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MARCH, 1806.

Non-Importation of Goods from Great Britain.

would ask, remains, but a land tax, to supply a fund to meet the necessary calls of our Government; a tax so odious in many parts of our country, as to be one of the powerful causes of the overthrow of one Administration, and if again resorted to, may possibly produce the destruction of another.

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if, in addition to this, Government has pledged itself to a vast body of respectable citizens, in every part of the United States, to protect their property legally employed in commerce-to say that this commerce shall now be left to take care of itselfof all the insulting mockeries ever offered to this nation, this appears to me the most insulting. But with many, and I do not suffer myself to doubt, with a great majority of this Committee, this question may be considered as at rest. Commerce is worthy of our protection. Our natural situation, and the laudable enterprise of our citizens, which leads them into every sea and to every land, have made it ours, and we cannot abandon it without being guilty of the most palpable folly.

Should considerations like these, thoroughly pursued, prove insufficient to convince gentlemen that the commerce of this country is worthy to be shielded by her protecting arm, I may despair of doing it perhaps, by any further arguments within my power to adduce. But it is certainly deserving the remembrance of this honorable body, that our Government, by the course it has taken, has long since pledged itself to support the Should any gentleman here really believe, notrights and interests of our merchants upon the withstanding the volumes of evidence which have ocean. Aside of the immense revenues drawn loaded our tables to the contrary, that our comfrom their enterprise and industry, we may con-mercial rights have not been injured or insulted sider the measures alone, adopted by our Govern- by the British nation, I confess I should feel myment, to protect and guarantee their interests, by self at a loss how to address him. If he will discompacts with foreign nations and armaments for credit what all our merchants, all our statesmen, their defence, as having the direct effect of luring and the best writers upon the law of nations dethem to embark their property upon the seas with clare to be true, I should consider him as irrecothe most implicit security, and with almost a cer- verably lost in the region of doubts, where I should tain assurance that this protection should be con- be disposed to leave him in the undisturbed enjoytinued. In short, I do not see how it can be de- ment of his own gloomy imagination. Indeed, so nied that these privileges are as much entitled to clear does this subject appear to me, that I fear it the protection of Government, as those, equally, would be wasting time even to state a grievance though not more sacred, which are enjoyed by so well known to all. Great Britain has for many our fellow-citizens upon land. To relinquish any years styled herself mistress of the ocean. And in of them would be taking a step towards a das- truth it cannot be denied that she has erected tardly abandonment of our independence as a na-upon that element a colossus of power which overtion-and would be announcing to every people on earth, that we have become so tame and submissive that we are willing to be converted into simple tools and instruments for their use and profit, and to desert the defence of our own sacred rights. Whatever course policy or wisdom might have dictated to this nation a priori respecting commerce, it is evidently too late now to retrace our steps; nay, we cannot do it, short of treachery towards the mercantile interest, and without rendering ourselves a subject of derision and contempt to all Europe. If we shrink on the present occasion from that bold and energetic course which the times seem to call for, what a respectable figure we shall cut in history! This will be our story:-"The American nation, finding her commerce in the Mediterranean pestered by the petty barbarous Powers surrounding that sea, blustered and talked manfully like Bobadil in the play. Now this hero was invincible, or he would not have talked so valiantly. Twenty more-kill them! Twenty more-kill them too! But the moment their rights upon the ocean were assailed by a nation at once respectable and powerful, they meanly shrunk from the contest, and in vain did their admired Executive endeavor to rally the representatives of the people, in support of the firm and dignified measures which he recommended."

