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something to the invoice ; and, according to this section, if he
add enough to bring the goods up within ten per cent, of the
value as fixed by the appraisers, he escapes all punishment.
Suppose the appraisers find that the goods are undervalued only
nine per cent., then they are to be entered at their value, and he
escapes all risk. At the same time, if the appraisers let the in
voice pass at his own valuation, he saves the duty on nine per
cent, of the cost of the goods. Within the limit, therefore, of
ten per cent, he can play a fraudulent part with impunity.

Under existing laws he must swear that the invoice produced


is that under which the goods were purchased, that it is the true
invoice, and that he has no other. But even now a fraudulent
importer has great facilities. He may direct his correspondent
abroad to send out such an invoice of such goods, at such a
price. Well, with that he goes to the custom-house. There are
no sharper eyes in the world than those of the men who bring in
goods with fraudulent intent. A man intending to defraud the
custom-house, gets an invoice of goods ; every body says, and
the appraisers say, " Well, this is enormous ; these goods could
not have cost so little as that ! " And the collector meditates a
seizure. The moment that this is apprehended, the importer
comes again, and says, " O, I know how it must have been ! It
is all a mistake ! Here is the true invoice. My correspondent
in Paris made a mistake ; he corrected it the very next week,
and here is the true invoice." Such cases have occurred ; and
need I say, that, if the goods had not been arrested in their
progress, this second invoice never would have appeared. A
man may send a false invoice to-day to his consignee in New
York, and the New York merchant may go to the custom-house
and swear that that is a true invoice, and that he has received
no other ; and he may enter his goods and get a permit ; but
before the sale by auction another invoice arrives ; and, as hap
pened in the case in Boston to w r hich I alluded, there is one
invoice to enter by, and another to sell by. And the importer
has time to come in with his subsequent invoice, if threatened
with seizure, to relieve himself of all inconveniences from having
made, and being shown to have made, a fraudulent under

I leave this part of the case by presenting, in behalf and in
the name of the whole American importing community, foreign
and domestic, of any reputation at all, in behalf of every Ameri
can importing merchant, in behalf of that whole body of respect
able foreign merchants, French, German, and English, who come
and reside here, and import goods from their respective countries
and elsewhere, under the protection of our laws ; in their behalf,
and in behalf of every man of them, so far as I have heard, I
present their opinions against the extension of the ad valorem
system. And I would admonish gentlemen, most seriously, to
consider whether the objections which I have now urged are not
respectable ; whether the opinions I have quoted are not respect-


able ; and whether, after all, they are willing, unnecessarily, sud
denly, with no other recommendation than that to which I have
alluded, to take a step in the dark, and to place the whole in
come and means of supplying the treasury upon the untried
system of ad valorem duties.

And now, Sir, with the leave of the Senate, I shall proceed to
consider the effects of this bill upon some of those interests
which have been regarded as protected interests.

I shall not argue at length the question, whether the govern
ment has committed itself to maintain interests that have grown
up under laws such as have been passed for thirty years back.
J will not argue the question, whether, looking to the policy in
dicated by the laws of 1789, 1817, 1824, 1828, 1832, and 1842,
there has been ground for the industrious and enterprising peo
ple of the United States, engaged in home pursuits, to expect
government protection for internal industry. The question is,
Do these laws, or do they not, from 1789 till the present time,
constantly show and maintain a purpose, a policy, which might
naturally induce men to invest property in manufactures, and
to commit themselves to those pursuits in life ? Without length
ened argument, I shall tal\e this for granted.

