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Non-Importation of Goods from Great Britain.
Mr. NICHOLSON.-I second the motion, on a principle which has governed me ever since the beginning of this session. This subject was early referred to a select committee on a motion offered by myself, with a view that the fullest light might be thrown on the subject of our differences with Great Britain, and because I believe it so intimate-I ly connected with the revenue and prosperity of the nation, it was that I wished it to be examined by a committee whose peculiar province it is to pay a particular attention to the fiscal affairs of the Government. I had another object in view, which was that the subject might not be hurried. I was of opinion that our differences with Britain ought not to be speedily acted upon; but after the subject had rested for some time with the Committee of Ways and Means, they were, on the motion of some gentlemen when I was absent, discharged from its further consideration. On my way to this place, after an absence for which leave had been granted, I met with a proposition to prohibit the importation of all goods from Britain. I was never so struck with astonishment in my life. If I had heard that the Capitol had tumbled into ruins, I should not have been so I much astonished.
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within ten days, which may entirely change our course? It is for these reasons that I am for the Committee rising; because I believe that the late events in Europe will have such an effect on Britain, as to put it in the power of our Minister to settle our affairs with her amicably; and if so, shall be very happy. I was so far from being impressed with the opinion that we ought to act speedily on this subject, that I was prepared to fill the blank in the resolution so as to prevent it from taking effect before the first of January. I flatter myself the Committee will rise, and that we shall refuse to take up the subject for some time.
I shall give my most hearty approbation.
Mr. J. CLAY then withdrew his motion, observing that he was not anxious that the resolution he had offered should be acted on immediately.
Mr. ALSTON.-I cannot see what we are to get by the Committee rising. If I entertained the same ideas with the gentleman from Maryland, I should be for a course directly the reverse of that which he recommends. He says we have an important negotiation depending, and that we may daily expect to hear from our Minister on that subject. If there is a probability of a successful termination of the negotiation, can the measures we now take have any bearing upon it? The gentleman says he is prepared to fill up the blank with the first of January. What effect will this This proposition produced several others, one have? If the negotiation be depending, it will of which I had the honor to submit. As I have show our Minister and the British Administration before said, I submitted this proposition to meet the voice of the nation. It is no matter then how that of the gentleman from Pennsylvania, that soon we take our measures-the sooner the better. the House and people of this country might take I have no idea the negotiation has terminated at into view its whole course and bearing; and that this moment, or will terminate until we have they might see the manner in which the revenue taken our measures. I hope, therefore, the Comwas likely to be affected by it. I am happy it mittee will not rise, but that we shall take up the has produced this effect. Gentlemen after debat-motion of the gentleman from Maryland, to which ing this proposition are willing on all hands now to lay it aside. When I understood it was to be called up, I begged the gentleman from Pennsylvania to let it lie-I was anxious to postpone it as long as possible. I was of opinion that our better course was to rise, if we were to meet only four months hence. It is on the same principle that I now advocate the rising of the Committee, and should we now rise, I trust it will not be considered for a long time. I have been uniformly of the opinion, that if we take measures with Britain, it ought to be the last act of the session. I think we ought to wait for news from Europe. We have had information, though in some measure of a private nature, affording us reason to hope that there will be no occasion to proceed to extremities. Knowing this, and that our affairs are in the hands of a man of eminent talents, second to none in this country, I cannot believe there is any necessity to act as speedily as some gentlemen wish to do on this subject. In offering these observations, I mean not to be understood as abandoning the proposition I have had the honor to submit. In my judgment it is the best of those offered. If we do anything I think we had best adopt it, but I do not think we are yet prepared to act on it. We have at least six weeks yet to sit, for if we adjourn before the first of May, it will be the shortest first session under the Government. Why then this hurry-when there is a negotiation depending, and when information may be received
Mr. ALSTON renewed the motion for taking into consideration the proposition of Mr. NICHOLson, prohibiting, after a particular time, the importation of certain specified articles from Great Britain.
Mr. J. RANDOLPH again moved that the Committe should rise. Motion lost-yeas 58, nays 62.
The question was put on Mr. ALSTON's motion, and the Committee, without a division, agreed to take up the proposition submitted by Mr. NICHOLSON.
FRIDAY, March 14.
A petition of Robert Peters and others, proprietors of squares and lots in the City of Washington, in the District of Columbia, was presented to the House and read, praying that an act may be passed to authorize the recording, in the Surveyor's office of the city, of all divisions of squares into lots, or subdivisions of lots already laid off; and that a certified transcript thereof may be admitted as evidence, in the courts of the United States, or elsewhere.-Referred to Mr. DAWSON, Mr. MAGRUDER, and Mr. VAN RENSSELAER.
