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It is a familiar objection to them, that they are difficult to be managed and liable to frauds. But neither that difficulty nor this danger seems sufficiently great to countervail the advantages of which they are productive, when rightly applied. And it is presumed to have been shown, that they are, in some cases, particularly in the infancy of new enterprises, indispensable.
It will, however, be necessary to guard, with extraordinary circumspection, the manner of dispensing them. The requisite precautions have been thought of; but to enter into the detail, would swell this report, already voluminous, to a size too inconvenient.
If the principle shall not be deemed inadmissible, the means of avoiding an abuse of it will not be likely to present insurmountable obstacles. There are useful guides from practice in other quarters.
It shall, therefore, only be remarked here, in relation to this point, that any bounty which may be applied to the manufacture of an article, cannot, with safety, extend beyond those manufactories at which the making of the article is a regular trade. It would be impossible to annex adequate precautions to a benefit of that nature, if extended to every private family in which the manufacture was incidentally carried on; and its being a merely incidental occupation which engages a portion of time that would otherwise be lost, it can be advantageously carried on without so special an aid.
The possibility of a diminution of the revenue may also present itself as an objection to the arrangements which have been submitted.
But there is no truth which may be more firmly relied upon, than that the interests of the revenue are promoted by whatever promotes an increase of national industry and wealth.
In proportion to the degree of these, is the capacity of every country to contribute to the public treasury; and where the capacity to pay is increased, or even is not decreased, the only consequence of measures which diminish any particular resource, is a change of the object. If, by encouraging the manufacture of an article at home, the revenue which has been wont to accrue from its importation should be lessened, an indemnification can easily be found, either out of the manufacture itself, or from some other object which may be deemed more convenient.
The measures, however, which have been submitted, taken aggregately, will, for a long time to come, rather augment than decrease the public
There is little room to hope, that the progress of manufactures will so equally keep pace with the progress of population, as to prevent even a gradual augmentation of the product of the duties on imported articles.
As, nevertheless, an abolition in some instances, and a reduction in others, of duties which have been pledged for the public debt, is proposed, it is essential that it should be accompanied with a competent substitute. In order to this, it is requisite that all the additional duties which shall be laid, be appropriated, in the first instance, to replace all defalcations which may proceed from any such abolition or diminution. It is evident, at first glance, that they will not only be adequate to this, but will yield a considerable surplus. This surplus will serve,
First. To constitute a fund for paying the bounties which have been de
Secondly. To constitute a fund for the operations of a board to be established, for promoting arts, agriculture, manufactures, and commerce. Of
this institution, different intimations have been given in the course of this report. An outline of a plan for it shall now be submitted.
Let a certain annual sum be set apart, and placed under the management of commissioners, not less than three, to consist of certain officers of the government and their successors in office.
Let these commissioners be empowered to apply the fund confided to them, to defray the expenses of the emigration of artists, and manufacturers in particular branches of extraordinary importance-to induce the prosecution and introduction of useful discoveries, inventions, and improvements, by proportionate rewards, judiciously held out and applied-to encourage by premiums, both honorable and lucrative, the exertions of individuals and of classes, in relation to the several objects they are charged with promotingand to afford such other aids to those objects as may be generally designated by law.
The commissioners to render to the Legislature an annual account of their transactions and disbursements; and all such sums as shall not have been applied to the purposes of their trust, at the end of every three years, to revert to the treasury. It may also be enjoined upon them not to draw out the money, but for the purpose of some specific disbursement.
It may, moreover, be of use to authorize them to receive voluntary contributions, making it their duty to apply them to the particular objects for which they may have been made, if any shall have been designated by the donors.
There is reason to believe that the progress of particular manufactures has been much retarded by the want of skilful workmen. And it often happens, that the capitals employed are not equal to the purposes of bringing from abroad workmen of a superior kind. Here, in cases worthy of it, the auxiliary agency of government would, in all probability, be useful. There are also valuable workmen in every branch who are prevented from emigrating solely by the want of means. Occasional aids to such persons, properly administered, might be a source of valuable acquisitions to the
The propriety of stimulating by rewards the invention and introduction of useful improvements, is admitted without difficulty. But the success of attempts in this way, must evidently depend much on the manner of conducting. them. It is probable that the placing of the dispensation of those rewards under some proper discretionary direction, where they may be accompanied by collateral expedients, will serve to give them the surest efficacy. It seems impracticable to apportion, by general rules, specific compensations for discoveries of unknown and disproportionate utility.
