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H. or R. Importation of British goods. April, 1812.
matter of indifference to the Legislature. The advantage however may be bought too dearly. It will be bought too dearly if it afford to the enemy greater relief than to us. I shall inquire resently into the effect of the measure upon Engand ; but it seems impossible to deny that it will be beneficial in America in its immediate result. But this American property may be brought home in something else than British manufactures. Why do not our merchants bring home specie 7 Simply I believe because they cannot get it. If our merchants can procure specie for the amount of their property in England. the question is decided—the bill is unnecessary and improper; and the House cannot too soon reject it. All the information however which I have been able to obtain of the present situation of England, of her commercial relations with other States, of her bank paper, of the rarity of specie in her money circulation, tends to prove that the amount of American property there cannot be brought home in specie. The scarcity of gold and silver has been acknowledged by the most authentic acts of the English Government. In its correspondence with Sir John Moore, during his Spanish campaign, its inability to procure the amount of specie which the army required is explicitly declared. By what motive of passion or of interest, which can influence a cabinet, were not the English Ministry stimulated to exertion on that occasion | Yet all their exertions and their power were unable to procure a quantity of specie greatly inferior to the amount of American property now in England. The documents which have been published on the subject of the expedition to Walcheren show that specie to the amount of a few hundred thousand pounds only could then be procured by the Government. Can you expect the American merchant to be much more successful ? The amount of our property now in England must be brought home in English manufactures, or not at all. Is it better that it should be so brought home or be lost to the individuals and the country, at least for the duration of the war 7 Those who believe that the nation will not be benefitted by withdrawing from the hands of its enemy an amount of twenty or thirty millions of dollars, of which it must otherwise lose at least the use during the war, will probably believe too that the Government will not be benefitted by an addition of six or seven millions to the revenue of the year. I cannot adopt this theory, but I shall not attempt to refute it. Whatever may be the advantages of the measure to America, however, they must be removed if it will produce greater advantages to England. What are the advantages which it will afford to England 3. It is by the sale, it may be said, of her manufactures in foreign countries that England renders the world tributary to her industry. But it will probably be granted, that this vent of her manufactures is advantageous to her only as it procures in exchange the productions of other countries. The exportation of English manufactures could be of no advantage to England if they
were exported to be sunk or captured and confiscated. An unrestricted trade indeed between Britain and America would be highly important to the former, because it would surnish her with the articles which she wants most in exchange for those which she can spare. The operation of the non-importation act, if it could be executed and if peace were to continue, might possibly be as efficacious as some gentlemen suppose it, but its efficacy would be derived from its debarring England from the use and ourselves therefore from the sale of such of our productions as we have hitherto furnished to her. But the question now is not whether we shall permit a trade which may enable England to procure our produce in exchange for hers. This will be prevented by the embargo, and the war which will succeed it. It is now unnecessary to restrain the importation of English manufactures owned by American citi. zens in order to discourage the supply of England with American productions; because that supply is now prohibited. The importation of English manufactures can be beneficial to England only as it shall form the basis of the subsequent exportation of our produce. And the importation of English manufactures to the amount of American property in England cannot form the basis of subsequent exportation. I have considered only, Mr. Chairman, the national interest which England may be supposed to have in this measure. An attempt to examine in detail its effects on different classes of her subjects, would embarrass rather than instruct us. To her manufactures, however, it may be observed. that the measure would by no means offer that immediate relief and employment which may have been expected from it. The period proposed to be allowed for the introduction of American property will be too short to permit orders to be given to the manufacturers. Such articles only can be imported as are finished and already in the market. Indirectly, indeed, the manufacturer may receive some temporary relief, but the nation (if the importation be limited to the amount of American property there) can receive none. But it may be thought that this limitation of the importation to the amount of American property in England cannot be effectually enforced. I must believe that the House agrees with me in the opinion that England cannot be enriched by the payment of her debts although she should pay them in manufactures, and that America cannot but be benefitted by receiving payment. Although then this unequivocal benefit to America were attended by some small advantage to England, although in receiving twenty or thirty millions of American property, we should allow England to smuggle a few millions of her property into the country, the preponderance of advantage to us could rarely be questioned. But there is no ground for the apprehension that English property, to an amount worthy of the consideration of the Legislature, would be imported under the bill, although amended in the manner which I have proposed. I place no reliance, sir, upon the ample provi
