« ZurückWeiter »
States have for their produce in our markets, under the Treaty, in return for a similar interest of the people of this country in the markets of The United States; which the latter hare enjoyed, are enjoying, and, from the nature of The United States laws, will enjoy, without hindrance or curtailment. I apprehend, therefore, that the Government of The United States can only deal with this infringement of the Treaty as a national matter, affecting the rights of its citizens at large.
If the Treaty had been made part and parcel of the laws of this country (as is the case in The United States), this infringement would not have happened; and I submit it to your Excellency, whether the British Government be not bound to place this matter on the same footing as if the Treaty had been made the law of the land; it being inadmissible to plead the counteraction by means of any law, in justification of the violation of a Treaty with a foreign Power.
The distinction made in his Lordship's note between an American and a British importer, is wholly untenable, inasmuch as the Treaty applies specifically to the produce of The United States. There is no qualification whatever, either as to the importer or the ship; and, therefore, not to insist on restitution in every case of overcharge, would, in effect, be to surrender the rights of the American agriculturist and commercial community into the hands of the British Government.
What, it may be asked, would be the course pursued by the British Government, if a cargo of British manufactures were refused to be admitted into The United States at the lowest rate of duty paid on similar articles from any other country, on the plea that the importer was not a subject of the United Kingdom, and, consequently, the British Government was deprived of all right of remonstrance and redress, the transaction being held to be out of the pale of the Treaty? The British Government would, no doubt, instruct the Minister at Washington to insist on the admission of the goods, in bona fide conformity with the terms of the Convention, and to treat the question as one involving the general commercial interests of his country. It may be presumed that any arguments used by The United States Minister for Foreign Affairs, calculated, like those of Lord Aberdeen, to fritter away the broad and national operation of the Treaty, would not satisfy the British Government; who, on the contrary, would, of course, insist that the Treaty related to the goods, as well as to the party who was the medium of the importation. It would be superfluous to add, the cases are precisely parallel.
From the year 1815 up to 1835, paddy, or rough rice, imported from all foreign countries, was subject to the same rate of duty; and no parcels of the least moment were, from the former period until 1834, imported from the West Coast of Africa. A mill, however, having been built at this port, for the express purpose of cleaning African paddy, several parcels, during the last-mentioned year 1834, arrived from British possessions on that coast; and immediately thereon, Messrs. Ewbank and Cordes, being aware that the paddy so imported was of foreign growth, petitioned the Customs, objecting to its admission; whereupon the Government passed the Act dated September 9, 1835, allowing paddy, the produce of the West Coast of Africa, to be imported from any British possession on that coast; and in the following year (1836) a further Act was passed, allowing rough rice, or paddy, to be imported from any part of the said coast: both Acts fixing upon such importations the low duty of id. per quarter. Upon reference to the printed documents laid before the House of Commons, it appears that the parties who appealed to Government urged, as a reason for passing the Act in 1835, that, in the event of encouragement being given to the African, enough paddy would, in the course of a few years, be produced to drive the American paddy out of the British market.
The duty upon bees-wax from the West Coast of Africa was also reduced by the said Act, passed in 1836, from 30s. to 108. per cwt.
Mr. Stevenson's note of remonstrance to the Foreign Office was presented in November, 1838, (after the high duty demanded on American paddy had been protested against,) and directions were issued thereon by the Treasury (dated December 29 following) to the Customs, directing them to discontinue charging the high rate; which was done accordingly, and all sums collected on bees-wax, contrary to the Convention, were returned to the parties.
I beg leave to submit to your Excellency that this forms a precedent which embraces precisely the same principle as that on which the return of the Exchequer bills deposited, and restitution of the duties on paddy are claimed; and it is impossible to admit the justice of granting the one, without establishing the injustice of withholding the other.
Lord Aberdeen remarks that no injury was intended or sustained by the Americans; that only one parcel had been imported from a foreign country on the West Coast of Africa (Mogadore, I presume), and that, consequently the American trade could only have sustained prejudice to the extent of that quantity.
Now, although I consider all such circumstances extraneous, and forming no answer to the complaint of the breach of Treaty, I will just observe that his Lordship should have informed your Excellency that such importation was independent of those made from other parts of the coast (foreign and British) with which the English merchants trade, and for the encouragement of which the Acts of Parliament were expressly passed.
In proof that the American planters and importers have been injured, I beg leave to state the following facts :
In the month of August, 1838, the brig Horwood arrived from Charleston with a cargo of paddy, I had a considerable interest therein, and can attest the fact that such importation was made upon the faith of the Convention, well knowing that by the conditions thereof, only the low rate of duty was due. The cargo alluded to by Lord Aberdeen arrived just after, and was admitted to entry at the low duty of 1d. per quarter, while the broker (Mr, Sutherland) was compelled to pay (which he did under protest) the high duty; and the result was, that the cargo of the Horwood, instead of producing a moderate and fair profit of 5001. left a loss of 7001.; whereas the African cargo received an advantage over the American of 198. 11d. per quarter in the home market. The consequence was, that I desisted from being interested in any further importations of paddy from The United States,
From the year 1834, other importations were regularly made from the coast of Africa (vide Parliamentary Papers), a portion thereof from Rio Nunez, a foreign settlement; the remainder from the River Gambia, one house alone having imported 17 parcels, viz. ; 7 from Rio Nunez and 10 from the River Gambia; the whole necessarily of foreign growth, as the British Government oecupies merely a small tract round the fort or settlement. It was all ad. mitted at 1d. per quarter, and sold for home consumption in the market, gaining thus, in effect, a bounty of 198. 11d, over the like article imported from The United States. Besides which it is clear that the extra quantity thus brought into the market injured the price of the American article; and if the Act of 1836 had provided, as it should have done, for American paddy to be admitted at the low duty of id, per quarter, the American grower and merchant would not only have been put on as good a footing as the African, but the importations from The United States would have been much increased.
