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other side of the house, (Dr. Mitchill) in the remarks he made a few days since on the inefficiency of this system to coerce foreign powers, and the necessity of a speedy abandonment of it. In one respect, however, I differ from him. I mean in the opinion he seems to entertain of the embargo, and as this is a part and parcel of the restrictive system, one to which our present law seems to point, and on which we may be soon called upon to act, I shall ask the indulgence of the committee while I submit a few remarks.
My colleague, Mr. Chairman, professes to believe that if the embargo had not been broken, and had been persisted in a few months longer, it would have accomplished its object: we should have had the British lion crouching at our feet, willing to accede to any terms to prolong his existence, which it seems would have depended on our will and pleasure. This is, indeed, to draw a flattering picture of our power and of our consequence. What Bonaparte, with his millions of soldiers and his scores of princes and kings, has not been able to effect after years of war, we can do by a little bit of paper marked with strange characters by the clerk of this house. This is, indeed, a great discovery, and its inventor deserves
a place in our patent-office. If, however, the charm will be broken when the embargo is evaded, I am afraid it will detract from the merit of the discovery; for as certainly as you pass your restrictive laws, as certainly will they be evaded, and that too by friends and by foes. They will press hard on some, who from necessity, and will hold out temptations to others, who from cupidity, will break through them.
But, sir, it appears to me that however inconvenient or injurious the embargo might have been to Great Britain, and inconvenient and injurious it certainly was, it could not, as it did not, coerce that nation. To have this effect, a commercial intercourse with these United States must not only be necessary to the well-being, but to the very existence of England. Does any man really believe, that if this country should be absolutely destroyed by some convulsion of nature, or become a province of the great French empire, that Britain would therefore, and for that cause alone, go down? Do we not know, that England existed with almost its present population before this country was discovered? and is it not certain that even in our own times she lived through a war with us, although we then had no commercial intercourse with her? Can you believe, that the embargo was more oppressive to Great Britain, whose commerce and resources it affected but partially, than to us, whose commerce it destroyed totally? In truth, the period when the embargo pressed most hardly on England, was when it commenced its operation. She was suddenly cut off from the supplies which this country had afforded her, and our market for her manufactures was closed against her. She had to seek new vents for her goods, and to search in other places for raw materials. The longer you kept on your embargo, the less she must have been affected by it.
With all her privations, is it not certain that England derived some positive advantages from our embargo? As in poli. tics and legislation, one fact is at any time worth two theories, I will mention one or two circumstances. We have heard much in this country, of the scarcity of gold in England, and know that the house of commons raised a bullion committee to inquire into the causes of this scarcity, This committee made a report, which has since been published, containing, among other things, a statement of the testimony delivered before them; and I wish to call your attention to the deposition of Mr. Hughan, a West India merchant. He says, that the exchange between Jamaica and England, for the two last years, has uniformly been very high in favour of England; at one time, for bills at ninety days' sight, it was at twenty per cent. and was then (1810) at ten per cent. above par; and declares, that the principal cause for this high exchange, is the great export of manufactures through that channel for the Spanish settlements in Cuba and the Main. He states, that a considerable part of the supply of manufactured goods now furnished to the Spanish colonies from Jamaica, used formerly to be furnished from the United States; and that one very powerful and the most powerful cause of this change was, the operation of the American embargo. Mr. Irving, the inspector general of the customs, also gave testimony, and produced a statement of imports and exports. In these tables, I turn to the exports to Jamaica for two years, 1804 and 1809, and discover that the official value of those in the former year is £4,096,196 sterling, and in the latter 68,755,193; making a difference in favour of the latter of £4,658,997 sterling. As Mr. Irving says, that the official valuation was fixed in 1696, since when there has been no alteration, and that the difference between the official and the actual value of British manufactures in 1809, appears to have been from forty-five to fifty per cent. we must add to the excess £2,329,498, making it 46,988,495 sterling; or upwards of thirty-one millions of dollars.
Now, sir, you will find, by recurring to the commercial report of the secretary of the treasury, of 28th February, 1806, that, taking the average of the years 1802, 1803, and 1804, (and I go back to those years, because it was before the commencement of our restrictive system) our annual imports from the dominions of Great Britain, in Europe,, amounted to twenty-seven millions, four hundred thousand dollars. And will gentlemen yet say, that the embargo would have ruined England, if it had been continued? If she could exist with an American exportation of twenty-seven millions, she surely may with thirty-one millions. Are we still confident that our embargo has been productive of no advantage to Great Britain? By our commercial restrictions, we have cramped the enterprise of our merchants, and drawn them from a field which must produce a rich harvest to those who cultivate it. I have, on another occasion, observed that Spanish America would soon afford a free and open commerce, which would of itself satisfy all our wants, and be equal to all our wishes. The value of this commerce is felt by the English, and they now have it. We, on the contrary, by our schemes of nonintercourse, and double duties, and navigation laws, not only leave them in the possession, but prevent our merchants from entering the lists with them. Nay, as if apprehensive that at some future time these prospects might be too tempting for our people, we have lately taken pains to raise the prejudices of the Spaniards against us, by declaring ourselves the owners of one of their provinces, and marching
an armed force to take possession of it.