But, Sir, before I proceed further with this part of the case, I
will take notice of what appears, latterly, to be an attempt, by
the republication of opinions and expressions, arguments and
speeches of mine, at an earlier and later period of life, to found
against me a charge of inconsistency on this subject of the pro
tective policy of the country. Mr. President, if it be an incon
sistency to hold an opinion upon a subject at one time and
in one state of circumstances, and to hold a different opinion
upon the same subject at another time and in a different state
of circumstances, I admit the charge. Nay, Sir, I will go fur
ther ; and in regard to questions which, from their nature, do
not depend upon circumstances for their true and just solu
tion, 1 mean constitutional questions, if it be an inconsistency
to hold an opinion to-day, even upon such a question, and on
that same question to hold a different opinion a quarter of a
century afterwards, upon a more comprehensive view of the
whole subject, with a more thorough investigation into the orig
inal purposes and objects of that Constitution,, and especially


after a more thorough exposition of those objects and purposes
by those who framed it, and have been trusted to administer it,
I should not shrink even from that imputation. I hope I know
more of the Constitution of my country than I did when I was
twenty years old. I hope I have contemplated its great objects
more broadly. I hope I have read with deeper interest the sen
timents of the great men who framed it. I hope I have studied
with more care the condition of the country when the conven
tion assembled to form it. And yet I do not know that I have
much to retract or to change on these points.

But, Sir, I am of the opinion of a very eminent person, who
had occasion, not long since, to speak of this topic in another
place. Inconsistencies of opinion, arising from changes of cir
cumstances, are often justifiable. ^ But there is one sort of in
consistency which is culpable. It is the inconsistency between
a man s conviction and his vote ; between his conscience and
his conduct. No man shall ever charge me with an inconsis
tency like that. And now, Sir, allow me to say, that I am quite
indifferent, or rather thankful, to those conductors of the public
press who think they cannot do better than now and then to
spread my poor opinions before the public.

I have said many times, and it is true, that, up to the year
18^4, the people of that part of the country to which I belong,
being addicted to commerce, having been successful in com
merce, tl\eir capital being very much engaged in commerce,
were averse to entering upon a system of manufacturing opera
tions. Every member in Congress from the State of Massachu
setts, with the exception, I think, of one, voted against the act
of 1824. But w^hat were we to do ? Were we not bound, after
1817 and 1824, to consider that the policy of the country was
settled, had become settled, as a policy, to protect the domestic
industry of the country by solemn laws? The leading speech*
which ushered in the act of 1824; was called a speech for the
" American System." The bill was carried principally by the
Middle States. Pennsylvania and New York would have it so ;
and what \v;ere we to do ? Were we to stand aloof from the
occupations which others were pursuing around us ? Were we
to pick clean teeth on a constitutional doubt which a majority

* That of Mr. Clay.


in the councils of the nation had overruled ? No, Sir ; we had
no option. All that was left us was to fall in with the settled
policy of the country ; because, if any thing can ever settle the
policy of the country, or if any thing can ever settle the practical
construction of the Constitution of the country, it must be these
repeated decisions of Congress, and enactments of successive
laws conformable to these decisions. New England, then, did
fall in. She went into manufacturing operations, not from
original choice, but from the necessity of the circumstances in
which the legislation of the country had placed her. And, for
one, I resolved then, and have acted upon the resolution ever
since, that, having compelled the Eastern States to go into these
pursuits for a livelihood, the country was bound to fulfil the
just expectations which it had inspired.

Now, before I go into a consideration of the various articles
intended to be protected, and the effect of the law upon the in
terests connected with these manufactures, I wish to make a
remark, which is little more than a repetition, in general terms,
of what was said by the honorable member from Connecticut
the other day. It is the strangest anomaly that ever was seen
in any act of legislation, that there is a uniform tendency in this
measure to tax the raw material higher than the manufactured
article. It allows bringing in cordage, for instance, for the use
of the shipping interest of the United States, at a less rate of
duty than you can bring in the raw material. Of course, it is
prohibitory of internal labor. It is prohibitory of the internal
manufacture ; and not in that case only, but in a great many
others, as I shall show you.

