the Consul nor this Government assumes any responsibility [Page 454] towards either the ship or cargo owner in such cases. It is not believed that the consul general could satisfy himself with respect to tender except by accompanying the agent of the ship to the place of payment and witnessing such tender and refusal, of which appropriate record should immediately be made in the consulate.

Repeat to Peking referring to its No. 811 of August 16, 10 p.m.

  1. See telegram No. 767, July 28, from the Minister in China, p. 440.