John A. (John Adams) Dix.

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ury through the increase of the tonnage duties, which are,
however, v'ery inconsiderable. The amount of imposts can
only be augmented by bringing a greater quantity of foreign
merchandise into the home market. Whether this effect
shall take place depends on the demand, which can only be
increased through a diminution of the cost of foreign mer-
chandise, thus bringing it within the means of a larger class
of consumers, or by enabling it to enter on such terms of
advantage into competition with our own products of a like
character as to expel the latter from the market. Of course,
I do not take into consideration the increased consumption



arising from an increase of our population. If I am right in
my positions, none of the consequences referred to will be
realized. The cost of foreign merchandise will not be
materially affected by the proposed plan ; and all the appre-
hensions founded upon such a supposition will prove ground-
less. But if I am wrong, then the diminished cost of for-
eign merchandise will be so much gained to the great body
of the consumers. In any event, the reduction of cost will
only be to the extent of the indirect increase of the duties
by exacting interest on them from the date of the entry of
the merchandise on which they are charged ; and to this
extent every principle of common fairness is on the side of
the reduction.

The second objection is, that the proposed plan of admit-
tinof foreign merchandise to the benefit of the warehouse
system will throw the whole business of importation into
the hands of foreign capitalists ; that foreign manufacturers
will have their agents here ; that they will fill our seaports
with their products, and exercise an unlimited control over
the home market. So far am I, sir, from feeling the force
of this objection, that I consider it wholly groundless. For-
eigners never have had, and are not likely to have, a very
large share in the business of importation, taking all our
imports together. They send their products here to some
extent, and have their agents here to make sales ; but their
participation in the business of importing constitutes a
very inconsiderable portion of our whole import trade. In-
deed, I regard the present system of exacting the payment
of duties in cash on the entry of merchandise as much
better calculated to throw the business of importation into
the hands of large capitalists, native and foreign, than a
warehouse system. If a cargo of merchandise worth one
hundred thousand dollars is imported, and the duties are
thirty per cent., it will require, under the present system,
one hundred and thirty thousand dollars to purchase the
merchandise and pay the duties on the entry. With the


privilege of placing the goods in store without paying the
duties, it will require only one hundred thousand dollars to
make the importation. The merchandise will be withdrawn
in limited quantities, as sales are made, and the duties will
be paid on these separate quantities as they are delivered to
the importer or owner. In one case, one hundred thousand
dollars will suffice for the transaction; in the other, one
hundred and thirty thousand dollars will be required. Now,
it is quite clear, that, in proportion as the amount of capital
required for the importation of merchandise is increased,
you diminish the ability of importers of moderate means to
make purchases for themselves abroad, and you multiply the
chances of making the business of importing a monopoly in
the hands of capitalists. They bring merchandise into the
country, pay the duties, and compel the regular dealers to
purchase them, with the addition of interest on the duties,
commissions for agency, &c., — either depriving the mer-
chant of a portion of his legitimate profit, or enhancing the
price of the merchandise before it reaches the consumer,
and compelling the latter to bear the burden of these inter-
mediate charges. The privilege of storing goods will tend
to break up, to some extent, this system of monopoly, by-
dispensing with the payment of the duties until the mer-
chandise is required for consumption. Merchandise will be
more likely to be purchased abroad at the places of pro-
duction, instead of being procured of agents here, with the
commissions and charges of these agencies superadded. A
larger number of individuals will be able to make importa-
tions under the warehouse system ; and whatever temh to
withdraw any branch of business from the hands of a few
persons, and to divide it among many, cannot but be bene-
ficial to the community.

