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shall we buy this article of these manufacturers, and suffer our own labor to earn its greater reward, or shall we employ our own labor in a similar manufacture, and make up to it, by a tax on consumers, the loss which it must necessarily sustain. I proceed, Sir, to the article of hemp. Of this we imported last year, in round numbers, 6,000 tons, paying a duty of $30 a ton, or $180,000 on the whole amount; and this article, it is to be remembered, is consumed almost entirely in the uses of navigation. The whole burden may be said to fall on one interest. It is said we can produce this article if we will raise the duties. But why is it not produced now? or why, at least, have we not seen some specimens 2 for the present is a very high duty. when expenses of importation are added. Hemp was purchased at St. Petersburg, last year, at $101.67 per ton. Charges attending shipment, &c., $14.25. Freight may be stated at $30 per ton, and our existing duty 830 more. These three last sums, being the charges of transportation, amount to a protection of near seventy-five per cent in favor of the home manufacturer, if there be any such. And we ought to consider, also, that the price of hemp at St. Petersburg is increased by all the expense of transportation from the place of growth to that port; so that probably the whole cost of transportation, from the place of growth to our market, including our duty, is equal to the first cost of the article; or, in other words, is a protection in favor of our own product of one hundred per cent. And since it is stated that we have great quantities of fine land for the production of hemp, of which I have no doubt, the question recurs, Why is it not produced 2 I speak of the waterrotted hemp, for it is admitted that that which is dew-rotted is not sufficiently good for the requisite purposes. I cannot say whether the cause be in climate, in the process of rotting, or what else, but the fact is certain, that there is no American water-rotted hemp in the market. We are acting, therefore, upon
an hypothesis. Is it not reasonable that those who say that they can produce the article shall at least prove the truth of that allegation, before new taxes are laid on those who use the foreign commodity ? Suppose this bill passes; the price of hemp is immediately raised $14.80 per ton, and this burden falls immediately on the ship-builder; and no part of it, for the present, will go for the benefit of the American grower, because he has none of the article that can be used, nor is it expected that much of it will be produced for a considerable time. Still the tax takes effect upon the imported article; and the ship-owners, to enable the Kentucky farmer to receive an additional $14 on his ton of hemp, whenever he may be able to raise and manufacture it, pay, in the mean time, an equal sum per ton into the treasury on all the imported hemp which they are still obliged to use; and this is called “protection ”! Is this just or fair A particular interest is here burdened, not only for the benefit of another particular interest, but burdened also beyond that, for the benefit of the treasury. It is said to be important for the country that this article should be raised in it; then let the country bear the expense, and pay the bounty. If it be for the good of the whole, let the sacrifice be made by the whole, and not by a part. If it be thought useful and necessary, from political considerations, to encourage the growth and manufacture of hemp, government has abundant means of doing it. It might give a direct bounty, and such a measure would, at least, distribute the burden equally; or, as government itself is a great consumer of this article, it might stipulate to confine its own purchases to the home product, so soon as it should be shown to be of the proper quality. I see no objection to this proceeding, if it be thought to be an object to encourage the production. It might easily, and perhaps properly, be provided by law, that the navy should be supplied with American hemp, the quality being good, at any price not exceeding, by more than a given amount, the current price of foreign hemp in our market. Every thing conspires to render some such course preferable to the one now proposed. The encouragement in that way would be ample, and, if the experiment should succeed, the whole object would be gained; and, if it should fail, no considerable loss or evil would be felt by any one. I stated, some days ago, and I wish to renew the statement, what was the amount of the proposed augmentation of the duties on iron and hemp, in the cost of a vessel. Take the case of a common ship of three hundred tons, not coppered, nor copper-fastened. It would stand thus, by the present duties: —
But to the duties on iron and hemp should be added those paid on copper, whenever that article is used. By the statement which I furnished the other day, it appeared that the duties received by government on articles used in the construction of a vessel of three hundred and fifty-nine tons, with copper fastenings, amounted to $1,056. With the augmentations of this bill, they would be equal to $1,400.
