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“The general opinions of the Governments visited point to the propriety of this country's issuing the call for the convention, fixing time, place, inem Lership, and also suggesting in the invitation a list of topics for discussion, at the same time conceding to every State represented the right to bring forward such other subjects affecting the welfare of all as it may deem best.
"Not only should the call and programme emanate from our Government, but the assembly should convene in the United States under its hospitable welcome and direction. The details we do not enter upon, though we may be permitted the quite obvious reflection that the range of topics should be so varied that in some one or more of them each State should feel a particular interest, and the general scope of all tend to the prosperity and common good of all, We can well believe that the discussion of these topics which pertain to the common weal would be followed in each State with profound interest, the conclusions reached, especially if found with much unanimity, of great practical good, and the general result of a joint deliberation of the several people on questions of moment to each would inevitably weave into firmer fabric the warp and woof of the threads of friendship and interest and communication reaching from one to all the rest. Neither need we point out the value to our country in many ways of filling the position of a generous host, welcoming to our homes and estates guests whose good opinion we desire to win by sincere courtesy and a just revelation of our noble national character. To this end the representatives should enjoy extended opportunities to become familiar with the marvelous economies, politics, industry, education, and religion out of which our greatness has sprung. No limited or contracted parsimony should bound our efforts to exhibit in fair colors the magnitude and glory of that temple of freedom in which we worship. Every section of our land would reveal to their eyes, in language stronger than words, the wealth, progress, and happiness that attend a people whose institutions are founded on equality, where the poorest and weakest citizen has his wrongs redressed and his rights protected equaīly with the strongest and most wealthy. From such a survey they would carry home deeper respect for a country whose religion, unaided by the civil power, builds shrines in every neighborhood where the humblest may kneel and adore according to his conscience, where education rains down on every rank of life manifold blessings, and where obedience to the expressed will of the majority is deemed a sacred duty.
"In such a convention could be discussed, as was suggested by some of the States consulted, the plan of agreeing upon a common silver coin which should be current among all the States of the American continent at its face value. This proposition has i een favorably entertained by all the Governments advised with as one which would add value to the silver product and prove a potent factor in promoting commerce between the countries adhering to it.
- The States of Central and South America stand ready to respond heartily to our call for such a convention, and once held it would prove, doubtless, the forerunner of many more, whose influence would be puissant in promoting more intimate relations, both international and commercial.”
The reports of the commision show that the suggestions for a common currency was favorably received by all the Governments visited, including Chile. All the Spanish. American countries are now under a system of silver monometallism.
There is no gold to be seen. Silver is not only the current coin, but the legal tonder everywhere. These countries have paper money, but its value is regulated by the silver coin that prevails in each. They do not even coin their own production of gold.
The report of the Director of the Mint for 1884 shows that the entire product of gold in Spanish America for the three years previous was $25,000,000, of which only $1,500,000 was coined.
From the same report it is shown that for the three years the product of silver in Central and South America, including Mexico, was $143,000,000, of which $84,000,000 was coined, and of this total Mexico produced over $86,000,000 and coined $73,000,000. Deducting from the total the product and coinage of Mexico, we find that the total product of silver in Central and South America for three years was only $57,000,000, or about $19,000,000 a year, while the total coinage for three years was only $11,000,000, or less than $4,000,000 a year.
Bolivia is the next largest producer of silver. Deducting the product and coinage of Bolivia for three years, we find that the remaining nations of Central and South America produced only $19,000,000 in silver during the three years, and coined only six millions of this product, or about $2,000,000 a year. The balance of the product is shipped to Europe in ore.
Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, and Venezuela are the only nations producing silver to any amount.
From the report of the Director of the Mint it is shown that the total circulation
of paper money, gold coin, and silver coin in Spanish America, and including Mexico, is $340,000,000, of which $243,000,000 is paper money, and Brazil issues about three-fifths of the latter amount. For the details of the financial situation in the Spanish-American countries I would refer to the report of Mr. Reynolds, of the South American Commission, who has given special attention to that subject.