But admitting the objection to be well-founded, — admit-
ting that one of the consequences of the warehouse system
will be to enable foreign manufacturers to place their pro-
ductions in store here, ready to be introduced at any moment


into the home market, — the answer is, that they never can
be so introduced without first paying the duties, and that the
domestic producer is equally secure, whether they are stored
here or abroad. The force of the objection is further weak-
ened by the consideration, that, through the rapid commu-
nication between the Eastern and Western continents by
steam, a few weeks are all that is necessary now to bring
into our market unlimited quantities of foreign merchandise.
The home market can only be controlled by a monopoly of
the business of importation ; and this, if my positions are
correct, will not be so likely to occur under a warehouse
system as under a system of cash payment on the entry of

In connection with this subject, the Senator referred to
the extent to which foreigners are now engaged in the
import trade of the United States, and, as I think, estimated
it too largely. On this point a brief explanation is neces-
sary. I presume it will be admitted that, in making the
estimate, we must confine our attention to the city of New
York. There are few foreign importers in Boston, Phila-
delphia, Baltimore, Charleston, or New Orleans, — not
enough, if I am well informed, to make any perceptible
variation in the estimate. I take it for granted, also, that in
the city of New York woollens, cottons, and silks are the
chief imports on foreign account. The value of these ar-
ticles imported into that city in 1845 was as follows: —

Woollens $8,154,534

Cottons 8,863,973

Silks 8,789,220


Every species of manufactures of wool, cotton, and silk is
here included.

It is not easy to ascertain precisely to what extent foreign
merchants are concerned in these imports. All estimates
must be, in a great degree, conjectural. The Senator's
estimate is higher than my own. From the best information


I can obtain, I am not satisfied that much more than half is
imported on foreign account. But I am disposed to be
liberal, and give nearly two thirds, — $17,000,000. The
value of the whole amount of our imports in 1845 was,
in round numbers, $117,000,000; imported on foreign
account, $17,000,000 ; leaving a balance in our favor of

Some of these foreign importers have American partners.
They hire our dwellings and warehouses, put the industry
of our seaports in requisition, contribute in a variety of
modes to the wealth of the country, and send abroad the
products of our soil and labor.

In illustration of this portion of his remarks, the Senator
referred to the statistics of our commerce, to show how
much foreign tonnage had increased under the reciprocity
treaties, and that a large portion of our commercial inter-
course with other nations is carried on in foreign vessels.

It has been a common complaint in past years, and con-
tinues to some extent to be so still, that our commerce is
going into the hands of foreigners. Looking at our statisti-
cal returns, they seem, at first glance, to confirm the impres-
sion that the complaint is well founded. But our judgment
ought not to be formed on superficial examination. If we
go back to the year 1824-, (I take the year the Senator has
referred to,) we find the tonnage of American vessels, which
cleared from the United States, to have been 919,208, and
the tonnage of foreign vessels cleared to have been 102,552,
or little less than nine to one in favor of ours. In 1 845, the
American tonnage cleared was 2,053,977? ^"<1 ^^^ foreign
930,275, a little more than two to one in our favor, show-
ing an enormous difference in the proportion of increase.
While ours has but little more than doubled, the foreign has
increased more than ninefold. This great increase in the for-
eign tonnage employed in carrying to and from the United
States the subjects of commercial exchange would certainly
furnish just cause of alarm, if our own tonnage, so employed,



had been stationary. But it has been greatly and very
rapidly increasing.

During the last four years it has increased more than
500,000 tons, or at the rate of 34^ per cent., while the for-
eign has increased about 180,000 tons, or less than 25 per
cent. ; so that it may be fairly presumed that the full effect
of the reciprocity treaties has been felt. If we compare the
proportion in whicK British.and foreign tonnage is employ m1
in tlie foreio-n trade of Great Britain, we shall find less cause
to be dissatisfied with our own condition in the same respect.
I take the year ending the 5th of January, 18-il, (I cannot
obtain the returns of a later year,) and find the vessels of
the United Kingdom " entered inwards " from all parts of
the world w^ere 14,370, with a tonnage of 2,807,367, —
exceeding ours in 1845 only about 800,000. In the same
year, the number of foreign vessels entered " inwards " was
8355 and their tonnage 1,^975840.^ Thus it appears tliat
the foreign tonnage engaged in the foreign trade of Great
Britain in 1840 was nearly equal to one half of the amount
of her own tonnage. With us, the proportion of foreign
tonnaae engfaffed in our commerce to our own is more than
a third, but less than half, and somewhat less than the pro-
portion engaged in the commerce of Great Britain. If we
test the relative importance of the commercial transactions
in the two cases by the tonnage of all the vessels, w^e find
those engaged in our commerce average 214 tons each,

^ Since this speecli was made, I have found later returns of the commercial
statistics of Great Britain, from which tlie following details are obtained : —
Skipping entered inwards in the United Kingdom from foreign parts.














