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three quarters of the mariners of the country: “any goods, wares or merchandise, the growth, production or manufacture of the United States, not prohibited by law,” 37 sec. this act to continue in force so long as the treaty between his majesty and the United States shall. The treaty ceased but this statute was continued by sundry acts to 1808-then continued another year, and the 49 Geo. 3. c. 59. re-enacted the same without any limitation. (Imparlance of these legislative acts not repealed by war.) This act then is permanently in force, except when affected for a time, by our non-intercourse, embargo, or the British retaliations thereof. Some exceptions from the general law as to unmanufactured tobacco, indigo and cochineal. Exceptions and permanent absence of all restrictions as to masts, timber or boards, pitch, tar, rosin, henip or flax, by 47 Geo. 3. c. 27, 2may be exported in any vessel belonging to any state in amity with his majesty, navigated in any manner (since altered.) Also bullion and prize goods by original act of 12 C. 2. c. 18. 13also temporary suspensions during war. By said original act, the trade of Great Britain with her colonies, which was the third branch above named, is confined to her home and colonial shipping. Exceptions by 45 Geo. 3. c. 57-enacts that wood, cotton, wool, &c. mill timber, horses, cattle, &c. may be imported into certain ports, viz. Kingston, Savannah La Mar, &c. &c. from the country of their growth, production or manufacture in vessels of such country, also tobacco, also permits certain exports (since altered.) When war is declared, the king by proclamation, shall permit merchant vessels, &c. to be sailed differently from the navigation laws.
The great object of these laws is to enlarge and strengthen the maritime power of Great Britain, and as one of her political writers remarks, they impose burdens on foreign, to encourage domestic industry; that the act of navigation is perhaps the wisest of all the commercial regulations of England. “If the wisdom of any scheme of policy is to be measured by its effects and consequences, our navigation system is entitled to the praise of having attained the end for which it was designed. Whether we regard the primary or inferior objects in this system; whether it is the increase of shipping, the extension of our foreign trade, or the strength of our navy, they have all advanced to a degree of consideration unexampled, and they owe that advancement to this system.”—(Reeve's Law of Shipping, cited in Chitty's Law of Nations.)
These are some of the features of the celebrated Navigation Act of Great Britain, and of some of the laws relating to the same subject. Let it not be said, that she will not relax in her colonial system, when we see she has relaxed, even in relation to this country, when it was for her interest. But what reason has she to relax her restrictions if you do not retaliate them? Relax them, did I say? Nay, she will add to them-favour the trade of her own subjects at the expense of your trade, unless you countervail her acts. The very trade between our country and her colonics, which she allows in her own bottoms, is a relaxation of the old colonial law, which restricted that trade to the mother country. And what has been the consequence of this direct trade in British ships between her colonies and this country? That some of these colonies have prevented, by high duties, the introduction from neighbouring islands, to which our vessels can go, (except from Bermuda) of all commodities from this country, because they can receive them cheaper direct from this country, and can send their produce, such I mean as they permit to be sent, chiefly rum, sugar and molasses, directly to us. And, sir, it is principally by this colonial trade of Great Britain, the decided advantage which that affords, which enables her almost to engross the direct trade between this and Great Britain—the advantage of double voyages: thereby enabling her ship-owners to under-bid us in our own ports-I mean, to carry for less freight.
On the subject of the trade in plaister of Paris, the assemblies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, have passed laws of the most offensive character: laying a duty almost equal to the price of the article in the Boston market, on all the plaister exported from their provinces, and landed to the east of Cape Cod -the duty, I think, is twenty shillings sterling the ton; and this act, contrary to all expectation, has received the sanction of the prince regent. Thus, to enable the British vessel to carry the article to the place of consumption, a distinction is made in our ports, and a preference given to some of our ports over others. Can congress for a moment, suffer a preference of this kind? Suffer a foreign power to do that which the constitution will not permit you to do? Where will these encroachments end, if not met by the most decisive measures of retaliation?
I will now, sir, for a moment, take a view of the navigation of this country; and of its importance, not only to the indivi. duals who may own its tonnage, not to that part of the country, where the principal part is constructed, but to the nation at large, in relation to the hands and materials employed in its construction, the amount and value of the tonnage, and, above all, in a national point of view, for manning our navy in case of war, with the number of seamen required to navigate it. The amount of our tonnage in 1816, as stated in the treasury report, was over 1,400,000 tons; but this is presumed to be, by the author (a member of this house, Mr. Pitkin) of a statistical view of our commerce, (a work distinguished for accuracy of research and correctness of remark,) greater than the actual amount, which he states at 1,250,000 tons; by the treasury statement of the amount of tonnage for 1815, laid an our tables yesterday, there were 1,368,127 tons; but the actual amount for that year may be rated at 1,250,000 tons: allowing one seaman for every 20 tons, which is rather under than over the usual proportion, it would require 62,500 seamen to navigate this tonnage, if generally employed. The original cost of this tonnage, on an average of 40 dollars the ton, is 50,000,000 dollars: the actual value, at any given period, will be found by deducting one-third of the original cost; this will give you an actual capital employed in navigation, for 1815, of thirty-three millions and a third of dollars. The whole of this tonnage requires to be replaced once in ten years, in consequence of loss and decay. There must, therefore, be annually built 125,000 tons, equal in value to 5,000,000 of dollars, which gives employment to more than 10,000 artists and labourers in the construction. This appears a fair estimate from the amount of tonnage actually built in this country, when commerce and navigation flourished, say in 1805-6. Ships of war in England, built in the king's docks, of the materials there generally used, are now estimated to last fifteen years; those built in the merchant's yards, ten years; giving an average of twelve years and an half; our merchant vessels may, therefore, be estimated to last ten years. The trade of ship building is extremely important in certain parts of our country, not so highly favoured as other portions of it, as to soil and climate; taken in connexion with the employment of the ships, it is essential to their prosperity; nay, their population must greatly decrease without this employment.
