« AnteriorContinuar »
be able to undersell us in every market. He was not without his apprehensions for the loss of the hat trade, for as by the provisional treaty they had the fur trade resigned to them and at their door, so, of course, they could manufacture hats at a much cheaper rate than we could, and consequently would monopolize the supply of the West India islands with that branch of commerce. There was another circumstance more alarming than all the rest; the Americans on their return from our ports might export our manufacturing tools, and our artificers, emigrating at the same time, we should run the risk of losing our manufactures, perhaps the only advantage we as yet possessed over the Americans, and seeing them transplanted to America."
“ The next enacting clause admitted the ships of aliens and the
cargoes as the cargoes of British subjects: on this it was obseryable, that the distinction was not so unfavourable as many gentlemen might suppose, for, though foreign ships paid, a duty to the light houses, they were exempted from a shilling per man per month, and, also, from a tonnage and poundage duty, which was paid by British merchant ships. But the other part of the clause, which admitted all goods, the growth, produce, or manufacture of the United States, was of a more serious nature, as it purported to give to a people, now become a foreign state, the trading privileges of British subjects. How was the king, hereafter, to make treaties with the European powers, who claimed to be treated on the footing of the most favoured nation? And was parliament prepared to consent to the admission of all the world as British subjects ? Besides how would it operate as to subsisting treaties? He would select the Russian treaty of commerce as an example. [Here Mr. Eden read two several articles of the Russian treaty, importing that the subjects of each contracting power shall have leave to trade in all the ports and towns, where such leare shall be granted to any other nation, and that they shall pay no greater duty for the importation or exportation of their commodities, than is paid by the subjects of other nations.] Would not the bill in question be a direct contravention of that treaty? The renewal of that treaty was probably now in agitation, as it was within two years of expiring; with what face would Sir James Harris say to the Russian minister:-“Sir, I am instructed to renew the old articles, but you must prevail on the Empress to overlook a peculiar circumstance? We are, at the same time, making a treaty with another foreign pation, to which we are giving the admission of all merchandises of the staple of the Russian empire, free from various charges and restrictions, to which the Russian imports are liable. I acknowledge that this is awkward, because the interests of Russia must, at any rate, suffer by the American independence her growth and produce are the same as the northern states of America, but her ports are frozen during a considerable part of the year when the American ports are open."
This attempt of the ministry being unsuccessful, and no commercial arrangement having been made with Great Britain, the trade remained in an irregular, embroiled condition, being subject on one side to the control of an act of parliament, and on this to the municipal regulations of the state legislatures. But in 1790 a consistent, uniform shape was given to the navigation, as well as the commerce of the country, by the acts of that year, levying fifty cents tonnage rate on alien vessels, and an extra duty of ten per cent on all mercbandise, imported in them. These discriminating rates of duties were imposed for the single purpose of protection, for in the year, just mentioned, one third of our domestic produce was transported in foreign bottoms. The act of the year '90 forms the first chapter in the navigation laws of the country, and though the later policy of the government exhibits a bold and, as we believe, thus far successful departure from them, yet the principle of protection is by no means, abandoned.
The application is changed, and, having reared into strength and importance one form of investment and employment, it is now observed, offering shelter and encouragement to another. The foreign fabric, whether landed from an alien or national vessel, is subject to the same importation expenses, (this is the principle of reciprocity, or in fashionable language, the liberal principle) but the moment it is offered for circulation and consumption, it carries with it, into the market, the heavy weight of protection to the domestic manufacture, so that we doubt extremely, if the real and universal freedom of trade has been promoted by the modern contrivances, that have been honoured with an appellation, to which they appear to have little title. Some countries (Holland and Venice for example) have been strictly and solely commercial, their vessels were carriers, and their towns marts for the greater part of Europe. The source and principle of their wealth lay, therefore, altogether, in freedom of trade. But nations, that combine the two elements, commerce and manufactures, have, thus far in the history of mankind, (and this country does not appear likely to furnish an exception) adopted measures of protection for one or the other, generally for both. And as matters stand at present in the civilized part of the world, it appears to us, that the only question for discussion is, not concerning the abstract principle of protection, but altogether the degree of protection, it is the interest of the three ingredients of agriculture, commerce and manufactures to extend to each other. The federal government began the first year of its organization with the system, and we have since witnessed numerous modifications, relaxations and changes of applications, yet, we think, no one can say, that the principle is now less vigorously, sternly and universally enforced.