In reply to the point which relates to the amount of American interest involved, I may observe (although I deprecate any distinction, as having nothing to do with the case), that the firm of Lucas and Ewbank ceased to exist in 1833, and the present claim has reference only to importations since 1836.
The different claims, and the proportion of American and British interests therein, are precisely as stated to your Excellency per document dated May the 12th last. Mr. Cordes is an American-born citizen of The United States; and as respects the house of C, R. Simpson and Co., Mr. Higham, an American citizen, of the firm of Higham and Fife, of Charleston, is a partner, and with him both Mr. Fife and the son of Mr. Higham are interested ; and, consequently, the accuracy of the representations made by your Excellency cannot properly be questioned.
Messrs. Lucas and Ewbank, for the reasons before stated, have not assigned their interest; but probably Lord Aberdeen means Ewbank and Cordes. An American has, however, as much right so to assign, as a British subject; and the exporter merely declares that he is the real owner at the time of shipment, to receive the drawback, but does not state that he is an Englishman. The paddy, upon importation, was partly British and partly American property, and so it was at the time of exportation as rice.
With respect to the lapse of 2 years before the importers of paddy from The United States remonstrated against the payment of the high duty, as before stated, the admission of African at the low rate of 1d. per quarter was objected to in 1834 ; but I have observed that it was the duty of the British Government, in fulfilment of the Treaty, to have given directions to the Customs, simultaneously with the passing of the African Act, to take thenceforward only a like duty of id. per quarter on American paddy; and their having omitted to do this, is a much fitter ground of complaint than the tardiness of the importers, as it is not to be contended that a just claim is invalidated by delay in bringing it forward, when it has been settled, on high legal authority, that even the statute of Limitation, which embraces a much larger period, cannot be pleaded against a claim made under Treaty with a foreign Power; for, as Dr. Lushington (pow Judge of the High Court of Admiralty), with Dr. Burnaby, state, in their opinion, “No doubt whatever can be entertained that the provisions of this [United States), as well as of every other Treaty, ought to be held sacred and inviolable.”
Lord Aberdeen still disputes the construction put upon the Treaty by the American Government, and evades replying to the arguments used by your Excellency in support thereof (knowing the same to be unanswerable), and passes over the offer to try the question in one of our courts of law, pleading the Treaty. His Lordship further appears to forget that the high rate of duty demanded has been paid to the Customs under protest, consequently not a payment binding in law, upon the full conviction on the part of the importers (American and British subjects) that the same, not being due, would ultimately be refunded, as usual in such cases ; and I beg to submit to your Excellency, that otherwise they certainly would not have submitted thereto; and had the paddy remained in warehouse, the same would have been ultimately released upon payment of the low duty of 1d. per quarter, under the Treasury letter, and the merchants would have had an equitable claim for damages, loss of market, charges, &c.; and as respects the Exchequer bills, the same were deposited upon the fol
lowing conditions, namely: " That the same shall remain in the hands of the third party (deposited), pending the decision as to the rate due under the Treaty; and that, upon the same being settled, the parties are to pay such amount within 3 months, and receive back their bills."
It is therefore quite clear that the point must be decided, in order that the bills may be so returned, according to the conditions upon which the deposit was made, and the Customs paid the duty due, in conformïty with the contract entered into between the 2 Governments.
The Exchequer bills amount to 12,0001. and constitute American and British interest, one of the same being the property of Messrs. Ewbank and Cordes.
It will further appear, upon reference in similar instances where duties have been levied in contravention of Treaties entered into with other States (Rio de la Plata, Colombia, Sweden, Portugal, &c.), that all sums so collected since the dates of such Treaties have been refunded without any hesitation, difficulty, or impediments; the Board of Trade having decided, many years since, that duties so collected could not, upon any account whatever, be retained by the British Government.
I observe, in the American tariff lately passed, there is a clause which provides, in effect, that the same shall not infringe upon the conditions of any Treaty. This discussion with the British Govern. ment about a single article of American produce has now occupied a long period. Surely it is high time that the British Government rendered all further discussions unnecessary, by issuing an order to the Customs to give effect to the American Treaty.
The wrong consists in the retention of the high duty exacted, and of the Exchequer bills deposited. The British Government hold the money, and detain the Exchequer bills, in direct contravention of the Treaty; and nothing but the refunding of the one, and the restitution of the other, can satisfy the justice of the case; and it will be impossible, without such reparation, ever to say that the Treaty has been fulfilled with good faith towards The United States by the Government of Great Britain.
I have now, I believe, concluded all the observations I have at present to make, but shall be happy to afford your Excellency any further explanation you may require. I have, &c. Edward Everett, Esq.
No. 9. Mr. Everett to Mr. Webster. (Extract.)
London, December 30, 1842. I AWAIT your instructions on the subject of the duties levied on importations of “rough rice.” You will have noticed that Lord