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Duties on Imports.
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degrees of demonstration ; but of all the sciences duty intended to be laid on rum? Certainly this on earth, the science of politics is the least capa- had better be by way of excise. In this mode ble of affording satisfactory conclusions, while it is the revenue would escape fraud by smuggling, the one that, from its importance, requires the which would otherwise be unavoidable. The greatest degree of certainty ; because when we tax was such a temptation, being thirty per cent. are to consider those things which relate to the upon its value, that no checks could prevent a welfare of nations, it is of consequence, and noth-clandestine trade being carried on. ing can be more desirable than that we adopt just Without the molasses trade is continued, the principles in order to come at proper conclusions. fishery cannot be carried on. They are so intiIn this science it is dangerous to adopt the mately connected, that the weapon which wounds visionary projects of speculators, instead of prin- the one will stab the other. If by such measures ciple. We ought to be cautious, therefore, in as these we ruin one of the most valuable interests selecting the information upon which we form of the United States, will not the people have a our system.
right to complain, that, instead of protecting, you He trusted to make it appear in the course of injure and destroy their pursuits ? He did not his arguments, that the propriety of the particular mean to say that the people wonld form unwarmeasure under discussion depended upon local rantable combinations ; but their exertions to knowledge, and yet it would be found of national support the Government will be damped; they concern. He believed it could be clearly proved will look with chagrin on the disappointment of to be as much the interest of one part as of their hopes; and it will add to their vexation, another to have the duty reduced.
that they have been deceived under the most flatIt was laid down as a principle, that all duties tering appearances; for who could conceive that ought to be equal. He believed, if gentlemen a Government, constructed and adopted in the gave themselves time for consideration, they manner this has been, could ever be administered would not contend this duty was equal. He said to the destruction of that welfare which it was he had made some calculations, which demon- formed to support ? strated the inequality to a very surprising degree. He recommended experience as the best guide, The tax operated in two ways: first, as a tax on and said, that it was decidedly against high duties,
raw material, which increased the price of particularly on molasses; and concluded with apstock and narrowed the sale; and second, as a tax pealing to the justice and wisdom of the committee on an article of consumption. It required the for a determination on this subject. distillation and the consumption to be equal in Mr. CARROLL would not take up the time of every part of the Union to render the duty equal the committee with saying a word on the main in its operation; but no gentleman contended that subject, but begged them to consider of how much the consumption or distillation was equal. The importance it was to the Union to get this bill gentleman from Virginia said, on a former occa- into operation. If every article was to be again sion, that Massachusetts would not contribute her debated in the manner it had already been, he proportion of the national revenue, because her could see no end to the business. Unless gentleexports were not equal to the Southern States, and men could advance some new and weighty arguof consequence her imports are less; but if this ments, he thought the time misspent in recapitufact is examined, it will be found that she does lating those that had been unsuccessfully urged export in full proportion with the Southern twice or three times before. States. Examine her custom-house books and Mr. Madison thought the arguments against you will find it; but Massachusetts is greatly the duty were inconsistent. He believed the genconcerned in navigation, and the wages of her tlemen in opposition had not replied to an observaseamen ought to be added to the amount of the tion he had made, and which was of great force profits of her industry. Then if we consider her on his mind. The gentlemen all say, that a heavy consumption, we shall find it in proportion duty will ruin the distilleries and fisheries, and also. Admitting the people of New England the people concerned in them; yet they profess to live more moderate than the opulent citi-themselves willing to lay the same duty, but in zens of Virginia or Carolina, yet they have not two forins instead of one. Now he would be such a number of blacks among them, whose glad to know if the distilleries and fisheries living is wretched, consequently the average con- would not be precisely in the same situation, let sumption per head will be nearly the same. The which would take place ? fact is, that all taxes of this nature will fall On motion, the committee rose, and the House generally in proportion to the ability to pay. adjourned.