There seems to be a sedulous purpose of hostility to the man
ufacturing interests. I speak of the tenor -and tendency, and
the general spirit of this bill. It does prefer, by its enactments,
and in its consequences, foreign labor to domestic labor. It
does encourage the labor of foreign artisans over and above, and
in preference to. the labor of our own artisans here in the Unit
ed States. I aver it, and I am going to prove it. Now, if that
is made out, is there a man in this chamber who will vote for
this bill ? And yet we are told from other quarters, that this is a
bill of peace, that it will settle a vexed question. Depend upon
it, it will settle nothing. It is calculated to raise a degree, I
had almost said of resentment, at all events of surprise and in-


dignation, not in one man s breast, but in the breasts of a million
of people, now earning their bread, as they think, under laws,
and assurances that these laws shall be continued, which enable
them to import the raw material and work upon it, and bring
their labor into market, as advantageously as the labor of the
foreign mechanic. Call you that a bill of peace which disturbs
all these expectations ? It is not peace ; it is any thing but

Sir, there is an article, the growth of which is very interesting
to the Western States, being well suited to the fertility of their
soil. It is hemp. The manufacture of that article into cord
age is essential to the navigating interests of the United States.
This is one of the cases which I have mentioned, and with ref
erence to which I wish to read several letters from highly re
spectable gentlemen.

The first letter is from Mr. Isaac P. Davis, of Boston, who
has been a rope-maker for forty years, and whose opinion, on
this and other subjects, is entitled to respect.

" Boston, July 16.

" MY DEAR SIR, I send you a paper which contains an article on
hemp and cordage, by a writer who appears to understand the subject.

" I inclose a statement of the average cost of hemp and cordage in
Russia for the last five years ; also, the freight to the United States ; and
the cost of freight for a ton of hemp from Missouri, Kentucky, and In
diana. You will see the advantages Russia cordage will have in our
market over our own manufacture.

" Foreign cordage also has me advantage of drawback on shipment
to another market. We consume six thousand barrels of tar in the
manufacture. Yours truly,

"I. P. DAVIS."

The following is the statement alluded to above :

Cost of a ton of hemp in Russia, including charges, . . . $140
Freight per ton, ......... 1*2


Cost of a ton of cordage, 8150

Freight per ton, ........ 8


The above are the average prices for five years.
Freight of a ton of hemp from Missouri, Kentucky, or Indiana

to Boston, . . 821


I add two other important letters, from very respectable per
sons in the same city.

" Boston, July 15, 1846.

" SIR, We wish to call your particular attention to the interest of
the cordage manufacture, in settling the tariff question now before the
Senate. The bill, as passed by the House, is destructive to the interest
of the American, and grants a bounty to the foreign manufacturer of
twenty or twenty-five per cent, viz. :

The difference of duty more on hemp than cordage, . . 5 per cent.
The difference of foreign shipping charges, . . 10 "

The difference of freight more, being charged on hemp, on

account of its bulk, than cordage, . . . . 10 u

Making 25 per cent.

" The foreign manufacturer has another advantage over the do
mestic, in being enabled to deposit in warehouse, and supply the home
market when the price will answer, to secure the export demand, by
selling at that price. We wish to have justice at the hands of the gov
ernment, if not protection, and think a specific duty should be laid on
cordage that should be equal to at least twenty per cent, over the duty on
hemp, besides the extra expense of importing hemp over cordage.

" And we further think it decidedly for the interest of the country,
and of the growers of hemp in this country.

" The foreigner will supply cordage under the House bill which will
prevent the produce of hemp finding a market here, as the expense
of getting American hemp from the place of raising is now over fifty
per cent, of the first cost, while cordage can be brought from Russia,
exclusive of duty, at from five to seven per cent.

" We think the domestic manufacturer should be allowed a drawback
on cordage made from foreign hemp (which has paid a duty) when ex
ported ; or, if this cannot be done, the drawback should not be allowed
to the importer of foreign cordage on exportation.

" Soliciting your attention to the foregoing, we are, very respect
fully, your obedient servants.



" Boston, July 17, 1846.