A petition of Bushrod Washington and Lawrence Lewis, of the State of Virginia, acting ex
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Non-Importation of Goods from Great Britain.
a difference of opinion respecting our own regu
ecutors of the will of General George Washing-pretended rights of others. That there should be ton, in behalf of themselves and the other devisees under the said will, was presented to the House and read, praying that an act may pass for the purpose of confirming the title of the said executors to certain lands on the northwest side of the river Ohio, on or near the Little Miama, granted to their testator, in the year one thousand seven hundred and ninety, by the said State of Virginia, and which are found to be within the territory ceded by the said State to the United States. Referred to the Committee on the Public Lands. The House proceeded to consider a motion made yesterday, in the words following, to wit: "That Major General Arthur St. Clair be heard at the bar of the House in support of his claim:" Resolved, That this House doth agree to the same, and that Monday next, at twelve o'clock, be assigned for that purpose.
The House proceeded to consider a resolution of the Senate, of yesterday, for the appointment of a joint committee of the two Houses, to consider and report what business is necessary to be done by Congress, the present session: Where
Resolved, That this House doth agree to the said resolution, and that Mr. EARLY, Mr. JOHN RANDOLPH, Mr. GREGG, Mr. JOHN C. SMITH, and Mr. CROWNINSHIELD, be appointed a committee, on the part of this House.
A message from the Senate informed the House that the Senate have passed the bill, entitled "An act for the relief of Peter Landais," with an amendment; to which they desire the concurrence of this House.
IMPORTATIONS FROM GREAT BRITAIN.
Mr. ALSTON called for the order of the day, for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole on the state of the Union.
Mr. CLARK moved to postpone this order Monday.
The SPEAKER declared it out of order to postpone such an order of the day.
The question of going into a Committee was then put and carried-yeas 70.
The Committee having agreed to take up the resolution submitted by Mr. NICHOLSON
"In 1801, in consequence of a decree of the Vice Admiralty Court at Nassau, condemning the cargo of an American vessel going from the United States to a port in the Spanish colonies, with a cargo consisting of articles the growth of old Spain, our highly respectable and able Minister at the Court of London immediately addressed Lord Hawkesbury, His Majesty's Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and remonstrated in a respectful, but firm and dignified manner, against this infringement and violation of the rights of neutrals.
"The remonstrance met that prompt attention from the subject was referred to the consideration of the the British Government which its merits demanded; Advocate General, who reported that the sentence of the Vice Admiralty Court at Nassau was founded in error; that it was now (1801) distinctly understood, and had been repeatedly so decided by the High Court of Appeals, that the produce of the colonies of the enemy may be imported by a neutral into his own country, and may be re-exported from thence even to the mother country of such colony; and in like manner, the produce and manufactures of the mother country may, in this circuitous route, legally find their way to the colonies; that a direct trade had not been recognised as legal, and the decision of what was, or was not a direct trade, was a question of some difficulty, and that the High Court of Admiralty had expressly decided, and the Advocate General saw no reason to expect the Court of Appeals would vary the the neutral country breaks the continuity of the voyrule, that landing the goods, and paying the duties in age, and is such an importation as legalizes the trade, although the goods be reshipped in the same vessel, and on account of the same neutral proprietors, and forwarded for sale to the mother country.
“The report of the Advocate General was accepted Mr. MUMFORD said: Mr. Chairman, it is with by the British Government, immediately transmitted great diffidence I rise to speak on this question. I by Lord Hawkesbury to Mr. King, and by His Majesam a merchant, unaccustomed to speak in a pub-ty's express command, communicated by the Duke of lic body. But, sir, when I see the dearest inter- Portland, the principal Secretary of State, to the ests of my country unjustly attacked by a foreign Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, with the innation, I must beg the indulgence of this Com-formation that it was His Majesty's pleasure that the mittee while I express my sentiments on the serious aspect of our foreign relations. Sir, I do not wish to extenuate the conduct of any nation. I have no predilection for one foreign nation more than another. I shall endeavor to speak the language of an independent American."