Laying a heavy duty on molasses incúrs the necessity of allowing a drawback on country rum. By this system we may lose more revenue
Tuesday, May 12. than we gain; any how, it will render it very The Speaker laid before the House the petiuncertain. It is a question of some importance, tion of Jedediah Morse, stating that he has, at whether it would not be beneficial to the United great labor, expense, and risk, compiled and pubStates to establish a manufacture, which would be lished a geographical and historical treatise of the very lucrative. But waiving that consideration, United States, entitled “ The American Gehe would ask gentlemen, if there was any pro-ography, or a View of the present Situation of priety in taxing molasses in its raw state with a the United States of America,” embellished and
[May, 1789. illustrated with two original maps, and praying The House, according to the order of the day, that an exclusive right may be secured to him of proceeded by ballot to the appointment of a Serpublishing the same for a limited time.
geant-at-Arms; and, upon examining the ballots, Also, a petition of a number of the citizens of a majority of the votes of the whole House was the State of New Jersey, whose names are there found in favor of Joseph Wheaton. unto subscribed, in opposition to a petition of Mr. TRUMBULL, from the Committee appointed sundry other citizens of the said State, complain to confer with any Committee from the Senate, ing of the illegality of the election of Represen- respecting the future disposition of the papers in tatives from that State returned to serve in this the office of the late Secretary of the United House.
States, made a report; which was read, and orMr. Clymer, from the Committee of Elections, dered to lie on the table. to whom it was referred to take proofs of the facts A message from the Senate informed the stated in the petition of David Ramsay, suggest House, that they had appointed a Committee to ing that William Smith, elected a member of this confer' with the Committee of this House on the House, within the State of South Carolina, was disagreeing votes of the two Houses on the subat the time when he was elected, ineligible, by ject of titles. reason that he had not been seven years a citizen
DUTIES ON IMPORTS. of the United States, reported as followeth: That Mr. Smith appeared before them, and admitted
The House again resolved itself into a Comthat he had subscribed, and had caused to be printed in mittee of the Whole, Mr. Page in the Chair, on the State Gazette of South Carolina, of the twenty
the Impost bill. fourth of November last, the publication which ac
The article of molasses being still under con. companies this report, and to which the petitioner doth sideration: refer as proof of the facts stated in his petition; that Mr. Ames wished to reply to the observation Mr. Smith also admitted that his father departed this made yesterday by the gentleman from Virginia. life in the year one thousand seven hundred and seventy, Does that gentleman, said he, recollect, if we lay about five months after he sent him to Great Britain ; an excise, we prevent the burden from being imthat his mother departed this life about the year one posed upon the poor for their subsistence, as mothousand seven hundred and sixty; and that he was lasses, in the raw state, will be lightly taxed ? In admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court in South the next place, it is more favorable to the importCarolina in the month of January, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four.
ers of that article than the impost; it does not The Committee also report the following counter advanced in payment of duties, nor do they run
require so large a proportion of their capital to be proofs, produced by Mr. Smith, viz: Printed copies of the risk of bad debts, because it may be so reguthe following acts of the Legislature of the State of lated that the retailer shall secure the duty. AnSouth Carolina, viz: An act, entitled “ An act to oblige other reason is, it will save the expense of a every free male inhabitant of this State, above a certain age, to give assurance of fidelity and allegiance to
numerous host of custom-house officers, tidethe same, and for other purposes therein mentioned," waiters, &c. These considerations proved, that passed the twenty-eighth of March, one thousand seven if the excise was no better than an impost, it hundred and seventy-eight; an act, entitled “ An act was no worse; and as the duty would be better disposing of certain estates, and banishing certain per- collected, and give less reason for smuggling, sons therein mentioned,” passed the twenty-sixth of which, above all things was dangerous to the reveFebruary, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two; nue, it was sufficient to warrant the committee in, an act, entitled “ An act to alter and amend an act, giving the excise duty a preference, entitled an act for disposing of certain estates, and ban- Mr. Goodhue would not trouble the House long ishing certain persons, passed at Jacksonburgh, in the on the subject; but begged leave to repeat the State of South Carolina, on the twenty-sixth day of manner in which the molasses trade was connectFebruary, in the year one thousand seven hundred and ed with the fisheries, and the fisheries with the eighty-two,” passed in March, one thousand seven navigation ; that, if the first is injured, the other hundred and eighty-three; an act, entitled “ An act to confer the right of citizenship on aliens,” passed the fifths
