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Commerce of the United States.
[H. OF R.
by bills; for, as the trade is free to leave her, as jects over which we had no certain control. He the merchants, actuated by interest, would buy as would remark, that such a state of navigation, at cheap as possible, we are fairly to conclude, that present, assumed two things as its basis a great they sell some of our raw materials and products and manifest disproportion between all the branchto more advantage in other ports than hers, but es of industry dependent on ship-building and nayet purchase in her's cheaper; so, the commerce vigation, and the other trades; and our power of must be a beneficial one, or they would naturally becoming carriers for other nations, which would forsake it. That our exports are greater to Portu- not be the case if maritime Powersacted with their gal, Spain, and the United Provinces, than our accustomed vigilance. Unless the last employimports from thence, is a proof that they give good ment were provided for by the regulations of foprices for our products; but from want of assort- reign Powers in favor of our ships, the first would ments, or from their manufactures not being as be a serious evil. He thought it a safe proposisaleable here, or as cheap as those from Britain, tion to which nothing but wild and crude specuour merchants make up by bills from those places lation could be opposed, to say, that, as long as on London, to supply the deficiency of the export our right to be the carriers of other nations was to that port. With respect to predilection for not submitted to by them, the power to export all Britain, introduced as a ground of consumption, the raw materials of this country and its products he did not believe it existed; certain he was, he would be an evil. This regret of gentlemen, he felt it not himself. He could see nothing in the believed, to be founded on a comparison of this mere exercise of taste, in the consumption of ma- branch of trade here and in other maritime counnufactures, or preference of what was well manu- tries, as Holland, England, and some others. A factured and cheap, that was connected with the little reflection would, he believed, afford consolatheory of political sentiment. In this country, no tion, by showing that their comparative superiorisuch predilection for that nation existed; on the ty in the carrying business resulted from a solid contrary, he believed the most substantial inte difference in the situation of these countries, and rests of commerce were now at hazard, from the of the United States; nay, that this very superivery prejudices which were used by gentlemen ority is the result of necessity more than choice; sometimes to prove the very reverse. As to the a necessity which the free and happy citizens of perfect freedom of trade, and that universal treaty, this rich and abundant country did not feel, and of which the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Giles] which they would not feel for ages. The carrygave us a hint, but no outline, the other day, he ing trade of this country will never be equal to its questioned much if the accidental variance among exports, till the population of America bears a nations, on which substantial differences had been nearer proportion to the lands and the raw matemoulded by habits, rendered the thing possible, rials; till each branch of industry is proportionand were it possible; whether all young countries ably supplied with labor; or the foreign Powers that were not on even terms of manufacture, and admit our carrying trade to a fair competition ready for a competition of ingenuity, would not with their own. It is true, that we abound in arsuffer extremely by the institution; he was sure ticles of immense importance to the European this would. The idea was a benevolent one, but artist, but they are so extremely bulky and heavy, it was not one that could bear practice. On all that it is clear our exports require more than douquestions in which great and complicated inte- ble the quantity of tonnage that the imports de rests were under speculation, when habit, and mand. The exports are, tobacco, rice, grain of modes of life and taste, and an immemorial course all sorts, lumber, pot and pearl'ash, and such of things were to be considered, he always wished heavy and bulky products; whereas, the imports to see much respect paid to the past as well as the are manufactures, small in bulk, high finished, existing order of such things, as long as the result light, portable, and of great value, for the space of the whole seemed to be a great and certain and tonnage they require in transportation. The share of national prosperity; It was, Mr. Mur- proportion between them both is of value, and not RAY observed, a difficult and hazardous thing to of size. The first and great tendency of all things attempt to define with precision the particular here, is towards agriculture and the rougher arts, cause of prosperity; it led to political quackery. as lumber-getting, which belongs to agriculture; We know, however, with certainty, that never the other arts and pursuits are but auxiliary to this did a country so rapidly move forward to perfec- main body of the national calling. This predistion as do the United States that our naviga- position and tendency will be for ever keeping up tion has increased since the adoption of this Go- the ability to furnish the raw and bulky article of vernment, in proportion to other branches of trade, export, while it irresistibly disfurnishes the shipand that our commerce is both useful and orna- yard and its dependent arts, of that industry which mental, and the instrument of a revenue essential would be necessary to complete the power of afto the payment of a debt that we must discharge. fording domestic tonnage equal to the export; that
He said the complaint of gentlemen who sup- is, we can afford more labor in the procuring of ported the resolutions, that our tonnage was in- the export, than we can spare to the arts of shipadequate to our exports, was in his mind an in- building and navigation. These pursuits that beconsiderate and fallacious species of regret. It long to agriculture and a settled life, are more conmight be a desirable thing were our tonnage equal genial with our country, where freedom and plen, to our exports, but even this would be a good or ty invite to marriage, the rearing of families, and an evil, as it might be connected,
or not, with ob-| the acquisition of lands. At present, he believed
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Commerce of the United States.
