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procity into the West India trade. If the British government did not take this course, it would have to wink at the formation of entrepots, by which the object proposed by the bill would be substantially accomplished.
Mr. RANDOLPH, of Virginia, said, if the British ministers would not relax their policy at the peril of losing their seats, they would hardly relax it for our relief. If the English would lose six millions of trade by this measure, we should also lose the market for our horses, mules, staves and lumber—there were two sides to that bargain-and he really thought it was refining a little in wisdom, to suppose that these English ministers, who understand so well their interest as regards their places, as to heed the public sentiment of England, and not the clamour of the colonies, would relax, to give us relief. Suppose the British government should not yield? Why, then, we are to go to South America, and get these six millions of the articles we now get from the West Indies. Could we do so? Would the people of South America take our staves, our lumber, our horses, and our mules, and our jack-asses? Should we carry coals to New Castle? How should we pay for these articles?
But the gentleman had asked, where would the British colonies get supplies? Why, Mr. R. said, these very South American colonies, whom the gentleman wished so heartily to see recognized, could furnish these very articles. And the opening of them, so far from being the remedy to the evil under which we labour, would actually aggravate the disease.
It was very well known, that previous to the American revolution, these colonies, then provinces, had an open trade with the West India colonies, and got a habit of supplying them, which even the American war did not entirely break. If that did not entirely break it off, but at its conclusion the intercourse was renewed; if the islands could go seven years without our supplies, did the gentlemen believe that they could not do without them for any length of time? This idea of starying the West Indies-of bringing Great Britain to her marrowbones, was suggested in 1807—we had tried all these things, and our measures had been wholly unavailing as to their avowed object. After remarking on the effect of our measures heretofore on the colonies, Mr. R. said, that our system then, was liable only to the same objection as the gentleman's system now, that it produced directly the reverse of the effect which we wished it to produce.
We went about starving England and coercing her by refusing to receive her manufactures; we found that would not do, and we have now set about raising manufactures of our own-as much as to say, for
he was stating it argumentatively, that the power of receiving British manufactures being a great power, it was the interest of the country to destroy that power. So it was now proposed to act in regard to the colonies.
In his humble judgment, he said, there was but one view of this question in which we have a serious interest. He could not look at it without going back to our former system of commercial restriction, which had ended, as selfishness and ill neighbourhood generally do, in a fight. In that too, this system would end, provided it had the effect the gentleman had anticipated from it--for, Mr. R. said, he wished it to be understood, that he grounded his arguments on the efficacy of that which he believed would prove utterly inefficient and futile. Knowing what I do, said Mr. R.-little enough God knows, but enough for this I look forward to the day when we are to have the great struggle with Great Britain for the mastery of the seas; to which, as to length of duration and bloodiness, the great contest between the naval forces of England and of Holland in former days was but a skirmish. If the object was to encourage this contest, to hasten the struggle, by making regulations to get us all the seamen in the world, and raise as many of our own as we could, in one view of the subject this measure ought to be adopted. But, supposing it could reach the mark, Mr. R. said, he was not prepared to give his assent to the bill. This was one of those instances in which theory did not prore in practice what was expected from it. Not that he denied, that if this country was to be defended against a great maritime power, it must be by a fleet on that point he had not the slightest doubt--but his own opinion was, that it would be as well for the present to count, and not only to count but to pay the cost of the last contest before we courted another.
Mr. R. said, he was still for the doctrine of retrenchment, of economy, taking the hand of this government out of the pocket and off the person of the citizen wherever it can be done off the person, he said, for the effect of putting the hand in the pocket is to put it on the person he said off the person, espe. cially, in respect to this system of great maritime force; for, said he, you may have all the seamen in the world, and let war break out, there is no mode by which you can command the service of a number of seamen sufficient to man a respectable force, but by impressment. For, if we go into the system of bounties and premiums, in time of war, of bidding for seamen the price which will command them, when neutral nations are giving the highest prices, we go into a system that this country, great as it is destined to be,
even under the grossest mismanagement, cannot support.
Mr. Lowndes, of South Carolina. If, indeed, it were true, that there was something in the character of the British colonial policy, or of the British nation, which made it wise to submit to take a share of the colonial trade under the restrictions she thought fit to impose, and not attempt to make it her interest to adopt a more liberal policy, the objections were founded in reason. But, if this principle were once admitted, he knew not where to fix a limit to it. If she might, under this argument, without counteraction, prohibit our navigation to her West India possessions, why not also to those of the east? And why not to any of her dominions in Europe or elsewhere? Suppose France, instead of England, were concerned in this question, and that the prohibition was of our navigation to her Mediterranean ports. Is there a man who would say that we ought to consent that French vessels should bring to us the produce of the French coast on the Mediterranean, and receive our productions in return, whilst American vessels were excluded from any participation in the trade? He presumed not; and yet he saw no substantial difference between the case supposed and that which already exists, and to which this bill has reference. On general principles, Mr. L. took it for granted, that whether we do or not counteract this policy of Great Britain, was a question of expediency merely. It seemed proper to him that some countervailing measure should be adopted, to induce Great Britain to admit us to a participation in the navigation to her West India colonies, whilst she admits us to a participation in that trade.