The great use which may be made of a fund of this nature, to procure and import foreign improvements, is particularly obvious. Among these, the article of machines would form a most important item.
The operation and utility of premiums have been adverted to, together with the advantages which have resulted from their dispensation, under the direction of certain public and private societies. Of this, some experience has been had, in the instance of the Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Manufactures and Useful Arts; but the funds of that association have been too contracted to produce more than a very small portion of the good to which the principles of it would have led. It may confidently be affirmed, that there is scarcely any thing which has been devised, better calculated to excite a general spirit of improvement, than the institutions of this nature.. They are truly invaluable.
In countries where there is great private wealth, much may be effected by the voluntary contributions of patriotic individuals; but in a community situated like that of the United States, the public purse must supply the deficiency of private resource. In what can it be so useful, as in prompting and improving the efforts of industry?
All which is humbly submitted.
ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A MINT.
In the House of Representatives of the United States.
Ordered, That the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, relatively to the establishment of a Mint, which was made to this House on Friday, the 28th ultimo, be sent to the Senate for their information.
Extract from the Journal.
The Secretary of the Treasury having attentively considered the subject referred to him by the order of the House of Representatives, of the fifteenth day of April last, relative to the establishment of a Mint, most respectfully submits the result of his inquiries and reflections.
A plan for an establishment of this nature, involves a great variety of considerations, intricate, nice, and important. The general state of debtor and creditor; all the relations and consequences of price; the essential intertrade and industry; the value of all property; the whole income, both of the State and of individuals, are liable to be sensibly influenced, beneficially or otherwise, by the judicious or injudicious regulation of this interesting object.
It is one, likewise, not more necessary than difficult to be rightly adjusted; one which has frequently occupied the reflections and researches of politi cians, without having harmonized their opinions on some of the most important of the principles which enter into its discussion. Accordingly, different systems continue to be advocated, and the systems of different nations, after much investigation, continue to differ from each other.
But if a right adjustment of the matter be truly of such nicety and difficulty, a question naturally arises, whether it may not be most adviseable to leave things in this respect, in the state in which they are? Why, might it be asked, since they have so long proceeded in a train which has caused no general sensation of inconvenience, should alterations be attempted, the precise effect of which cannot with certainty be calculated?
The answer to this question is not perplexing. The immense disorder which actually reigns in so delicate and important a concern, and the still greater disorder which is every moment possible, call loudly for a reform. The dollar originally contemplated in the money transactions of this country, by successive diminutions of its weight and fineness, has sustained a depreciation of five per cent., and yet the new dollar has a currency, in all payments in place of the old, with scarcely any attention to the difference between them. The operation of this in depreciating the value of property, depending upon past contracts; and, (as far as inattention to the alteration in the coin may be supposed to leave prices stationary,) of all other property, is apparent. Nor can it require argument to prove, that a nation ought not to suffer the value of the property of its citizens to fluctuate with the fluctuations of a foreign mint, and to change with the changes in the regulations of a foreign sovereign. This, nevertheless, is the condition of one which, having no coins of its own, adopts with implicit confidence those of other countries.
The unequal values allowed in different parts of the Union to coins of the same intrinsic worth; the defective species of them which embarrass the circulation of some of the States; and the dissimilarity in their several moneys of account, are inconveniences, which, if not to be ascribed to the want of a national coinage, will at least be most effectually remedied by the establishment of one; a measure that will, at the same time, give additional security against impositions by counterfeit as well as by base currencies.
It was with great reason, therefore, that the attention of Congress, under the late confederation, was repeatedly drawn to the establishment of a mint; and it is with equal reason that the subject has been resumed, now that the favorable change which has taken place in the situation of public affairs, admits of its being carried into execution.
