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approves, and reject the rest? If it be, as the gentleman from Maryland called it, “ a bill of abominations," why not strike out as many of the abominations as we can? Extreme measures cannot tend to good. They must produce mischief. If a proper and moderate bill in regard to wool and woollens had passed last year, we should not now be in our present situation. If such a bill, extended perhaps to a few other articles, if necessity so required, had been prepared and recommended at this session, much, both of excitement and of evil, would have been avoided.
Nevertheless, sir, it is for gentlemen to judge for themselves. If, when the wool manufacturers think they have a fair right to call on Congress to carry into effect what was intended for them by the law of 1824, and when there is manifested some disposition to comply with what they thus request, the benefit cannot be granted, nevertheless, in any other manner than by inserting it in a sort of bill of pains and penalties-a“ bill of abominations,” it is not for me to attempt to reason down, what has not been reasoned up; but I must content myself with admonishing gentlemen that their policy is destined, in all probability, to terminate in their own sore disappointment.
I advert once more, sir, to the subject of wool and woollens, for the purpose
of showing that, even in respect to that part of the bill, the interest mainly protected is not that of the manufacturers. On the contrary, it is that of the wool-growers. The wool-grower is vastly more benefited than the manufacturer. The interest of the manufacturer is treated as secondary, and subordinate, throughout the bill. Just so much, and no more, is done for him, as is supposed necessary to enable him to purchase and manufacture the wool. The agricultural interest, the farming interest, the interest of the sheep-owner, is the great object which the bill is calculated to benefit, and which it will benefit, if the manufacturer can be kept alive. A comparison of existing duties, with those proposed on the wool and on the cloth, will show how this part of the case stands.
At present, a duty of thirty per cent. ad valorem is laid on all wool costing ten cents per pound, or upwards; and a duty of fifteen per cent. on all wool under that price.
The present bill proposes a specific duty of four cents per pound, and also an ad valorem duty of fifty per cent. on all wool of every description.
The result of the combination of these two duties, is, that wool fit for making good cloths, and costing from thirty to forty cents per pound in the foreign market, will pay a duty, at least equal to sixty per cent. ad valorem. And wool costing less than ten cents in the foreign market, will pay a duty, on the average, of a hundred per cent. ad valorem.
Now, sir, these heavy duties are laid for the wool-grower. They are designed to give a spring to agriculture, by fostering one of its most important products.
But let us see what is done for the manufacturer, in order to enable him to manufacture the raw material, at prices so much enhanced.
As the bill passed the House of Representatives, the advance of duties on cloths, is supposed to have been not more than three per cent. on the minimum points. Taking the amount of duty to be now thirty-seven per cent. ad valorem, on cloths, this bill, as it came to us, proposed, if that supposition be true, only to carry it up to forty. Amendments, here adopted, have enhanced this duty, and are understood to have carried it up to a duty of forty-five, or perhaps fifty per cent. ad valorem. Taking it at the highest, the duty on the cloth is raised thirteen per cent.; while that on wool is raised in some instances thirty, and in some instances eighty-five per cent.; that is, in one case from thirty to sixty, and in the other from fifteen to a hundred. Now the calculation is said to be true, which supposes, that a duty of thirty per cent. on the raw material, enhances, by fifteen per cent., the cost of producing the cloth; the raw material being estimated, generally, to be equal to half the expense of the fabric. So that, while, by this bill, the manufacturer gains thirteen per cent. on the cloth, he would appear to lose fifteen per cent. on the same cloth by the increase in the price of the wool. And this not only would appear to be true, but would, I suppose, be actually true, were it not that the market may be open to the manufacturer, under this bill, for such cloths as may be furnished at prices intermediate, between the graduated prices established by the bill.
For example; few or no foreign cloths, it is supposed, costing more than fifty cents a yard and less than a dollar, will be imported; therefore, American cloths, worth more than fifty cents and less than a dollar, will find a market. So of the intervals, or intermediate spaces, between the other statute prices. In this mode it may be hoped that the manufacturers may be sustained, and rendered able to carry on the work of converting the raw material, the agricultural product of the country, into an article necessary and fit for use. And this statement, I think, sufficiently shows, that no farther benefit or advantage is intended for them, than such as shall barely enable them to accomplish that purpose; and that the object, to which all others have been made to yield, is the advantage of agriculture.
