Mr. Harvey to Mr. Seward

No. 335.]

Sir: I communicate herewith the copy of a note which I addressed to the Count de Avila on the subject of the recent royal decree regarding the admission of cereals into the ports of this kingdom, which decree affects injuriously the interests and the rights of the United States under the treaty with Portugal.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.

[Page 120]

Mr. Harvey to the Count de Avila

Sir: A royal decree, issued under date of the 11th instant, and countersigned by the late ministry, assumes to establish provisionally the rates of duty that shall be paid in this kingdom for the admission of various cereals, discriminating between ports on the sea and what are called portos seccos—dry ports. This discrimination not only draws invidious discrimination between countries standing upon the same footing by commercial treaties with Portugal, but it does so with a prejudice on the one side and a partiality on the other that are inconsistent with those obligations.

For example, a duty of six hundred reis per hundred kilogrammes is imposed on wheat in grain and eight hundred reis on wheat in flour in the sea ports, while but two hundred and four hundred reis, respectively, are imposed on the same articles in the dry ports. It is very well known that the only dry ports are those along the Spanish frontier, which are wholly inaccessible to all other nations, and consequently the effect of the decree in its existing form is to give a preference to the productions of Spain, at the expense of other countries enjoying the same rights.

Article three of treaty between Portugal and the United States declares as follows:

“No higher or other duties shall be imposed on the importation into the kingdom and possessions of Portugal of any article the growth, product, or manufacture of the United States of America, and no higher or other duties shall be imposed on the importation into the United States of America of any article the growth, product, or manufacture of the kingdom and possessions of Portugal, than such as are, or shall be, payable on the like article, being the growth, product, or manufacture of any other foreign country.”

It has been shown that the terms of the decree are in conflict with the article of the treaty by a large discrimination in favor of Spanish grains and flour, to the injury of those of other countries.

At this time there are, at least, ten American ships at Porto loaded with grain, the growth and product of the United States, and others are daily expected to arrive here and there.

Those cargoes are not fairly subject to the prejudicial distinction which the decree assumes to make for the exclusive advantage of one nation over all others, and, therefore, this representation is now made in the expectation and belief that his Majesty’s government will take immediate measures to correct an error so manifest in itself, so urgent in its operation, and so violative of the spirit of the treaty.

The hope is entertained, inasmuch as there are large interests at stake and an important commerce may be seriously affected, that this matter may at once engage attention. The cargoes in question will not be discharged from the ships until the decision of his Majesty’s government is known.

I avail myself of this occasion to renew the assurances of my most distinguished consideration.


His Excellency the Count de Avila, Minister and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.