Sir, I had indulged the hope that the ninth Congress of the United States had assembled to deliberate on the momentous affairs of their country as Americans; but, sir, it gives me pain, and I regret extremely, to see gentlemen so far forget the interest of their own country in defending the
doctrine laid down in the Advocate General's report should be immediately made known to the several judges of the Vice Admiralty Courts, setting forth to them what is held to be law upon the subject by the superior tribunals, for their future guidance and di
"Thus are obtained so recently as within five years the deliberate opinions, on the subject under discussion, of the most eminent English civilians, and of the High Court of Admiralty, corroborated (if one of the first law officers of the Crown may be credited) by the repeated decisions of the same court of appeals which, by its late and contradictory decree in the case
Non-Importation of Goods from Great Britain.
This is no fiction, sir; it is a mere matter of fact. After all this I must confess I am astonished to find gentlemen in an American Congress palliating the impressment of our seamen, and the indiscriminate condemnation of our vessels and cargoes. Are we prepared to present an humble address to his most gracious Majesty on the throne, praying he would vouchsafe to take us in his holy keeping, pardon our former transgressions, and accept of us as liege subjects who have erred from the right way? No, sir. We are not colonists; we are an independent nation. Your acts and laws speak of thirty years of independence. I wish we could conquer our prejudices as easily as we did our enemies. Shall we never get rid of the idea of colonists and dependents on Great Britain?
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to the Committee to impute such unworthy motives to the merchants as we have heard expressed on this floor? They are men, sir; and I believe candor will allow them their share of sensibility, and that they sympathize for suffering humanity as much as a planter, a farmer, a lawyer, or any class of the community. Sir, I feel as much as any man for the sufferings of this meritorious class of citizens, having been an eyewitness to the barbarous treatment inflicted by the officers of the British Government on one of them. He was lashed to a scaffold on the gunwale of a boat, and whipped from ship to ship, until he had received five hundred lashes. What was the consequence? He expired the next morning. What was his crime? He had been impressed into their cruel bondage, and had endeavored to regain his liberty! We are asked, what is the remedy for this outrage? There is but one, sir. Demand satisfaction for the past, and in future make your flag protect your citizens, at least on the high seas, the common high road of all nations. Your merchants can insure their property against this "Leviathan of the Ocean;" but there is no alternative for the poor sailor, he is inevitably doomed to cruel slavery.
I shall now commence my observations on our unfortunate fellow-citizens in British bondage; and in answer to the honorable gentleman from Maryland, whom I very much respect, I do frankly acknowledge that amongst all the petitions presented to you by the merchants of the United States, there is not one word about our impressed seamen, Salem and another port excepted. But, sir, I beg leave to inform this Committee, and that honorable gentleman, that before we enter our ves- I now come to speak of foreign nations. We sels at the custom-house, we are called upon to wit- are told that the American merchants cover Spanness the recording of this tale of human wo before ish property. This may be the case. I believe a notary public, stating all the seamen impressed it; but it is to a very limited amount. The Spanduring the voyage. This is immediately trans-ish merchants have little capital at present to mitted to the Secretary of State, for the correct- dispose of. Their Government owes them conness of which I refer you to the documeuts from siderable sums of money, and the paper currency that department now on your table. Sir, is it of that Government is at such a discount (I bedecorous, is it candid, is it liberal, is it respectful lieve from 40 to 50 per cent.) that they are not able to extend their commerce, if they were ever of the Essex, Orne, has caused so disastrous an arso much disposed to do so. restation and condemnation of American property. "Judgment thus perspicuously stated and enforced by this high authority, it was fair to consider as intended for a beacon to the channel through which neutral commerce might be prosecuted with security. It is hoped the event will not prove they were a mere ignis fatuus to ensnare the innocent and unsuspi
"At any rate, whether the doctrine were sound or not, or whether it injured Great Britain or not, it cannot become the integrity and magnanimity of a great and powerful nation at once, and without notice, to reverse her rule of conduct towards other States, and to prey upon the unprotected property of a friendly Power, the extension of whose commerce had been invited by the formal avowal of her intentions, and prosecuted under a reliance on her good faith, and from the confidence reposed that her courts, uniform in their principles, would never be influenced by the time-serving politics of the moment.
"But whatever may have been the motives for the proceedings on the part of Great Britain, the effect is notorious. From her recent conduct great losses have been sustained; our commerce has been checked and embarrassed, and large quantities of produce are now remaining locked up in this country which were purchased for foreign markets, because our merchants cannot send it abroad without taking risks on themselves which prudence would not justify, or without paying such rates for insurance as the trade of the country cannot afford."