sion of oaths, which the bill contains. It may perhaps be said justly that their only effect would be to drive honest men from the trade, and to draw dishonest men into it. But there are three clauses, the co-operation of which will effectually prevent the importation of English manufactures to an amount which shall exceed that of American property in England. The shortness of the term during which goods can be exported from England with the reasonable hope of their arriving here in time to be admitted under the bill. The expectation of war, which may render it difficult for the English merchant to procure the returns of his adventure, or which may hazard its loss. And the adequacy of that supply of English manufactures, which the fair operation of the bill would give us. If this bill were passed immediately, the ships which should import English merchandise under its provisions (amended as I have proposed) must leave England within four or five weeks after the knowledge of its passage shall have reached that country. Within so short a time, the number of American vessels which can be expected to take in their lading and depart, can hardly be greater than will be required for the transmission of twenty or thirty millions of American property. The returns of twelve or thirteen months of free exportation will surely require all these vessels to enable them to be made in the month. And if an amount equal only to that of American property in England be imported, we cannot doubt that that amount will be American property; because the American merchant can afford a better freight to secure the return of his capital than the English speculator can give for a doubtful adventure. But if the amount of property imported be but equal to that which we owe in England, it really matters little in a national view by whom it is imported. It will be but the payment of the debt which England owes us. It will not be the basis of subsequent exportation. Independently however of the obstacles to the importation of English property resulting from the want of vessels; the notion that English speculators would send to this country a considerable amount of their manufactures, in addition to the twenty or thirty millions worth of our own citizens, seems to me most extravagant. They must engage in this hazardous speculation in the despite of double duties, (if a proposition to that effect which will be made by a member of the Committee of Ways and Means shall be adopted,) and in defiance of the difficulties and the dangers which must attach to the returns of their adventures. These are articles which the activity of English enterprise would surmount to reach a market destitute of their goods; but can you think it will surmount them to reach a market already supplied ? The arguments which I have hitherto used, Mr. Chairman, have been formed on the supposition that the non-importation law has been rigidly executed, and that it will continue to be so until the Legislature shall think proper to modify or repeal it. If this be not the fact; if English manu
factures be now imported, the only effect of the measure, which I propose, will be to take from France that monopoly of the trade which it now enjoys, and to give to Government the revenue which it fruitlessly renounces. But the American property now in England, which I propose to admit by law, cannot be excluded, and this forms the best argument for its legal admission. It is possible, perhaps, by law, to prevent all commercial intercourse between England and America. It is possible, perhaps, to prevent it by war. But to permit the exportation of your property to an immense amount to England, and effectually to prohibit the only returns for which she can make you, are schemes of policy obviously incongruous and incompatible. Experience shows us, and, indeed, common sense teaches, that, to impose enormous duties upon the importation of any article, infallibly produces smuggling. But what temptation, or rather what coercion to the disobedience of law can be so strong as that which makes it not disadvantageous, but ruinous to obey it; which offers no other alternative to the merchant for the entire sacrifice of his property, but that it should be smuggled into the country? Among the objections to the importation of American property from England, the }. which may result to our manufacturing establishments is probably not the weakest. This apprehension, however, will be obviated by an additional clause, which will be proposed to this bill by a member of the Committee of Ways and Means, for doubling the present duties. This protection will, I believe, be ample. It is such as we have reason to think will fully satisfy the manufacturers. For them it is much better than a prohibition. A scale of duties judiciously formed is always more advantageous to the manufacturer than the total prohibition of all importation, even where it can be enforced. In the former case the disposable industry of the nation is applied to those branches of manufacture for which the country is best adapted by its situation, by the materials which it can surnish, and by the habits of its citizens. The manufacture so established may acquire a strength and vigor which may sustain it under less favorable circumstances. A foreign manufacture, too, may often be highly conducive if not necessary to the success of a manufactory of our own country. The wire imported into this country to be made into cotton and wool caños, furnishes an instance of this kind. But the objection deduced from the state of our manufactures is sufficiently answered by the remark, that no manufacturer has asked of this House greater protection than will be afforded by the increase of duties which is proposed. But, Mr. Chairman, if there were no inducement to this measure in its probable effect on the interests of individuals or on the revenue of the country, all the evils which can possibly result from it, and even those which the most gloomy imagination can anticipate, would be compensated by an advantage which I have not yet mentioned. It will bring home your seamen. You have laid an embargo to retain those who are at