" DEAR SIR, It appears to me so extraordinary that so many of our
legislators at Washington cannot, or will not, see the injurious effects the
proposed tariff will have throughout our country, if adopted, that I cannot
refrain from expressing to you my opinion in regard to it, and particu
larly to the western sections of the country, for instance, where so much


hemp is produced. If this ad valorem tariff passes, it will bring Russia
again in competition with them ; whereas, at the present time, but very
little Russian hemp is wanted, and our rope-makers are now using the
American hemp, almost entirely, for tarred cordage. If the tariff should
be adopted by Congress, we shall be able to import Russian tarred cord
age cheaper than we can import the same weight in hemp, inasmuch as
there is an export duty on hemp in Russia, and many expenses in pre
paring it to pass inspection if imported, while on cordage there is no ex
port duty of any consequence, a mere trifle, and the yarns are spun in
the interior in winter at a cheap rate, of mixed qualities of hemp, not in
spected, sent to market on bobbins, from which the rope-makers take
the yarns and tar and twist them into ropes of various sizes for exporta
tion, and cheaper than they can ship the same weight in hemp. Thus
you see that this tariff will not only affect the Western hemp-growers
very injuriously, but it will in a great degree destroy the manufacture
of hemp in this country.

" There are many other articles I could mention that would be a gen
eral injury to the country by an ad valorem tariff, but you, no doubt, are
aware of it, and therefore I desist from further observations, excepting
that it is astonishing and extraordinary that the government at Washing
ton will not profit by the experience and experiments of the governments
of Europe, who have tried ad valorem tariffs, and find they do not an
swer at all, and have resorted to specific tariffs on almost every thing of

" It is now so late in the season, and your duties have been so ardu
ous, that I presume you will not call the attention of Congress to the in
jurious effects these reciprocal treaties have on the commerce of this

" I remain, dear Sir, your obedient servant,


What answer is to be made to all this ? Is it the result of
intention, or of culpable ignorance ? Are those who framed this
bill determined, of purpose, to break down the manufactures of
the country, or are they only indifferent and utterly reckless in
all that relates to them ?

There is, Sir, another article, very important to the shipping
interest, as well as the manufacturing interest, and grown into
importance lately, the fate of which is still more striking. For
merly it was not of much consequence, but lately it has become
so. It is the article of linseed and of linseed oil. Now, this is a


case of very great interest. So important is it, that I shall read
to the Senate letters from mercantile men, who say that, if this
bill passes, one third of all the trade and shipping between the
United States and Calcutta will be cut off and destroyed. Let
us see how that stands. Years ago, and when I first remember
to have been conversant with commercial men, and was living in
the midst of a navigating people, there was a considerable ex
port of the article of flax seed from the United States to Ireland
and England. It is well known that Ireland, a great seat of the
linen manufacturers, a country that raises and manufactures so
much flax, does not raise its own flaxseed ; and the reason of
that is, I suppose, that the flax must be pulled before the seed
has ripened ; if not, the fibre becomes so hard that it does not
answer the purpose of fine manufacture, and can be used only
for the coarser fabrics. In our Middle and Northern States
flax is raised for both purposes. It is suffered to ripen, and the
seed is saved and exported to Ireland, or was formerly, whilst the
fibre is manufactured into those coarse goods which answer for
household purposes, and the flax was spun by our mothers and
sisters, and their assistants, in times past/ But now this is
greatly changed. Linseed, oil has become an article of great
importance and vastly extensive use. It is manufactured in this
country chiefly from linseed imported from abroad, and, as I
suppose, mainly in that immature state in which it would not
vegetate. Here it is used for the manufacture of linseed oil,
and has become a very important matter, not only to the man
ufacturers of the article here, who have invested large sums of
money in the erection of mills, but also to the navigating in
terest, as touching very seriously the employment of all those
vessels of the United States which carry on the trade between
us and India. In the first place, let me give you a statement in
respect to the establishments for the manufacture of this article.

At the last census, there were eight hundred and forty linseed-
oil mills in the United States, and they now number from one
thousand to twelve hundred, moved by water or steam.

They consume from twenty bushels of seed daily up to eight
hundred, according to their capacity. Taking the daily con
sumption at only ten bushels each, they will consume in a
year three millions of bushels. The whole annual export of
flaxseed does not exceed thirty thousand bushels (that is, the


matured seed to Ireland), which is only one bushel out of every
hundred of the crop, the remaining ninety-nine bushels being
consumed in making oil.

