The Secretary of State to the Minister in Liberia (Walton)

No. 46

Sir: The Department has received your despatch No. 86 of March 6, 1937, reporting the circumstances which prompted the issue of the Liberian Executive Order No. 5, 1936, revoking the privilege of free entry for personal effects as previously enjoyed by American missionaries in Liberia.

It is a matter of regret to the Department that the Liberian Government should have given to Schedule 35 (d) of the tariff law of 1935 an interpretation which seems to place an additional hardship upon American nationals whose sole purpose in going to Liberia is to devote themselves to the welfare of the people of that country and whose services are given at great personal sacrifice. These services are, as the Liberian Government is no doubt aware, accompanied also by very substantial contributions in money from the various missionary societies in the United States.

In view of these circumstances and also of the fact that the wording of the tariff law of 1935 apparently admits a more liberal interpretation than has been put upon it by Executive Order No. 5, the Department would be very pleased to learn that the Liberian Government is disposed to reconsider its action and to afford American missionaries a measure of relief from the new burden placed upon their very limited personal resources. Especially as regards the importation of food, clothing, household goods and other necessities which the missionaries are unable to procure locally, the Department entertains the hope the Liberian Government may find it possible to relax the effect of the present interpretation of the law.

You are requested, therefore, to discuss this matter informally with the Secretary of State and to inform him of the views of the Department. You may suggest to him, moreover, that special customs exemptions for religious and philanthropic missions are by no means exceptional, and that only recently this Government has arranged with the French Government a modification and liberalization of the customs regulations which apply to American missions in Syria.28

The Department will await with interest the report of your discussion of this matter with the Liberian authorities.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
Sumner Welles