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under which it must sink, if the government will not, by reasonable means, endeavour to preserve what it has created. And they are met with a volley of hard names, a tirade of reproaches, and a loud cry againt capitalists, speculators and stock-jobbers! For one, I think them hardly treated; I think, and from the beginning have thought, their claim to be a fair one. With how much soever of undue haste, or even of credulity, they may be thought to have embarked in these pursuits, under the hopes held out by government, I do not feel it to be just that they should be abandoned to their fate on the first adverse change of circumstances; although I have always seen, and now see, how difficult, perhaps I should rather say how impossible, it is, for Congress to act, when such changes occur, in a manner at once efficient, but discreet; prompt, but yet moderate.
For these general reasons, and on these grounds, I am decidedly in favor of a measure which shall uphold and support, in behalf of the manufacturers, the law of 1824, and carry its benefits and advantages to the full extent intended. And though I am not altogether satisfied with the particular form of these enactments, I am willing to take them, in the belief that they will answer an essentially important and necessary purpose.
It is now my painful duty to take notice of another part of the bill, which I think in the highest degree objectionable and unreasonable; I mean the extraordinary augmentation of the duty on hemp. I cannot well conceive anything more unwise or ill-judged than this appears to me to be. The duty is already thirty-five dollars per ton; and the bill proposes a progressive increase, till it shall reach sixty dollars. This will be absolutely oppressive on the shipping interest, the great consumers of the article. When this duty shall have reached its maximum, it will create an annual charge of at least one hundred thousand dollars, falling not on the aggregate of the commercial interest, but on the ship owner. It is a very unequal burden. The navigation of the country has already a hard struggle, to sustain itself against foreign competition; and it is singular enough, that this interest, which is already so severely tried, which pays so much in duties, on hemp, duck, and iron, and which it is now proposed to put under new burdens, is the only interest which is subject to a direct tax by a law of Congress. The tonnage duty is such a tax. If this bill should pass in its present form, I shall think it my duty, at the earliest suitable opportunity, to bring forward a bill for the repeal of the tonnage duty.
It amounts, i think, to a hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year; and its removal will be due, in all justice, to the ship owner, if he is to be made subject to a new taxation on hemp and iron.
But, objectionable as this tax is, from its severe pressure on a particular interest, and that at present a depressed interest, there are still farther grounds of dissatisfaction with it. It is not calculated to effect the object intended by it. If that object be the increase of the sale of the dew rotted American hemp, the increased duty will have little tendency to produce that result; because such hemp is so much lower in price, than imported hemp, that it must be already used for such purposes as it is fit for. It is said to be selling for one hundred and twenty dollars per ton; while the imported hemp commands two hundred and seventy dollars.
The proposed duty, therefore, cannot materially assist the sale of American hemp of this quality and description.
But the main reason given for the increase, is, the encouragement of American water-rotted hemp. Doubtless, this is an important object; but I have seen nothing to satisfy me that it can be obtained, by means like this. At present, there is produced in the country no considerable quantity of water-rotted hemp. It is problematical, at best, whether it can be produced under any encouragement. The hemp may be grown, doubtless, in various parts of the United States, as well as in any country in the world; but the process of preparing it for use, by water-rotting, I believe to be more difficult and laborious than is generally thought among us. I incline to think, that, happily for us, labor is in too much demand, and commands too high prices, to allow this process to be carried on profitably. Other objections, also, beside the amount of labor required, may, perhaps, be found to exist, in climate, and in the effects liable to be produced on health, in warm countries, by the nature of the process. But whether there be foundation for these suggestions, or not, the fact still is, that we do not produce the article. It cannot, at present, be had at any price. To augment the duty, therefore, on foreign hemp, can only have the effect of compelling the consumer to pay so much more money into the treasury. The proposed increase, then, is doubly objectionable ; first, because it creates a charge, not to be borne equally by the whole country, but a new and heavy charge, to be borne exclusively by one particular interest ; and, second, because, that of the money raised by this charge, little or none goes to accomplish the professed object, by aiding the hemp grower; but the whole, or nearly the whole, falls into the treasury. Thus the effect will be in no way proportioned to the cause, nor the advantage obtained by some, at all equal to the hardship imposed on others. While one interest will suffer much, the other interest will gain little or nothing.
I am quite willing to make a thorough and fair experiment, on the subject of water-rotted hemp; but I wish, at the same time, to do this in a manner that shall not oppress individuals, or particular classes. I intend, therefore, to move an amendment, which will consist in striking out so much of the present bill as raises the duty on hemp, higher than it is at present, and in inserting a clause, making it the duty of the Navy Department to purchase, for the public service, American water-rotted hemp, whenever it can be had of a suitable quality; provided it can be purchased at a rate not exceeding, by more than twenty per cent., the current price of imported hemp, of the same quality. If this amendment should be adopted, the ship-owner would have no reason to complain, as the price of the article would not be enchanced, to him; and at the same time, the hemp grower, who shall try the experiment, will be made sure of a certain market, and a high price. The existing duty of thirty-five dollars per
ton will remain to be still borne by the ship-owner. The twenty per cent. advance, on the price of imported hemp, will be equal
to fifty dollars per ton; the aggregate will be eighty-five dollars; and this, it must be admitted, is a liberal and effective provision, and will secure everything which can be reasonably desired, by the hemp-grower, in the most ample manner.