If therefore it is clear, as I trust it is, that commerce is the great supporter of agriculture-that it isat the same time the most rational and most prolific source of revenue and riches to our country, and 9th CoN.-19

looks and would overawe all the nations on the globe. "Rule Britannia" is an old song of her singing; and I have somewhere read that the ballads of a nation go far to portray, if not to form the spirit and propensities of a people. Consequently, jealous of every other commercial nation, this haughty queen would naturally endeavor to suppress the rapid and lofty soaring of the American Eagle. This jealousy has of course given rise to those principles which she attempts to interpolate into the laws of nations, and of which we now complain; such as-that a trade opened to neutrals by a nation at war, on account of the war, is unlawful;-that a vessel on her return voyage is liable to capture, on account of having carried, on her outward voyage, contraband articles to an enemy's port. To these may be added the right which she daringly assumes and cruelly executes, of impressing persons from American bottoms, sailing under the American flag upon the high seas; and other principles not less important though totally destitute of any legal or equitable foundation, and against which this nation ought to lift up her hands to Heaven by way of solemn protest. And what is alarming to all reflecting men is, that the courts of Great Britain, which have hitherto stood high in the estimation of all civilized nations for integrity, and for legal and political knowledge, have been found of late servile enough to attempt to weave into the code of nations, any principles which have been recommended by that Government as favorable to her interests. Now, it appears to me, sir, that the

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Non-Importation of Goods from Great Britain.

MARCH, 1806.

question is not so much, whether we shall sur- have a right surely to say to any nation that inrender to that nation those particular branches of jures and offends us, that we will stop all interthe carrying trade, which have given rise to our course with her, until she consents to do us justice, disputes with her, as whether we shall be allowed But this project is to lead to measures of deto retain any free commerce upon the ocean at all. fence, and to a loss of revenue! This in a degree For all must see, that although that nation is slow is true. And with those who weigh national and cautious in its progress to absolute maritime rights and honor in the same scales with dollars sovereignty, yet, her strides are firm and deter- and cents, this may prove an insurmountable obmined; and nothing is more certain than this, jection. But I have calculated, that our ports that whatever rights we resign with tame sub- and harbors will not be left in their present exmission are gone forever. It is alarming to hear posed situation, even though this measure should it said, as it has been upon this floor, with a kind not be adopted. I hope at any rate that we shall of triumph, What! shall we quarrel with a pow- find patriotism enough here to preserve us from erful nation for so trifling an object as the carry- this national disgrace. As to a loss of revenue, it ing trade? Such blindness is to me astonishing. will be but temporary. But our economical sysThat nation and her courts have not till lately in- tem forbids even this loss! Shall we suffer oursisted, with any hope of establishing, upon the prin- seves to be seduced by this plausible and popular, ciples now contended for. It is now an experi- this sacred word "economy?" I love economy ment only. She will either advance or recede, as much as anybody: But let us remember the according to the spirit with which we meet her object of this measure. Shall we, for fear of losusurpations. This is only one step in the ladder, ing a few millions of dollars devoted to the Sinkand this ladder reaches around the globe. A na- ing Fund, jeopardize that Sinking Fund itself? tion which makes convenience and power the Those who are solicitious, and none can be more only rule of right and justice, will find no end to solicitious than myself, to pay the national debt, her pretensions. To-day she finds it convenient will prove themselves willing, I hope, to pursue to prohibit our carrying the surplus colonial pro- the means, and the only rational means of doing duce in our markets to foreign countries; to-mor-it. Let economy be embraced as far as it can row she will find it convenient to prohibit the carriage of our own produce, in our own bottoms, to foreign markets; and she always has power to enforce the dictates of her convenience. No, sir, I would not surrender one single right which our interest and honor call upon us to defend: and more especially, if by receding one step, we jeopardize all the fair features of our commerce, let us boldly contend for every vestige.

be, in consonance with honor and safety. This is true economy. Another sort may be popular, but I pronounce it dangerous.

subject, I have some difficulty in deciding which I would prefer. Those which affect specific articles, by laying a duty upon them, are not clear of difficulties. You cannot make a selection without materially affecting certain sections of the Union. The resolution now under discusssion cuts deep, but I think it deserves a preference.