of all the fish that are put up for that market,
two are wounded through its side. About threetwenty-sixth of March, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-four ; also, an ordinance of the Legislature where. The French would not permit us to carry
are of an inferior quality, and would not sell elseof the said State, entitled " An ordinance to encourage them there, but because we take their molasses in subjects of foreign States to lend money at interest on real estates within this State,” passed the twenty-sixth exchange; they will not let their colonies send of March, one thousand seven hundred eighty-four ; a the molasses to France, lest it interfere with their certified copy of an extract from an act of the Legisla- brandy. Now, any impediment to the exportation ture of that State, entitled "An act for raising and of molasses, will prevent the exportation of fish; paying into the public Treasury of this State, a tax for if we cannot export the fish, for what purpose the uses therein mentioned," passed the ninth of Sep-shall we continue our fisheries? And if they are tember, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-nine ; given up, how are we to form seamen to man our and a printed copy of the constitution of South Caro- future navy ? lina ; also a certificate from John Edwards and Wil. Mr. Madison said his mind was incapable of liam Hort, Commissioners of the Treasury of that discovering any plan that would answer the purState, under their seal of office.
pose the commitiee have in view, and not produce Ordered, That the said report lie on the table. greater evils than the one under consideration.
Duties on Imports.
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He thought an excise very objectionable, but as it; he was glad to see their growing consequence, no actual proposition for entering into such a sys- and was disposed to give them every aid in his tem was before the committee, he forebore to say power. From this view of the subject, he was any thing further abuut it. He admitted an excise inclined to adhere to the bill, and not make any would obviate in part some of the difficulties; but reduction. he did not think the answer given to his argu- Mr. GERRY hoped the committee would not conment altogether, satisfactory; yet there was an- sider the subject as finally decided; he thought it other argument he urged on a former occasion deserving of further investigation, and expected remaining unanswered-it was, that, at this mo- the committee would be satisfied of the propriety ment, the fisheries, distilleries, and all their con- of making some reduction. He felt a concern at nexions, were laboring under heavier duties than being obliged to extend the discussion, but his duty what is now proposed; true, the duty is collected impelled him to oppose a measure he conceived in a different mode, but it affects the consumer in injurious to his country. the same manner. The gentlemen have said, to He meant to consider the subject in two points be sure, that the duty is evaded; but if half is of view: First, he would begin by premising, that collected, it will amount to more than six cents the business of finance was a business of difficulty per gallon.
and delicacy; in Europe, it is considered in this It is said that a tax on molasses will be unpopu- light, and requires to be conducted by the most lar, but not more so than a tax on salt. Can gen- able and enlightened men. In America, we had tlemen state more serious apprehensions in the hitherto but little experience in this science, and former than the latter case ? yet the committee perhaps not more than one man is qualified to fill did not forego a productive fund, because the such an important station as financier; surely, then, article was à necessary of life, and in general Congress ought to be well assured of the justice consumption. If there is the disposition that is and propriety of the principle they adopt; they represented for people to complain of the oppres- ought to have sufficient understanding and inforsion of Government, have not the citizens of the mation to be able to demonstrate that their calcuSouthern States more just ground of complaint lations are right. But we are defective in docuthan others? The system can only be acceptable ments to guide us on our way, we are going onto them, because it is essentially necessary to be ward blindfolded, and have seriously to apprehend adopted for the public good.
