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In a subsequent report, (December 30,) the secretary communicated the copy of a decree of the French national convention, admitting provisions and certain other articles into the French West India islands, in American vessels, free of duty; also, a copy of the Spanish degree alluded to in the former report.
This, the last official act of the secretary, was followed, the next day, by his resignation. He had in the summer intimated an intention to resign in September ; but he had, on solicitation, deferred the execution of his purpose till the close of the year. Mr. Randolph was appointed as his successor; and the office of attorney-general, vacated by the appointment, was filled by William Bradford, of Pennsylvania.
On the 4th of January, 1794, Mr. Madison introduced his noted resolutions, designed to carry out the objects of Mr. Jefferson's commercial report. The first of these resolutions declared it expedient to increase the duties on the tonnage of vessels of nations which had no commercial treaties with the United States, and on their manufactures of leather, metals, wool, cotton, hemp, flax, and silk; and to reduce the tonnage duties on vessels of nations having such treaties. They also proposed an increase of duty on importations from the West Indies in foreign vessels from ports from which American were excluded.
On the 13th of January, Mr. Smith, of South Carolina, opened the debate in opposition to these resolutions. He proposed to discuss the subject as a purely commercial one, without reference to our political relations with foreign countries. He produced a table of statistics, showing that our commerce was on the whole as much favored in Great Britain as in France. These statistics did not extend to a period later than the fiscal year ending September 30, 1792. The commercial regulations of France during the period of the revolution, had been too fluctuating, too much influenced by momentary impulse, to be considered as part of a system. So far as they proposed favors to this country, they manifested an object of the moment, which could not be mistaken. The privileges in the West India trade offered by Genet, he considered the price of becoming a party in the war. Previous to the demand in France created by the present war,
the exports of four to Great Britain and her colonies, were to those of France and her colonies, as twenty to one. He extended his statements to all the principal articles of exportation to those two countries. The average value of our exports, annually for three years from October 1, 1789, was, to Great Britain, $8,489,830; to France, $4,737,131.
The secretary had stated that a great part of the exports to Great Britain were reëxported thence at the disadvantage of double charges. This statement Mr. S. believed was founded on statements of lord
Sheffield, having reference to a period prior to the American revolution, when Great Britain had a monopoly of our trade. But admitting that she exported at present one-third of what she received from us, she would still consume more of our products than France.
He considered large importations from Britain no grievance, but a benefit
. She could supply us with an assortment of the goods we wanted; and could also give us a credit, which was an advantage to a young country wanting capital. If the encouragement of domestio manufactures had been made the object of the resolutions, some alteration in our commercial regulations with Great Britain might be advantageous. But the object was to turn the tide of trade from Great Britain to France. He admitted the disadvantage of a dependence on one nation for a supply of necessaries; but a change should not be brought about by artificial methods. To lessen the importations from Great Britain, we must impose higher duties on her commodities than on those of other countries, which would be a bounty on the manufactures, not of our own country, bat of those of foreign nations.
He also noticed the statement of the secretary, that Great Britain alone had discovered no disposition to negotiate, but that we had no reason to conclude that friendly arrangements would be declined by other nations.” From the correspondence of the British minister, Mr. Hammond, the fact appeared otherwise. Mr. Jefferson asked him if he was empowered to treat on the subject of commerce. He replied that he was fully authorized to enter into a negotiation for that purpose, though not as yet empowered to conclude. Upon farther difficulty and objection on the part of Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Hammond reassures him of his competency to enter on a negotiation, which is based on his commission as minister plenipotentiary and his instructions. Mr. Jefferson requires a communication of his full powers for that purpose, and declines the negotiation. The declining, therefore, was not on the part of the British minister. Forms were the obstacle with the secretary of state, whose zeal, at best, was not greater than Mr. Hammond's. Measures had been taken for forming treaties with Spain, and also with Portugal; but no proper treaty with either could be obtained. Why then was Great Britain selected for attack, but that it was “most in unison with our passions to enter into collisions with her ?”
Mr. Smith apprehended that the proposed regulations would provoke Great Britain to a war, either of arms, or of commercial regulations. If the former, she could easily persuade her allies to make common cause with her. But if she should profer the latter, how would the contest stand? A commercial warfare would disturb the course of one-sixth of her trade, and more than one-half of ours. She had also the advantages
of greater capital, and of being both a manufacturing and an agricultural nation. Our navigation was rapidly increasing under the present system; and our other great national interests were in a progressive state. It was therefore deemed impolitic to disturb the present order of things by hazardous experiments.
The remarks of the speaker were extended to a very great length, but we can not pursue them farther.
Mr. Madison replied to Mr. Smith the next day, January 14th. He also was friendly to a free intercourse with all nations. But to this rule, as to all general rules, there might be exceptions; and the rule itself required, what did not exist, that it should be general. The navigation act of Great Britain had secured to her eleven-twelfths of the shipping and seamen employed in her trade. Here was a great gain from a departure of the rule. Another exception to the advantages of a free trade, is found in the case of two countries in such relation to each other, that the one, by duties on the manufactures of the other, might not only invigorate its own, but draw from the other the workmen themselves. To allow trade to regulate itself, is, as our own experience has taught us, to allow one nation to regulate it for another.
