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bim on the 2nd of April last, with reference to the question of the duties levied in England on rough rice imported from The United States, and on that imported from the Western Coast of Africa respectively, because he was anxious to examine that question with all the care and consideration due as well to its intrinsic merits, as to the candid and temperate manner in which it had been brought under his notice by Mr. Everett, He was also desirous of calling to his assistance, in that examination, the practical knowledge and experience of those departments of Government in whose province matters of a financial and commercial nature like that in question more particularly reside.
Having performed this duty with all the care and attention due to the subject, the Undersigned will now proceed to communicate to Mr. Everett the result of his investigation,
He believes that it will, perhaps, conduce to a more. perfect comprehension of the grounds on which Her Majesty's Government have acted in coming to the conclusion which they have adopted in this matter, as well as to a more imparțial estimate of their decision, if he takes a larger and more general view of the subject, and abstains from attempting to enter into a detailed consideration of the arguments adduced by Mr. Everett in support of his representation of the case,
The Undersigned, at the same time that he renders full justice to the clear and logical arguments exhibited in Mr. Everett's note of the 2nd of April, conceives that those arguments rest upon an erroneous basis. After viewing the whole question in what he believes to be an equitable and impartial manner, he cannot admit that the construction put by Mr. Everett on the provision of the Commercial Treaty between Great Britain and The United States, in reference to the point under discussion, is correct; although he willingly admits that this copstruction may be fairly considered, to a certain degree, a subject of doubt.
It must be observeġ that the Articles of a Treaty cannot always be interpreted by the mere letter of the stipulations, but that regard must also be had to the spirit and intent in which they were conceived and laid down.
The provision of the Commercial Treaty which bears on this question, if viewed in the light of a point to be decided by the bare letter of the engagement, may undoubtedly be presented in such a shape as to give colour to the interpretation of it maintained by Mr. Everett. But, viewed in an equitable light, this interpretation, in the opinion of the Undersigned, does not possess the same weight and validity as that which has been sanctioned by the British Government. At all events, it would appear that the fair mode of decision, in such a case, would be to settle the matter by such a compromise as would be just towards both parties. This is precisely what the British Government propose to do.
The United States Government, on the ground of the letter of the Treaty, claim restitution of the difference between the lower rate of duty levied on African and the higher rate levied on American rice. The British Government, on the other hand, appeal to the equitable interpretation of the Treaty, and contend that, as no injury was intended to be done, or was done, to The United States, by the partial relaxation of the higher duty in favour of a particular district in Africa, from motives, not of gain or other advantage to Great Britain, but of humanity to the Negro race, that restitution is not justly to be claimed. But, as doubt hangs over the proper construction of the Treaty, they are willing to give to The United States the benefit of that doubt, so far as they are in equity entitled to it. The British Government, acting in this spirit of justice, although they deny the title of The United States to the restitution of duties already levied, agreed to pass a prospective measure for preventing the further levying of those duties. This was provisionally effected by a Treasury Order dated the 15th of October last, for levying, in future, ld. only on American rice.
Her Majesty's late Government (as Mr. Everett himself shows, in his quotation of the speech of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House of Commons, on the 22nd of May, 1840), acting on the humane consideration that, when the Slave Trade was abolished," the great object was to protect and encourage the produce of the Western Coast of Africa, in order to allure the natives from their sanguinary feuds to habits of peace, order, and civilization,” relaxed the duties on rough rice in favour of that particular country, where they wish to carry into effect the benevolent object above described. They were, of course, well aware of the provisions of the Commercial Treaty existing between Great Britain and The United States ; but, interpreting those provisions according to what they conceived to be their real intent and spirit, they held that such extension of facilities to that part of Africa, and for such an object, could not be taken, in equity, to contravene the Treaty; and they enacted such relaxation accordingly. It is obvious that their object in so doing was not to secure any advantage to Great Britain, and still [less] to do anything to the prejudice of The United States; nor, in truth, was any profit secured to the one, or any injury done to the other, by that Act.
It was not until long after the Act of Relaxation had gone into force, that the notion of its contravention of the Commercial Treaty was taken
years had actually elapsed before such an idea seems to have entered into the heads of the American merchants. After that lapse of time, however, that point was brought forward by The United States Minister in London; and, from that period, the discussion of the question continued open between the 2 Governments, until the retirement of Her Majesty's late Ministry and the accession of the present Government to office; the last note from Viscount Palmerston to Mr. Stevenson having intimated that is was the intention of the Government (of which his Lordship formed a part), if they had remained in office, to bave brought into Parliament a prospective measure upon the subject of the remission of duties imposed on rough rice.
On coming to the consideration of this subject, the Undersigned found clear evidence, in the whole of the correspondence which had taken place upon it between the several departments of Government, that the Treasury and the Board of Trade, to which the matter had necessarily been referred, differed entirely from The United States Plenipotentiary as to the construction which he had given to the stipulation of the Commercial Treaty, on which the claim for compensation was founded; although, in the brief notes addressed by Viscount Palmerston to Mr. Stevenson, no such difference may have been distinctly expressed. That difference of construction was maintained by Her Majesty's late Government. But as the Governments of both countries are at issue upon the point on which the whole question of claim turns, Her Majesty's present Ministers are equally disposed with their predecessors to give The United States the benefit of that doubt, so far as the prospective remission of duties is concerned, dating from the day on which the Treasury Order was issued—namely, the 15th October last; but, in equal justice to themselves, and for the reasons already adduced in the former part of this note, they cannot accede to the demand for restitution of duties already paid, which is put forward by The United States. By this proceeding they believe themselves to have satisfied every claim that, in equity, can be urged against them.