I do not pretend to have entered into a detailed account of the loss or gain of revenue, which will follow the adoption of this measure. It would be difficult to do it with accuracy, and, viewing the subject as I have done, it is unnecessary. It is sufficient for me to know that the loss This I hope and trust we shall attempt to do, by will be but temporary, and such as we can bear, every means which God and Nature have so and that the gain will be durable and honoraabundantly placed in our power-means, which, ble to our country. With respect to the various if applied with firmness and energy, will doubt-resolutions laid upon our table, relative to this less produce the desired effect. But what are these means is the question. The proposition now under consideration, or something similar in principle, meets, I am told, the approbation of our greatest and wisest statesmen. Those in this House who will take a calm survey of our situation, I am strong in the belief, will also approve this measure, or one not much unlike it. The wisdom and penetration of the British Cabinet will soon perceive, that such a measure, if adopted, is calculated to raise up among them at home and in the West Indies, a host of hungry and clamorous advocates for rights, and they will soon see the policy, if not the necessity, of treating us with justice. But without taking some step which discovers firmness and decision on our part, I would ask, what privilege we can expect to preserve, except that alone which is seldom denied to the weak and contemptible, the privilege of being plundered and insulted without reserve? To talk of offensive war is unnecessary, it is childish. The weapons within our reach are not at present warlike, though capable of wounding deeply. Some, however, are of opinion that this measure will lead to war. I think differently. It will, in my opinion, preserve peace and our commerce at the same time. We

It is unfortunate, sir, that any gentleman upon this floor should attempt to raise up distinctions among our citizens, or to hold up to the odium of the community a class of men so numerous and respectable as that of our merchants. If mercantile men are avaricious, agricultural gentlemen, I take it, are not totally destitute of greediness. They both labor, no doubt, to preserve their profits, and the honorable gentleman from Virginia himself told us, the other day, that he had not yet sold his tobacco.

Mr. MASTERS.-I shall not deny that Great Britain has insulted us by impressing our seamen, neither shall I deny that that nation has committed wanton aggressions and depredations on our commerce, and that commerce ought to be protected. That the resolution under consideration is the best course to be pursued for the interest of this nation, I shall contend against.

MARCH, 1806.

Non-Importation of Goods from Great Britain.

Restraints and prohibitions between nations have always arisen from two circumstances—the first, to promote their home industry or manufactures. The liberal price of wages, joined with the plenty and cheapness of land, which induces the laborer to quit his employer and become planter or farmer himself, who rewards with the same liberality which induces his laborers to leave their employment for the same reasons as the first: therefore, it is impossible for manufactures to flourish in this country in our present situa


The case in most other countries is very different, where the price of labor is low, and the rent and the profit consume the wages of the laborer, and the higher order of people oppress the inferior, which I hope never to see in this country.

It may rationally be calculated that some of the Eastern and Middle States will eventually become manufacturing States; some of those States are nearly filled with people, and many individuals have large capitals employed in foreign commerce, to the amount in many instances of two and three hundred thousand dollars each. When peace takes place in Europe, and things come down to their natural standard, and they can no longer employ that capital to advantage in commercial speculations, they will withdraw the same from that employment; they must make use of those capitals somewhere; they cannot vest them to any advantage in our public funds, bank stock or other corporations, beyond a certain extent; they therefore, by the aid of water-works and machinery, will naturally employ those capitals in manufactures, and I trust the time is not many years distant. That is not now the case, and can have no bearing on the present question; indeed it is hardly contended that the resolution is brought forward for that purpose; it must therefore be brought forward for some other purpose.

The other circumstance, which gives rise to prohibitions between nations, arises from the violence of national animosity, which generally ends in war. This circumstance has brought this resolution into existence; the preamble speaks warlike language, and the whole taken together is a prelude to war with a nation who has two hundred ships-of-the-line, four hundred frigates, besides gun-brigs and other armed vessels, whose revenue is between forty and fifty millions sterling, who can go to war with us without any additional expense to themselves, who will sweep the ocean of American commerce, amounting to nearly one hundred million of dollars. What then will be the situation of your carrying trade? What then will be the situation of your commerce and your country?

But the honorable gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. CROWNINSHIELD) has told us "if we go to war, we can do Great Britain the most injury." The navigation of their merchant vessels is principally carried on under convoy. Some individuals may fit out a few privateers and capture now and then a vessel, and put some prize money in their private pockets; it cannot be of any advan

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tage to the nation, which will groan under poverty and distress.