Present duty on linseed oil, per gallon, . . . .25 cents.

Proposed duty, 20 per cent, ad valorem, or only, per gallon, 7 "

Being a reduction of 18 cents.

Present import of linseed oil, 200,000 gallons, duty 25 cents, $ 50,000
Same import, at proposed rate of 7 cents, .... 14,000

Loss in duty, $ 36,000

It will require an increased import of five hundred thousand
gallons of oil to get the same amount of duty that we now do,
if the duty is reduced as proposed ; and this can only be dohe
by destroying our own rm lls, and stopping the growth of seed in
this v country. The imports "of linseed are about four hundred
thousand bushels, paying a freight of one hundred and twenty
thousand dollars. The cake is shipped to England, and pays a
freight of forty thousand dollars per annum to our packet-ships.

A gentleman engaged in this manufacture writes to me
thus :

" From our own mill we send forty thousand barrels of cake to Lon
don yearly.

" England imports three and a half millions of bushels of linseed en
tirely free of duty. She imposes a prohibitory duty on linseed oil, and
does not import a single gallon. She has capital, machinery, coals, and
wages much cheaper than ourselves, and her millers get double the price
for their oil-cake that ours do.

" We consume in our mill nine hundred tons of coals yearly.

" No monopoly is asked or expected ; but our opinion is, that a duty
of twelve and a half or fifteen cents a gallon on oil, in lieu of the present
rate of twenty-five cents, with seed free or at five cents duty, will be for
the best interests of our farmers, millers, and consumers, and give more
revenue than the rates proposed by Mr. McKay in his new bill."

See, then, with what care this interest is protected by the bill
on our table ! I may not stop here. I have alluded to the effect
of this measure upon the commerce and the freight of the coun
try. Here is a letter from one of the most respectable merchants
in Boston, formerly a sea-captain.

VOL. v. 17


" Boston, July 13, 1846.

" DEAR SIR, This will introduce to you Mr. N. Sturtevant, a respect
able merchant of this place, largely interested in the manufacture of oil
from linseed.

" ]f the tariff passes in the shape it came from the House of Repre
sentatives, it will destroy more than one third of our Calcutta trade.
" With great respect, your obedient servant,


And here is another letter, from a mercantile friend of mine
in the same. city.

" Boston, July 13, 1846.

" SIR, I beg leave to introduce to your acquaintance the bearer of
the present, Mr. Noah Sturtevant, one of our largest linseed-oil manu^
facturers, and who proceeds to Washington upon business relating to the-
new tariff as affecting the articles of linseed and linseed oil.

" A large proportion of the tonnage now employed in the Calcutta
trade with this country is occupied in carrying linseed. With the
proposed change in the tariff upon this article, this trade would be
broken up.

" Referring to Mr. Sturtevant for further particulars, I remain, Sir,
with much respect, your very obedient servant.

" HON. DANIEL WEBSTER, in Washington."

But, Mr. President, there is a curious specimen of legislative
history connected with the duty laid on linseed by this bill. In
the twenty per cent, schedule is " flaxseed " ; in the ten per cent,
schedule is " hempseed, linseed, rapeseed." Originally it stood
"flaxseed, linseed, hempseed, rapeseed," in the ten per cent,
schedule. Opposition was made to this in the other house, on
the ground that flaxseed was not sufficiently protected. Flax-
seed was therefore carried into the twenty per cent, schedule,
leaving its synonyme linseed behind in the lower schedule !

I proceed, Sir, to another article in regard to which the advan
tage is given against the Ameridan manufacturer. It is copper.
I presented this subject to the consideration of the Senate the
other day, and will do no more now than read the statement of
persons most concerned in it in the United States, as embodied
in their petition to the Senate.

" The undersigned, manufacturers of copper, and others interested in


the trade to countries whence this article is obtained, having seen that a
bill is now before Congress imposing a duty of five per cent, on raw
copper, whilst copper sheathing is to be admitted free, beg leave to sub
mit to your consideration a few remarks upon the effect and impolicy
of the proposed measure.

Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 19 of 53)