It had been said that there was something in her navigation system to which the government of England was so attached; that it was so fixed in the affections of the people and in the principles of the government, that, however injurious the system to us, we ought not to enter into a contest to obtain its relaxation. Although Mr. L. did not undertake to say that we should work a change in the policy of England by either the bill, or the substitute before the committee, he could not concur in the views which had been expressed in relation to the navigation system, and he believed gentlemen were wrong in attributing to it that almost superstitious veneration said to be entertained for it by the British government. He did not believe, that the government would find any difficulty in relaxing its policy, if it were made its apparent interest to do so. He formed his opinion less from what he had heard of the disposition of the people or of the government, than from what he saw on their statute book. If on examination it were found that, in order to secure articles of the first necessity, the most important principles of the system had been occasionally abandoned or changed, and this recertly; if gentlemen could not show something connected with the state of this country, some difficulty not yet referred to, which will lead them to refuse to us what they have yielded to others, this objection to our acting on the subject might be completely answered. Mr. L. proceeded to citein
stances of relaxation of her navigation and colonial system from the statute book.
The facts, Mr. L. said, which he had stated, in regard to relaxations of the navigation system, furnished a complete answer to this argument of the blind adherence of the British government to the system.
Could any one examine the situation of the West India islands, without being satisfied that the effect of cutting them off from their ordinary supplies must be to injure the prosperity of the mother state, and impair its commerce and navigation? The operation of the measure embraced in this bill was not that to which the gentleman referred; not that of inflicting local distress in the islands, to which the British government would be indifferent; but, as the establishments in these islands were connected with others in the mother country, where indeed many of the proprietors resided, the result of the measure would be, Mr. L. firmly believed, to produce such an impression altogether as to require the British government to relax its system, in one instance, as it already had donc in others to secure a general benefit.
He did not know, he said, but that the disadvantage which would result to British navigation, from the employment which an addition to our navigation (by a relaxation of her policy) would give to 2500 American seamen, might not be sufficient to induce them to refuse to throw open the ports of the colonies, important as the measure might be to them. He did not say such would be the result; but surely, if the motive of the present policy of Great Britain was to be found in the watchful jealousy of a rival power, did it not furnish a strong argument why every measure on the part of this government should be taken to counteract it?
But, Mr. L. said, he should not vote for either of the bills before the committee, if only intended to produce a relaxation in the British system. He discriminated between the measure embraced in either of these bills, and those measures to which gentlemen had appeared to assimilate it. In doing so, he said that he should vote for this measure, not merely on account of the tendency it might have to produce a relaxation of the British colonial policy, but because it must, operate as it will, produce a state of things greatly preferable to that which now exists. If indeed he were confident that this bill would not produce an abandonment of the policy it proposes to counteract, he should still vote for it, on account of the partition of navigation with England which it would effect, by making the trade with the colonies circuitous.
If the principle were true, which Mr. L. by no means admitted, that the duties on that
which we consume would fall wholly on us, the duties on the other portion would fall
wholly on the West India colonies. But Mr. L. did not admit, that the duties proposed would, in any material degree, fall on the consumer; since it must be evident, as he demonstrated, that the price of the articles heretofore imported from the British West Indies, in our market, must be regulated by the price at which we can import them from other quarters. If they continued to be imported, therefore, at all, the articles imported, and not the consumer, would pay the additional duty.
Mr. L. confessed, that independently of the considerations of interest, apart from every view of detail-he found great difficulty in reconciling to his judgment the carrying on, without even an attempt to counteract it, of a trade which served exclusively the policy of another power. If Great Britain had declared that there should be no trade between us and her colonies, it would have been proper to submit to it. But to admit it to be carried on in such ships only as she pleases, to obtain for her all the advantages of the most restrictive monopoly-might not a case occur in which it would not be proper to yield to this policy? It would be difficult to persuade him that, furnishing the articles of necessity we do, and seeing the industrious efforts of the British government to obtain them from every other country, we ought longer to yield to it now.
In every view of the subject, Mr. L. was in favour of the passage of this bill, in one or the other of the forms offered to the committee.
MR. HOPKINSON, (who had spoken on the subject before) alleged, that the gentleman had mistaken him, when he had supposed him to have said, that it was not in the power of this government to induce the British government, to abandon its policy in excluding us from a participation in the trade with its colonies. That, Mr. H. said, was not the question before the committee, and, when the house had honoured him with their attention, it had been his endeavour to confine himself to the question. He indulged in no speculative opinions. The inquiry was, solely, whether the measure before the committee would have that effect. The course of my argument, said Mr. H., was this: I placed myself on the premises of the Speaker-I assumed his position, and used his redoubts. Agreeing with him in his premises, I thought upon his own grounds a sufficient answer could be given. The ground assumed by the Speaker was, that the navigation system was the first object of the British national policy; that her prosperity and the continuance of her power were considered so intimately connected with it, that it was the corner-stone of her strength, the feeder of the lamp of her national glory, The question occurred, whether either of the measures before the house was of a nature likely to reach the subject. The gentleman had said, that any feeling of the colonies was beside the mark; that the British ministry