But, though the difficulty of devising a proper establishment ought not to deter from undertaking so necessary a work, yet it cannot but inspire diffidence in one, whose duty it is made to propose a plan for the purpose, and may perhaps be permitted to be relied upon as some excuse for any errors which may be chargeable upon it, or for any deviations from sounder principles, which may have been suggested by others, or even in part acted upon by the former government of the United States.
In order to a right judgment of what ought to be done, the following particulars require to be discussed:
1st. What ought to be the nature of the money unit of the United States? 2d. What the proportion between gold and silver, if coins of both metals are to be established?
3d. What the proportion and composition of alloy in each kind?
4th. Whether the expense of coinage shall be defrayed by the govern ment, or out of the material itself?
5th. What shall be the number, denominations, sizes, and devices of the coins?
6th. Whether foreign coins shall be permitted to be current or not; if the former, at what rate, and for what period?
A pre-requisite to determining with propriety, what ought to be the money unit of the United States, is to endeavor to form as accurate an idea as the nature of the case will admit, of what it actually is. The pound, though of various value, is the unit in the money of account of all the States. But it is not equally easy to pronounce what is to be considered as the unit in the
coins. There being no formal regulation on the point, (the resolutions of Congress of the 6th of July, 1785, and 8th of August, 1786, having never yet been carried into operation,) it can only be inferred from usage or practice. The manner of adjusting foreign exchanges, would seem to indicate the dollar as best entitled to that character. In these, the old piaster of Spain, or old Seville piece of eight rials, of the value of four shillings and six-pence sterling, is evidently contemplated. The computed par between Great Britain and Pennsylvania, will serve as an example. According to that, one hundred pounds sterling is equal to one hundred and sixty-six pounds and two-thirds of a pound, Pennsylvania currency; which corresponds with the proportion between 4s. 6d. sterling, and 7s. 6d. the current value of the dollar in that State, by invariable usage. And, as far as the information of the Secretary goes, the same comparison holds in the other States.
But this circumstance in favor of the dollar, loses much of its weight from two considerations. That species of coin has never had any settled or standard value, according to weight or fineness, but has been permitted to circulate by tale, without regard to either, very much as a mere money of convenience, while gold has had a fixed price by weight, and with an eye to its fineness. This greater stability of value of the gold coins, is an argument of force for regarding the money unit as having been hitherto virtually attached to gold, rather than to silver.
Twenty-four grains and six-eighths of a grain of fine gold, have corresponded with the nominal value of the dollar in the several States, without regard to the successive diminutions of its intrinsic worth.
But, if the dollar should, notwithstanding, be supposed to have the best title to being considered as the present unit in the coins, it would remain to determine what kind of dollar ought to be understood; or, in other words, what precise quantity of fine silver.
The old piaster of Spain, which appears to have regulated our foreign exchanges, weighed 17 dwt. 12 grains, and contained 386 grains and 15 mites of fine silver. But this piece has been long since out of circulation. The dollars now in common currency, are of recent date, and much inferior to that, both in weight and fineness. The average weight of them, upon different trials, in large masses, has been found to be 17 dwt. 8 grains. Their fineness is less precisely ascertained; the results of various assays made by different persons, under the direction of the late Superintendent of the Fi nances, and of the Secretary, being as various as the assays themselves. The difference between their extremes is not less than 24 grains in a dollar of the same weight and age; which is too much for any probable differences in the pieces. It is rather to be presumed, that a degree of inaccuracy has been occasioned by the want of proper apparatus, and, in general, of practice. The experiment which appears to have the best pretensions to exactness, would make the new dollar to contain 370 grains and 933 thousandth parts of a grain of pure silver.
According to an authority on which the Secretary places reliance, the standard of Spain for its silver coin in the year 1761, was 261 parts fine, and 27 parts alloy; at which proportion, a dollar of 17 dwt. 8 grains, would consist of 377 grains of fine silver, and 39 grains of alloy. But there is no question that this standard has been since altered considerably for the worse: to what precise point, is not as well ascertained as could be wished; but, from a computation of the value of dollars in the markets both of Amsterdam and London, (a criterion which cannot materially mislead,) the new