The balance of trade against the United States with these countries of Central and South America amounts annuaily to nearly $100,000,000. This balance is paid in bills of exchange on London, the proceeds of which are expended there in the purchase of merchandise which our markets could supply at as low figures and in as good quality as that of Europe. It was remarked nearly everywhere that English merchants, of whom the South American importers were buying their goods, might not accept such a coin in payment, and the reply invariably
was that in such an event they would come to the United States to buy their goods. All commer. cial transactions in these countries now are calculated in pounds, shillings, and pence, the local currency never entering into foreign commercial transactions.
In every one of these nations, with the exception of Chile, the proposition for a reciprocity treaty was also heartily received. We admit free of duty into our ports the products of a people who have prohibited ours from entering theirs. Duties that are almost prohibitory are placed upon flour, petroleum, provisions, lumber, and other articles imported from the United States, so that they are placed beyond the reach of the masses of the Spanish-American people. Human transactions are usually based upon reciprocity, but have never entered into our commerce with Spanish America.
Our Government might have received concessions for the adinission of our peculiar products free or at a reduced rate of duty had we been enterprising enough to enter negotiations in that direction. Almost everywhere the South American Commission found a willingness on the part of the Governments it visited to enter into commercial treaties whereby our peculiar products might be relieved from the almost prohibitory taxation without any further concessions upon our part beyond giving the pledge not to impose duties where they do not now exist. As an illustration, the little Government of Costa Rica proposed to remove the duty from tle, salt, preserved meats, mineral, coal, raw cotton, timber for building purposes, brick, tile, lime, and agr cultural and mining machinery, which they buy in the United States, provided the articles they produce, such as sugar, coffee, cocoa, and other articles which they send us are placed upon our free list. The sugar exported from Costa Rica last year was valued at only $278, so that there need be no fear of injuring our sugar interest by making the concessions they desire. The only articles which we now import from South America under a duty are sugar and wool, and almost the only wool we import is the coarse variety used in the manufacture of carpets, which is not produced in the United States.
All our carpet wools come from Chile, Uruguay, and the Argentine Republic; most of our sugar comes from Cuba. The production of sugar in all the South American countries would not be sufficient to supply one fourth of the demand in the United States if we should take all that is raised there. As a matter of fact none comes now. The South American Republics can not compete with the slave labor of Cuba, and never will; but if their product were admitted free of duty they would give us in exchange valuable concessions that would enable our farmers and manufacturers to find a market for their surplus.
With the exception of petroleum, nearly all of our exports to Central and South America come from the Southern States and the Northwest, and consists of breadstuffs, provisions, lumber, furniture, etc. Flour is so expensive that none but the rich can use it, the price often being as high as $25 a barrel, two-thirds of this cost representing the import duty. If the duty upon flour were removed in all the South American countries the exports from the United States would be very largely increased, and the removal of that duty could be obtained by an exchange in favor of sugar, while the almost prohibi tory duty upon lumber, provisions, and other goods would be given in exchange for the removal of the duty on carpet wools. Petroleum is a very important item in the commerce of South America. Gas is scarce and high, owing to the lack of fuel, and almost the entire population burn candles. Petroleum put on board a ship at 15 cents a gallon in New York is peddled out in the South Aunerican cities in pint bottles at 25 cents each, or 40 cents for a quart bottle, the light of a single lamp for an evening costing at least a quarter of a dollar, which of course prohibits its use by the common people.
Three-fourths of this price represents the duty, as it is the practice of the South American Governments to tax the necessaries of life and admit the luxuries free.
As an illustration, a certain government which charges a duty of 400 per cent ad valorem on our kerosene oil admits watches. jewelry, and diamonds at a duty of 90 cents a pound.
