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CORRESPONDENCE relative to Commercial Intercourse
between The United States of America, and the British West India Colonies.- August 1826 to January 1827.*
LIST OF PAPERS.
Page No. 1. Albert Gallatin, Esq. to Mr. Secretary Canning,
Upper Seymour Street, 26th August, 1826. 462 No. 2. Mr. Secretary Canning to Albert Gallatin, Esq. Foreign Office, . Ilth September,
465 No. 3. Albert Gallatin Esq. to Mr. Secretary Canning,
Upper Seymour Street, 220 September, 473 No. 4. Mr. Secretary Canning to Albert Gallatin, Esq., Foreign Office, 13th November,
381 No. 5. Albert Gallatin, Esq. to Mr. Secretary Canning,
Upper Seymour Street, 28th December, 486 One Inclosure. No. 6. Mr. Secretary Canning to Albert Gallatin, Esq.,
Foreign Office, 27th January, 1827. 494
No. 1.-Albert Gallatin, Esq. to Mr. Secretary Canning.
62, Upper Seymour Street, 26th August, 1826. The Undersigned, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of The United States of America, had not seen the Order in Council of the 27th July last, on the day (the 17th instant) when he had the honour of an interview with Mr. Canning, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
Had he then been aware of the precise import of the Order in question, and of the provisions of the several Acts of Parliament to which it refers, the undersigned would have thought it his duty to make the observations, to which he now begs leave to call Mr. Canning's attention.
It appears that His Majesty's Government was vested with two distinct Authorities, applicable to the intercourse between His Majesty's Colonies and The United States.
By the 4th Section of the Act of Parliament, of the 5th July 1825, it was enacted, that the privileges granted by the law of navigation, to Foreign Ships, to trade with the British Possessions Abroad, should be limited, with respect to Countries not having Colonial Possessions, to the Vessels of such as should place the Commerce and Navigation of Great Britain, and of her possessions abroad, upon the footing of the most favoured Nation, unless His Majesty, by His Order in Council, should, in any case, deem it expedient to grant the whole, or any of such
* Presented to Parliament, February, 1827.
Privileges, to the Ships of any Foreign Country, although the said conditions should not in all respects be fulfilled by such Country.
And by two other Acts of Parliament, passed in the 4th and 5th Years of the Reign of His preseut Majesty, authority was given to levy additional or countervailing Tonnage duties on Vessels, and additional or countervailing duties of Customs on Goods imported or exported in Vessels belonging to any Foreign Country, in which higher Duties were levied on British Vessels, or on Goods imported or exported in British Vessels, than on Vessels of such Country, or on similar Goods when imported or exported in Vessels of such Country.
Both Authorities have been resorted to in the Order in Council of the 27th of July last.
On the ground that the conditions referred to in the Act of Parliament of the 5th of July 1825, having not in all respects been fulfilled by the Government of The United States, the privileges so granted to Foreign Ships cannot lawfully be enjoyed by Ships of the said States, unless specially granted by His Majesty in Council, the said privileges are again thus granted by the Order in Council, but with the express proviso that the said privileges, or, in other words, the intercourse in American Vessels between The United States and the British Colonies, shall absolutely cease on the 1st of December next, so far as respects South America, the West Indies, the Bahama Islands, Bermuda, and Newfoundland; and on some other subsequent days, so far as respects the British Possessions on the Western Coast of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, Mauritius, Ceylon, New Holland, and Van Diemen's Land.
And, inasmuch as British Vessels, entering the Ports of The United States from the British Colonies, are charged with an additional duty of 94 cents per ton, and with an addition of 10 per cent. on the importduty payable on the same goods when imported in American Vessels, a countervailing duty, deemed equivalent in amount, is, by the Order in Council, laid, during the time that the intercourse is permitted to continue, on American Vessels, and on goods imported in American Vessels, entering the Ports of His Majesty's possessions in North and South America, and in the West Indies.
There is not, if the undersigned is rightly informed, a single act of the Government of The United States, which can, in the view taken of the subject by that of His Majesty, be considered as not fulfilling the condition contemplated by the Act of Parliament of the 5th July 1825, as not placing the Commerce and Navigation of Great Britain, and of her possessions abroad, upon the footing of the most favoured Nation, excepting only the continuance of the discriminating tonnageduty of 94 cents per ton on British Vessels, and of the addition of 10 per cent. on the ordinary duty charged on goods imported in British Vessels entering the Ports of The United States from the British Colo.
dies. Both the measures embraced by the Order in Council, the coun tervailing duties, and the discontinuance of the intercourse, are founded on one and the same fact the continuance of The United States' discriminating duties. And the countervailing duty, deemed equivalent thereto, which has, by the Order in Council, been laid on American Vessels and goods imported in American Vessels entering the Ports of the British Colonies, was alone sufficient to place the British and American Vessels, employed in the intercouse between those Colonies and The United States, on the footing of the most perfect equality.
It does not belong to the undersigned to question the policy of the measures which Great Britain may think proper to adopt respecting the Trade with her Colonies. He only infers, from the Acts of Parliament passed on that subject during the last 4 years, that the intercourse between The United States and the British Colonies in the West Indies, South America, and other Places, to the extent authorised by those Acts, is considered by His Majesty's Government as beneficial to those Colonies, and to the British Empire at large.