the seamen engaged in the foreign American ton-ships, advantages, in which participation was connage, to say nothing of the coasting trade and fish-templated. In the two great scenes, France and eries, which doubled the amount, were more than Great Britain, to which American habits and in proportion to the citizens employed in the me- course of business would most probably lead, and chanic and manufacturing trade, making the rela-trom whence the manufactures were to be imtive proportions between them in England, the ported, the American carrier would find himself, standard to judge by:
after unlading his export, under restrictions which The tonnage rapidly increased every year; and, would force him to seek distant and circuitous he took it for granted, would observe a due pro- trading voyages, or return home in ballast. In portion under its present great encouragement, both these countries, he would find his enterprise which amounted just to an easy protection to sti- checked by their respective Navigation Acts-for mulate industry and secure cheap imports, with Monsieur Barrere has reported a Navigation Act; out giving a rash monopoly to that branch' of bu- it has been adopted by the Convention; and, as siness—and here, he would remark, that, under far as it respects the carrying trade, precludes us, the existing regulation, the very best consequence except merely for our own productions. The arfilowed in on the consumer. By the additional tificial progress of things in France in manufacduty of ten per cent. on goods imported in foreign tures, her political rivalries, and her Colonial relabottoms, and the addition of forty-four cents per tions, one would have supposed, would long since ton, we secured the importation of foreign goods have pointed out such an imitation of the English to American tonnage, and by this means bought act. The English act seemed dictated by necescheap; and, by leaving your ports free to foreign sity arising from causes, which, somewhat resemvessels, under an easy tonnage duty, there is a bling those of France, find little analogy in the competition kept up in the domestic market for present circumstances of this country. those exports, for which the foreign tonnage comes When imitation is pointed out to us as a piece into your harbor. Thus, already we buy cheap of policy, it is a duty to view our actual situation and sell dear at home. The competition that arises to discover similitude of principle and causes; and in our markets, in consequence of foreign ships to estimate the importance of differences between becoming carriers of the surplus over that to which national qualities here and in countries of whose our own tonnage is equal, certainly raised the practice and systems an imitation is proposed. If price of all things exportable; and a sudden and the situations, times, and causes are similar, there violent check in this order of things would vitally will be plausible ground. If other causes of naaffect the agricultural, the lumber, the tobacco, tional prosperity, more eligible than those of other and all the more bulky objects of exportation. countries, present themselves to our view, we ought
It appeared, then, to him, that the anticipation to be cautious, certain, and slow to decide. Very of effects from the resolutions, on the point of dis- remarkable differences are palpable here from the proportion between our exports and tonnage, was circumstances that seemed to him to have forced calculated on a growth of navigation forced, un- the carrying Powers of Europe to be such. It was natural, and pernicious; a growth that would call important to view them, for political contentment off from other employments the labor which is would result from a comparison in which we found better bestowed as it now is, in increasing our our difference. ability to furnish, by enlarging the powers of agri- In no country, that Mr. MURRAY recollected, did culture.