home, and is it not as important to secure the return of those who are abroad 7 In that delusion of the mercantile part of our citizens in respect to the probability of a war, which we all deplore, do you expect that they will order their vessels to this country unless freights for them can be procured 2 They will seek for employment in every port in Europe. When war, then, shall throw these vessels and their crews into the hands of your enemy: when thousands of your sailors shall become the prisoners, or shall be forced to engage in the naval service of England, will you not repent the policy which prohibited their return to their country 3 In a contest with the enemy against which you expect to be engaged in war, your bills for a new army, for volunteers, for militia, are futile measures of preparation compared with one which would give you the command of that body of seamen, whose enterprise and activity are unmatched, and who are now exposed, without protection, on every sea of Europe. Surely his political views must be inscrutable to common minds, who can see, in the admission of English manufactures until the first of August, into this country, in payment of a debt which is due to us, greater advantages to England than would result to America, from the recovery of thousands of her seamen. To this measure, which the interests of the country requires, which the duty of the Govern ment enjoins, some objections may be deduced from our supposed engagements with France. Both belligerents had violated our neutral rights; each had asserted the priority of their violation by its enemy. France, in particular, had pretended to attribute her injurious decrees to the culpable acquiescence of neutrals in the usurpations of England. America resisted the conduct of both Powers, by different measures, of what has been called the restrictive system, designed to operate impartially against both. One of these measures (the non-intercourse) was made by France the pretext for further outrage and aggression. This measure was repealed (by the act of May, 1810) and a provision was made by Congress, that if one belligerent should repeal his injurious decrees, and the other should persist in them, the manufactures and productions of the offending Power should no longer be admitted into this country. The communication of this act to the French Government was followed by the letter of the Duke of Cadore, which contains othe repeal or promise of repeal of the French degrees. That repeal is expressly attributed to the retraction of the non-intercourse act, and to the engagement of America to oppose herself to the Power which should o: in its injuries after the other should have desisted. It is declared to be made on the understanding that America “shall cause her rights to be respected.” If, from these circumstances, we infer an obligatory engagement to France, to what does that engagement extend ? To resistance to English injustice—to effectual resistance. Although the Duke of Cadore's letter implies an engagement to resist conformably to the act of May, yet a reasonable construction even
of this letter would apply it to the fact of resistance, not to the mode. A just regard to the independence of our country requires this construction. If we were engaged in a common war with France against England, the mode of attack, the element on which we should assail her, would be left to our discretion. But I cannot persuademyself that this inquiry is necessary. The engagement with France cannot be construed as prohibiting us from resisting England by war as well as by a non-importation act, nor can it prohibit any measure, which the situation of this country may require, to render that war vigorous and successful. Would the importation of any munitions of war be a breach of faith ? And, if not, how can any modification of our restrictive system, the design and the effect of which will be not to relieve the enemy from its pressure, or to do so in a degree entirely disproportioned to the advantages which he shall receive? How can such a modification infringe our engagements with France 7 A breach of faith may as reasonably be alleged when we shall admit the importation of the prize goods of English manufacture, which our privateers may capture. I feel no disposition, Mr. Chairman, to divert the resentment of the country from that nation against which our preparations have been direct. ed. Whatever may have been the conduct of France, the right, the sound policy, the duty of resisting the usurpation of England is unimpaio ed by it. But, can it be disguised that France has not paid that punctilious respect to our rights, which can entitle her, in opposition to its spiri', too, to a literal performance of the supposed en' gagement 7 I am fully convinced that the nea. ure which is proposed is not a violation of any engagement with France, and that the conduct of France has left us free from all obligations", contract to pursue the course which is require by the interest and honor of our own country. But, if we had become parties to what is tal ed the Continental system by a formal treaty, should we consider ourselves as bound more, strong!! than France herself to exclude English prod" tions 7 - Would we not revolt from such a do grading confession of inferiority and dependence France admits by license the importation of Eng: lish productions, on the condition of an eno. lent exportation of French productions; *: may not we admit the importation of Eng o: productions, for which, as American property," shall have to pay no equivalent 3 - hat I have attempted to show, Mr. Chairman." t the obvious interest which every country o have in securing the property of its o, e the approach of war requires the adoptio° ther measure which is now proposed. By,” . I can the amount of American property (... have heard estimated by no one at less than . ty millions) be brought home. In o' o impracticability of any other method of . sion, I may reasonably hope that the o count facts, which I have referred to, will not ho terpoised by vague conjecture.9. loose o in par’ tion. I may hope that bills of exchang",