Still more important is some arrangement with the South American nations for a uniform system of customs regulations. Their present system was inherited from the old Spanish tyrants, and an importer is fined for failing to cross a t or dot an i, for a misspelled word, or an erasure of any kind in his invoice.
The customs officials receive compensation from the fines and penalties which they impose, and are therefore constantly tempted to injustice. This is a greater embarrassment to merchants of the United States than to those of other nations, because the English, the German, and the French have agencies and branch houses in nearly every one of the South American ports. These agents are constantly associating with the customs officials. keep them good natured by means of their own, and are able in case an error is detected to settle it without any considerable loss, while a manufacturer or merchant of the United States, who is a stranger to the customs officials and who has no friends to watch his interests in the ports to which his goods go, is constantly subjected to the most harrassing and disastrous fines and penalties. I could relate hundreds of instances that came to my attention in which the customs officials of South American ports were induced by English agents to drive American merchants out of trade by imposing upon them fines and penalties for the most trivial mistakes in their invoices and other reasons. For example, the captain of a ship who entered a South American harbor with a cargo of goods for the first time was fined $250 for neglecting to salute the captain of the port when he came on board his vessel. It was afterwards discovered that this was done at the instance of the captain of an English tramp steamer who had been running between that port and New York and had failed to get the cargo which the American skipper carried.
The merchants of New York, as is shown in the reports of the South American Commission, find that there is no profit in a trade where they are compelled to submit to such whims of officials and the jealousies of rival merchants. By a proper system of treaty the United States could induce the South American nations to adopt a uniform system of rules regulating the appraisement and classification of goods, which would obviate all the difficulties described.
There have been two attempts to hold an international congress of American nations. In 1825, during the administration of John Quincy Adams, General Boliyar, who was then President of the United States of Colombia, invited the several American nations to join in a congress to be held at Panama in June, 1826.
President Adams accepted the invitation and nominated Richard C. Anderson and John Sargent as delegates on the part of the United States and William B. Rochester as secretary to the mission. The message containing the nominations was referred to the Committee of Foreign Relations of the Senate, by whom a report was made on the 16th of June, 1826, condemning the mission and concluding with a resolution declaring it inexpedient for the United States to join the proposed congress.
The report was rejected by the Senate and on the 14th of March, 1826, the recommendations of the President were adopted by a vote of 24 to 19. On the 21st of April, the House of Representatives, by a vote of 133 to 61, passed a bill making appropriations for the mission.
Orders were transmitted to Mr. Anderson, who was then minister to Colombia, to attend the congress, but on his way to Panama he died of a malignant fever. His colleague, Mr. Sargent, found it impossible to attend the congress, and thus the United States was not represented.
The congress was held, however, on June 22, 1826, and continued in session until July, concluding a treaty of friendship with all the American powers who had been invited to join.
The congress adjourned to meet in February, 1827, at Tacubaya, a suburb of the city of Mexico. Mr. Poinsett. United States minister to Mexico, was appointed commissioner to this congress in place of Mr. Anderson (deceased), and Mr. Sargent, his colleague, went to Mexico, but the congress did not assemble owing to disturbing revolutions in nearly all the countries invited to join.
In 1881, as will be remembered, Mr. Blaine sent invitations to the Spanish nations to meet the United States in a similar congress and they were generally accepted, but subsequent to the retirement of Mr. Blaine from the Cabinet, the enterprise was abandoned to be renewed by Mr. Frelinghuysen, his successor in office, through the South American Commission, as has been related.
The following table shows the value of the jinports into the United States for the year ending June 30, 1885, which were subject to duty from the Central and South American States:
Grand total, $9,264,305. Sugar imported from Cuba, $48,467,371; from Porto Rico, $6,189,639.
The following tables show the value of merchandise imported into the several independent States of Central and South America, and the share of the United States in that trade:
The following is a statement showing the value of the trade between the soveral ports of the United States and the several States of Central and South America for the year ending June 30, 1885: