The Marquis de Montholon to Mr. Seward
Mr. Secretary: I have the honor to transmit herewith to your excellency, by instructions from the government of the Emperor, a copy of the law of the merchant service, published in France on the 16th of May, 1866.
By the terms of that act, after the 1st of January, 1867, all foreign vessels shall pay no tonnage dues in France, and after the 19th of May, 1869, all differential tax on flags, when covering produce from its native country, shall be definitely abolished.
These regulations will have the effect of placing the United States on a perfect equality in the ports of the empire with the French marine.
I will not dwell upon the mutual ad vantages this new regulation will give to the commercial relations of the two countries, and I do not hesitate to believe that this single consideration will be sufficient to induce the government of the United States to grant French ships in America the same privileges that American ships will have in France.
I must, however, observe that the power reserved to the government of the Emperor by article six of the law of the 19th May, to continue the tonnage duty and differential flag tax on vessels belonging to countries where our vessels are not treated as their own, will make it an interest to the United States to take similar measures to those whose principles are inculcated in the new law.
While American vessels are still subject to common duties in our ports, if they continued the same dues and taxes, they would hereafter labor under a signal disadvantage.
For these reasons the French minister of foreign affairs, in charging me to notify your excellency officially of the text of the law of the 19th May, 1866, is sure the American government will imitate the liberal measures taken in this respect by the government of the Emperor, and grant all French ships, as the principles and precedents of American legislation allow, the benefit of a perfect equalization of flags, as soon as ships of the United States shall enjoy the benefits of the new law in our ports.
I will be obliged to your excellency to let me know, as soon as possible, if the government of the United States is disposed to accord the benefit of reciprocity to the French flag in the ports of the United States.
Accept, Mr. Secretary, the assurances of my high consideration.
Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.