« ForrigeFortsett »
again a disposable surplus of about eight millions and a half; and, in connection with this balance, he refers to probable future surpluses, when the freedom of commerce should be restored, and asks whether they shall be permitted to "lie unproductive in the public vaults?” Such was our financial condition in 1807 and 1808. Sir, is it credible, if Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Madison had believed this claim a valid demand on the government, that it would not, through these distinguished individuals, who exercised a controlling influence in Congress, have been recognized and paid? If, with these men at the head of the government, — men familiar
with the history of the times, — when the transactions themselves were recent and well known, — with an overflowing treasury, — with millions, in fact, remaining without any
, specific object, — if, under all these circumstances, the claims were not acknowledged, with what propriety can we be asked to acknowledge them now, after the lapse of more than forty years, when the memory of much that is necessary to give to remote transactions their true coloring, and to correct erroneous conclusions in respect to them, may be irretrievably lost? Sir, there is no safety in such cases but to rest on the contemporaneous judgment of those who had every motive to consider and judge them fairly, and who possessed all the information necessary to make their decision just.
And finally, sir, I am compelled to differ with my honorable friend from Delaware (if he will permit me so to designate him) in the opinion that the government of the
1 United States is in honor responsible for these claims. A government is undoubtedly bound to protect its citizens in their persons and in their property, to the extent of its ability, both from internal and external injuries. It is bound to seek, by all just and feasible methods, a redress of such injuries : if domestic, by a proper application of its authority ; if foreign, by negotiation in the first instance, and by force in the second, if the magnitude and enormity of the aggression justify a resort to arms.
When it has done all this, it will have performed its duty. If it cannot succeed in obtaining redress, it must be deemed fairly exonerated from all liability to its own citizens when it has made all the efforts it is capable of putting forth for the purpose.
Sir, I know of no principle by which a government, after extraordinary efforts to procure a redress of injuries, or an acknowledgment of the claims of its citizens on a foreign State, is bound to assume the satisfaction of those claims because its efforts have proved unsuccessful. If this principle is to be adopted and acted on, we should go back to the ten years which preceded
, the War of 1812, and satisfy our citizens for spoliations committed on them during peace by Great Britain. We demanded indemnity for these spoliations in negotiating the treaty of Ghent.
Our Ministers were repeatedly instructed on the subject. We presented our claims to the British commissioners, and we abandoned them when we found them hopeless. Or, to use the language by which the claim before us is sought to be enforced, these indemnities were released” to Great Britain for the valuable con“
“ sideration” of peace.
We should, according to every principle of equity, satisfy these last claims first. Under the convention of 1803 with France, our citizens were paid nearly four millions of dollars on account of claims on France prior to 1800. Under the convention of 1831, they received over four inillions and a half more for spoliations subsequently to 1800. In all, we have obtained from France by negotiation, and paid to our citizens, about eight millions and a half of dollars. From Great Britain I am not aware that we have obtained anything, since the treaty of 1794, on account of claims for spoliations, notwithstanding the aggravated injuries she has committed on our citizens, excepting for abducted slaves under the treaty of Ghent. But I hold that the government of the United States is exonerated, in both instances, by a faithful and zealous discharge of its duty, — first, by negotiation, and,
– second, by a resort to force.
THE WAREHOUSE SYSTEM.
Propositions to establish a warehouse system, under which goods imported into the United States from foreign countries might be stored without payment of duty until withdrawn for consumption, had been for several years before Congress. The bills making provision for the purpose were long and complicated, embarrassing the discussion and endangering the success of the measure by complexity of detail. To avoid these difficulties, Mr. Dix introduced a bill securing all the objects in view by a simple amendment of a single section of an Act then in force, and it passed through both Houses and became a law at the same session. The speech which follows was intended to explain the bill, and was delivered on the 19th of June, 1846.
Mr. PRESIDENT: The bill under consideration was reported to the Senate from the Committee on Commerce, under a resolution instructing them to inquire into the expediency of establishing a warehouse system, and giving them authority to report by bill. The committee having charged me with the introduction of the bill, it devolves on me to explain its provisions, to point out its objects, and to show in what respects it modifies existing laws.
The bill is designed by the committee to respond affirmatively to the inquiry they were instructed to make. It is true, it does not provide specifically for the establishment of a warehouse system ; but it aims to accomplish all the objects of such a system, by extending the provisions of existing laws in relation to the storage and final disposal of imported merchandise. They have given it the greatest possible simplicity in form. They have not deemed it expedient to recommend a complex system. They have aimed to introduce no principles wholly new or untried. They have made the system they propose conform as nearly as practicable to the provisions of existing laws. They have founded it on enactments now in force and in daily and familiar operation, -enactments of which the meaning and application have been settled by construction and practice. The bill consists of an amendment of a single section — the 12th section — of the act of the
30th of August, 1842, commonly called the tariff act. It is almost a transcript of that section and the thirteenth. The amendments, though important, are all comprised within the compass of a few lines. Thus, Senators will perceive that the proposed measure will be presented for their consideration in the most simple shape, and that the examination which the importance of the subject demands may be carried on, without embarrassing their attention by complexity of details.
The first observation which I deem it proper to make in connection with the general policy of the measure is, that the warehouse system is actually in existence, though on a very narrow basis, and in a very imperfect form. Indeed, I believe there has been no period from the foundation of our revenue system when it was not in operation in some shape or other, and under certain limitations.
It will, in fact, be necessary, in order to show to what extent it is in force, to go back to the general revenue act of the 20 March, 1799, “to regulate the collection of duties on imports and tonnage.
The 56th section of that act, which is still in force with some modifications, provides, that, after the expiration of fifteen working-days from the time prescribed for reporting a vessel, if any goods shall be found on board, other than such as were reported for entry in another collection district, or some foreign port, they shall be taken possession of, and stored under the order of the collector. The same section also provides, that, after five days' notice to the collector, any goods may be so taken and stored, with the consent of the owner or consignee, or the master
of the vessel. By the act of 3d March, 1821, the time allowed for unlading vessels exceeding three hundred tons burden is extended from fifteen to twenty working-days; and by a proviso in the 56th section of the act of 1799, which I am now examining, the fifteen working-days originally allowed may be extended by the collector fifteen days more for vessels laden with salt or coal.
The act of 1799, like all the early acts regulating the collection of duties, gave a credit to the importer where the duties chargeable on imported merchandise exceeded a certain amount. If the duties did not exceed fifty dollars, they were required by that act to be paid in cash; and by the act of the 14th July, 1832, cash payments were exacted for duties not exceeding two hundred dollars. On all sums exceeding these amounts, the importer took the goods and gave his bond, payable at periods varying from three to twelve months, according to the nature of the merchandise and the countries from which it was imported. This was the general system. There was an exception in the case of teas, which were allowed to be deposited in stores agreed on by the importer and inspector of the revenue, — bonds without sureties being taken, in double the amount of the duties, payable in two years. And there was also a general provision authorizing collectors to receive goods in deposit, by way of curing the payment of duties, as a substitute for sureties on bonds. For instance, if the importer preferred not to give sureties, he was allowed to give his own bond and take his merchandise, depositing with the collector a sufficient quantity to insure the payment of the duties on the whole.
Under the system of credits thus established, there was no strong inducement to place goods in store pursuant to the provisions of the 56th section of the act of 1799. Such as were found on board vessels after the time specified for unlading, were usually small in quantity and not of great value. Under the proviso of the 56th section,