But, if the bill should become a law, and go into operation in its present shape, this duty on hemp is likely to defeat its own object in another way. Very intelligent persons entertain the opinion, that the consequence of this high duty will be such, that American vessels, engaged in foreign commerce, will, to a great extent, supply themselves with cordage abroad. This, of course, will diminish the consumption at home, and thus injure the hemp-grower, and at the same time, the manufacturer of cordage. Again; there may be reason to fear, that as the duty is not raised on cordage manufactured abroad, such cordage may be imported, in greater or less degree, in the place of the unmanufactured article. Whatever view we take, therefore, of this hemp duty, it appears to me altogethe objectionable.
Much has been said of the protection which the navigation of the country has received, from the discriminating duties on tonnage, and the exclusive enjoyment of the coasting trade. In my opinion, neither of these measures has materially sustained the shipping interest of the United States. I do not concur in the sentiments, on that point, quoted from Dr. Seybert's statistical work. Dr. Seybert was an intelligent and worthy man, and compiled a valuable book; but he was engaged in public life at a time, when it was more fashiionable than it has since become, to ascribe efficacy to discriminating duties. The shipping interest in this country has made its way by its own enterprise. By its own vigorous exertion, it spread itself over the seas, and by the same exertion, it still holds its place there. It seems idle to talk of the benefit and advantage of discriminating duties, when they operate against us, on one side of the ocean, quite as much as they operate for us on the other. To suppose that two nations, having intercourse with each other, can secure, each to itself, a decided advantage in that intercourse, is little less than absurdity; and this is the absurdity of discriminating duties. Still less reason is there for the idea, that our own ship-owners hold the exclusive enjoyment of the coasting trade, only by virtue of the law, which secures it to their exclusive employment. Look at the rate of freights. Look at the manner in which this coasting trade is conducted, by our own vessels, and the competition which subsists between them. In a majority of instances, probably, these vessels are owned, in whole or in part, by those who navigate them. These owners are at home, at one end of the voyage; and repairs and supplies are thus obtained in the cheapest and most economical manner. No foreign vessels would be able to partake in this trade, even by the aid of preferences and bounties.
The shipping interest of this country requires only an open field, and a fair chance. Everything else it will do for itself. But, it has not a fair chance, while it is so severely taxed, in whatever enters into the necessary expense of building and equipment. In this respect, its rivals have advantages which may in the end prove to be
decisive against us. I entreat the Senate to examine and weigh this subject, and not go on, blindly, to unknown consequences. The English ship-owner is carefully regarded by his government, and aided and succoured, whenever and wherever necessary, by a sharp-sighted policy. Both he and the American ship-owner obtain their hemp from Russia. But observe the difference.
The duty on hemp in England is but twenty-one dollars; here, it is proposed to make it sixty; notwithstanding its cost here is necessarily enhanced by an additional freight, proportioned to a voyage, longer than that which brings it to the English consumer, by the whole breadth of the Atlantic. Sir, I wish to invoke the Senate's attention, earnestly, to this subject; I would awaken the regard of the whole government, more and more, not only on this but on all occasions, to this great national interest; an interest, which lies at the very foundation, both of our commercial prosperity and our naval achievement.
UPON THE PANAMA MISSION; DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES, APRIL, 1826.
The following Resolution being under consideration, in Committee of the Whole House upon the state of the Union, viz:
"Resolved, That in the opinion of the House it is expedient to appropriate the funds necessary to enable the President of the United States to send Ministers to the Congress of Panama."
Mr. McLANE, of Delaware, submitted the following amendment thereto, viz:
"It being understood as the opinion of this House, that, as it has always been the settled policy of this Government, in extending our commercial relations with foreign nations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible, to preserve peace, commerce, and friendship, with all nations, and to form entangling alliances with none; the Ministers who may be sent shall attend at the said Congress in a diplomatic character merely; and ought not to be authorised to discuss, consider, or consult, upon any proposition of alliance, offensive or defensive, between this country and any of the Spanish American Governments, or any stipulation, compact, or declaration, binding the United States in any way, or to any extent, to resist interference from abroad, with the domestic concerns of the aforesaid Governments; or any measure which shall commit the present or future neutral rights or duties of these United States, either as may regard European nations, or between the several States of Mexico and South America: leaving the United States free to adopt, in any event which may happen, affecting the relations of the South American Governments, with each other, or with foreign nations, such measures as the friendly disposition cherished by the American People towards the People of those States, and the honor and interest of this na tion may require ;"
To which Mr.RIVES proposed to add, after the words "aforesaid Governments," the following:
"Or any compact or engagement by which the United States shall be pledged to the Spanish American States, to maintain, by force, the principle that no part of the American continent is henceforward subject to colonization by any European power."—
The preceding motions to amend being under consideration, Mr. Webster addressed the Committee as follows:
Mr. CHAIRMAN, I am not ambitious of amplifying this discussion. On the contrary, it is my anxious wish to confine the debate, so far as I partake in it, to the real and material questions before us.
Our judgment of things is liable, doubtless, to be affected by our opinions of men. It would be affectation in me, or in any one, to claim an exemption from this possibility of bias. I can say, however, that it has been my sincere purpose to consider and discuss the present subject, with the single view of finding out what duty it de