the history of the carrying trade show us a people A sudden alteration which would, for a consi- overflowing with raw materials and natural wealth, derable time, check that competition between the inhabiting a new, extensive, fertile soil, who beforeign carrier and our own, for our products, came great carriers. would surely do mischief; nor could he see into If we examine the causes that made Venice and what line of employment, except the mere carry- Genoa, and other free States of Italy, the carriers ing of our exports, would so immense an addition for the West of Europe, through the Straits of to our navigation be led; for, unless foreign Pow-Gibraltar, to all the States that were rich enough ers permit its participation in that branch of trade to purchase, or refined enough to enjoy the luxuwhích, from local consideration, has ever been ries of Asia and the Mediterranean, we find them deemed so precious to them, the tonnage that con- small, with no extent of fertility or soil ; and with veys the exports, over and above that quantity of a population overflowing, and disproportioned to it necessary to the imports, must return in ballast; the land, labor, or its produce. The Hanse-Towns, that is, if the export requires six hundred thou- the Dutch and the English, with a few shades of sand tons, and the imports but three hundred thou- difference, were similarly situated when they besand, there will be the half of our tonnage em- came the successors to these Republics in the carployed abroad, either in voyages that will but lit- rying trade. tle benefit our country, which wants internal Had all of them abounded in those bulky raw labor more than foreign enterprise, at least of so materials which arise from a soil like ours, with useless a kind, or it will return in ballast. sparse population, with a great disparity between
But, even admitting its policy, he had no evi- labor and its objects, they never would have been dence of the only thing, whích, combined with the the great carrying nations they were. We should idea of a navy, could render the object attainable, have seen something like that equipoise of emhe meant the relaxation of the great navigation ployment which the genius of our own country systems in Europe, which secured to their own I leads to; and agriculture at least disputing the JANUARY, 1794.]
Commerce of the United States.
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pre-eminence with navigation, which in our coun- that all our powers would gradually ameliorate try is but her handmaid.
together; and if left, as they have hitherto been, We have, indeed, seen similar habits and sys- more to the exertions of an enterprising spirit and tems. The insular position of Great Britain, her freedom, than rigidly directed by speculation and neighborhood and hostile rivalship with the Dutch, theory, they would, in the fulness and seasonablewho preceded her in arts and in navigation, ness of time, accomplish the extent and grandeur pointed out the Navigation Act to the Parliament of design, which nature seems to have destined as in 1651, as an instrument of resentment and it the social and political character of this country. seemed naturally to arise from her national qual- He was willing, therefore, to trust as much as ities.
possible to the operation of those causes which, But it is observable and important, in consider- whatever they were, had hitherto, under a foring the cause which rendered that act advisable, tunate neglect, produced effects and a prosperous that, notwithstanding her insular situation and train of things, which perhaps human contrivance her fulness of inhabitants, there was wanting for and speculative wisdom had never attained for us. half a century that co-operation of causes which Had they meddled more than they have, they occurred to give it all the efficacy it has been at- might, from the pernicious force of imitation aptended with since.
plied to a scene which had not its like upon the The proportion of British and foreign shipping globe, have thwarted that course of things which was but little in favor of England till eleven years nature pointed out, and which has been successafter the peace of Ryswick; at which period, in fully pursued. He could not, therefore, feel the 1697, the British tonnage was 144,000, and the fo- force of a system that certainly meant to tamper reign tonnage 100,000. The causes that then with a condition in which, a very few things exbegan forcibly to operate in favor of the British, cepted, he felt satisfied and grateful. He had eleven years after, when the British tonnage was dwelt the longest on the fitness of a Navigation 240,000, and foreign but 45,000, were as irresisti- Act to the present circumstances of this country, ble as to that effect as they are remote, and for- as most of the arguments of those from whom he tunately so, from this cou A union with differed in opinion were drawn from the propriety Scotland had taken place, and increased her ex- of adopting something extremely like one. ports; the manufactures of the country had re- But even taking it for granted, which cannot be ceived great comparative' improvements; the admitted, that these resolutions afford, on general American fisheries began to improve; Jamaica, principles, a well-founded hope of relief from comwhich is immensely important to her, and a King- mercial and navigation restraints, he had no hesidom in itself, became a considerable object; but, tation in saying that the present is the very worst above all, these independent States, who were time to try the solidity of the policy. It was bad, then very growing Colonies, became felt in the as it related to the chance of a war; and there scale of national interest, and poured their bulky was reason to fear that no nation would at this materials into her lap. Without a Colonial sys- moment hold out great commercial temptations, tem, she would not have felt the benefit of her except as a condition of joining in the war. It Navigation Act.
