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

No. 147

Sir: I have the honor to report that Administrative Circular No. 5 issued August 23, 1937 by the Financial Adviser, Republic of Liberia, with respect to free entry privileges granted diplomatic officers at Monrovia has been the subject of controversy.

Under Regulation 2b of this circular, for the information of the Diplomatic Corps, notice was given that the following certification on entry form shall be signed by the chiefs of mission:

“I hereby certify that the goods, wares and merchandise herein described are imported for the use of the Legation of (name of country), or officials thereof, and such goods, wares and merchandise will not be sold, exchanged or transferred to persons who are not entitled to free entry privileges.


Regulation 1 of this circular reads:

“All importations for which free entry privilege is granted must be consigned to the entity for whom imported. Ocean bills of lading and Consular or other invoices must demonstrate proof of such consignment. Unless importations are consigned as required by this Administrative Circular, free entry privileges will not be authorized.”

At a meeting of the Diplomatic Corps in Liberia held Monday, September 6, a resolution was adopted advising the Liberian Government [Page 819] that Regulation 1 of Administrative Circular No. 5, 1937 would, if enforced, prove a great inconvenience and sometimes hardship to those representatives of foreign powers who enjoy the privilege of free entry at Liberian ports. The American Minister, as Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps, transmitted the resolution to the Secretary of State.

A few days later the American Minister informally discussed with President Barclay the objections which the members of the Diplomatic Corps raised against the regulation in question. At the time the President admitted that the argument advanced by me contained merits and asked if I would incorporate my views in an informal note and send to Secretary Simpson. This was done. A copy of the communication is enclosed.31

Two months have elapsed since I transmitted this note to the Department of State. Upon inquiring what disposition the Liberian Government had made of the Diplomatic Corps’ protest, I have been repeatedly informed that the matter is still under advisement.

On October 26, there was brought to Monrovia by an English mail boat 13 volumes of the League of Nations Treaty Series for the American Legation. When a representative of the American Legation presented the signed entry slip on which was typed: “I hereby certify that the above goods are for the American Legation or for my personal use” signed by me and bearing the official seal, the Collector of Customs refused to release the books stating that it would be necessary to sign the new regulation as provided by Administrative Circular No. 5, 1937.

The American Minister took the position that the old phraseology was sufficient; he saw no reason why he should certify that the books “would not be sold, exchanged or transferred to persons who are not entitled to free entry privileges.” He accordingly transmitted a formal note to the Department of State on the subject.

The following day the American Legation was informed by the Parcel Post Clerk that the Customs Department waived the certification on the baggage slip. Thereupon the Legation received books without making any certification whatsoever.

On November 3, an English cargo boat brought to Monrovia four cases of official stationery for the American Legation which had been transmitted by the Department of State at Washington. The American Minister signed the certificate to the effect that the goods were for the Legation or for his use. Upon presentation of entry the Collector of Customs refused to turn over the goods, declaring he had received explicit instructions from the Financial Adviser that the American Minister would have to sign the new regulation.

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On November 5, I transmitted a formal note to the Department of State registering emphatic protest against insistence that I certify official stationery sent by the Department of State to the American Legation “would not be sold, exchanged or transferred to persons who are not entitled to free entry privileges.”

I have been implacable in my contention that the phraseology couched in Regulation 2b, Administrative Circular No. 5, 1937 is a reflection on the veracity of a diplomatic officer and that the wording of the old regulation is adequate. Following several informal conversations with Secretary Simpson, on November 9, the official stationery was turned over to the American Legation in pursuance to instructions from the Department of State. No certification was made by the American Minister pending settlement of subject at issue.

A formal note was received from Secretary of State Simpson on November 9, in reply to my note of October 25, in which he advised that the new customs requirements are equally specific in regard to Cabinet officers of the Government and that the Department of State has ascertained that the heads of the British and German representations have complied with the requirements of Administrative Circular No. 5, Regulation 2b, without question or protest.

In informally thanking Secretary Simpson for kindly interest shown in releasing the stationery, the American Minister asked to be informed what motivated the Financial Adviser to issue Regulation 2b, Administrative Circular No. 5, 1937.

I pointed out that I did not take exceptions to Regulation 2b as Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps, but as the American Minister. Hence the attitude of other foreign representatives at Monrovia in the premises had no connection whatsoever with that assumed by the American Minister.

I herewith enclose for the Department’s information copies of letters exchanged between the Foreign Office and the American Legation.32

Respectfully yours,

Lester A. Walton
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