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TRADE WITH CANADA.
The following speech was delivered by Mr. Dix on the 23d of Jannary, 1849, in support of a bill providing for reciprocal trade with Canada, in certain enumerated articles. The subject had been for several years before Congress, and though the proposition did not finally succeed until some years later, the light shed upon it by the debate of 1849 no doubt contributed largely to its success.
Mr. President: Since this bill was taken up for discussion I have been unable, from indisposition and other causes, to bestow upon it the reflection which is due to the importance of the subject. But I will proceed, nevertheless, with such preparation as I have been able to make, to explain the objects of the measure and its probable effects; and I will endeavor, at the same time, to answer some of the leading objections which have been made to it.
If I entertained the belief that the operation of the bill would be prejudicial to the interest of any portion of the Union, I should not be its advocate. The first object of all public legislation is to advance the general welfare of the country; but this object ought certainly not to be sought for at the expense of any particular section, or indeed of any single interest. I believe this bill is entirely free from objection in this respect, that it will be eminently advantageous both to the United States and Canada, and do no wrong or injury in any quarter.
Before I proceed to examine the practical operation of the measure upon the commercial interests of the two countries, I wish to notice a preliminary objection which has been raised.
It is supposed that the privileges conferred by this bill upon Canada will be extended, by virtue of certain reciprocity treaties into which we have entered, to the foreign states with which those engagements have been contracted. I take a totally different view of the subject. I believe Senators have put an erroneous construction upon the obligations of the compacts to which they refer.
We have reciprocity treaties with Russia, Denmark, Hanover, Prussia, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the Hanseatic republics, and several other foreign countries. They are treaties with sovereign states, and, by every fair rule of construction, their stipulations, so far as they guarantee reciprocity, must be deemed to relate to engagements with other powers equally independent. The commercial arrangement proposed by this bill is with a European colony adjoining us, — one of those dependencies which the states of the Eastern hemisphere are accustomed to except in their compacts with us for reciprocity of commerce and navigation. If any of the states with which we have treaties stipulating for the same privileges which we confer on others had dependencies situated like Canada in respect to us, those states might perhaps acquire in respect to such dependencies the same privileges we shall confer on Canada if the bill passes; but I do not admit that they would acquire those privileges for their metropolitan possessions, and for the reason that colonies have always been made practical exceptions to the general rule of international intercourse. Possibly a special reservation may be necessary in every compact, from the provisions of which it is designed to exclude them; but I do not, as I shall show, consider it a matter of any consequence in this case. This we know in respect to Canada, that it is not only expressly excluded from the terms of our commercial intercourse with Great Britain, but it is the subject of distinct stipulations; and yet the British Legation, in accordance with the wishes of the Canadians, has urged this measure upon us under instructions from home, without the least idea that they would gain for Great Britain under our reciprocity treaty with her the privileges they desire us to confer on Canada.
The honorable Senator from Marylandl said that we had "given a construction to these reciprocal provisions worthy of notice;" and he alluded to our treaty with Portugal in 1840, by which it was expressly agreed that the stipulation in our treaty with France in 1831, in regard to French wines, should not be interfered with. This construction is perfectly consistent with the view of the subject I take. These two treaties were with independent powers; they were with continental powers in Europe almost bordering on each other; and a general stipulation in respect to equality of duties necessarily required an express reservation to authorize us to make the duties on any of their products unequal. This, however, is a totally different thing from a commercial arrangement between us and a European colony adjoining us.
But in coming to the conclusion that our commercial relations with Russia, Prussia, and other powers, under the reciprocity treaties we have formed with them, will not be affected by this bill, I put it on other grounds.
These treaties relate to commerce and navigation, and are intended to regulate the commercial intercourse carried on by those countries with the United States on the ocean-. They have certainly not been understood as referring to inland trade and exchange between countries bordering on each other. The right to regulate their interior intercourse with adjoining states has not been supposed to be at all impaired by these commercial engagements. If it were otherwise, if these treaties restrained the states which are parties to them from admitting articles free of duty from a neighboring country, except upon condition of extending the same privilege to the other contracting parties, we should at this very moment be entitled? in our intercourse with Prussia, to all the benefits of the custom-house exemptions of the ZollVerein, of which that kingdom is a leading member. Prussia borders on a number of the Zoll-Verein States. These states interchange with her their common products free of duty under the Zoll-Verein compact, or Customs Union. They have stood to each other in the same relation in which we stand to Canada. They had duties on their respective products as we have. They have abolished them, as we propose to do in respect to Canada on a part of ours.
1 Mr. Pearce.
Now, will it be contended that we are entitled to the same freedom of intercourse with Prussia which she shares with those states, because she has stipulated to impose no higher duties on our products than on those of other countries? Surely not; and for the very reason that the stipulations of our treaty with her are intended to apply to external intercourse by sea, and not to inland arrangements between bordering states. The intention of our treaties of reciprocity is stamped upon them in characters not to be misunderstood. The first stipulation (for those of latter years are of much the same import) limits the reciprocal liberty of commerce and navigation which the treaties were formed to secure to. "the ports, places, waters, and rivers of the territories of each party, wherein foreign commerce is permitted." The second stipulation regulates the duties *to be imposed on the vessels of the contracting parties engaged in that commerce. The third regulates the duties to be paid on the importation or exportation of their respective products. I admit that, by the letter of these treaties, this bill might affect our commercial relations under them. But I insist that all compacts are to be construed according to their manifest intention, not by one stipulation alone, but by all which relate to the same subject-matter; and I might apply these observations with great force to my first position, and say that those treaties did not contemplate commercial relations with colonial dependencies like Canada. But the whole tenor of their stipulations shows them to have been designed to regulate commerce on the sea, and not the interior traffic carried on by the inhabitants of countries separated from each other by a mere statistical boundary or an astronomical line. They are treaties of commerce and navigation — not of one alone, but of both combined.
When this measure was first proposed, I inquired of the State and Treasury Departments whether it would affect our commercial relations with foreign states under reciprocity treaties, and a decided answer was given by both in the negative. My own examination of the subject has brought me to the same conclusion, whether upon the same grounds I do not know.
If this construction be erroneous, if the privileges proposed to be conferred on Canada will be extended to, the foreign states referred to, then, I repeat, we shall, on the same principle, become entitled to the privileges of the Zoll-Verein, in Prussia, and perhaps gain access for our products, through her, to all the other states of that political association, comprehending, I believe, twenty-eight out of the thirty-seven states of the Germanic Confederation. This would, prima facie, be an immense advantage, though it is not clear that it would be of any practical benefit. But no one dreamt, when our reciprocity treaties were formed, that they conferred any such privileges on us; and I venture to say it will never occur to any of the states which are parties to those treaties that the proposed arrangement with Canada will confer any new privileges on them.
But if it were otherwise, the privileges the bill confers are reciprocal. We concede nothing which we do not gain in return. If Hanover, Prussia, and Mecklenburg-Schwerin should acquire the privileges conferred on Canada by this bill, we should acquire in respect to them the privileges the bill confers on us. There would be entire reciprocity. Our chances of profiting by the arrangement would be as good as theirs. The Hanse-Towns might send us a few more hams; but there is scarcely an article enumerated in