By this statement, it will be seen that the tonnage of Great Britain engaged in
her commerce with foreign States has increased, notwithstanding her reciprocity
treaties, in a greater ratio than foreign tonnage engaged in the same commerce.


while those engaged in the commerce of Great Britain
average only 181 tons each.

If we pursue this examination further, we shall find still
less cause for concern. We border on the provinces of Great
Britain, and a constant intercourse is maintained between
them and us in a variety of commercial transactions of com-
paratively trivial importance, but constituting a large aggre-
gate. This circumstance enables us to account for a fact
which, at first sight, strikes us with some surprise, and
excites some apprehension. We find the number of vessels
that entered the United* States in 184^5 was 18.J2S. Of
this number 8133 were American, and 5590 foreign.
This seems a large proportion ; but when we look into the
detail, we find that of these 5590 vessels, 4<Q62 — nearly
four fifths — are from the British North American colonies,
and that their tonnage amounts to 463,7 -l-S, (j^bout one half
the whole amount of the foreijjn tonnag'e enoaaed in our
conmierce,) or an average of 109 tons each, — generally
small vessels, engaged in the minutest operations of trade.
These details will be fully shown by House Document No.
13 of the present session, page 213. Turning to page 23:2,
we find the number of foreign vessels that entered the dis-
tricts of C.ipe Vincent, Oswegatchie, Oswego, Genesee,
Niagara, Champlain, and Sackett's Harbor, was 16(27, ^^'ith
an aggregate tonnage of £7^5798. These districts are on
lakes Ontario and Champlain, and the river St. Lawrence.
Add to these entries 67 foreign vessels which entered Cuya-
hoga, on Lake Erie, and Detroit, on the river of that name,
with an aggregate tonnage of 7703, and we have 1694
foreign vessels, with an aggregate tonnage of 281,101, en-
tering our interior lake and river ports, on waters constitut-
ing the boundary between us and Upper Canada. These
vessels are for the most part steamers, running between the
ports on the British side and our own, and stopping at
several points in each direction, and always counting one
entry and one clearance each trip. Thus it will be per-


ceived that the number of foreign vessels entering the
United States from the British North American provinces,
after deducting those engaged in tlie lake traffic, is re-
duced to 2568, with an aggregate tonnage of 182,647.

By turning again to Document No. 13, page 232, we find
699 foreign vessels entering the district of Passamaquoddy,
with an aggregate tonnage of 54^,412, or an average of 7^
tons per vessel. The district of Passamaquoddy lies upon
the confines of New Brunswick ; and from its position and
the average size of the foreign vessels entering it, they are
obviously small craft engaged in trivial exchanges. The
affffreaate number of foreign vessels from the British North
American provinces is now shrunk below 2000. One more
reference to the same page of the document, and I shall
dismiss this part of the subject. We find 1265 foreign
vessels entering the port of Boston, with an aggregate
tonnage of 101,491, or an average of 80 tons per vessel.
A large portion of these are small craft, schooners and
sloops from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, laden with
plaster, wood, and coal. Portland, Gloucester, Salem, and
New York have their share of these visitors from the British
provinces. The whole of this portion of the foreign ton-
nage entering the United States is thus accounted for, and
the foreign vessels legitimately engaged in our external trade
are reduced to 1328.

Throwing entirely out of view the commercial intercourse
between the United States and the North American colonies
of Great Britain, in the vessels of both, the vessels and
tonnage engaged in the commerce of the United States with
all other countries would stand as follows : Vessels of the
United States, 5267; foreign vessels, 1328; — about four
to one. Tonnage of the United States, 1,351,127; foreign
tonnage, 446,815; — more than three to one.