Mr. Madison then adverted to the effects of foreign policy upon our trade and navigation, and the attention it excited soon after the peace ; and he recapitulated the various unsuccessful attempts to counteract the foreign policy, which resulted in the establishment of a government competent to regulate our commercial interests, and to vindicate our commer. cial rights. When this subject was discussed in the first congress, it was said we ought to be generous to Great Britain, and give time for negotiating a treaty of commerce. We had waited four years, and no treaty is either in train or in prospect.
Our navigation, he said, was not on an equal footing with England and France. Our ports admitted the produce of all countries in British vessels, while our vessels could carry into the ports of Great Britain only our own commodities; and from her West India ports they were entirely excluded. The effects of the British navigation acts would appear from the following facts:
In our trade with that country, the amount of American tonnage employed, was 43,000 tons; that of Great Britain, 240,000 tons: while in our intercourse with Spain, our tonnage was to hers as five to one; with Portugal as six to one; Netherlands, fifteen to one; Denmark, twelve to one; France, five to one.
This proportion had been somewhat changed by particular circumstances. Our tonnage in the same trade with Great Britain, was still only as one to three; with France between four and five to one. Our exports were not only, for the most part, necessaries of life, which the British manufacturers must have; but they were bulky, and required a large amount of shipping. Therefore, by securing to ourselves the transportation of our own products, the proportion of our shipping and sailors would be greatly increased.
Of manufactures imported, the amount was stated to be $15,290,000; of which $13,960,000 came from Great Britain ; from France only $155,000, while the latter actually consumed more of our produce than the former. The balance of trade, at the same time, was greatly in our favor with every other nation, and greatly against us with Great Britain; and an unfavorable balance, to be paid in specie, was by all nations considered an evil-especially was Great Britain careful to prevent it. We consume, said Mr. Madison, her manufactures to double the amount of all she takes from us, and four times the amount of what she actually consumes of our products. We take every thing after it has undergone all the profitable labor that can be bestowed on it; she receives in return, raw materials, the food of her industry. We send necessaries to her; she sends superfluities to us.
As to a discrimination in favor of nations having commercial treaties with
us, it had had the sanction of votes in that house; and it was in accordance with the practice of nations. It tended to procure beneficial treaties from nations that desire an equality with other nations in their commerce.
The measure proposed was dictated by prudence. It would relieve us from a state of commercial dependence. We should not be dependent upon a single nation for necessary articles of consumption, or of defense in time of war. He apprehended no injury from the adoption of the proposed measure; it was not for the interest of Great Britain to retaliate
. She would be the greater sufferer from a stagnation of trade between the two countries. Her merchants, her manufacturers, her navigation, and her revenue, would be seriously affected by it. Her West Indies would be ruined by it. We too should suffer, but in a less degree
. In proportion as a nation manufactures luxuries, must be ity disadvantage in contests with its customers. Let the trade between the United States and Great Britain cease, and 300,000 of her manufacturers would be thrown out of employment, and would probably be added to the population of this country, the natural asylum for the distressed
It had been said that Great Britain treated the United States as well as she treated other nations. That other nations were willing to submit to unequal regulations, or were unable to vindicate their rights, ought not to satisfy us. Mr. Madison compared the regulations of Great Britain with those of other countries, to show that the former were not as favorable as the latter; and he submitted a comparative statement of the commercial policy of Great Britain and France toward us, very different from that of Mr. Smith. He considered the present order of things in France a settled order, and that the trade with that country would maintain its present position. From the statement he presented, it appeared that the total of French consumption of American products exceeded that of British consumption by nearly one million of dollars.
The correspondence between the British minister and Mr. Jefferson relating to negotiation, was reviewed, and the conclusion drawn from it was, that the construction put by Mr. Hammond on his powers was inadmissible, and that the executive had equally consulted digņity and prudence, in silently dropping the subject in the manner they did, until he should produce adequate powers in the accustomed form.
The resolutions were supported by several other gentlemen. It was said that the credit given by British merchants, was but an injury. It encouraged overtrading, and caused a heavy balance of trade against us; discouraged domestic manufactures, and promoted luxury. The policy of Great Britain had given her the control of our trade; and we should endeavor to change its course. By buying the manufactures of France, a portion of her population would be drawn off from agricultural pursuits, and a market opened for our produce. The temporary disadvantage of this policy would be amply repaid by permanent benefits. Great Britain being embarrassed with a dangerous foreign war, it was deemed a favorable time to induce her to consent to some relaxation of the rigorous policy she has hitherto pursued.
Several other speakers also opposed the resolutions. They would not retaliate injuries under the cloak of commercial regulations. If the resolutions were adopted, it should be because they would promote the public interest. Their avowed objects were to favor navigation and manufactures. If navigation was to have additional encouragement, let the duties on all foreign vessels be increased, and let the impositions upon American vessels in the several foreign countries be met by equal impositions, instead of encouraging one foreign nation at the expense of another. Several members opposed to the resolutions, expressed themselves in favor of a navigation act which should meet the restrictions imposed upon our vessels by other nations, with corresponding restrictions upon theirs.
Nor was the plan likely to promote domestic manufactures. This object was to be effected by laying duties on the particular articles, the manufacture of which was to be encouraged. But the primary motive of the resolutions was not the increase of our agriculture, manufactures, or navigation, but to humble Great Britain and build up France.