One other fact. What has been the effect of the embargo and the other restrictive laws on the British provinces to the north of us? Let the merchants of the trading towns of the Hudson answer you. Before the embargo, the Canadas were in a sickly state; they are now healthy and flourishing. Formerly their chief trade was with the Indians, and for furs: now, they are rivals in your own business, with your most commercial states. While our capital and enterprise have been decreasing, theirs have been increasing; and in proportion as our trade has been hampered and diminishing, the commerce of the British provinces has been fostered and extending itself. Their population and wealth and importance have been wonderfully advanced by our restrictive laws. There is no deception in this, Mr. Chairman. Many of the trading towns in the interior of the state which I have the honour, in part, to represent, will be my witnesses. Ask their merchants why they are idle and about to remove, and they will answer you that you have driven their customers and their business to Canada, and that they must follow them. I forbear to press this subject farther, and I have merely adverted to these facts to show, that if Great Britain will be injured by our restrictive laws, she may also be benefited.
What will be the effect of this non-importation or non-intercourse system on ourselves? We must have money to carry on the government: ay, sir, and much money too; for appropriation bills have already made their way through this house, by which we have granted about six millions for the expenses of government during the current year. And how do you expect to get this sum if imports are prohibited? I know the secretary of the treasury has recommended a large increase of duties; but a table of duties without imports is mere paper: it will bring nothing. Indeed, without your non-intercourse, a temporary additional duty so large as that recommended, if it does not totally suspend importations, will not produce much for your treasury. It is holding out a temptation and a reward for smuggling
Your merchants—How are they to be effected by this system? Do we not know that those trading to Europe have, during the last season, exported large quantities of the products of this country, and are we yet to learn, that owing to the em. barrassments of commerce much of that property remains unsold, and of that which has been disposed of, a part, and not an inconsiderable part, is yet unpaid for? And yet we are by our own regulations to prevent their making investments, or receiving remittances. If we do so, we shall not only prostrate many an individual, but we may shake the mercantile world to its centre. Having his property locked up in Europe, the merchant will not be able to meet his engagements; the property will be lost to him, and bankruptcy and ruin must follow. Your West-India traders—The course of that business, you are informed, is to send out cargoes in the fall which are disposed of to planters, who pay in the produce of the islands when the crops come in. As this takes place in March, and we close our ports on the 2d day of February, it follows, that these merchants will also be sacrificed. These will be the particular effects of inforcing the non-importation at this time. The general effect will be, as I heretofore observed, to drive our merchants from the ocean; your external commerce will wither at the touch of this baneful law, and your merchants will sink under the reiterated strokes which we, their protectors, have aimed and are aiming at them.
But is this system to injure the merchant alone? What is to become of that useful class of citizens connected with shipping, the sailor, the ship-carpenter, the sail-maker, the blacksmith, the rope-maker, and the long list of mechanics and labourers who find support and employ from your merchants? Must they not be reduced to want, and become objects of cha-, rity, or do as many have already done, leave the country? The agriculturalists—Where will the grower of hemp find a market for his stock if you have no shipping? What is to be done with the cotton, the tobacco and the grain which remain on hand, if your merchants can no longer export? Must they not be wholly lost to the planter and the farmer, or sacrificed by them to the speculator? Are there not other evils which must result from this system? In the former non-importation law, care was taken to make such exceptions as allowed the people to receive articles considered of necessity; but this law is general, and applies to all articles, the growth, produce, or manufacture of Great Britain and her colonies. The southern planter requires coarse clothes for his blacks, and the northern farmer plaster for his fields, and both the one and the other must have salt; and yet, sir, under this law we are to have neither cloth, nor plaster, nor salt. These are some of the evils which must grow out of a non-importation system, such as that which has attempted to be put in operation by the proclamation of November: that they are of the most serious kind every person who hears me will admit, and that they are greater than the country will patiently bear I verily believe.
Mr. Chairman, I feel that I have already trespassed upon your patience and that of the committee. I trust, however, the nature and importance of the subject under discussion, will be an apology for the range I have taken. I will now only observe, that I have attempted to establish the following positions: That no such arrangement has been made with the French government as comes within the intent of the law of May, and that the assurances made to our government were deceptive That the proclamation of November was issued without authority, and that the non-intercourse is not in force-And that the evils which must result from an attempt to inforce this law by the customhouse officers, under the instructions which accompany the proclamation, are of a nature so serious and oppressive, as to require the immediate interference of congress.
Thus viewing the subject, I deem it my duty to propose an amendment to the law now before you, which, if adopted, will do away the effect of the proclamation, by permitting vessels to enter, and merchandise to be imported as freely as if the proclamation had not been issued.