was bad, as it related to a commercial contest with With a Colonial system, she, and other coun- other commercial nations; for where was the natries possessed of Colonies, have inducements and tion on whom we could rely under such a derangeemployment for a disproportion of navigation that ment of our trade as this system designs ? this country is without, and needs not in her pre- An alteration so great, in navigation, habits, sent progressive state of all things. And yet the employment of capital, and all sorts of commergentleman's system looks to a Navigation Act, at cial views, had been more reasonable and more a time when all is convulsion without, and where practicable, if a clear necessity for such sacrifices none, or very few of the causes that have led to could be shown; or if, in yielding to the force of such a scheme in other countries, are visible in a justly excited resentment against the British for our internal affairs. For, if we look into our local insults offered to our flag, the gentleman had given situation, we find a most extensive and fertile us reason to believe that the sources of negotiation country, sparingly inhabited, and abounding in had been first exhausted; but there still remains a natural wealth. If we look at the English, we hope that negotiation and reflection might remedy find contracted territory, redundancy of popula- evils which neither had been able to prevent. tion, few or no raw materials, and scarcity of the At all events, the meditated change involved necessaries of life, with large capitals, and the interests to our industry not to be hazarded on greatest exertion of ingenuity in manufactures. mere commercial theory, unsupported by the very
Importation of manufactures has been our prac- last necessity. It was to be expected that any tice, and seems, under the present degree, protec- man who should make an attempt so serious as tion given to those which are adapted to our im- the present, would have come forward with a mediate attempts to be our interest. We import statement of advantages to be derived from the no raw
materials scarcely, nor grain, nor necessa- change, so great and so certain as to warrant some ries. They, on the contrary, import almost every hazard in the experiment. That, where he meant thing, and manufacture everything. In short, to change the stream of commerce and industry our situation is completely a contrast to theirs, from its present bed, and exclude supplies of man, and it is a contrast infinitely to our credit and ufactures from one country, he would have pointed comfort. It had led his mind to a full conviction lout another channel for its current, and have told
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Commerce of the United States.
us precisely the very nation from whose ports the He would not, then, fancifully indulge himself new supplies of manufactures were to be substi- or his constituents in hopes which a view of the tuted, and on what terms.
interests of France showed him to be fallacious, The gentleman who meditated this thorough and he would not in so serious a question supposé change, ought to have had at least the outline of that they, more than we, would act steadily on fresh treaties in his hand, for the old were worth any other principle than interest; it was the only nothing; he might thus have shown us the only immortal principle in the intercourse of nations; ground of expectation that a nation ought to calcu- it may vary its shape and modification, but never late on–a view of the interests of such nation with its nature;
and it is the most useful, as it contains which an accommodation of our own might be a perpetual stimulus to honest emulation. moulded into treaty. But no such thing was Had a detail been entered into by gentlemen on either conceived or done; indeed, it was imprac- the other side, of those provisions which we should ticable at the present time, and his measures ought rightfully expect of any Power, in whose favor to have waited for a proper time, had they been discrimination was intended, our judgments would in other respects adapted to our policy and in- have had some employment on fixed and certain terests.