Respecting the French merchants, a great proportion of them in France are bankrupts, in consequence of heavy taxes, contributions, forced loans, and all the impositions of imperial ingenuher revenue; she collects one hundred and twenity. That country depends not on commerce for ty millions of dollars per annum, of which twelve millions only are levied upon commerce, being but ten per cent. on the whole revenue. Their merchants have it not in their power to extend their business for want of a capital, which is a fact that will be acknowledged by all commercial men. They are by no means the favorites of the Emperor; he grants them no indulgences, of which the late transactions at the national bank are a sufficient evidence.
Respecting Holland, every person conversant in business knows the cautious calculation of the Dutch merchants; they trade very little on their own account in time of war, but are constantly soliciting the American merchants to make consignments of property to sell on commission. And yet we are told in that oracle, the celebrated pamphlet, "War in Disguise," that France, Spain, and Holland, carry on the war against Great Britain with property covered by Americans! Will any rational man believe them?
I now come to Great Britain, sir; not one word has been said about property covered for
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Non-Importation of Goods from Great Britain.
tish merchants, those monopolizers of the commerce of the whole world.
her. She is immaculate; she is innocent; she can do no wrong. I have good authority for this last expression. The King says so, and others I mention these facts, sir, to vindicate the charepeat it. Sir, immediately upon the coalition racter of the real American merchants; it will being formed on the continent of Europe, she stand the test with that of any other nation in the seized upon your unsuspecting commerce, and world. Sir, look at your revenue system, examine surprised it with new principles and new doc-all the records of your district courts, see how very trines in her Courts of Admiralty, which opera- few fines and forfeitures they have incurred, and ted with her ships of war in the same manner as then compare them with any class of citizens you though they had actually received orders from please, and you will, I am confident, Mr. Chairthe Lords of the Admiralty (how insidious! but man, exculpate them from such disingenuous rethey understand decoy) to capture and bring in flections as have been animadverted upon in this all American vessels bound to enemy's ports; and Committee. Sir, they make it a point of honor if by chance any of them escape their fangs, to discourage smuggling, knowing the whole revafter a mock trial, they are compelled to pay enue of their country to depend upon that fidelity enormous charges, from five hundred to six hun- which they have never ceased to inculcate. I dred guineas, and sometimes more. This oper- cannot but persuade myself that, on mature reates as a premium to carry in all your vessels, flection, gentlemen will not withhold from that knowing beforehand they will have nothing to class of the community the protection guarantied pay; for, although you gain your cause, you to them by the constitution of their country. It must pay the costs. This, sir, discourages your is a fact well known to this Committee that the cautious and best merchants, and they are thus Federal Constitution, under which we now hold compelled to abandon and decline pursuing a lu- our seats in this House, grew out of the great incrative and lawful traffic. conveniences we then experienced in our comIf there be any property covered for Great Bri-mercial affairs with foreign nations. Surely they tain, I have every reason to believe, from facts I will are not outlawed. I trust not sir. I hope better state to the committee, that it appertains almost ex- treatment from the hands of my country. clusively to some British merchants lately adopted I now come to the true history and the cause citizens of the United States, for they take good of the aggressions of Great Britain. It is very difcare to keep all their business in their own hands. ficult to trace her in all her ramifications of fraud They are the honest merchants who own the hon-on your neutrality and of injustice on your comest vessels we have heard so much about, and they are engaged in exporting cotton, tobacco, and other produce of our country. Why should they have the preference? it will be asked. I will not tell you what I do not know, (as has been said in this Committee,) but I will tell you what I do know. Sir, the real American merchants cannot enter into competition with them. They have their particular friends in England, who are interested, and will of course give them the preference. By a variety of ways they obtain all the freights, to the exclusion of your vessels. Sir, we are often compelled to take in ballast along side of those very ships who have full freights engaged. Thus, sir, the real American merchant is the dupe of these honest adopted British citizens. These are your slippery-eel merchants, so justly denominated by the honorable gentleman from Virginia, whose acme of mind I much admire. They were indeed, sir, so slippery in some of your districts, that it was found necessary to pass a law excluding all of them who resided in foreign countries from owning any ship or vessel belonging to the United States; for a number of them, after having made fortunes out of your neutrality, had slipped off to Great Britain to spend the money and the remainder of their days. And in order that we might not compromit our neutrality in this deceptive business, our National Legislature has been careful to pass a law in the first session of the eighth Congress, dated 27th March, 1804, to correct the abuse, which has in some measure put a check to it; and yet we are emphatically told it is only coffee, sugar, and East India goods that are guilty of the sin of interfering with Bri
merce. Sir, when the present continental coalition was concluded, the "lords of the ocean" with that colossus the East India Company, the merchants trading from London to the continent of Europe, the West India merchants, and some of our honest adopted citizens from Great Britain, all agreed with common consent to be in the fashion; and they formed a coalition against your commerce, and ordered a book to be written, in which they took a conspicuous part, called "War in Disguise." This was truly on their part war in dis guise, and the first act of hostility they commenced upon your unsuspecting commerce; and I hope they may ultimately meet the fate of all other coalitions, at least as far as respects our country. They had ordered, as all coalitions do, a large supply of ammunition; one hundred thousand copies of this instrument of death to your commerce were distributed, at sixpence each, to all parts of the British dominions, in order that your property might be plundered for the use of the naval commanders, who could no longer find any other property on the ocean. This book says, "they must retire on a handsome competency at the close of the war," no matter from whom it is taken.
