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extension in still bolder relief. In 1785, the exportation of 40,000 botiles of Champaigne wine was deemed a matter sufficiently important to be specifically mentioned in a note to M. de Calonne by General Lafayette, who was then endeavoring to place the commerce of two countries very dear to him upon a footing of equal advantage, and to provide for its extension.
I advert to these facts, not only to show that the anticipations held out by Mr. Jefferson and General Lafayette to the French Government, of the compensation which the removal of the general restrictions upon the trade with the United States would furnish by its great augmentation, have been realized to an extent as little foreseen by them as by the French ministers, but also to furnish an inducement for still further improvements.
I will dismiss this branch of the subject in observing that in the infancy of the trade between the two countries, although Mr. Jefferson did not succeed in procuring the removal of the monopoly of tobacco, yet his representations were so favorably received that changes were made in the system advantageous to the American commerce, and by which the importations of that article were nearly doubled, and were carried to 35,000 hogsheads; while now, after the prodigious development which this commerce has acquired, tobacco, from a simple monopoly, has given birth to a system of administration retaining its original character, and adding to it other features rendering it still more injurious to the United States. And its operation has been so marked that the importations of this commodity from that country had sunk, in 1836, to 7,000 hogsheads; and this, too, without any hope being held out that we may expect any relaxation in the regulations by which the supply may be much increased.
I now proceed, M. le Maréchal, to lay before you some facts drawn from the tabular statements published under the authority of France and of the United States, and which will show the extent of the commercial intercourse between the two countries, and the relative advantages resulting from it. Whether it fulfils the condition of a “footing of reciprocal advantage,” truly described by M. de Vergennes in a letter of October 30, 1786, to Mr. Jefferson, when complaining of some unnecessary restrictions in the American commercial regulations, as a “ precaution without which it is impossible that the commerce of two great nations can prosper, or even continue;" and whether its practical operation coincides with a suggestion in a memoir addressed to the French prime minister by General Lafayette, that “ if we wish the Americans to buy of us, we must multiply their means of selling," a very slight examination of this analysis will be sufficient to determine. I have selected the year 1836 for this inquiry, because it is the latest to which the tables in my possession extend ; and although circumstances may have given to the trade of that year a peculiar impulse, still the history of the progressive increase of the commerce of the two countries shows that the amount it then attained, if not already, will soon be surpassed. I have not considered it necessary, for the purposes I have in view, to seek to reconcile some discrepances I find in the American and French official statements, nor to endeavor to attain any scrupulous accuracy. General and relative views are all that are necessary, and any errors that my imperfect knowledge of French statistics, or the means of informa-, tion which I can reach, without causing too much trouble to others, will not be sufficiently grave to affect the deductions I may draw from these documents. seek in an exportation of specie, or in the remittances which some more favorable branch of their commerce furnishes them, the means of discharging this balance.
I shall briefly state the facts in a series of propositions. The whole export trade of France to all the world, in 1836, Francs. amounted to
961.000.000 The whole impurt trade amounted to
- 905,000,000 The value of the exportations to the United States
238,000,000 The value of the importations was
110,000,000 In 1787, the exportations of France to the United States were estimated at
- 2,000,000 At that time the United States were the lowest upon the list of consumers of French productions, embracing seventeen of the principal foreign nations.
In 1836, the United States were not only at the head of the list of French consumers, embracing thirty of the principal foreign nations, but they imported more than double the amount received by any other country, and one-fourth of the whole products exported from France.
All the exportations from France to the United States are manufactured articles, none of them giving employment to American manufacturers. The articles imported into France from the United States are in their natural state, and almost all of them supply materials useful to the French manufactures, and one of them, cotton, constituting more than two-thirds of the whole value of these importations, is indispensable to them.
There are a few exceptions to the unlimited extent of the two preceding propositions, but they are not sufficiently important to affect the conclusion to be drawn from them.
Two-thirds of ail the importations introduced from France into the United States are free of duty. Not one article imported into France from the United States is exempted from duty. The great American staple, cotton, imported into France pays a duty of between four and five per cent. upon its value more than Egyptian cotton, thus far operating as a bounty in favor of the latter. Upon silks imported into the United States from countries east of the Cape of Good Hope, a duty of ten per cent. is levied, while French silks are free of duty ; a regulation which has driven the Indian and Chinese silks from the American market, and which operates as a bounty upon the introduction of French silks, a product constituting almost one-half in value of the amount of the importation of the United States from France.