And yet, sir, it is on occasion of a bill thus framed, that a loud and ceaseless cry has been raised against what is called the cupidity, the avarice, the monopolizing spirit of New England manufacturers! This is one of the main “abominations of the bill;" to remedy which it is proposed to keep in the other abominations. Under the prospect of advantage held out by the law of 1824, men have ventured their fortunes, and their means of subsistence for themselves and families, in woollen manufactures. They have ventured investments in objects requiring a large out-lay of capital; in mills, houses, water-works and expensive machinery. Events have occurred, blighting their prospects, and withering their hopes. Events, which have deprived them of that degree of succour, which the legislature manifestly intended. They come here asking for relief against an unforeseen occurrence; for remedy against that, which Congress, if it had foreseen, would have prevented. And they are told, that what they ask is an abomination! They say that an interest important to them, and important to the country, and principally called into existence by the government itself, has received a severe shock,
under which it must sink, if the government will not, by reasonable means, endeavour to preserve what it has created. And they are met with a volley of hard names, a tirade of reproaches, and a loud cry againt capitalists, speculators and stock-jobbers! For one, I think them hardly treated; I think, and from the beginning have thought, their claim to be a fair one. With how much soever of undue haste, or even of credulity, they may be thought to have embarked in these pursuits, under the hopes held out by government, I do not feel it to be just that they should be abandoned to their fate on the first adverse change of circumstances; although I have always seen, and now see, how difficult, perhaps I should rather say how impossible, it is, for Congress to act, when such changes occur, in a manner at once efficient, but discreet; prompt, but yet moderate.
For these general reasons, and on these grounds, I am decidedly in favor of a measure which shall uphold and support, in behalf of the manufacturers, the law of 1824, and carry its benefits and advantages to the full extent intended. And though I am not altogether satisfied with the particular form of these enactments, I am willing to take them, in the belief that they will answer an essentially important and necessary purpose.
It is now my painful duty to take notice of another part of the bill, which I think in the highest degree objectionable and unreasonable; I mean the extraordinary augmentation of the duty on hemp. I cannot well conceive anything more unwise or ill-judged than this appears to me to be. The duty is already. thirty-five dollars per ton; and the bill proposes a progressive increase, till it shall reach sixty dollars. This will be absolutely oppressive on the shipping interest, the great consumers of the article. When this duty shall have reached its maximum, it will create an annual charge of at least one hundred thousand dollars, falling not on the aggregate of the commercial interest, but on the ship owner. unequal burden. The navigation of the country has already a hard struggle, to sustain itself against foreign competition; and it is singular enough, that this interest, which is already so severely tried, which pays so much in duties, on hemp, duck, and iron, and which it is now proposed to put under new burdens, is the only interest which is subject to a direct tax by a law of Congress. The tonnage duty is such a tax. If this bill should pass in its present form, I shall think it my duty, at the earliest suitable opportunity, to bring forward a bill for the repeal of the tonnage duty. It amounts, think, to a hundred and twenty thousand dollars a year; and its removal will be due, in all justice, to the ship owner, if he is to be made subject to a new taxation on hemp and iron.
But, objectionable as this tax is, from its severe pressure on a particular interest, and that at present a depressed interest, there are still farther grounds of dissatisfaction with it. It is not calculated to effect the object intended by it. If that object be the increase of the sale of the dew rotted American hemp, the increased duty will have little tendency to produce that result; because such hemp is so much lower in price, than imported hemp, that it must be already used for such purposes as it is fit for. It is said to be
It is a very
selling for one hundred and twenty dollars per ton; while the imported hemp commands two hundred and seventy dollars. The proposed duty, therefore, cannot materially assist the sale of American hemp of this quality and description.
