The Danish Minister (Brun) to the Secretary of State

J. No. 60.D.b/1
No. 158

Sir: With reference to the question of the tonnage duties which Danish vessels are required to pay in ports of the United States, last mentioned in the note from your Department of March 10, 1925,10 I have the honor to state as follows:

I duly laid before the Danish Government the note of February 20, 1924 from Mr. Secretary of State Hughes,10 as well as my reply to him in my note (No. 44) of February 25, 192410 to the substance of which no answer has been received from your Department. Meantime the Danish Foreign Office has given new and very earnest consideration to the matter and, as a result, I am directed to advise you, that the Danish Government is unable to agree with the Government [Page 723]of the United States in the opinion that Danish vessels entering the United States from Danish ports, are properly subject to the payment of the six cent tonnage rate provided for in Section 36 of the Act approved August 5, 1909,11 as set forth in the Note of Mr. Hughes of February 20, 1924.

In this respect I am instructed to observe, that the 2 cent rate accorded to vessels from Norway and Sweden can not, in the opinion of the Danish Government, in any possible way be considered as a consequence of any geographical zone established for the purpose of encouraging navigation between neighbouring countries, but is very clearly a particular favor granted to another nation in respect of commerce and navigation, to which Denmark therefore becomes entitled in virtue of Article I of the treaty with the United States of April 26, 1826.12

The geographical zone as defined by Section 14 of the Act of June 26, 1884 as amended,13 and by Section 36 of the Act of August 5, 1909, included “any foreign port or place in North America, Central America, the West India Islands, the Bahama Islands, the Bermuda Islands, or the Coast of South America, bordering on the Caribbean Sea, or Newfoundland,” and is no doubt an expression for the desire to encourage trade and navigation between the United States and its nearest neighbours in the Western hemisphere, a policy which was not infrequent in former days and for instance was adopted also by Norway in the beginning of the 19th century. But the extension of the privilege of the 2 (or 3) cent rate to Norway and Sweden could not possibly be considered as an application of the same geographical principle. It was clearly an act granting a special favor to Norway and Sweden, and the history of the case shows, that the Government of the United States felt itself under an honorable obligation to grant this favor to Norway and Sweden in return for the similar favor which Norway and Sweden had granted to the United States in 1828.

It may also be pointed out that the Order of October 4, 1909 from the U. S. Commissioner of Navigation to the Collector of Customs in New York very distinctly proves, that the arrangement is not of geographical nature, but is in the nature of a favor to a particular country (Sweden-Norway). The Order extends the 2 cent rate to vessels of Sweden and Norway (and vessels of the United States) from any port in Sweden and Norway but adds that in the case of a vessel of any other nationality arriving from Sweden or Norway, the Collector may telegraph the Bureau for instructions.

This addition would appear to be unnecessary, if the arrangement were of geographical nature, and is therefore not to be found in Section [Page 724]36 of the Act of August 5, 1909. The addition is on the other hand natural when the nature of the arrangement as a special favor to particular nations (Sweden-Norway) is remembered, the question of the application thereof to other nations being then dependent upon the treaties existing with such nations.

The same may be said of the original order of April 9, 1892 which only instructed the Collectors of Customs to apply the then lowest rate (3 cents) to Norwegian and Swedish vessels, in accordance with the claim advanced by the Swedish-Norwegian Government, and thereby proves, that the arrangement was meant as a special favor to a particular country and not as an application of any geographical zone system.

In the note of Mr. Secretary of State Hughes of February 20, 1924 it is furthermore said (on page 3) “nor is it contended that Danish vessels arriving in the United States from Norwegian and Swedish ports only are charged more than the two cent rate.”

In reply to this point it may be said that it is correct that in the argumentation of the matter here under discussion the Danish Government has not until now put the contention forward that Danish ships from Norwegian or Swedish ports are charged more than the two cent rate in the United States, but the Danish Government believes nevertheless to be in possession of evidence to the effect that such is the case.

In these circumstances I have been directed to again represent to you, that the Danish interests involved in this matter are very considerable, and that the Danish Government attaches great importance to a favorable solution of the question and furthermore ventures to expect that the Government of the United States will be pleased to cause a decision to be arrived at as soon as may be found possible, in view of the fact that the case has now been pending for more than 13 years, it having been first submitted by me in a note to Mr. Secretary of State Bryan of April 19 [18?], 1913.14

Our contention is that, in virtue of the most favored nation treatment, Danish vessels arriving in the United States from Danish ports should be granted the favor accorded to Norwegian and Swedish vessels arriving from ports in Norway and Sweden, and it may here be added that, whereas Norway and Sweden had granted a similar favor to American vessels, there is in the case of Denmark no occasion for any such reciprocal concession, as Danish law does not discriminate against American navigation interests by any geographical zone system for the imposition of tonnage dues. The only guaranty that might be required in return would in our opinion be, that the Danish Government should sign a declaration to the effect, that no such geographical [Page 725]zone system exists in Danish law, if desired supplemented with the undertaking not to alter the Danish law on this point.

I am finally instructed to advise you that, in case the United States Government should not now be able to see its way to admit the justice of our claim, the Danish Government reserves to itself to propose to the American Government to have this purely juridical question settled by arbitration, with the understanding that Denmark would in such case also claim refund of all previously paid tonnage dues in excess of the 2 cent rate, where only the 2 cent rate should have been applied.

I have [etc.]

C. Brun
  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. 36 Stat. 11, 111.
  5. Hunter Miller (ed.), Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America, vol. 3, p. 239.
  6. 23 Stat. 53, 57.
  7. Not printed.