It appears to me a matter of great deliberation how far we ought to adopt the present resolution, by prohibiting the importation of British manufactures. In every country it ever was, and always must be, the interest of the great body of the people to buy whatever they want, of those who sell it cheapest. We cannot procure the same articles so cheap elsewhere; even should the measure not involve us in a war, prohibitions and revenge naturally dictate retaliation, and nations seldom fail to do it. The honorable mover of the resolution (Mr. GREGG) asks us, "how it is to be inferred, we cannot abide by and execute this system?" It is to be inferred from retaliation, and observation of nations who have preceded us. When France, in 1667, laid discriminating duties on Holland, the Dutch retaliated by the prohibition of French wines, brandies, and the like: a war followed, and the peace of Nimeguen regulated their commercial disputes. About that time the English prohibited the importation of lace manufactured in Flanders; the Government of that country, which was then under the dominion of Spain, immediately retaliated and prohibited all importation of English woollens. Soon after this, the French and English mutually began their heavy duties and prohibitions, and have ever since been in commercial disputes, quarrels, and hostilities; and we, with our eyes open, are now going into the same system. The same honorable gentleman has also said it would attack Great Britain in her vitals, in her manufactories and warehouses. It seems a bad method of compensating injuries done to us, to do another worse injury to ourselves, which I believe will be the case by adopting the present resolution; it will have a natural tendency to retaliation and revenge.

It is very problematical whether the carrying trade is advantageous to this nation. Our merchants in that employ transporting foreign produce from Batavia and the West Indies to the United States, and storing the cargoes for some time in warehouses and reshipping the same to Holland, the Hanse Towns, Antwerp in French Flanders, and other ports; and in some instances taking the avails of those cargoes, and proceeding to China, from whence they return with teas; in other instances proceed to England and lay out the avails in British goods; and then making circuitous voyages of two and three years, with those large capitals out of our country, and before they can release those cargoes so as to purchase our domestic produce.

My worthy colleague from New York, who has just sat down, (Mr. WILLIAMS,) has observed, "that commerce is essential to this country, and agriculture naturally goes with it;" this proposition, taken abstractedly, I shall not deny ; and then asks us, "where is the revenue to support Government?" I will answer that gentleman, by asking him the same question, Where is the revenue to support Government, when nearly one half of that revenue is derived from Great Britain and her dependencies? I would ask that gentleman

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Non-Importation of Goods from Great Britain.

where is to be the market for 25,000,000 weight of cotton annually exported, (it is not to be presumed they will not retaliate in every particular ;) where is to be the market for your tobacco, potashes, flaxseed, provisions, and other domestic produce, exported from this country to Great Britain, the British East and West Indies, and Newfoundland, to the annual value of between 20 and $30,000,000? Rely on it, if you adopt this measure, you will embarrass all the operations of Government, all the operations of the community, and must have re course to direct taxation on the farmer, who will be unable to pay, for the want of a price for his produce; your merchants become bankrupts and you distress the agriculturists.

March, 1806.

not have been under the necessity of conflicting with foreign nations; because commerce, and commerce alone, can produce those conflicts. I have expressed this opinion, to show that I have not been led by any particular attachment to commerce, to take that part which I have declared I would do on the present occasion. But what was the situation of the American people when they first found themselves a nation? And what are the duties imposed upon us by the compact wë entered into? As to any abstract opinions we may entertain on this subject, they ought to have no influence here upon us. I stand here on other ground, and dare not resist the dictates of duty. I was astonished yesterday to hear it mentioned by the gentleman from Virginia, (Mr. J. RANDOLPH,) and boldly asserted, referring to the Constitution, that the American Government was under no obligation to protect any property of its citizens one foot from the shore. I was astonished at this declaration, because I could see to what it went. I saw, if this was the opinion of the Southern States, where it would end. The situation of this people, when they became a nation, was this: The Eastern States might properly be said to be a commercial people, as they lived by commerce; the Middle States were partly commercial and