objects; we might, from a correct view of the But even allowing times, and the settled state benefits and temptation presented, have estimated of things abroad, to have been at this moment with some precision, though not with perfect acsuch as to permit this measurement of the sober curacy, the value of that gain which such a cominterests of all, it would not be useless to inquire mutation promised, but at present we were in the shortly into the probable ground of treating, sup- dark, and foresaw nothing with certainty; composing a treaty for instance with France to be merce was to be let loose to be blown to any undertaken in the spirit of those resolutions. He quarter of the world, but its certain direction was would not indulge any of those romantic expecta- not to be counted upon, and could not be foreseen. tions which some seem to place in the affection of It was impossible, he observed, to calculate the that, or any other nation on earth. He would extent of the good and the evil; but we were cerlook steadily at her interests, in order to form an tain that there was not a nation in the world ready opinion of what she would do, and he would mea- and prepared at present either to receive our adsure her interests by her own scale--the opinions vances, or to supply us with manufactures, if these she had ever entertained since she became a great resolutions succeed. The only country to which maritime Power. Ever since the days of Colbert
, we could look as a substitute to the British market, France has looked on her West Indies as the sup- is at present in a state so convulsed, and in such a port of her maritime greatness. A jealousy, equal paroxysm of affairs, that from thence we had to that of any other country, had always appeared nothing to expect, nor did he think that a treaty, in her Colonial system; and a spirit of monopoly, of which he had heard some intimation, with that which her interests as a maritime Power, to use country of justice and reciprocity would suit the the term, seemed to inspire.
United States. Mr. MURRAY much questioned The Republic, by their Navigation Act, seem whether any treaty with the Powers of Europe on determined to adhere to the Colonial system; or, perfect reciprocity, for instance with mutual duif they at all relax, it is but a temporary yielding ties of say five per cent. on imports, would suit to transient necessity, rather than a principle of our situation. Such a one would suit those nachange, introduced by either a revolution of Go- tions only in which manufactures had obtained vernment, or real and lasting alterations of their considerable perfection, but would be the ruin of interests. Their interests would be the same now our infant manufactures, which we must and as heretofore, and that they meant to have a pow- ought occasionally to protect, by duties varied acerful marine was evident from their Navigation cording to their progression, and the probability of Act.
the supply from them proving adequate to our He did not believe they would let us into their demands. West India trade freely, except under circum- The effects of these resolutions on our internal stances like the present, which operated on all affairs immediately, would prove that they were alike. They never did permit a free export from pernicious and a real tax without a well-founded their Islands but to the Mother Country, and reason. They would immediately be perceived thence circuitously to others; by these means, in a diminution of our revenue, in their operation they were secure both of the carriage and a cheap on the value and price of goods, and in the reducsupply. Were a treaty now offered, giving a free tion of the value of our produce and raw materials. trade to those Islands, we would think it hazardous The last would be affected from the discourageto discriminate in their favor on that account. Wement of foreign shipping. The first, from the inshould be suspicious of an offer that stood on a ability to bring in foreign manufactures, from sacrifice of their own interests, and would not cal- which a duty could be raised, because the line of culate on the permanency of provisions, which the trade and correspondence being altered, it was imnecessities of war and disorder produced, but which possible to say when or where the importing mernever would long survive those necessities, which chant would be able to form new connexions peace would remove. But there was no such abroad, which were not things of a day or a year, offer; nor was now the time to digest such a but required much time and mutual confidence to business as a treaty, if this were an offer really mature. made.
The value of goods would immediately rise, and JANUARY, 1794.]
Commerce of the United States.
the merchant, every where actuated by the same sion, as all the points of relative privileges and principle, interest, which ought to guide us here, restrictions, and the items of trade, had been ably would benefit by the monopoly of goods to the and often stated. He had concluded, that as our injury of the farmer.
