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out difficulty. The masters of American vessels do not pay it without protesting against it; and I fear that if it is not repealed, the worst consequences will ensue. I hope that our legation at Bogota may succeed in effecting its repeal.”
Mr. Corwine to Mr. Webster.
« CONSULATE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
66 Port of Panama, September 9, 1850. “On the 22d of February last I had the honor to address a communication to your predecessor, in which I called his attention to what is called the contribution tax,' levied by this province.
“As applied to Americans doing business in Panama, this law I conceive to be unjust and oppressive, and expressed to Mr. Clayton my fears that a collision between our countrymen and the authorities of this place would, in all probability, ensue, unless it was repealed or modified.
“I regret to state that my worst apprehensions came very nearly being realized on the night of the 24th ultimo, growing out of an attempt, on the part of the local authorities, to arrest a Mr. Folger, an American citizen, who refused to pay the tax imposed. For an account of the affair, I refer you to the accompanying copy of a letter which I had the honor to address to our chargé d'affaires at Bogota.
“If the law is not repealed by the Provincial Chamber, which convenes on the 15th instant, or so modified as to operate equally upon all engaged in the various avocations in Panama, I fear an outbreak, more serious in its consequences than has yet occurred, between our people and the New Grenadians, is inevitable.
“I have used, and thus far successfully, my humble efforts to prevent a collision between our countrymen and the inhabitants of this place. I shall continue to do so, and I am not without hope, from the assurances I have received from his excellency the governor of the province, that, if a proper memorial is gotten up by the American merchants of the place, the law will be repealed or modified, and all further complaints and apprehension of a disturbance removed.”
CONSULATE OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Port of Panama, August 26, 1850. Sır: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your esteemed communication of June 28th.
I have to regret that you have been unable to effect a modification of the “ contribution tax," its operations being peculiarly oppressive upon the American citizens, and I fear the worst consequences if it is not repealed or modified.
You ask me to give you a full statement as to how this tax operates. I will briefly state the character of the law, its operations, &c., as I un. derstand it.
It provides that merchants engaged in business in Panama shall be taxed for the support of government, and the modus operandi is to classify the houses: 1st class being required to pay $125 per month; 2d, 3d, and 4th classes paying mere nominal sums. The exact amount I do not remember, not having the law before me. With the exception of Messrs. Smith & Lewis (British subjects,) no other merchants but Americans pay as first-class houses, although there are several Grenadian subjects who do a large importing business who pay but a nominal tax.
Now, the existing treaty, as you are aware, guaranties to American citizens the same rights and privileges as are enjoyed by New Grenadians, provided they respect the laws of the
republic. The question therefore arises, if, by the operation of the law in question, American citizens enjoy the same rights and privileges as New Grenadian citizens? I unqualifiedly say not.
When the latter are taxed to the same extent as the former, we cannot complain; but, until that is done, we have, I think, very just cause to complain.
On Saturday night last, a disturbance between American citizens and the soldiery of this place came very near taking place.
The circumstances of the case are these: A Mr. B. F. Folger, a citizen of the United States, had been acting in the capacity of agent for Messrs. J. Howard & Sons for a period of about one year.
On the evening in question he was making his arrangements to leave the following morning on a visit to New York. An order was issued for his arrest, he having refused to pay the “contribution tax” of $125 per month, and a guard of armed men placed in front of his office to prevent
Some 300 Americans banded together, and declared that he should not go to prison.
Mr. F. addressed me a note, requesting me to see the governor, and if possible have the guard removed.
I immediately addressed a communication to his Excellency Governor Obaldias, in which I stated that I could not see how Mr. Folger, who was merely an agent, or a mere clerk, could be arrested and confined in prison, as long as Messrs. J. Howard & Sons had any property in Panama; that to my knowledge they had a large amount of property here, say $50,000 worth.
Upon the receipt of my letter the governor at once issued an order for the withdrawal of the force, and Mr. F. was permitted to take his departure next day.
Subsequently I received a letter from his excellency, in which he states that agents are not exempt from the payment of the tax, and requesting me to urge Mr. F.'s substitute to pay up all arrearages. I fear, sir, that this is but “the beginning of the end," and that the most unpleasant scenes are yet to be witnessed.
The only hope I have is in a public meeting of Americans and other foreigners, which is to convene this week, and which I have called by authority of the governor. The object of the meeting is to memorialize the Provincial Chamber, which meets here in September, on the subject of this tax, to request its modification, so that it will operate equally upon all
I shall advise you by the next steamer as to the result of the meeting; and, if possible, of the reception of the memorial by the Provincial
Chamber. Meantime, if you can secure the interposition of the executive government at Bogota to stay further proceedings by the authorities of Panama, much good may result in the restoration of harmony and friendship among our countrymen, and the people of this province.
Sympathizing with you, sir, in the death of our late lamented Chief Magistrate—the great and good Taylor-I have the honor to renew assurances of my distinguished consideration.
A. B. CORWINE,
United States Consul. To Hon. THOMAS M. Foote,
U. S. Chargé d'Affaires at Bogota.
Mr. Corwine to Mr. Webster.
“ CONSULATE OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
“Panama, September 22, 1850. "I regret to say that there is too great a disposition on the part of the authorities of this country to oppress our countrymen. As evidence of this fact, sir, I need only to refer you to the contributions and capitation taxes; both of which, as I conceive, are in open violation of the existing treaty of peace, and the postal convention between the two governments. Whilst I shall continue to exert my humble efforts to cultivate and maintain a friendly intercourse between our people and those of this country, I shall, nevertheless, have a watchful care over the rights of American citizens, and shall keep the department advised of all acts of persecution towards them, that may come under my observation.”