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390

SPECIFIC AND AD VALOREM DUTIES. [CHAP. V.

nations of Europe, insisted on a monopoly of the trade with her colonies, afforded the benefit that America had fondly expected.

Such was the condition of the United States as to foreign countries, at the time that their new government was to go into operation, and Congress was about to organize its different departments; to provide an adequate revenue; and to regulate its commerce.

The first subject of legislative discussion in the House of Representatives, after they had a quorum in attendance, was the impost, which was brought forward by Mr. Madison. After adverting to the inability of the old Congress to provide the revenue which the justice and honor of the country so imperiously required, he proposed, as a temporary system, to lay duties, partly specific, partly ad valorem, in conformity with those proposed in 1783, which had been generally approved; and tonnage duties, in addition, with a discrimination, however, between the ships of the United States and those of other countries which had treaties with the United States and those which had not.

Mr. Lawrence, of New York, was in favor of a general ad valorem duty on all imports, as a more practical plan of revenue than one of specific duties.

Mr. Fitzsimmons, of Philadelphia, preferred specified duties. He denied that they presented any practical difficulty, and urged that they encouraged the productions of the country, protected its infant manufactures, and, in some cases, operated as sumptuary restrictions on the consumption of articles of luxury. He offered, by way of amendment, a resolution which contained an enumeration of the articles deemed by him fit subjects of specific duty.

Mr. Madison accepted the amendment; but while he

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approved of a qualified encouragement to manufactures, as one of the exceptions to the doctrines of free trade, he thought the attention of Congress should, for the present, be confined principally to the object of revenue.

These resolutions, and the bill subsequently introduced in conformity with them, gave rise to a desultory discussion on the details of the system, which continued with little intermission for six weeks. The principal questions discussed were, whether the system then adopted should be temporary or permanent; whether there should be only one uniform ad valorem duty, or specific duties in addition; whether, in case the latter course was adopted, the dutiable articles should be confined to the list in the plan of 1783; what should be the precise rate of duty on particular articles; whether, in laying the tonnage duties, a discrimination should be made in favor of the nations having treaties with the United States; and lastly, whether the system then adopted should be limited to a certain term of years: on all of which questions there was a great diversity among the members, principally from the supposed diversity of interests of their respective constituents; but partly, also, from the different views of policy entertained by individual members.

The principal speakers in this protracted debate were Messrs. Ames, Gerry, Goodhue, and Thatcher, of Massachusetts; Sherman and Wadsworth, of Connecticut; ; Lawrence, of New York; Boudinot, of New Jersey; Clymer, Fitzsimmons, Hartley, and Scott, of Pennsylvania; Carroll and Smith, of Maryland; Bland, Lee, Madison, Page, Parker, and White, of Virginia; Burke, Smith, and Tucker, of South Carolina; Baldwin and Jackson, of Georgia.

The bill laying impost and tonnage duties, with large discrimination in favor of American vessels, and a smaller

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IMPOST DUTIES.

[CHAP. V.

one in favor of nations having treaties with the United States, and to remain in force till the first day of June, 1796, passed on the sixteenth of May; and, notwithstanding the opposition which its most important provisions had experienced from some quarter or other, such was the spirit of compromise which then prevailed, and the conviction that every one had of the urgency of the measure, that it passed without a division.

Some of the proposed duties then deemed of great local importance, from the pertinacity with which they were opposed, are well calculated to remind us, by their seeming insignificance at the present day, of the progress the United States have since made. Thus, a duty of six cents a gallon on molasses was proposed, by way of laying a tax on the rum distilled from it; and it was vehemently opposed by all the delegation from Massachusetts, on the ground that it would operate most oppressively on the men engaged in the fisheries, each of whom consumed twelve gallons of molasses; and that it would produce disaffection towards the Federal government.

"I fear," said Mr. Ames, "we shall destroy the fond hopes entertained by our constituents, that this government would ensure their rights, extend their commerce, and protect their manufactures. Mothers will tell their children, when they solicit their daily and accustomed nutriment, that the new laws forbid them the use of it; and they will grow up in a detestation of the hand which proscribes their innocent food, and the occupation of their fathers. The language of complaint will circulate universally, and change the favorable opinion now entertained to dislike and clamor." 1

The members of South Carolina were as strenuously opposed to the tax of six cents a bushel on salt, as threat1 I. Gales & Seaton's Debates, page 234.

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ening the like oppression and disaffection with the citi zens of their State.1

Mr. Scott, of Pennsylvania, who concurred in these views, stated that the price of salt in the western part of that State, was four dollars a bushel.

Many other facts stated in the debate forcibly impress on our minds the changes which time has since brought about. Thus, a member from Virginia, after stating that there were coal-mines opened in Virginia capable of supplying the whole United States, and requiring nothing but a duty on foreign coal for them to be worked to advantage, proposed a duty of three cents a bushel.

Mr. Hartley, of Pennsylvania, objected to this as too discouraging to manufactures, and proposed a duty of one

cent.

In discussing the duty it would be proper to lay on hemp, doubts were expressed by several members whether it could be cultivated to advantage in the United States. But a member from South Carolina, Mr. Burke, was in favor of a moderate duty on it, as an article of culture particularly suited to the rich rice lands of that State-remarking, that it was hoped the cultivation of cotton would be successful, if good seed could be procured. The whole tonnage then employed in the trade of the United States was six hundred thousand tons, of which two-thirds were American, and three-fourths of the residue were British.

This impost bill, the first passed by the Federal Congress, was the beginning of that policy of encouraging domestic manufactures by taxing those imported from other countries, which has since given rise to so much controversy, in and out of Congress, and in which the strife has been more bitter and serious, because the

I. Gales & Seaton's Debates, page 167.

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policy so differently affects the interests of the Northern and Southern divisions of the Union.

But in laying specific duties with a view to foster American manufactures, the States which were only consumers of such manufactures endeavored to reduce the duties, on the ground that they bore unequally on the States, or that their pressure would be peculiarly heavy before the country had recovered from the effects of a desolating and exhausting war. It is, however, worthy of remark, that, while the Southern and non-manufacturing States saw as distinctly then as they have ever seen since, that they were to be uncompensated losers by a protective policy, which was avowedly intended to benefit the manufacturing classes, exclusively inhabiting the Northern and Middle States, not a word of objection to the obnoxious measure was made on the ground of its unconstitutionality.'

The ground taken by Mr. Madison in justification, and which was apparently acquiesced in, was, that "manufactures had been reared up by the fostering care of the State Legislatures, manifested in the shape of protective duties; but that the people, by the adoption of the Constitution, had put it out of the power of the States to continue such duties; so that manufactures would be without their accustomed protection, unless it could be afforded by the General government."

In the Senate, the clause making a discrimination in favor of the nations which had treaties with the United States was struck out; and this amendment, after a conference between the two Houses, finally prevailed.

The next subject which engaged the attention of Congress may seem, to the present generation, not to deserve the notice bestowed on it. A committee of the Senate

1

1 I. Gales & Seaton's Debates, pp. 164-303, 307.

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