trade does not at present (putting the disturbances The moment these resolutions pass, said Mr. of war out of the question) suffer from many reMURRAY, there is not a shop or a store in Phila-strictions which, when unacquainted with the delphia in which every imported article will not subject, he thought did exist; as some of the exrise in price fifteen per cent., while our own pro-listing restrictions against us belonged to systems duce will probably fall. But a gentleman from over which we had no certain control, and which Virginia [Mr. Nicholas] wishes to see retrench- it did not suit us to imitate strictly ; 'as the resoment; he confessed he saw no reason for violent lutions contemplated a change without affording self-denial. There was no society, he believed, in a substitute in any degree, much less to more adthe world that could so well afford to live well, vantage; and as negotiation was not yet at an and taste of every rational and refined enjoyment, end, from which he hoped for some redress; as as the citizens of this free and happy country: peace was his very first object, and, he believed, The universal prosperity which this very com- that of his constituents, and as those resolutions merce, which is designed to be destroyed, diffuses might go to disturb it, and did not appear to him throughout America, justifies enjoyment. Very supported by a certainty of advantage, though folnatural would it be for the farmer to inquire the lowed by great present and certain mischiefs, he causes of this sudden rise in the price against him. should vote against them. He would be told that the British had insulted our Mr. M. having concluded his speech, the Comflag, and therefore our system of self-denial. Could mittee rose and had leave to sit again. it be answered that we had exhausted all the gentle means of negotiation? or could any man lay his
Wednesday, January 29. finger on any country, in a map, and say we have a The House again resolved itself into a Commitcertainty that from this country we shall not only tee of the Whole House on the bill making apbave supplies of goods, but sure and high prices for propriations for the support of Government, for our country produce This could not be said. the year one thousand seven hundred and ninetyWere there such a country now prepared and rea- four; and, after some time spent therein, the Comdy to substitute for our present connexions, he mittee rose and reported progress. said he would feel more justified in voting for this change, for he, like every other American, had
COMMERCE OF THE UNITED STATES. severely felt the indignities offered to our flag and The House then resolved itself into a Commitposts by the British.
tee of the Whole House on the Report of the SeBut, said Mr. MURRAY, it has been more than cretary of State on the privileges and restrictions intimated, even in this House, that our country on the commerce of the United States : had pursued a pusillanimous conduct and stood in Mr. Madison said, that most of the objeca humiliating point of view. He denied it. No tions against the proposed resolutions had been country on earth stood, he believed, in a more ex- made by those who meant to combat them, and alted station among the nations, nor better sup, that a question would soon be called for; it might, ported the character of a spirited people. Could perhaps, be expected that he should review those any nation be charged with pusillanimity that had objections, and assign the reasons which induced declared such a neutrality as this country did last him to continue in the opinion he at first enterSpring? At a time when all the great and for- tained. He wished it not to be understood that midable Powers in Europe, combining every en- he meant to examine every particular argument gine of immense force and despotism against the which, in the course of so 'extensive a discussion, French, were hovering round her borders, and had been opposed to the measure. The Commitseemed'determined to crush her; at a time when tee must have perceived that some of them had she had not one ally on earth, and no nation re- been of a nature not to merit an answer, and that ceived her Ministers, the United States dared to others had sufficiently answered themselves. He maintain a treaty, that looked the proudest na- should extend his observations to such topics only tions in the face! They dared to be just, and as might be thought to need explanation, and to there was a magnanimity in venturing so far in have an influence on the question. such times, and on so hazardous stipulations, that Previous, however, to this general survey of the not only rescued them from every charge of hu- ground which had been traveled over, he should miliation, but, in his opinion, added to the glory so far presume on the patience of the Committee of the country. No, this country was not hum- as to recur to the original opposition made by the bled. Like a young man of virtuous mind, and member from South Carolina, (Mr. Smith,) and of fortitude, just setting out into life and business, to take notice of some particulars, in what had she comports herself among the nations with dig- been urged by him, which were left unanswered nified reserve, with amiable and innocent man- at the time. ners; she complies with her engagements though The gentleman had thought proper to introduce imminent danger overhang the performance, and his discourse with a very unmerited attack on the bravely trusts the consequences to Providence. late Secretary of State, and to mingle with it a
Mr. M. concluded with observing, that the state variety of criticisms on the facts and opinions of the debate presented no temptation to discus- I stated in his report on the subject under consider