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carrying our articles in our vessels to the islands, we are on a footing of privilege in the sale of them. We have one privilege, if not two. It is readily admitted, that it is a desirable thing, to have our vessels allowed to go to the English islands; but the value of the object has its limits, and we go unquestionably beyond them, when we throw our whole exports into confusion, and run the risk of losing our best markets, for the sake of forcing a permission to carry our own products to one of those markets; in which too, it should be noticed, we sell much less than we do to Great Britain herself. Ifto this we add, that the success of the contest is grounded on the sanguine and passionate hypothesis of our being able to starve the islanders, which, on trial, may prove false, and which our being involved in the war would overthrow at once, we may conclude, without going further into the discussion, that prudence forbids our engaging in the hazards of a commercial war; that great things should not be staked against such as are of much less value; that what we possess should not be risked for what we desire, without great odds in our favor; still less, if the chance is infinitely against us.
If these considerations should fail of their effect, it will be necessary to go into an examination of the tendency of the system
of discrimination, to redress and avenge all our wrongs, and to realize all our hopes.
It has been avowed, that we are to look to France, not to England, for advantages in trade; we are to show our spirit, and to manifest towards those, who are called enemies, the spirit of enmity, and towards those, we call friends, something more than passive good will. We are to take active measures to force trade out of its accustomed channels, and to shift it by such means from England to France. The care of the concerns of the French manufacturers may be, perhaps, as well left in the hands of the convention, as usurped into our own. However our zeal might engage us to interpose, our duty to our own immediate constituents
demands all our attention. To volunteer it, in order to excite competition in one foreign nation to supplant another, is a very strange business; and to do it, as it has been irresistibly proved it will happen, at the charge and cost of our own citizens, is a thing equally beyond all justification and all example. What is it but to tax our own people for a time, perhaps for a long time, in order that the French may at last sell as cheap as the English ?-cheaper they cannot, nor is it so much as pretended. The tax will be a loss to us, and the fancied tendency of it not a gain to this country in the event, but to France. We shall pay more for a time, and in the end pay no less; for no object but that one nation may receive our money, instead of the other. If this is generous towards France, it is not just to America. It is sacrificing what we owe to our constituents, to what we pretend to feel towards strangers. We have indeed heard a very ardent profession of gratitude to that nation, and infinite reliance seems to be placed on her readiness to sacrifice her interest to ours. The story of this generous strife should be left to ornament fiction. This is not the form nor the occasion to discharge our obligations of any sort to any foreign nation: it concerns not our feelings but our interests; yet the debate has often soared high above the smoke of business into the epic region. The market for tobacco, tar, turpentine and pitch, has become matter of sentiment; and given occasion alternately to rouse our courage and our gratitude.
If, instead of hexameters, we prefer discussing our relation to foreign nations in the common language, we shall not find, that we are bound by treaty to establish a preference in favor of the French. The treaty is founded on a professed reciprocity, favor for favor. Why is the principle of treaty or no treaty made so essential, when the favor, we are going to give, is an act of supererogation? It is not expected by one of the nations in treaty: for Holland has declared in her trea
ty with us, that such preferences are the fruitful source of animosity, embarrassment and war. The French have set no such example. They discriminate, in their late navigation act, not as we are exhorted to do, between nations in treaty and not in treaty, but between nations at war and not at war with them; so that, when peace takes place, England will stand, by that act, on the same ground with ourselves. If we expect by giving favor to get favor in return, it is improper to make a law. The business belongs to the executive, in whose hands the constitution has placed the power of dealing with foreign nations. It is singular to negotiate legislatively; to make by a law half a bargain, expecting a French law would make the other. The footing of treaty or no treaty is different from the ground taken by the mover himself in supporting his system. He has said, favor for favor is principle : nations not in treaty grant favors, those in treaty restrict our trade. Yet the principle of discriminating in favor of nations in treaty, is not only inconsistent with the declared doctrine of the mover and with facts, but it is inconsistent with itself. Nations not in treaty, are so very unequally operated upon by the resolutions, it is absurd to refer them to one principle. Spain and Portugal have no treaties with us, and are not disposed to have: Spain would not accede to the treaty of commerce between us and France, though she was invited: Portugal would not sign a treaty after it had been discussed and signed on our part. They have few ships or manufactures, and do not feed their colonies from us : of course there is little for the discrimination to operate upon. The operation on nations in treaty is equally a satire on the principle of discrimination. In Sweden, with whom we have a treaty, duties rise higher if borne in our bottoms, than in her own. France does the like, in respect to tobacco, two and a half livres the kentle, which in effect prohibits our vessels to freight tobacco. The mover has, somewhat unluckily, proposed to except from this sys
tem nations having no navigation acts; in which case, France would become the subject of unfriendly discrimination, as the house have been informed since the debate began, that she has passed such acts.
I might remark on the disposition of England to settle a commercial treaty, and the known desire of the marquis of Lansdown, (then prime minister,) in 1783, to form such an one on the most liberal principles. The history of that business, and the causes which prevented its conclusion, ought to be made known to the public. The powers given to our ministers were revoked, and yet we hear, that no such disposition on the part of Great Britain has existed. The declaration of Mr. Pitt in parliament, in June, 1792, as well as the correspondence with Mr. Hammond, shows a desire to enter upon a negotiation. The statement of the report of the secretary of state, on the privileges and restrictions of our commerce, that Great Britain has shown no inclination to meddle with the subject, seems to be incorrect.
The expected operation of the resolutions on different nations, is obvious, and I need not examine their supposed tendency to dispose Great Britain to settle an equitable treaty with this country; but I ask, whether those who hold such language towards that nation as I have heard, can be supposed to desire a treaty and friendly connexion. It seems to be thought a merit to express hatred: it is common and natural to desire to annoy and to crush those whom we hate, but it is somewhat singular to pretend, that the design of our anger is to embrace them.
The tendency of angry measures to friendly dispositions and arrangements, is not obvious. We affect to believe, that we shall quarrel ourselves into their good will: that we shall beat a new path to peace and friendship with Great Britain—one that is grown up with thorns, and lined with men-traps and spring-guns. It should be called the war path.
To do justice to the subject, its promised advan
tages should be examined. Exciting the competition of the French, is to prove an advantage to this country, by opening a new market with that nation. This is scarcely intelligible. If it means any thing, it is an admission, that their market is not a good one, or that they have not taken measures to favor our traffic with them. In either case, our system is absurd. The balance of trade is against us, and in favor of England. But the resolutions can only aggravate that evil, for, by compelling us to buy dearer and sell cheaper, the balance will be turned still more against our country. Neither is the supply from France less the aliment of luxury, than that from England. Their excess of credit is an evil, which we pretend to cure by checking the natural growth of our own capital, which is the undoubted tendency of restraining trade; the progress of the remedy is thus delayed. If we will trade, there must be capital. It is best to have it of our own; if we have it not, we must depend on credit. Wealth springs from the profits of employment, and the best writers on the subject establish it, that employment is in proportion to the capital that is to excite and reward it. To strike off credit, which is the substitute for capital, if it were possible to do it, would so far stop employment. Fortunately, it is not possible; the activity of individual industry eludes the misjudging power of governments. The resolutions would, in effect, increase the demand for credit, as our products selling for less in a new market, and our imports being bought dearer, there would be less money and more need of it. Necessity would produce credit. Where the laws are strict, it will soon find its proper level; the uses of credit will remain, and the evil will disappear.
But the whole theory of balances of trade, of helping it by restraint, and protecting it by systems of prohibition and restriction against foreign nations, as well as the remedy for credit, are among the exploded dogmas, which are equally refuted by the maxims of