The Secretary of State to the Minister in Denmark (Dodge)

No. 115

Sir: The Department has received the Legation’s despatch No. 551, of July 21, 1928, in further relation to the question of the extension of the privileges of free importation to American and Danish consular officers in the country of the other under the provisions of the Convention of 1826 between the United States and Denmark, and has duly noted the statements concerning this matter.

It observes that Mr. Engell, Chief of the Political Division of the Foreign Office, is of the opinion that the extension of the right to free importation hinges on the meaning of the word “imposts” in Article 10, and that the Danish equivalent for that word could hardly be taken to include customs duties but would more properly signify internal taxes or contributions. It is also observed that he did not maintain that the Danish text should necessarily govern.

The word “imposts”, used in the Treaty between the United States and Denmark of 1826, at that time appears to have had a more restricted meaning than at present and the courts appear to have considered the word “imposts” as the equivalent of “duty on imports”, as in a decision rendered by the United States Supreme Court in 1827 in the case of Brown v. Maryland, 25 U. S. (12 Wheat.) 419, 437, the court stated that “an impost, or duty on imports, is a custom or a tax levied on articles brought into a country, and is most usually secured before the importer is allowed to exercise his rights of ownership over them, because evasions of law can be prevented more satisfactorily [certainly] by executing it while the articles are in its custom [custody].” The meaning of the word appears to have been extended later to cover every species of tax or contribution not included under the ordinary term “taxes and excises”. In the case of the Pacific Insurance Company v. Soule, 74 U. S. (7 Wall.) 433, 445, the court stated, “‘Impost’ is a duty on imported goods and merchandise. In a larger sense, it is any tax on importation [or imposition]. Duties and imposts were properly intended to comprehend every species of tax or contribution not included under the ordinary term ‘taxes and [Page 737] excises’.” Bouvier’s Law Dictionary defines the word “imposts” as follows: “Taxes, duties, or impositions. A duty on imported goods and merchandise. …”22a

You are instructed informally to advise Mr. Engell of the definitions and legal interpretation of the word “imposts” which are authoritative in the United States. In this connection you will also draw Mr. Engell’s attention to the fact that under the wording of Article 10, consuls and persons attached to their service are exempted from “all kinds of taxes, imposts, and contributions”, and state that in your Government’s estimation, it would seem most unlikely that three words having the same meaning should have been used in the drafting of this Article, and that it would seem obvious that it was intended by the use of the word “impost” to include customs duties in the exemptions provided for.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
W. R. Castle, Jr.
  1. Omission indicated in the original instruction.