evils from every step. Nations who are well inGentlemen argue, that a tax on molasses is un- formed on these points by the experience of ages, popular, and prove it by experience under the never attempt to lay a duty, in the first instance, British Government. If this is to be adduced as so high as we propose to do; they begin with small a proof of the popularity of the measure, what impositions, in order to try what the article will are we to say with respect to a tax on tea ?' Gen- bear, and how far the people are disposed to sustlemen remembered, no doubt, how odious this tain the pressure in that particular part. They kind of tax was thought to be throughout America; also have in view the certainty of the collection; yet the House had, without hesitation, laid a con- if they find all these circumstances manageable, siderable duty upon it. He did not imagine that then they gradually increase the duty until the a duty on either of those articles, was in itself ob- imposition becomes equal to what the article will jectionable; it was the principle upon which the bear. But he had forgot himself; he ought not tax was laid that made them unpopular under to touch upon this point, because gentlemen are the British Government.
above deriving advantages from experience; alIt is said that this tax is unjust; now, he had though we are a young Government, yet to be not a single idea of justice, that did not contradict established, we are enumerating and laying duties the position. If it be considered as it relates to that could only be proper after many years experum, he was certain the consuiners of foreign rumrience. Now, admitting these duties to be proper paid a larger proportion of revenue into the Trea- some years hence, was it not impolitic in Congress sury than the consumers of country rum; they to load the people immediately upon getting the paid more than equal distributive justice required; power of doing it
, and burdening them in a heavier if it was considered as it respected molasses, there manner than they ever experienced even under would appear no injustice. Molasses was con- the British Government? sumed in other States; but if it was not, sugar Gentlemen had contended that a duty of six was used in its stead, and subjected to a duty full cents per gallon on molasses was just and equal; as high as that on molasses. But dismissing both for his part
, he could not discover, with all the these considerations, and even admitting the exertions his mind was capable of making, how whole weight to fall on the Northern States, it gentlemen prove this to be the case; it appeared would not be disproportioned, because, in the long to him partial and oppressive. list of enumerated articles subject to a high duty, The principle laid down in the Constitution for they imported few or none; indeed, the articles an equal distribution of taxes was, that they shall were pretty generally taxed for the benefit of the be apportioned among the several States, accordmanufacturing part of the northern community; ing to their respective number of inhabitants. see loaf sugar, candles, cheese, soap, &c. He This principle is made positive as it respects direct hoped gentlemen would not infer from this obser- taxes; but he thought the equality ought to extend vation, that he thought the encouragement held itself to every possible case. The power possessed out by the bill to manufactures improper; far from by the House, with regard to revenue and the
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Duties on Imports.
power of making all necessary laws, enabled the reason can be offered why we should be exposed General Government to exist independent of sub- to the full operation of this high duty on molasordinate associations; but if they were inclined to ses? Is it because it falls exclusively upon the annihilate the State Governments, yet it would Eastern States to pay such extravagant duties? be their interest to attend to the advantages of Certainly gentlemen will not insist upon this printhe community, and administer their power so as ciple. If Massachusetts pays her proportion on not to make it burdensome and oppressive. Now, other articles, we will never consent to add he wished to know what principle of justice 120,000 dollars more, when all the rest of the authorized the committee to lay a duty of six Union will not pay half the sum. cents on molasses ? Unfortunately for Massa- The gentleman from Virginia told us, that Virchusetts, she imports a greater quantity than the ginia exports more than Massachusetts. I think whole Union besides. This makes her interest three times as much. This was a secret never stand alone, and her representatives are left to known till the gentleman had disclosed it. When labor the point, knowing the ill effect it will have gentlemen want a position to support their arguupon their constituents. Under these circum- ments, they assume the commerce of their States stances, it is necessary to pay particular attention to be very small, and hence a heavy tonnage duty to the justice of the measure; gentlemen should ought not be laid, lest they should be ruined al. consider that, in such cases, there is danger of in- together; but if they are to prove the quantum of terest prevailing over equity and policy. Certain revenue they contribute, their commerce is mag. ly, if the measure is pursued, we shall discover nified, and becomes three times as great as the comthis effect in the end.