ticular, will not be considered as furnishing a means for the transmission of this property. An individual may, indeed, by the sale of bills exchange his property in England for property in this country. But the amount of American property in England evidently cannot be affected by this transaction. That amount can only be reduced by the importation of merchandise or specie. The whole question is one of comparative benefit to England and to America; but it may be feared that the decision may be influenced by what seems (to me at least) an erroneous view of political consistency. A wavering and timid policy, indeed, can never be wise. #. such is not the character of the measure which is proposed. The non-importation law was calculated to prevent England from obtaining our produce in exchange for her manufactures. The operation of the embargo and of the war, which will succeed it, will be to prevent her from obtaining our produce at all. The proposed measure, under the circumstances of the time, is not a suspension for a day of the principle of the non-importation act, because its effects, as I have endeavored to prove, cannot be to enable England to procure our produce in exchange for her manufactures. But if our restrictive system has been found insufficient, and we have determined to apply war in aid of it, the modification of either system of war or restriction which is adopted in order to give energy to the other, cannot fairly be charged with inconsistency. The inconsistency is rather in determining to make war, and in refusing those preparatory steps which would render it vigorous and honorable. I have intended to argue, sir, entirely on the supposition that the non-importation act was in itself wise. The firmest believer in the efficacy of commercial restrictions may consistently adopt a measure, which, while it is of the utmost advantage to us, can afford but little relief to the enemy. Candor, however, obliges me to own that, in every view of its policy which I am capable of taking. the restrictive system appears incompatible with the situation and the character of our citizens. If, in a view of political economy, it were wise—if, in a view to its permanent execution it were possible—I should still think (what from the first project of a non-importation law I have always thought) that its advantages would be too dearly purchased by presenting our Government to its citizens in the constant attitude of repressing their enterprise, and punishing their industry. I had rather that we should lose twenty vessels by capture to a foreign enemy, against whom the resentment of our citizens would be directed, than that one should be confiscated by our own laws. But, while I make this avowal of an opinion, which, I fear, differs from that of a majority of the House, I must add that the measure now proposed is supported o arguments perfectly consistent with a general approbation of the non-importation act. The only question is, not whether England shall procure our produce in exchange for her manu
factures, but whether, having obtained our produce, she shall pay for it? After Mr. Lowndes concluded his speech the question was taken on striking out the first section of the bill, and negatived by a large majority. Mr. LowNDEs having read an amendment which he intended to propose, going to the admission of all goods which should arrive in this country previous to the first of August next— Mr. McKIM said he apprehended the object of the gentleman from South Carolina was a general suspension of the non-importation act. In a national point of view, it would be better that the entire amount of the property in England should be lost, than at this time entirely to repeal this act. Some object Congress certainly had in view in laying this restriction. I ask, said he, whether that object is attained ? The arrival of the bill now before us in England had the effect to make the people of that country believe that we cannot do without Great Britain; that we cannot sustain a contest with her. This conviction will strengthen them, and impress upon the minds of the people of this country the belief that our only object in supporting war measures was to deceive them. To show why, to my mind, it would be better to lose the whole property than agree to the proposed amendments, I call the attention of gentlemen to the state of our manufactures.. I have been unemployed myself for four years past, because commerce is too hazardous to embark in it. I have been deterred from embarking in such establishments by a fear that Government would desert me and let me be overrun by European manufactures. The operation of this law will tend to destroy them, and vitally injure the interests of our own country; for it is my belief that whenever we can within the United States supply our own wants we shall then be an united people, and present a formidable front to whomsoever shall attack our rights. In my view it is our soundest policy to aim at that desirable point. I hope the amendment will not be agreed to, though I am desirous to accommodate those who have property in England, whenever we can do it consistently with the public good. Mr. WRight said he could not but consider this whole bill as a breach of our plighted faith to France. Let us regard our faith, said he, and preserve our honor. When the Executive authority shall declare to us that France has departed from the contract, I shall then, and not till then, feel myself perfectly at large; and until that event take place, I hope gentlemen will be disposed to postpone the consideration of this subject. Mr. WiNN moved that the Committee rise and report progress. Mr. Cheves said it was of the utmost importance that the question on the adoption of this bill should be decided immediately, if at all. An early decision was necessary to the execution of the measure, if it should be adopted. If we are on the verge of war and we have taken the last step which should precede it, one from which we cannot recede, the object of the bill can only be effected between the present moment and
H. op. R. Importation of
British Goods. APRIL 1812.