Next comes the East India Company, that colos sus of mercantile avarice, whose monopoly draws into its vortex all the demand for East India produce in Europe. Your lawful commerce to those markets interfered with them, and was considered incompatible with this monopoly and must be doomed to destruction.
Next come the merchants trading from London to the continent of Europe. They attend the public auctions, purchase your condemned vessels
Non-Importation of Goods from Great Britain.
and their cargoes, procure a license from their Government, and send the same cargo on their own account to the very market your own citizens intended it for.
I now come to some of those honest adopted British merchants; and in order to elucidate that subject, I will beg leave to read a copy of a letter from one of the first houses of respectability in London, said to be in the confidence of the Minister:
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her exports to our country. You cannot impose any on your exports to that country; it is unconstitutional.
In the course of debate on this subject, the honorable gentleman from Virginia observed: "Is there a man so credulous as to believe that we possess a capital not only equal to what may be called our own proper trade, but large enough to transmit to the respective parent States the vast, wealthy products of the French, Spanish,. and Dutch colonies?" I will not pretend to say how much of this wealth we do carry in our own vessels. I am sure we do not transport the whole of it; but the following statement of the capital employed in the carrying trade, (so called,) will show that we have sufficient funds to load our own vessels, and that it is worth our while to give it protection:
Agreeably to the Secretary of the Treasury's report, it
Deduct, to make it average with the tonnage
“This Government has granted licenses to neutral vessels, who take in a proportion of their cargoes in Great Britain, to proceed to the Spanish colonies to the south of the line, provided the returned cargoes are to be brought to this country; and I have now several expeditions of this nature under my direction for the account of houses on the continent, who prefer subjecting themselves to the conditions Ministers have imposed for the toleration of that trade, to the risk of detention and its consequences even in the event of restitution." This is no fiction, sir, it is a fact. It cuts your commerce like a two-edged sword, involves your neutrality, and prevents your own merchants from going to the same market, the profit on which ultimately centres in Great Britain. There are at this moment British agents in two of your commercial cities, and I suppose more in other parts of the United States as well as in Europe, for they swarm on the industry of all nations. They are acting in concert to carry on this licensed trade with the Spanish colonies, their enemies jeopardizing your neutrality, to the manifest injury of the real American merchants. This is a very valuable branch of commerce, as you may readily suppose from the price that sagacious calculating nation sets upon it. What is the result of all this? Why, sir, if it were not for the interference of this very Government, so much extolled at the expense of your own, we should enjoy the benefit ourselves. They themselves license vessels to carry on a commerce, which if pursued by your citizens, without their permission, is sure to be plundered, Deduct wages, provisions, commissions, insurance, Thus, sir, that Government assails your commerce at home, and condemns it abroad, on the most vexatious and unwarrantable pretensions.
Sir, I beg leave to call the attention of the Committee to an important fact. Examine your treaty with Spain, your treaty with France, your treaty with Holland, your treaties with some of the Northern Powers, what do they say? "Free ships make free goods." What does Great Britain say? "You shall give up the goods of my enemies," and you accede to it. Is this reciprocal? Is it just? Is it not a humiliating concession? Is this cause of war? What says that oracle, that celebrated pamphlet, on this occasion? Not a word, sir; it is as silent as the grave. Who now has the greatest cause of complaint, Great
Britain or her enemies? Her motto is "Universal domination over the seas"-the common highway of all nations-and, unless you assert your rights, you will be swept into the general vortex. We are told that this is a war measure. If it be true, and commercial regulations are of that nature, we are at war with Great Britain at this very moment, for she imposes four per cent. on
Five hundred and fifty thousand tons of American
Freight to Europe, average
Average per ton
- 22 - 50
Calculating thirteen years of neutrality, from Februa-
Add to this, about the actual capital of all
the banks in the United States
To this must be added fifty per cent., as
most of the banks divide from eight to