But the main reason given for the increase, is, the encouragement of American water-rotted hemp. Doubtless, this is an important object; but I have seen nothing to satisfy me that it can be obtained, by means like this. At present, there is produced in the country no considerable quantity of water-rotted hemp. It is problematical, at best, whether it can be produced under any encouragement. The hemp may be grown, doubtless, in various parts of the United States, as well as in any country in the world; but the process of preparing it for use, by water-rotting, I believe to be more difficult and laborious than is generally thought among us. I incline to think, that, happily for us, labor is in too much demand, and commands too high prices, to allow this process to be carried on profitably. Other objections, also, beside the amount of labor required, may, perhaps, be found to exist, in climate, and in the effects liable to be produced on health, in warm countries, by the nature of the process. But whether there be foundation for these suggestions, or not, the fact still is, that we do not produce the article. It cannot, at present, be had at any price. To augment the duty, therefore, on foreign hemp, can only have the effect of compelling the consumer to pay so much more money into the treasury. The proposed increase, then, is doubly objectionable ; first, because it creates a charge, not to be borne equally by the whole country, but a new and heavy charge, to be borne exclusively by one particular interest ; and, second, because, that of the money raised by this charge, little or none goes to accomplish the professed object, by aiding the hemp grower; but the whole, or nearly the whole, falls into the treasury. Thus the effect will be in no way proportioned to the cause, nor the advantage obtained by some, at all equal to the hardship imposed on others. While one interest will suffer much, the other interest will gain little or nothing.
I am quite willing to make a thorough and fair experiment, on the subject of water-rotted hemp; but I wish, at the same time, to do this in a manner that shall not oppress individuals, or particular classes. I intend, therefore, to move an amendment, which will consist in striking out so much of the present bill as raises the duty on hemp, higher than it is at present, and in inserting a clause, making it the duty of the Navy Department to purchase, for the public service, American water-rotted hemp, whenever it can be had of a suitable quality; provided it can be purchased at a rate not exceeding, by more than twenty per cent., the current price of imported hemp, of the same quality. If this amendment should be adopted, the ship-owner would have no reason to complain, as the price of the article would not be enchanced, to him; and at the same time, the hemp grower, who shall try the experiment, will be made sure of a certain market, and a high price. The existing duty of thirty-five dollars per ton will remain to be still borne by the ship-owner. The twenty per cent. advance, on the price of imported hemp, will be equal
to fifty dollars per ton; the aggregate will be eighty-five dollars; and this, it must be admitted, is a liberal and effective provision, and will secure everything which can be reasonably desired, by the hemp-grower, in the most ample manner.
But, if the bill should become a law, and go into operation in its present shape, this duty on hemp is likely to defeat its own object in another way. Very intelligent persons entertain the opinion, that the consequence of this high duty will be such, that American vessels, engaged in foreign commerce, will, to a great extent, supply themselves with cordage abroad. This, of course, will diminish the consumption at home, and thus injure the hemp-grower, and at the same time, the manufacturer of cordage. Again; there may be reason to fear, that as the duty is not raised on cordage manufactured abroad, such cordage may be imported, in greater or less degree, in the place of the unmanufactured article. Whatever view we take, therefore, of this hemp duty, it appears to me altogether objectionable.
Much has been said of the protection which the navigation of the country has received, from the discriminating duties on tonnage, and the exclusive enjoyment of the coasting trade. In my opinion, neither of these measures has materially sustained the shipping interest of the United States. I do not concur in the sentiments, on that point, quoted from Dr. Seybert's statistical work. Dr. Seybert was an intelligent and worthy man, and compiled a valuable book; but he was engaged in public life at a time, when it was more fashionable than it has since become, to ascribe efficacy to discriminating duties. The shipping interest in this country has made its way by its own enterprise. By its own vigorous exertion, it spread itself over the seas, and by the same exertion, it still holds its place there. It seems idle to talk of the benefit and advantage of discriminating duties, when they operate against us, on one side of the ocean, quite as much as they operate for us on the other. To suppose that two nations, having intercourse with each other, can secure, each to itself, a decided advantage in that intercourse, is little less than absurdity; and this is the absurdity of discriminating duties. Still less reason is there for the idea, that our own ship-owners hold the exclusive enjoyment of the coasting trade, only by virtue of the law, which secures it to their exclusive employment. Look at the rate of freights. Look at the manner in which this coasting trade is conducted, by our own vessels, and the competition which subsists between them. In a majority of instances, probably, these vessels are owned, in whole or in part, by those who navigate them. These owners are at home, at one end of the voyage; and repairs and supplies are thus obtained in the cheapest and most economical manner. No foreign vessels would be able to partake in this trade, even by the aid of preferences and bounties.
The shipping interest of this country requires only an open field, and a fair chance. Everything else it will do for itself. But, it has not a fair chance, while it is so severely taxed, in whatever enters into the necessary expense of building and equipment. In this respect, its rivals have advantages which may in the end prove to be