the time fixed for war. One day’s delay then
would be injurious. This is an argument so selfevident as to obviate the necessity of enforcing it. Even those opposed to the measure ought to be in favor of an early decision on it. If it should be adopted, even they would wish us to derive all possible good from it; but if procrastinated, we should suffer all the evil and enjoy none of the good. In another point of view an early decision was of importance. The agitation of this question gave great room for speculation. Mr. C. made further observations to prove the propriety of proceeding at this time in the discussion. The motion for the Committee’s rising being withdrawn— Mr. C. proceeded. The merits of this question, he said, had been so fully and ably illustrated by his colleague, that he had not pressed what he proposed to say upon the Committee: waiting till others who had objections to the bill should have urged them, when he had proposed to venture a short reply. But as no one appeared disposed now to oppose the bill before the Committee rose, he should take the liberty of offering a brief view of the subject. The grounds of objection to the bill probably were, 1. That it was a violation of our compact with France. 2. That its passage would have an injurious effect, by diminishing the pressure of the non-importation act on Great Britain. 3. That it will have an injurious effect on ourselves, by depressing the spirit of the country. And lastly, that it will repress the exertions of our manufacturers, and check the prosperity of their rising establishments. Mr. C. said he agreed with gentlemen on the importance of national honor. As men, as citizens, as gentlemen, he hoped they never, should be insensible to feelings of that kind; and it was impossible that the active and lucid mind of his friend from South Carolina (Mr. LowNDEs) should have failed to perceive its bearing on this question; and he accordingly placed it on its proper ground. I had the honor, said Mr. C. with the worthy gentleman from Maryland, on a former occasion, to give my aid in supporting what I conceived to be the national faith. But I did not then mean, sir, that a yoke should be hung round the neck of this proud-spirited nation; that we should march in the track of France; that we should bind ourselves to support such measures as her policy required. After the spirit of this nation had risen higher—when I had supposed the people, from one extreme of the continent to the other, had determined no longer to trifle with half-way measures, but end our differences by decisive war—I had not supposed that our compact with France was such as to prevent our carrying advantageously into effect this more manly course. I will not consider it as a compact regarding the interests of France and to bind us forever; but, if I were to consider the interest of France alone, I would ask if the measure of embargo, which we adopted
| tinue this system 7 I for one will not.
the other day, be not ten times, as strong as that which was before in force. I look, however, at
ly incurred, and it was recognised by the course subsequently proposed by France. But now a measure is proposed which has become more necessary to our interests—to a great course of policy, to war—and shall such an objection as the alleged violation of our compact with France arrest us in the great and determined march 2 I appeal to the feelings and impressions of this House. They are often a clearer result of wise judgment than anything produced by the most obvious chain of argument. What, I ask, is the determination of this House ? That we shall have no longer continuance of the restrictive system, but war in lieu of it. If so, I ask you, sir, if you will not prepare for war 2 If war be morally certain, I will ask whether a measure necessary in that event can be considered a violation of our compact with France 3 Whether it be necessary, in the execution of any compact with France, to execute the restrictive system in connexion with war, when it is to work such evil to ourselves? Let us look further, sir. Suppose we should not go to war with Great Britain : that we should act a part which I should consider as deeply degrading; suppose we should fail in performing what we have so often declared our intention to be; that we should not carry into effect the resolve so repeatedly made—who will conOur national injuries call for this step; and if we have not war at or before the termination of the embargo, I for one will recede from our present restrictive measures. I appeal to the high spirit of my friend from Maryland, whether he himself would view the non-importation as a fit measure of retaliation; whether he himself would not say to the mercantile part of the community, in such an event, “go and protect yourselves; defend your own rights, as we abandon them 7” That is what I would say, and I think my honorable friend would say the same. If we are resolved on war, on the other hand, as I believe we are, and the embargo be preliminary, is not the measure of restriction merged in this stronger measure ? It certainly is. This then, sir, terminates the argument as regards our compact with France. We will view it now as the measure will affect England. , Will it affect England beneficially in anything like the degree in which it would benefit us? On the one hand it will relieve Great Britain by affording a vent for a portion of her surplus productions; on the other it will give to America as much national wealth, as much money, as will be sufficient to support a five years' war. It will give her a revenue, if the whole amount of American capital be brought home, equal to the loan of eleven millions of dollars