Now I cannot but flatter myself, Mr. Chairman, that, before the committee will consent to this new burden upon the shipping interest, it will very deliberately weigh the probable consequences. I would again urgently solicit its attention to the condition of that interest. We are told that government has protected it, by discriminating duties, and by an exclusive right to the coasting trade. But it would retain the coasting
trade by its own natural efforts, in like manner, and with more certainty, than it now retains any portion of foreign trade. The discriminating duties are now abolished, and while they existed, they were nothing more than countervailing measures; not so much designed to give our navigation an advantage over that of other nations, as to put it upon an equality; and we have, accordingly, abolished ours, when they have been willing to abolish theirs. Look to the rate of freights. Were they ever lower, or even so low? I ask gentlemen who know, whether the harbor of Charleston, and the river of Savannah, be not crowded with ships seeking employment, and finding none? I would ask the gentlemen from New Orleans, if their magnificent Mississippi does not exhibit, for furlongs, a forest of masts? The condition, Sir, of the shipping interest is not that of those who are insisting on high profits, or struggling for monopoly; but it is the condition of men content with the smallest earnings, and anxious for their bread. The freight of cotton has formerly been three pence sterling, from Charleston to Liverpool, in time of peace. It is now I know not what, or how many fractions of a penny; I think, however, it is stated at five eighths. The producers, then, of this great staple, are able, by means of this navigation, to send it, for a cent a pound, from their own doors to the best market in the world. Mr. Chairman, I will now only remind the committee that, while we are proposing to add new burdens to the shipping interest, a very different line of policy is followed by our great commercial and maritime rival. It seems to be announced as the sentiment of the government of England, and undoubtedly it is its real sentiment, that the first of all manufactures is the manufacture of ships. A constant and wakeful attention is paid to this interest, and very important regulations, favorable to it, have been adopted within the last year, some of which I will beg leave to refer to, with the hope of exciting the notice, not only of the committee, but
of all others who may feel, as I do, a deep interest in this subject. In the first place, a general amendment has taken place in the register acts, introducing many new provisions, and, among others, the following: — A direct mortgage of the interest of a ship is allowed, without subjecting the mortgagee to the responsibility of an owner. The proportion of interest held by each owner is exhibited in the register, thereby facilitating both sales and mortgages, and giving a new value to shipping among the moneyed classes. Shares, in the ships of copartnerships, may be registered as joint property, and subject to the same rules as other partnership effects. Ships may be registered in the name of trustees, for the benefit of joint-stock companies. And many other regulations are adopted, with the same general view of rendering the mode of holding the property as convenient and as favorable as possible. By another act, British registered vessels, of every description, are allowed to enter into the general and the coasting trade in the India seas, and may now trade to and from India, with any part of the world except China. By a third, all limitations and restrictions, as to latitude and longitude, are removed from ships engaged in the Southern whale-fishery. These regulations, I presume, have not been made without first obtaining the consent of the East India Company; so true is it found, that real encouragement of enterprise oftener consists, in our days, in
restraining or buying off monopolies and prohibitions, than in imposing or extending them. The trade with Ireland is turned into a free coasting trade; light duties have been reduced, and various other beneficial arrangements made, and still others proposed. I might add, that, in favor of general commerce, and as showing their confidence in the principles of liberal intercourse, the British government has perfected the warehouse system, and authorized a reciprocity of duties with foreign states, at the discretion of the Privy Council. This, Sir, is the attention which our great rival is paying to these important subjects, and we may assure ourselves that, if we do not cherish a proper sense of our own interests, she will not only beat us, but will deserve to beat us. Sir, I will detain you no longer. There are some parts of this bill which I highly approve; there are others in which I should acquiesce; but those to which I have now stated my objections appear to me so destitute of all justice, so burdensome and so dangerous to that interest which has steadily enriched, gallantly defended, and proudly distinguished us, that nothing can prevail upon me to give it my support."
This is commonly called Mr. Webster's “Free Trade" speech. It has been found difficult to select one among his many speeches in support of the policy of Protection which would fully represent his views on the subject; but the reasons for his change of opinion, and for his advocacy
1 Since the delivery of this speech, an arrival has brought London papers containing the speech of the English Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Robinson), on the 23d of February last, in submitting to Parliament the annual financial statement. Abundant confirmation will be found in that statement of the remarks made in the preceding speech, as to the prevailing sentiment, in the English government, on the general subject of prohibitory laws, and on the silk manufacture and the wool tax particularly.
of Protection, are fully stated in many of the speeches printed in this volume, delivered after the year 1830. Perhaps as good a statement as can be selected from his many speeches on the Tariff, in explanation of his change of position as to the need, policy, and duty of protection to pable. . It is the inconsistency between a man's conviction and his vote: between his conscience and his conduct. No man shall ever charge me with an inconsistency like that. And now, Sir. allow me to say, that I am quite indifferent, or rather thankful, to those conductors of the public press who think they cannot do better than now and then to spread my poor opinions before the public.