The convention of 1815, being the first instance of a departure from the policy of the government, as settled in 1790, and continued for nearly twenty-five years, is properly speaking an æra in the commercial history of the country. During that period the nation enjoyed remarkable prosperity, but it never can be wholly attributed to the navigation laws. The political condition of the civilized world, in fact the best navigation law that could be enacted for our benefit, rendered legislative precautions unnecessary.
But since the peace, the Americans have entered into the commercial competition of Europe, and, with the exception of the mother country, no just apprehensions need be entertained for the result. Numerous colonial establishments give to Great Britain an advantage, that makes the struggle more animated.
The commissioners, employed in the negotiation of Ghent, (Messrs. Adams, Clay and Gallatin) after the conclusion of that business, repaired to London, and during the months of May and June (1815) arranged, in conferences with Messrs. VOL. II.
Adams, Robinson and Goulbourn, who appeared for Great Britain, the necessary stipulations of a commercial convention. In our negotiations with England two classes of subjects have presented themselves for discussion ;-one comprising commercial regulations, applicable to a state of war as well as peace; the other, embracing the rights and duties of the parties, one engaged in war and the other remaining
The subject of impressment and blockades belongs strictly to the laws of nations ; but that of the colonial trade is somewhat of a mixed character. It would not be altogether just to say, that England absolutely declined to discuss at this time the first question, though the coldness, with which the American propositions were received, and the extreme difficulty and embarrassing nature, that government was disposed to ascribe to the matter, amount to little else than a rejection. A discussion of all other points of maritime law was also declined ;-that of trade with an enemy's colony on the ground the British government was not yet informed of the regulations, France intended to adopt in regard to her possessions in the West Indies. The principal commercial topic was settled without difficulty ;the abrogation of discriminating rates on vessels and importations. In 1806 a proposition, made by Great Britain to this effect, had been inserted in the unratified treaty of that year. But Congress in the winter session of 1814, 15 passed a law to enable the Executive to enter into negotiations on the subject. In order to prevent commercial collisions, it was desirable the countervailing duties, between the United States and Great Britain, should mutually be abolished. Unless the parties agreed to a full suspension of municipal regulations, a system of commercial warfare was likely to be commenced, which would shortly end in an entire nonintercourse. The inconveniences and mischiefs, resulting from this state of things, would probably be greater than any, either country had cause to apprehend from the consequences of a full and fair competition. The simplicity of the stipulation of reciprocity is certainly the best argument that can be employed in its defence, and had, unquestionably, the principal influence in procuring its insertion into the convention. Few transactions (for example) have been more confused and complicated than the respective enactments of the United States and Great Britain in regard to the West India trade. After the provision of the London treaty in the year '94, placing commerce on a footing of the most favoured nation, had expired by its own operation in 1803, the whole subjeet remained loose and unsettled, and if slight evils, besides the uncertainty of the thing, only were suffered, the circumstance could, by no means, be safely considered as a rule for the proceedings of the two governments, when the world was at peace.
The only other points, regulated by this instrument, related to the East Indies and the establishment of consuls. The arrangement concerning the first article was, substantially, that of 1794, though not altogether so favourable in restricting our vessels to four ports of entry. The United States have never claimed, as a right, any share in this commerce, though it has been enjoyed with more or less limitation since the peace of 1783. Great Britain has chosen always to regard it as an indulgence, but in the London treaty the word, “consent,” employed in conveying the privilege, was altered, in this convention, to the word, " agreed.” The extraordinary dominion of the East India Company in Hindoostan, and its singular and complicated connexion with the government at home render, perhaps, this commerce an exception to the usual colonial rules; but there appears to be no doubt, that the American trade in that quarter has been advantageous to the settlements. England has never made a serious objection to its continuance, nor declined to secure it by treaty stipulation. It supplies those countries with a ready medium of exchange, as well as for coinage, highly useful in their mercantile transactions with the more eastern nations. On this account, it has been thought in the United States, that the heavy and constant drain of specie more than counterbalanced the benefits of the trade; but this consideration derives its only weight from the doctrine, now generally in disfavour, that specie