This brief analytical view of the state of the commercial intercourse between France and the United States, exhibits its importance to both countries, while at the same time it exhibits the superior advantages which France derives from it; advantages which are principally due to the general liberal principles adopted by the American Government, and to' the restrictive legislation of France, which, beside its unfavorable operation in other respects, interdicts, wholly or partially, two of the great products of the United States, flour and tobacco. There can be no doubt but that a removal of many of these restrictions on the part of France, which press upon the introduction of American productions, would tend to bring the trade of the two countries nearer to a “ footing of reciprocal advantage,” and would enable the United States to meet the heavy balance which this trade annually creates against them, by direct returns of raw or manufactured commodities, without compelling them, as at present, to
These are the general considerations, M. le Maréchal, which induce the Government of [the United States to hope that] his Majesty will acknowledge the justice of the application for a removal of the restrictions upon tobacco, and will find in the respective interests of the two countries a motive sufficiently powerful for the adoption of that measure. And permit me to say that, after a careful consideration of the reasons you have done me the honor to present to me in favor of a continuation of the present system, I do not find that they are of a nature to change the views I have been instructed to offer you.
Among these reasons I remark the observations respecting the nature of the tax upon tobacco in France, that it is one upon consumption, and after that upon salt, an indispensable article, the one which yields the greatest return to the treasury; and that wine, a privileged production of the French soil, is equally liable to taxation.
Certainly, the United States have no right to object to the imposition of a tax upon any of their productions imported into France; and if my application had taken the course I anticipated, it would have been perceived that my representations did not rest upon such a principle. If a tax were levied by one country upon some of the productions of the other, out of just proportion to their value, and to the general tariff of duties which the two nations had respectively established, so as greatly to restrict or to prevent their consumption, I am satisfied that the representations of the Government feeling itself aggrieved, would be received in good part by the other. If, indeed, such a tax were imposed for the purpose of excluding the admission of the commodities, in order to protect domestic industry, either agricultural or manufacturing, the character of the representations might very justly be more decisive than they would be were the tax merely a fiscal regulation.
But the United States do not object to a tax upon the consumption of tobacco in France. They object to a system of restrictive measures which amounts almost to a prohibition, and to a monopoly which deprives the comparatively small quantity that is introduced of that free competition which is essential to a prosperous trade, and which they offer to all the products of French industry. If these restrictions were removed, though the same rate of taxation were preserved, the American Government would, for the present, be satisfied, leaving the result to be tested by time and experience.
The suggestions you make, M. le Maréchal, respecting the advantages which the existing system of tobacco-administration offers to the commerce of the United States, have not escaped my observation ; that not only is no tax paid upon the importation into France of this article, but that it is transported in American vessels, and thus finds employment for the American mercantile marine. And further, that the authorities controlling this matter, presenting themselves in the American market " with the buyers of all countries, we there pay the same prices they do, and our competition contributes the more powerfully to sustain these prices, as our wants (which can always be estimated in advance) increase every year in a very sensible proportion.”.
Allow me to remark that, in the considerations here suggested, I do
not discover that compensation which you suppose the practical operation of this system offers to the United States in return for the injury which its departure from the basis of reciprocity, and from the principles which they have adopted for the regulation of their commercial intercourse with France, inflicts upon their citizens.