merce of the most commercial State in the Union. Gentlemen have considered the arguments He thought gentlemen ought to be consistent in brought against this duty as standing upon local their facts and arguments, but he believed such an ground, advocating the local interest of Massa- opinion was without foundation. How, said he, chusetts. He would examine this position. It do gentlemen ascertain this to be the case ? He is the interest of a majority of the people of that had examined the subject with considerable attenState, that as much revenue should be drawn from tion, but could find no ground for such a supposimolasses as possible. I say it is the interest of the tion; the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. MADIState, for their interest is divided between the son] had enumerated a number of articles which landed and commercial; the landed interest pre- were imported into Virginia. They were mere dominates, and it was always supposed that the trifles, candles and soap. He'would wish to know, commercial bore a greater share of the public if the duty on hemp and cordage did not amount burden than it ought. The conduct of the State to more than all such articles taken together. of Massachusetts ought to be esteemed by us as But the articles of which gentlemen complain can the best guide to discover how far our commercial be bought among them as cheap as they can in regulations, as they respect that State, are con- the Eastern States, allowing only for freight. If sistent with policy, if she furnishes the best exam- they must have European goods, it is to be preple. Can we find that she ever imposed a duty sumed they suppose them of better quality, and of six cents per gallon on molasses? Not a single ought to pay in proportion. instance can be produced where she raised revenue If it was admitted that a duty of six cents was from this article. If they then never laid a duty a reasonable one upon rum, why will gentlemen upon it, and they were disposed to get every thing choose a mode of levying it, which the State in their power from commerce, we must conclude avoided for fear of ruining Their commerce ? But that if it could have been laid, they would have gentlemen are afraid of an excise, because it is undone it. It is not the landed citizens, if he might popular; rather than run any risk on this account, use the term, who consume molasses; it is the they would put to the hazard one of the most es. inhabitants of the sea coast; the former had the sential interests of the United States, he meant power, and they were interested to lay such a tax, the fisheries and navigation; but after all, we shall it might therefore be expected they would have be under the necessity of having recourse to an done it, if they had not been convinced it would excise, because this source of revenue will be inhave destroyed the fisheries and navigation of the sufficient for the public wants. The deficiency State.
must be made up either in that way by direct Now, he wished to know upon what principle taxation. He did not think gentlemen would the committee would proceed to lay a tax which prefer a capitation tax to an excise; for his part, the State Government had considered as injudi- he would choose the latter. cious. Was it to make them bear a due propor- The gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Madison) tion of the public expense? Gentlemen had inti- cannot see how an impost on molasses can affect mated that it was just for this reason, but what the distilleries and fisheries. After having been was the true state of the question ? Massachu. repeated over and over again, it would be unnesetts consumed of every article as much as other cessary that he should dwell on this point. But States, according to her numbers. If the returns every one could see the connexion; if we do not of the custom-house were examined, this would import molasses, we cannot carry on our distillebe found to be the case. If the gentlemen from ries nor vend our fish; and it will be impossible Georgia, Carolina, or Virginia, contend that we to import molasses under such heavy duties, at do not consume as much, and the result of an im- least the future importation will be limited to partial inquiry is that we consume more, what | two-thirds of the present, because the demand will
Duties on Imports.
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be in proportion to the increase of price, and the Mr. AMEs moved to insert china, crockerymerchant will not have capital to import more ware, and gunpowder; he thought them articles than two-thirds of his usual quantity.
