« AnteriorContinuar »
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 Alags. 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 us 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
of the products and manufactures of the country. She would employ in carrying to her colonies (if it were all four; which is the most valuable article,) 60,000 tons of shipping; but the greater part of the cargoes being the bulky article of lumber, she may employ from eighty to a hundred thousand tons of shipping in the trade. The whole amount of our foreign tonnage being 854,000, Great Britain employed in this trade a quantity of tonnage equal to one eighth of the whole tonnage which we own in foreign trade. It was a desirable thing, certainly, if we could, to participate in that employment of shipping. In doing which we should create a navigation, and educate and bring forward the seamen who are to defend us on our shores and on the high seas, and employ our own manufacturers, mechanics of all kinds occupied in ship building, &c. in that proportion which such an addition to our navigation will require. The articles exported to the West Indies, Mr. S. said, were rice, flour, lumber, corn, horses, mules, cattle, poultry, potatoes, peas, beans, &c. all articles to them of the first necessity, and without which they could not support themselves, nor find materials wherewith to make hogsheads and construct buildings. If they could not get these articles from other countries, they must come to us, and must, if this bill passed, be coerced into admitting us to a participation of that navigation. Could they, he asked, get those articles in other countries? Certainly not upon equally nor any thing like equally advantageous terms, as from us. At this time, were such a law as this in existence, the West Indies, as to the whites as well as blacks, would be actually in a state of starvation: for Great Britain herself was so much in want of bread stuffs, as to have been petitioned to open her ports to certain articles, and of course was not able to supply her colonies. He doubted whether even with good crops, the mother country could
supply them with flour, &c. At any rate, those articles never could be imported from a distance into the islands in as palatable a state as from this country. Could the islands get these articles elsewhere? It had been stated and we ought to look at the subject in every part of view, said Mr. S. that gentlemen may vote advisedly—it has been stated that if Montreal was declared a free port on the part of Great Britain, she might thence obtain supplies for those islands; since it is well known that a great deal of flour is made in the neighbourhood of the St. Lawrence, which might, in that case, go down to Montreal, and be thence shipped to the West Indies. Mr. S. said, he was of a contrary opinion. It might be apprehended that much flour might be got in that way (which the bill did not provide against) but for the fact, that from thence but one cargo a year could be carried to the West Indies, the ports being shut up in the northern provinces for six or seven months yearly by the
ice. The time the ports were open was little more than sufficient for one voyage to and from the West Indies. From Canada then they cannot be supplied, and must be supplied elsewhere. That elsewhere, Mr. S. said, they would scarcely be able to find. The article of rice, he said, they could get no where, but in America. Indian corn likewise, they would get no where but from the United States that article was for their slaves all important. It might be said they could raise it as well as we. It was true that they could; but, if they did, they must take off the slaves and land from a more profitable culture, that of coffee and sugar. They must lessen the growth of valuable articles, in order to grow one of small value. As to the article of lumber, gentlemen from the east had said that the British islands could be supplied from the United States only, with that article. On this point it would be proper to state, Mr. S, said, that there was no finer timber than grew on the borders of the lakes, and on the banks of the St. Lawrence, and Montreal could be supplied thence on good terms. The merchants could go up there and buy timber to be shipped to the West India islands, whenever the St. Lawrence should be open. If they did however, the article would be supplied at a greater expense and higher price than it could be from our Atlantic border, inasmuch as we could make four or five voyages annually, and scarcely more than one could be annually made from the St. Lawrence to the West Indies, which would greatly increase to them the cost of the article. The article of live stock they could get from no country but ours, on which, Mr, S, said, they are wholly dependent for horses, mules, cattle, sheep, hogs, &c. Even if these articles could be obtained from the British northern colonies, they could not be thence carried in safety to the West Indies. Even from the neighbouring state of New York, the difference of insurance between a cargo of live stock from that state, and one from Connecticut, and carried by Connecticut men, was six per cent. So great was the facility and skill acquired by practice in that branch of trade, &c.
These, Mr. S. said, were his practical views of the subject, which he had thought it his duty to lay before the house; leaving to others to state more at large the political views.
For his own part, he said, he had revolved this subject in his mind a long time, and had found it very difficult to make up an opinion on it. One thing was certain:--we ought not to embark in the proposed system, unless we mean to persevere in it. After once commencing, we ought to adhere to it, let the consequence be what it might.
Mæ. FORSYTH then proposed as a substitute for the bill, sundry new sections, embracing a system of discriminating duties, to supersede the clauses of prohibition and exclusion embraced in the bill. Vol. II,