The Undersigned has thus fully and unreservedly entered into the case, as laid before him by Mr. Everett, on the ground of right founded on Treaty. But there are considerations, apart from the correctness or incorrectness of the construction put by the parties respectively, on the Treaty, which might have relieved the Undersigned, as he believes, from entering on the consideration of the case at all, as one in which the rights of American citizens are involved.
Mr. Everett has stated in his supplementary note of the 23rd of May last, that he has procured a return of all the claims for reimbursement of the discriminating duty; and finds that more than two-thirds of the amount of duties have been paid on account of citizens of The United States. On this point, the accounts received by the Undersigned are decidedly at issue with those received by Mr. Everett. The Undersigned is authentically informed by the authorities of the Board of Customs, to whom the matter was referred, that the principal
portion of the duty levied on American rough rice, imported since the passing of the Act of 6 and 7 William IV, chap. 60, in August, 1836, was paid by 4 firms, all British merchants—that is to say, Messrs. Lucas and Ewbank, and Messrs. Forster and Smith, of this port; and Messrs. Simpson and Co., and Messrs. Hill and Smith, of Liverpool. And it is to be observed that, on the debentures for granting the drawback to all these parties, they declared that they were the real owners of the rice in respect of which such drawback was claimed.
Now, it can scarcely be supposed that, of a cargo of rough rice imported, the portions of rice which were cleared and exported belonged exclusively to British subjects, while those portions which were sold for home consumption belonged partly to British and partly to American subjects. But, whether British or American, both have been reimbursed the amount of duty paid, inasmuch as they obtained the drawback on the quantity exported; and as regards the quantity retained for home use, they obtained from the consumer the price of the article, including the duty.
It is a curious and instructive fact, and tends to throw no small light on the subject of the claims now advanced on the part of The United States citizens, that, in the month of May last, the Board of Customs received a notice from the solicitor of certain parties, intimating that Messrs. Lucas and Ewbank had assigned to the said parties all sums of money which they claimed, and which might become payable to them, in respect of the duty paid by them on rough rice. On this fact it is not necessary to make any comment.
Another important feature in the consideration of this question is, that, subsequently to the passing of the Act 6 and 7 William IV, chap. 60, one parcel only of rough rice has been imported into this country from a foreign place on the West Coast of Africa. That parcel consisted of 2,352 quarters only. Therefore, to that amount only could any prejudices be affirmed to have accrued to the rice imported from The United States.
On the above-stated grounds alone, exclusive of those set forth in the former part of this note, the Undersigned conceives that he is completely justified in declining to accede to the demand of restitution or compensation advanced by The United States Minister on behalf of the American merchants who affirm themselves to have been the owners of the cargoes of rice for which such compensation is claimed.
The Undersigned, &c. Edward Everett, Esq.
No. 8.-Mr. Everett to Mr. Webster. (Extract.)
London, November 18, 1842. I HAVE been desired by Mr. Barry, the agent of the parties interested in the claim for reimbursement of the duties levied on rough rice imported from The United States, to transmit to you a copy of a letter addressed by him to me, containing his remarks in reply to Lord Aberdeen's note to me on that subject, of August il. He has not yet furnished me the copy, but I expect it in season to be forwarded with this despatch. I have delayed my answer to Lord Aberdeen's note, partly to afford opportunity for any instruction you might think proper to send me on the subject, (as intimated in my despatch No. 20,) and partly to arrive at a satisfactory explanation of some of the matters of fact asserted by Mr. Barry, and controverted by Lord Aberdeen. The Hon. Daniel Webster.
(Inclosure.)-Mr. Barry to Mr. Everett, SIR,
London, September 26, 1842. I HAVE perused with attention the note addressed on the 11th ultimo, to your Excellency, by Lord Aberdeen, respecting the delivery of the Exchequer bills, and return of the higher duty levied in this country on rough ride the produce of The United States, than on rough rice imported from the West Coast of Africa.
I have the honour, now, of submitting to your Excellency the following remarks thereon:
The question is, I conceive, simply whether the following clause in the Treaty with The United States of July 3, 1815, was, or was not, infringed by the enforcement of the differential duty alluded to, viz: 198. 11d. per quarter more on rough rice the produce of The United States, than on rough rice from the West Coast of Africa ; the former having been charged with 1l., and the latter with ld. per quarter.
“No higher or other duty shall be imposed in The United Kingdom upon the importation of any article the growth or produce of The United States, than are or shall be payable on the like article being the growth, produce, &c., of any other foreign country."
I contend that the Treaty has been infringed, because the case comes directly within the intention of the same, as well as within the letter of the eląuse. Were it not so, The United States would be liable to every inroad which inadvertent legislation or revenue regulations might occasion; while one main object of the Treaty was to put an end to all changes and vacillations in the commercial policy of the 2 countries, and to place the trade and intercourse between them on an impartial and permanent footing.
It is, however, impossible to reach the justice of the case by reasoning it upon the ground upon which it is attempted to be placed by Lord Aberdeen, who treats it as a matter to be determined by the profit or loss, and nationality of the importers; whereas it strikes me these considerations are quite beside the subject, which resolves itself into a violation of a vested interest which the people of The United (1844–45.]