To show how fallacious a cursory examination of our
commercial statements would prove as a criterion of the
trade of the country, it is only necessary to look at the



district of Cape Vincent, near the head of the river St.
Lawrence, where the lake steamers touch. By the return,
(page 236,) 1337 vessels appear to have entered it, with an
aggregate tonnage of 331,867, almost rivalling New York
in entries and tonnage. By turning to page 240 of the
same document, it appears that the tonnage helonging to the
city of New York is 550,359, while that of Cape Vincent
is 2670. While the revenue collected at New York ex-
ceeded eighteen millions of dollars, that collected at Cape
Vincent was ^779 and a few cents, or about an average of
half a dollar for each vessel entered in the district. I
exhibit the details of this case to prove how deceptive the
returns are when assumed as a criterion of the extent of our
commerce. It is only by a careful analysis of them that the
truth can be reached and false impressions removed.

One word more on this subject of tonnage. It has been
supposed that a large portion of the trade carried on by
foreign vessels was circuitous, — that is, that foreign vessels
were in the habit of coming here with cargoes not the prod-
uce of the countries to which they belonged, and that they
were in the habit of departing with cargoes for other coun-
tries than those to which they belonged. This is, to some
extent, true ; but the amount of this circuitous intercourse is
much less than has been supposed. I have taken the trouble
to look into this branch of our commerce. I have analyzed
the commercial tables, for the purpose of ascertaining where
the foreign vessels, which enter our ports, come from and
where they go when they clear. It has cost some labor, but
it is fully repaid by the result. Of 5587 foreign vessels
entering the United States in 1845, 5380 came from the
countries to which they belonged, and 20J from other coun-
tries ; and of 5583 which cleared from the United States,
5254 sailed for their own countries, and 229 for other coun-
tries than those to which they belonged. Thus it will be
seen that the direct trade in foreign vessels between the
United States and those countries to which the vessels be-


long constitutes more than nineteen twentieths of the
whole. Throwing the British North American provinces
out of the account, the circuitous trade in foreign vessels
constitutes less than one sixth of the whole amount of our
trade, direct and circuitous, in foreign vessels.

But it is not alone to the number of American and foreign
vessels engaged in our foreign commerce that we are to look
for the proportion in which they participate in it. We must
see also what they carry ; and I now proceed to show to
what extent the commercial exchanges of the country are
carried on in foreign vessels. The statistical facts I shall
state are taken from the letter of the Secretary of the Treas-
ury, transmitting the annual report of commerce and navi-
gation, printed as House Document No. 13 of the present
session of Congress, — the same document I have already
so often referred to. At page 42 it will be seen that the
value of the exports of domestic products during the year
ending the 30th of June, 1845, amounted to $99,!299,776.
Of this amount ^J5,4<8S,123 were exported in American,
and ^23,816,653 in foreign vessels, — or more than three
to one in favor of American vessels. During the same
period the value of the exports of foreign products, articles
imported into the United States from foreign countries and
reexported, amounted to ^15,346,830, of which amount
$11,459,319 were exported in American, and $3,887,511
in foreign vessels, — or a little less than three to one in favor
of American vessels. For these details I refer to page 9-5
of the same document. The whole value of our exports,
domestic and foreign, was $114,646,606; and of this
amount, $86,942,442 were exported in American, and
$27,704,164 in foreign vessels, — or three milhons and a
half more than three to one in favor of the former. This is
a respectable proportion, though not so large as is desirable ;
but our exports constitute only a part of the foreign trade of
the country, and that part which can with least propriety be
taken as a criterion of the whole, as further investigation


will show. It is to the imports rather than to the exports
that we must look for the extent of our participation in car-
rying to and from our own ports the products which make
up the foreign commerce of the country. Our imports are
chiefly for our own consumption ; they are purchased for the
most part on our account, and for these reasons tliey are
imported principally, as is naturally to he expected, in our
own vessels. Our exports, to some extent, are purchased on
foreign account, and they are naturally carried out in foreign
vessels in a like proportion.