The same honorable gentleman from Pennsylvania has further observed, "it will be such a shock upon Great Britain, she will not be able to endure it." Let that gentleman reflect on the wealth and maritime power of that country. Ever since my memory, the approaching ruin of Great Britain has been frequently foretold; after all the vain attempts, they yet regulate the commerce of the world. I must confess I have but little faith in undertaking commercial regulations with that nation, and I believe we shall show a very pretty figure in the attempt, and be obliged to recede with disgrace, and I cannot vote for the pres-partly agricultural; the Southern States, properly ent resolution.

speaking, were agricultural. This opposition of Mr. SMILIE. I am in favor, Mr. Chairman, of character must have created great difficulty in the resolution under consideration; and lest it forming the Constitution, and, in truth, this and should be supposed I am an enthusiast in respect other points threw great obstacles in the way of to commerce, and deserve to be classed among its formation. But a spirit of concession overthat desperate order of men called merchants, ac- came all difficulties. Is it, however, to be becording to the representation which we have had lieved, that the Eastern States, properly commeryesterday from the gentleman from Virginia, Icial, or the Middle, partaking equally of the combeg leave to make a few remarks on the abstract mercial and agricultural character, would have question, whether commerce ought to be consid-united with the Southern States, if they had been ered as beneficial in its relation to the United States. I have long thought that there is an essential difference between what is, in the common language of the world, a splendid, and great, and a happy people. I have been led to think that the situation of the people of the United States, separated from the rest of the world by an ocean of three thousand miles, possessing an immense region of land, having full employment for all her people in the cultivation of the earth-having, from the variety of her climate and the difference of her soil, the means of supplying herself, not only with all the necessaries of life in abundance, but with many of its comforts, and even some of its luxuries-from these considerations, I have been led to think it had been happier if the American people, when they became an independent nation, had found themselves without commerce, and had still remained so. Thus circumstanced, they would certainly have avoided those dangers which flow from the weakness of an extended trade, and those luxuries which have hitherto proved so fatal to morals, happiness, and liberty. In my opinion, we should have been a happier Having sufficiently established the right of compeople without commerce. Among the considera-merce to protection under under the Constitution, tions which have induced me to believe that this I come now to consider the resolution under conwould have been a happy state, is, that we should sideration. We find our rights invaded by foreign have enjoyed a perfect state of safety. We should nations, and an attack made by one nation on our

told that commerce was to receive no protection? No, sir, it cannot be believed. But I take higher ground-the compact itself, referred to by the gentleman from Virginia. Let us examine the powers vested in Congress under this compact, and decide whether commerce was, or was not intended to be protected. If there was nothing specific in these powers, the first page would show the inten tion of its framers. "We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, 6 provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare," &c. If we go on to the tenth page, we shall there find the power given to Congress, "to provide and maintain a navy." Is the protection of commerce contemplated here, or is it not? In other parts of the instrument, we perceive the power to regulate commerce vested in Congress. Will any man pretend to say that the power of establishing a navy can be exercised independent of commerce? Every man of common sense knows that a navy cannot even exist without it.

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MARCH, 1806.

Non-Importation of Goods from Great Britain.