of luxury. He would not reiterate the arguments respect
Mr. Fitzsimons desired the gentleman to ing the fisheries; it was well known to be the best change the expression from crockery to earthen nursery for seamen, the United States had no and stone ware, which being done, the committee other, and it never could be the intention of gen- agreed to insert china, earthen, and stone ware, at tlemen to leave the navigation of the Union to the seven and a half per cent. ad valorem, but negamercy of foreign Powers. It is of necessity, then, tived gunpowder. The committee afterwards that we lay the foundation of our maritime im- added looking glasses and brushes. portance as soon as may be, and this can be done Mr. PARKER moved to insert a clause in the only by encouraging our fisheries. It is also well bill, imposing a duty on the importation of slaves, known that we have a number of rivals in this of ten dollars each person. He was sorry that the business desirous of excluding us from the fishing Constitution prevented Congress from prohibiting banks altogether. This consideration of itself is the importation altogether; he thought it a defect sufficient to induce a wise legislature to extend in that instrument that it allowed of such a pracevery encouragement to so important a concern. tice; it was contrary to the Revolution princiIn any regulation they make, by which it can be ples, and ought not to be permitted; but as he effected, they ought to be sure of the ground on could not do all the good desired, he was willing which they go.
to do what lay in his power. He hoped such a It appeared to him, that six cents would have duty as he moved for would prevent, in some dethe most ruinous consequences to the general in- gree, this irrational and inhuman traffic; if so, terest; he therefore hoped gentlemen would agree should feel happy from the success of his motion. to reduce it, if not so as to place it among the ad Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, hoped that such valorem articles, at least down to two cents. an important and serious proposition as this would However, as the committee are not prepared to not be hastily adopted. "It was a very late mosay the particular sum proper to be laid, he hoped ment for the introduction of new subjects. He they would agree to leave it a blank, to be filled expected the committee had got through the busiup at some future stage of the business.
ness, and would rise without discussing any thing The question was now taken on striking out further. At least, if gentlemen were determined six cents
, and passed in the affirmative: ayes 24, on considering the present motion, he hoped they noes 22.
would delay it for a few days, in order to give Propositions were severally made for filling up time for an examination of the subject. It was the blank with two, three, four and five cents; certainly a matter big with the most serious confive being the highest was first put and agreed to: sequences to the State he represented; he did not ayes 25, noes 23.
think any one thing that had been discussed was The committee proceeded to consider the sub- so important to them, and the welfare of the sequent articles; but not having time to go Union, as the question now brought forward; but through the whole, they rose, and reported pro- he was not prepared to enter on any argument, gress, and the House adjourned.
and therefore requested the motion might either
be withdrawn or laid on the table. WEDNESDAY, May 13.
Mr. SHERMAN approved of the object of the Mr. Thatcher presented a petition from the motion, but he did not think this bill was proper merchants and traders of the town of Portland, in to embrace the subject. He could not reconcile Massachusetts, stating that the proposed duty on himself to the insertion of human beings as an armolasses will operate injuriously on New Eng-ticle of duty, among goods, wares, and merchanland, and praying that the article ́may remain free dise. He hoped it would be withdrawn for the from duty. - Ordered to lie on the table.
present, and taken up hereafter as an independent The petition of John Fitch, of Pennsylvania, subject. was presented. stating that he is the original dis- Mr. Jackson, observing the quarter from which coverer of the principle of applying steam-power
this motion came, said it did not surprise him, to the purposes of navigation, and has obtained an though it might have that effect upon others. He exclusive right therein for a term of years, in the recollected that Virginia was an old settled State, States of Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New and had her complement of slaves; so she was Jersey, and New York, and praying that his rights careless of recruiting her numbers by this means; may be secured to him by law, so as to preclude the natural increase of her imported blacks was subsequent improvers upon his principle from par
sufficient for their purpose; but he thought genticipation therein, until the expiration of his tlemen ought to let their neighbors get supplied, granted right. Referred to a committee, consist- before they imposed such a burden upon the iming of Messrs. Huntingdon, Cadwalader, and portation. He knew this business was viewed in Contee, to report thereon.
an odious light to the Eastward, because the peo
ple were capable of doing their own work, and DUTIES ON IMPORTS.
bad no occasion for slaves; but gentlemen will The House again resolved itself into a Com- have some feeling for others; they will not try to mittee of the Whole on the Impost Bill, Mr. Page throw all the weight upon those who have assistin the Chair.
ed in lightening their burdens; they do not wish