By referring to ])age 193 of the same document, it will
be seen that the value of our imports for the year ending
the 30th June, 184-5, amounted to $117,^254^,564. Of
this amount, $102,438,481 were brought in American, and
$14,816,083 in foreign vessels, — or nearly seven to one
in favor of American vessels. In carrying the articles im-
ported into the country, therefore, there is a very large differ-
ence in favor of our own vessels.

Taking the imj)orts and exports together, they amount to
$231,901,170. Of this amount, $189,380,923 were car-
ried in American, and $42,520,247 in foreign vessels, —
or nearly four and a half to one in favor of the former.

It is a fact worthy of notice, that the value of our im-
ports in foreign vessels has scarcely varied half a million of
dollars for any entire year since 1839, excepting in 1842,
a year, as all know, of extraordinary depression. With
that exception, the lowest amount imported in foreign vessels
in any one year since 1839 was $14,260,362, and the high-
est $14,816,083. The average of our imports in foreign
vessels for the last few years — excluding 1842 and the nine
months preceding the 30th June, 1843, when the termina-
tion of the fiscal year was changed — amounts to $14,534,-
978. During the same period, and making the same excep-
tions, our imports In American vessels varied from $92,-
802,352, in 1840, the lowest amount, to $113,221,877, in
1841, the highest amount in the series of years referred to,
— a variation of more than twenty millions.



Of our imports in foreign vessels, ^^,854^,804! are from
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and her
colonial possessions, — or about one half of the whole amount
of those imports. Our imports in our o\A'n vessels, from
the same countries, amounted to ^4^1,128,362, — nearly
seven to one in our favor.

If we add to the imports in foreign vessels from Great
Britain and her possessions, as above stated, the imports
in foreign vessels from the Hanse Towns, amounting to
$2,761,048, they will give together an aggregate of $10,-
115,854^, — leaving only $4<,700,'229 of imports in foreign
vessels to be distributed among all the other countries on
the globe with which we have commercial connections. Of
this latter amount, a little more than one million comes from
France, a little more than half a million from Denmark,
Sweden, and Norway, combined, and the residue from some
thirty different countries, and in amounts falling short of
half a million in each case.

Such is the condition of our import trade, so far as it is
carried on in foreign vessels. I see nothing alarming in it.
It ministers in various modes to our own industry. The
vessels of other nations which find their way to our ports,
bringing with them the products of their own soil or the
fabrics of their own art, pay tribute to us by augmenting
our revenue, purchasing, to some extent, in our ports the
supplies they require for their voyages, and carrying back
with them the products of our own labor. I am satis-
fied with the extent to which we participate in this portion
of the great system of exchanges we are carrying on with
other countries. If our export trade stood upon a foot-
ing as favorable, it would leave little else to be desired.
Even as it is, taking our exports and imports together, the
extent to which foreign vessels participate in the business of
carrying furnishes no cause for uneasiness. Nor do I see
any reason to apprehend that the future will present a more
unfavorable result.


I now resume tlie examination of objections to the bill,
and will dispose of them in the briefest manner. In respect
to the necessity of building stores at the public expense, I
will only say that during the late administration inquiries
were addressed by the Secretary of the Treasury to a large
number of individuals, some of them holding offices in the
revenue department, and others engaged in mercantile pur-
suits in our principal seaports. I have examined all the
answers I could find ; and of eighty-eight there are eighty-
four expressing the opinion that suitable stores for warehous-
ing goods may be hired, and only four expressing a contrary
opinion. I have looked over the documents in which they
are contained in haste, and may have committed mistakes in
the enumeration, but I think not to such an extent as mate-
rially to impair its accuracy.

An army of officers (said the Senator from Connecticut)
will be required to carry on the system, and it will lead to

Online LibraryJohn A. (John Adams) DixSpeeches and occasional addresses (Volume 1) → online text (page 14 of 40)