But what is the situation of our navigation, and of our gallant seamen, at this moment? Owing in part to the causes to which I have alluded, the restrictions imposed by one nation, at least upon our mercantile enterprise, and the many privileges and advantages which the ships and seamen of that very
nation enjoy in our ports, in reference to their colonial ports, and even to the direct trade with Great Britain, and in some degree, no doubt, to the general peace throughout the world, more than one half of our tonnage is now useless—dismantled at the wharves, and literally rotting in the docks. Many of our seamen are reluctantly compelled to seek employ in foreign countries, and to sail under foreign flags. Our ship carpenters, too, destitute of employ, are obliged, for a living, to go into the British provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, there to cut timber, even for the royal navy of England, and to build vessels to carry it to Great Britain.
Will the bill on your table have a tendency to relieve these misfortunes? I think it will. If it should not open the British islands to us, it will at least employ many of our ships and seamen to carry some of our productions, necessary for the British islands, to other islands in the West Indies, to be carried thence in British ships, into their own ports; giving us the privilege of carrying, nearly to the port of consumption, many of those articles which now are only carried in British vessels.
Not to detain the committee longer, it does appear to me, that whether you consult the interests of your fellow citizens, or the honour of your country, this prohibitory bill ought to pass. If it be done now, rely upon it, sir, that a future congress will, in defence of the rights and privileges of this nation, be obliged to adopt a similar measure, under circumstances more adverse than the present.
Mr. Smith, of Maryland, then addressed the committee. The subject of this bill, he said, was one of great importance and great delicacy. Apathy appeared to prevail in the house during its consideration; and yet never had any subject been before congress more important in its consequences. It had been observed to him, he said, by an honourable friend, that, in general, navigation and commerce were considered and used as synonimous terms, though materially differing and distinct from each other. It was the correct policy of this country not to attempt to aid the navigation of the country by measures which might be greatly injurious to its commercial interest. It was equally its true policy to accede to any propositions which could not prove materially injurious to commerce, and were at the same time greatly beneficial to navigation. If then no material injury could result to commerce from the passage of this bill, but a great benefit to navigation, the house ought to pass it.
By promoting the navigation of the country, we secure the materials with which we man our navy, an establishment so necessary to protect the honour and interest of the country. Without an extensive navigation, commerce could not be pro tected. Some sacrifices therefore were occasionally required from the commercial interest of a country, to attain the great object of an increase of navigation. It was not proper
for perhaps, to say that foreign nations, having established colonies which they are bound to protect, should not have a right to secure to themselves the whole of the navigation and commerce of those colonies. Such had been the course of all nations, to secure to themselves, in repayment of the expenses incurred by the colonies, the exclusive right to navigation to and from their ports. If we had colonies, Mr. S. said, he did not know that we should not pursue the same course. So far as the history of our government affords any example on this head, there was an illustration of the same policy on our part, in our refusal to foreign nations of the right to trade with the Indians within our limits without special permission—and he believed a proposition was now on the table to forbid foreigners from trading with them on any conditions. But if a foreign nation, thus holding colonies, derives great advantage from trade with our country, and yet excludes our vessels from any participation in it, if we
can coerce her to abandon that policy, we are bound, attending to the interest of our navigation, to do so, if we can do so without the hazard of too great injury to other interests. The friends of this
bill then, ought first to show that we can coerce Great Britain to admit us into a participation of the trade with her colonies, without material injury to the commercial and other interests of the country.
The effect of this measure on the commerce of the United States, Mr. S. said, must be considered in two lights: first, as regarded importation; and, secondly, as regarded exportation.
Shall we lose any thing, he asked, by prohibiting importation from the West Indies, unless in vessels of the United States? The principal articles of importation are coffee, sugar and rum. Shall we injure the revenue of the United States, or raise too high the prices of those articles in the market, by the proposed measure? Mr. S. said, he thought it could be clearly shown that no injury of this sort would result from it. Not only did we get enough of those articles. (rum excepted) from the West Indies and other countries for our consumption, but a surplus was left for exportation. If we are now able to export ten or fifteen millions per annum of sugar and coffee to other countries, and distribute them among the nations of the world, there could be no doubt we should always have enough, (supposing our communication with the British colonies to be cut off) for home consumption and to maintain the revenue. Rum indeed, could be got only from the West Indies, except in small but increasing quantity from Louisiana, and except a description of that liquor called Taffia, which our people will not drink. But suppose we could get none: the brandies of Europe are equally good, and equally if not more healthy-and the whiskey of our country (give it age, or turn it into gin) was not inferior in his opinion to either. On this point, he said, he spoke experimentally. The people, he said, would get accustomed to it, and it would be generally preferred to rum, which was in no view an indispensable article. From documents on the table, Mr. S. said, it appeared that the revenue from importations in British vessels from the West Indies was about two millions per annum. That revenue would not be injured, because we must consume the articles on which that revenue was collected, and procure them from some other source, if not from the British islands.
The next point was the effect which this measure would have on exportation: and here, and here only, was the difficulty. If we can assure ourselves that the colonies of Great Britain cannot be supplied elsewhere with the articles which are now drawn from our country for their consumption, we tread on safe ground. It was fair, Mr. Smith said, to state this question in its true light. The British West India possessions drew annually, on an average, from this country six and a half millions