With this conviction, the only inequality supposed to exist having been removed by the countervailing duty, the undersigned has been unable to discover the motive for interdicting altogether, after a short time, so far as respects the British possessions in the West Indies, South America, and several other Places, an intercourse beneficial to both Parties, and which might, in conformity with the Act of Parliament, have, if deemed expedient, been indefinitely continued with those Colonies, in the same manner as has been done, as respects the British possessions in North America.
Wholly unable, therefore, to assign a cause for the contemplated suspension of the intercourse in question, the undersigned apprehends that, for the very reason that the object in view cannot be understood, it may be misconstrued.
Having no instructions on a contingency which was not foreseen, he can at this time only express his regret, that a measure, which cannot be viewed favourably by his Government, should have been adopted, at the moment when he came authorised to renew the negotiations on that subject, and with a well-founded hope, from the liberal tenour of his instructions, that an arrangement, founded on principles of mutual convenience to both Parties, might be concluded.
It is well known that the delay in that respect was due to causes not under the controul of The United States: principally to the state of health of Mr. King, which has ultimately deprived them of his services.
The reasons of the marked preference given by the Government of The United States to an agreement by Treaty, instead of regulations adopted by both Countries, are sufficiently obvious. It is highly important for all the Parties concerued, and essential for the security of commercial or agricultural operations, that the intercourse should be
placed upon a more permanent and explicit footing that it can be by reciprocal Laws, liable to be modified or revoked at any time, at the will of either Party, and not always easily understood by those on whom they operate. And the obstacles which have prevented The United States from accepting the intercourse contemplated by the Acts of Parliament, which could only be done in toto, and by complying with terms on which they had not been consulted, may, it is believed, be easily removed by modifications essential to them, and which will not, it is thought, be found inconsistent with the interest of Great Britain.
The undersigned has taken a view only of the general tenour of the Order in Council, and does not think it necessary to advert to some of its details. He believes the omission of a special mention of the Trade with the British possessions in the East Iudies, in that clause which makes a special exception, as respects that with the British possessions in Europe, to be purely accidental. And he takes it for granted, that it is not intended to extend the countervailing duties to the intercourse by land or inland navigation, between The United States and the British possessions in North America, if it shall be found, as the undersigned believes it to be the fact, that the discriminating duties of The United States do not apply to that intercourse.
The undersigned avails himself, &c. The Right Hon. George Canning.
No. 2.- Mr. Secretury Canning to Albert Gallatin, Esq.
Foreign Office, 11th September, 1826. The undersigned, His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has the honour to acknowledge the Official Note of the 26th ultimo, addressed to him by Mr. Gallatin, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of The United States of America, on the subject of the Order in Council issued by His Majesty on the 27th of July.
The undersigned feels himself greatly indebted to Mr. Gallatin for the full and frank exposition, which that Note contains, of his own opinions, and of those of his Government, upon the whole matter to wbich the Order in Council relates; and for the opportunity thereby afforded to the undersigned for entering into an explanation, equally unreserved, of the opinions and intentions of His Majesty's Government on that matter.
It will be highly advantageous to dispose at once of a subject which stands apart from all the other important subjects which Mr. Gallatin is authorised to discuss with the British Government-a subject which is to be argued on principles, and to be decided on considerations peculiar to itself.
Mr. Gallatin will allow the undersigned to take the liberty of re
marking, that this peculiarity of character seems to have been overlooked by Mr. Gallatin in his note of the 26th of August. Throughout that Note there appears to be one pervading error. Mr. Gallatin treats the question as if it turned altogether on this single point" what are the equal and reciprocal conditions, under which a trade between The United States and the British West India Colonies should be carried on?” assuming, as a sort of axiom, that such Trade is as open to The United States as any other Trade in the World; and never enquiring whether some compensation might not be due from The United States to Great Britain, for the concession of a privilege which it is her un. doubted right to give or to withhold.
The undersigned is prepared to shew, that, even if the liberty to trade with the British West India Colonies were gratuitously conceded by England to The United States, still the footing on which the Trade, so permitted, is now carried on by The United States, is unequal and unfair.
But as the objection which the British Government feels to the proposition for such partial equalization of conditions, as Mr. Gallatin's Instructions appear to be intended to establish, lies deeper than Mr. Gallatin's proposition goes, the undersigned thinks it right to explain, in the first instance, the nature and grounds of that fundamental objection.
It is, as the undersigned has already said, the unquestionable right, and it has, till within these few years, been the invariable practice, of Countries having Colonies, to reserve to themselves the trade with those Colonies, and to relax that reservation only under special circumstances, and on particular occasions. When a relaxation of that nature has been dictated and limited by the necessities of the Mother Country, or of the Colonies, the Foreign Countries taking advantage of it, may fairly aver, that they owed nothing to the State which had granted such relaxation. They may even have felt themselves at liberty to decline to accept of a partial admission into the Ports of the Colonies, thus evidently opened from considerations of local or temporary-convenience, unless they were allowed a general liberty of trade with those Colonies, independently of such considerations.
The interdiction by the American Government, in 1820, of any Commerce with the British West India Colonies, until American Shipping should be permitted a free entry into the British Colonial Ports, is to be justified upon this ground.
The obvious way of meeting that interdiction by Great Britain, would have been to open to other Commercial and Maritime Powers the trade refused by The United States.
Circuinstances, not necessary to be detailed here, rendered that expedient, at that time, unadvisable.
In 1822, the privilege of trading with the British West Indies was conceded to the Shipping of The United States, with certain restric