American manufactures, may be found in his speech delivered in the Senate of the United States, on the 25th and 26th of July, 1846, on the Bill “To reduce the Duties on Imports, and for other Purposes.” In this speech, he made the following frank avowal of the reasons which induced him to reconsider and reverse his original opinions on the subject: —
“But, Sir, before I proceed further with this part of the case, I will take notice of what |: |. latterly, to be an attempt, by the repu ication of opinions and expressions, arguments and speeches of mine, at an earlier and later riod of life, to found against me a charge of inconsistency, on this subject of the protective policy of the country. Mr. President, if it be an inconsistency to hold an opinion upon a subject at one time and in one state of circumstances, and to hold a different opinion upon the same subject at another time and in a differen t state of circumstances, I admit the o ay, Sir, I will go further; and in regard to questions which, from their nature, do not depend upon circumstances for their true and just solution, I mean constitutional questions, if it be an inconsistency to hold an opinion to-day, even upon such a question, and on that same question to hold a different opinion a quarter of a century afterwards, upon a more comprehensive view of the whole subject, with a more thorough investigation into the original purposes and objects of that Constitution, and especially after a more thorough exposition of those objects and purposes by those who framed it, and have been trusted to administer it, I should not shrink even from that imputation. I hope I know more of the Constitution of my country than I did when I was twenty years old. I hope I have contemplated its great objects more broadly. I hope I have read with deeper interest the sentiments of the great men who framed it. I hope I have studied with more care the condition of the country when the convention assembled to form it. And yet I do not know that I have much to retract or to change on these points. “But, Sir, I am of the opinion of a very eminent person, who had occasion, not long since, to speak of this topic in another place. Inconsistencies of opinion, arising from changes of circumstances, are often justifiable. But
there is one sort of inconsistency which is cul
“I have said many times, and it is true, that, up to the year 1824, the people of that part of the country to which I belong, being addicted to commerce, having been successful in commerce, their capital being very much engaged in commerce, were averse to entering upon a system of manufacturing operations. Every member in Congress from the State of Massachusetts, with the exception, I think, of one, voted against the act of 1824. But what were we to do o Were we not bound, after 1817 and 1824, to consider that the policy of the country was settled, had become settled, as a policy, to protect the domestic industry of the country by solemn laws 2 The leading speech l which ushered in the act of 1824 was called a speech for the “American System.” The bill was carried principally by the Middle States. Pennsylvania and New York would have it so ; and what were we to do? Were we to stand aloof from the occupations which others were pursuing around us? Were we to pick clean teeth on a constitutional doubt which a majority in the councils of the nation had overruled 2 No, Sir: we had no option. All that was left us was to fall in with the settled policy of the country: because, if any thing can ever settle the policy of the country, or if any thing can ever settle the practical construction of the Constitution of the country, it must be these repeated decisions of Congress, and enactments of successive laws conformable to these decisions. New England, then, did fall in. She went into manufacturing operations, not from original choice, but from the necessity of the circumstances in which the legislation of the country had placed her. And, for one, I resolved then, and have acted upon the resolution ever since, that, having compelled the Eastern States to go into these pursuits for a livelihood, the country was bound to fulfil the just expectations which it had inspired.”
* That of Mr. Clay.
AN ARGUMENT MADE IN THE CASE OF GIBBONS AND OGDEN,
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES, FEBRUARY TERM, 1824.
[This was an appeal from the Court for the Trial of Impeachments and Correction of Errors of the State of New York. Aaron Ogden filed his bill in the Court of Chancery of that State, against Thomas Gibbons, setting forth the several acts of the legislature thereof, enacted for the purpose of securing to Robert R. Livingston and Robert Fulton the exclusive navigation of all the waters within the jurisdiction of that State, with boats moved by fire or steam, for a term of years which had not then expired; and authorizing the Chancellor to award an injunction, restraining any person whatever from navigating those waters with boats of that description. The bill stated an assignment from Livingston and Fulton to one John R. Livingston, and from him to the complainant, Ogden, of the right to navigate the waters between Elizabethtown, and other places in New Jersey, and the city of New York; and that Gibbons, the defendant below, was in possession of two steamboats, called the Stoudinger and the Bellona, which were actually employed in running between New York and Elizabethtown, in violation of the exclusive privilege conferred on the complainant, and praying an injunction to restrain the said J. from using the said boats, or any other propelled by fire or steam, in navigating the waters within the territory of New York.
The injunction having been awarded, the answer of Gibbons was filed, in which he stated, that the boats employed by him were duly enrolled and licensed to be employed in carrying on the coasting trade, under the act of Congress, passed the 18th of February, 1793, ch. 8, entitled, “An Act for enrolling and licensing ships and vessels to be employed in the coasting trade and fisheries, and for regulating the same.” And the defendant insisted on his right, in virtue of such licenses, to navigate the waters between Elizabethtown and the city of New York, the said acts of the legislature of the State of New York to the contrary notwithstanding. At the hearing, the Chancellor perpetuated the injunction, be
ing of the opinion that the said acts were not repugnant to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and were valid. This decree was affirmed in the Court for the Trial of Impeachments and Correction of Errors, which is the highest court of law and equity in the State of New York before which the cause could be carried, and . it was thereupon carried up to the Supreme Court of the United States by appeal. The following argument was made by Mr. Webster, for the plaintiff in error.]
It is admitted, that there is a very respectable weight of authority in favor of the decision which is sought to be reversed. The laws in question, I am aware, have been deliberately re-enacted by the legislature of New York; and they have also received the sanction, at different times, of all her judicial tribunals, than which there are few, if any, in the country, more justly entitled to respect and deference. The disposition of the court will be, undoubtedly, to support, if it can, laws so passed and so sanctioned. I admit, therefore, that it is justly expected of us that we should make out a clear case; and unless we do so, we cannot hope for a reversal. It should be remembered, however, that the whole of this branch of power, as exercised by this court, is a power of revision. The question must be decided by the State courts, and decided in a particular manner, before it can be brought here at all. Such decisions alone give this court jurisdiction; and therefore, while they are to be respected as the judgments of learned judges, they are yet in the condition of all decisions from which the law allows an appeal.