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carrying trade, which, in my opinion, cannot be tion, have we not a right to say so ?-a nation warranted by the law of nations. I shall not con- with whom we have no commercial treaty, and descend to argue this point. I believe it to be a towards whom, therefore, in regard to trade, we lawful trade, let whoever may deny it. I have have a right to act as we please? If a commertaken some pains to make myself acquainted with cial treaty existed between us, it would be our the subject, by reading several treatises upon it; duty to observe it; but, without one, we have an and, notwithstanding the contempt with which a undoubted right to say whether we have or have certain book was yesterday treated by the gentle- not a use for her productions. If, then, this be a man from Virginia, I will venture to predict that, peace measure, why treat it as a war measure? when the mortal part of that gentleman and my- But it is said that it will lead to war. Britain is self shall be in ashes, the author of that work will said to be a great nation, high spirited, and proud, be considered a great man. Nor do I judge in this and therefore we must not take this step for fear exclusively from my own opinion, but from the of the consequences. Trace this argument-see opinions of men of distinguished talents, from dif- where it leads us. It leads us to this: That, with ferent and distant parts of the Union, who all a powerful nation, we must on no account whatconcur in saying that the writer has conclusively ever quarrel, though she may commit ever so established the principle he contends for. Indeed, many aggressions on our right. No, we must not, I could not have believed, had I not heard it, that let her go whatever length she may, until, on this a Representative of the American people, in the same principle, we shall be called upon to surrenface of the Legislature, would have relinquished der our independence, because we have to deal so precious a principle! But there was a curious with a powerful nation! If we do not make a feature in all the luminous discoveries yesterday stand now against her aggressions, when or where disclosed to us by the gentleman from Virginia, shall we do it? But one alternative will remain in which he strictly observed the rule of the rheto--to bend our necks, to crouch beneath the tyrant, rician-where a point could not be justified, to get to submit without murmur to her insolence and over it as well as he could. On the impressment injustice. of our seamen, he said nothing. He knew that It is surprising to me to see this resolution the American feelings would not bear it. When scouted by gentlemen, when this same measure I think of what is called the carrying trade, I con- has ever been considered as the most proper insider it a small evil compared to this. It has been strument with which to contend with Great Britcompared to Algerine slavery, but it is worse. ain. If we look back to the times of the stamp What is this impressment? Your citizens are act, we will see that this was then the opinion seized by the hand of violence, and if they refuse of the American people. Voluntarily associating to fight the battles of those who thus lay violent themselves together, they cheerfully and unhesihands upon them, you see them hanging at the tatingly, as the means of obtaining redress, relinyard-arm. In the first place, they are obliged to quished the luxuries, and even the necessaries of expose their persons to murder, in fighting the bat-life drawn from Great Britain. These associatles of a nation to which they owe no allegiance. tions were voluntary, as, from the situation of They are obliged to commit murder, for it is murder the colonies, they could not be otherwise. And it to take away the life of a man who has given us no is remarkable that Great Britain did not consider offence, at the same time that they expose their this a cause of war, though the people of this own persons to the commission of murder. This country were then her subjects. Coming down to is the true point of light in which I have always later times, and approaching the period of our naconsidered this horrid and barbarous act, for which, tional independence, the same measure was resortindeed, I cannot find language sufficiently strong ed to, and considered an effectual expedient to obto express the indignation I feel. This is the situ-tain redress of our grievances. In 1776, what was ation of our country. Our commerce depredated upon in every sea, our citizens dragged from their homes, and despoiled of all they hold dear. We are told we are not to mind these things-that the nation who commits the outrages is a powerful nation. But really, as an American, I cannot feel the force of this observation.


the sense of the people of England on this subject? and how did they feel the effects of the non-importation agreement of the colonists? Let them speak for themselves.

"There scarce was ever any affair debated in a British Parliament in which the public thought themselves more deeply interested, or for the result of which they felt a more impatient anxiety than the present, nor was the rest of Europe, especially the commercial part, in

attentive to the event.

"The second speech from the throne, as well as the first, pointed out the American affairs to the Parliament as the principal object of its deliberations: both Houses, by their addresses, showed that they looked upon them in the same important light.

The gentleman from Virginia yesterday assumed it as a principle, and the whole of his argument turned on it, that this is a war measure, and that its friends are for going to war. I satisfied with the truth of this remark, I should change my mind with regard to the resolution. But is it a war measure? I believe the same duties and obligations exist between nations as be"Petitions were received from the merchants of Lontween individuals in a state of nature. If my don, Bristol, Lancaster, Liverpool, Hull, Glasgow, &c., neighbor treats me with injustice, I have a right and, indeed, from most of the trading and manufacturto decline all intercourse with him, without giving towns and boroughs in the Kingdom. In these ing him a right to knock me down. If we deem it our interest not to trade with a particular na

petitions, they set forth the great decay of their trade, owing to the new laws and regulations made for Ame

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