As to the exemption of tobacco from taxation, on its introduction into the French ports, this is a simple financial arrangement, which, so far as I can discover, offers not the slightest advantage to the American commerce. The French purchases of that article are altogether too limited to affect the general price. If tobacco is free in its admission into the French ports, the seller will make arrangements for its delivery there at the price in the home market, adding the amount necessary to defray the expenses to meet the chances of accidents, and to afford him a rea. sonable compensation. If it is not free, he will add still further the amount of the duties he may have to pay. In this case, an import duty. would affect the Government only, or rather it would be without any practical operation ; for, as a certain amount must be purchased, and as the Government is the only purchaser, it must add to the fair price, where the article is produced, precisely the amount it may choose to levy as a tax, thus in fact refunding with one hand what it receives with the other, leaving both parties in the same condition they would be if the matter were permitted to take its natural course. You will please to remark that, in this exceptional system, the functionaries of the Government unite in their employment the different characters of importer, of manufacturer, and of vender; and that the taxes of entry, of fabrication, and of consumption, are levied at the sale of the article. If, indeed, this production entered into free consumption in France, as the products of France do into that of the United States, and was then left to produce its natural effect upon the markets of supply and demand, then a declaration, like that in your letter, announcing its exemption from duties of importation, would be viewed by the American Government, not indeed as an equivalent for the introduction, free of duty, of the productions of France, to the value of more than 100,000,000 of francs, into the United States, but as an advance toward a system of reciprocity, and as evidence of a desire to give extension to a valuable commerce, and to encourage the production of one of the staple commodities of the best purchaser at the French markets.
I have sought in vain in the considerations you have presented me, respecting the transportation of the tobacco purchased for the French Government in American ships, a favorable circumstance, counteracting the injury which this system inflicts upon the United States. Were this measure dictated by the régie, and made one of the conditions of purchase, I should see in it only an economical arrangement, founded on the fact that American vessels, under the circumstances, can transport the tobacco at a cheaper rate than French vessels, and induced by a very natural and laudable desire to augment the amount paid to the state by diminishing the expenses of administration. But I find by the 311th page of the “ Enquete sur les Tabacs,” which you have been good enough to send me, that “ the contractors do in this respect what best agrees with their interest. It would be impossible to impose on them the obligation of making use of French ships. The time for the compliance with their contracts (l'epoque des envoies), which is connected with that
of the harvest, is uncertain, and they could not previously send ships to take the tobacco.” So that the tobacco is allowed to obey the natural course of trade, and is equally received, however transported.
But the object of the American Government is to change into a free trade the present trade of tobacco, which, in its existing condition, greatly reduces their exportation of that article, and reduces also the amount of the freight for the employment of their mercantile marine, which an increased exportation would give. When, therefore, the application for a change in this system is met by a reference to the advantages it offers to the United States, more particularly by the employment it gives to their vessels, I seek in vain to discover the compensation which is supposed to exist. If the barriers that check the trade were removed, then the supply sent from the United States would be regulated by the natural demand, and would flow in the natural channels. The quantity would be greatly increased, and it would seek the means of transportation where it would find them the cheapest. The French Government could not secure to its own mercantile marine the exclusive possession of this freight, without imposing discriminating tonnage-duties, which, during the existence of the convention of 1822, would be incompatible with that instrument. And, after its expiration, were either party to attempt to protect their own navigation by discriminating duties, the effort would undoubtedly be met by countervailing regulations, and thus would be unfortunately introduced the state of things which existed before that convention, and which was terminated by it. The increased quantity, therefore, of American tobacco, that a free trade would introduce into France, would obey the same laws of transportation which govern the present intercourse. And as experience proves that these are favorable to the introduction of American products, in American vessels, the effect of the open trade would be to insure to the flag of the United States almost all the advantages of the freight of that article. It will be apparent, therefore, that the present system, instead of offering any just equivalent to the United States by the freight of the article, which is the object of its operation, in fact takes from their mercantile marine a large amount of freight, which the natural course of things, unembarrassed by artificial regulations, would insure to it.
I have considered the other suggestions, already quoted, respecting the French purchases of tobacco in the American market, and the favorable effect which you suppose these are calculated to produce there, and also the conclusion which is deduced, that “this is certainly not a state of things of which the American planter can complain," and I regret that I cannot see in them any consolation for my countrymen engaged in the production of this article.
I partake of the opinion advanced by Mr. Jefferson in 1786, that even if any palliatives are introduced into the system, they ought to be received with great indifference, since a radical cure of the evil can alone restore the two countries to what the Count de Vergennes called “a footing of reciprocal advantages.” Though, indeed, M. le Maréchal, it is not a little singular that the mode of purchase, by which previous contracts are made for the delivery of the tobacco in the French ports, which is now pointed out as one of the practical advantages to the planter, resulting from the exclusive administration of the régie, was in 1786 considered by the French Government as injurious, under the exclusive administra