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Duties on Imports.
The Eastern States cannot be viewed in the a gallon of rum at fifteen cents; yet I do not reodious light which is reflected upon them on ac. member to have heard gentlemen contend against count of their former conduct. That they com- the duty on teas on that account. If revenue is bined in a system of smuggling was accident; it to be raised by way of impost, we must select does not belong to their patriotic spirit; they are, those articles that are least liable to become obI fatter myself, the friends of good government;jects of illicit trade. I believe a proper attention they know the value of union, and would do no- has been paid to this point, and am, therefore, well thing from principle to injure the general welfare. satisfied with the list contained in the bill. At the time when they defeated the machinations A gentleman from Virginia (Mr. BLAND) has of a British Parliament to effect their ruin, they said that the present scale of duties will raise a looked upon the measures not only as oppressive, revenue of 13,000,000 dollars. If he is well foundbut unconstitutional and unjust, and the man who ed in this opinion, most certainly the duties ought opposed them with vigor and success was regard to be reduced, because it is a much larger sum ed as his country's friend. But the contrary will than the wants of the Union require ; but I cannow be the case, and the man who shall aim at not flatter myself into such a belief; thirteen milthe destruction of his country by frauds on her lions of dollars is too great a sum to be expected, revenue will be considered her greatest enemy. even if all the powers and exertions of Congress The man who can stab to the vitals and spill the were drawn into action. But let us examine heart's blood of the Government (for money is the what may be the wants of the United States duvital principle) must be base indeed. These cir- ring the current year. The expense on the civil cumstances will make a deep impression on every list cannot be estimated with accuracy for want mind, and each will furnish his individual aid to of an establishment of the various departments; obtain the full and due execution of the law. If but it will probably equal the expense of the late tais spirit
prevail, and become general, there will Congress, if yoų conceive the members of the Lebe no difficulty in carrying the regulation into gislature to be paid out of the Federal Treasury; operation.
add to this the sums stated to be arrearages by an Mr. Fitzsimons. I have listened with an anx- estimate I have seen from the Board of Treasury, ious desire of hearing something important on it will amount to four millions five hundred and the question which now agitates the committee; ninety-seven thousand dollars; then the instalbut I must say that nothing of that kind has ments of the foreign debt, together with interest reached me. There has not a single argument on the same, and interest on the domestic debt, been used this day but what has been urged be- for which provision remains to be made, will profore. After this remark it will not be expected bably increase it to eight millions of dollars. that I should take up the time of the committee Now, if gentlemen apprehend we shall raise more by making a reply to what I conceive has been revenue than that sum within the current year, fully replied to already. But as much has been it will operate as a strong motive upon them to said respecting the public opinion on the amount vote for the reduction of the duties; and if gentleof the duties, I must beg them to excuse me a few men suppose that the duty is so high upon rum words on that point.
as to convince them it will inevitably be evaded, With respect to the opinion of commercial it will be a sufficient argument to induce them to men-and I live in a State where commerce is vote for the present motion. pretty well understood and pursued, a State whose The collection of our revenue has been comin ports are as great as any in the Union-from pared to the collection of Great Britain ; but she that quarter I have received information differing collects four shillings sterling per gallon on West essentially from what has been stated by the gen- India rum, six times as much as we have agreed tleman from Massachusetts; so far are they from to, and yet I believe a very unimportant quantity complaining of them in that State, that they of Jamaica spirits is smuggled into that kingdom. think them rather low; they have no doubt as to The smuggling trade is mostly carried on from the collection. Having heard the same sentiment France and the Netherlands, in small vessels, from other quarters, I think, so far as the com- where the risk and insurance is inconsiderable. mercial opinion can be ascertained, I may venture I believe large vessels are very seldom concerned to assert it is in favor of the duties agreed to. in such contraband trade, because they hazard The particular article of spirits is peculiarly fitted more than overbalances every consideration of for raising a considerable duty; it is of small va- profit resulting from success. The circumstances lue, great bulk, and general consumption. These of America and Britain are different; America is are circumstances which make the revenue cer- remote from commercial nations, and European tain and important. If gentlemen believe rum an goods that are made dutiable by this law must irresistible temptation ai fifteen cents per gallon, generally be imported in vessels of considerable they must imagine several articles charged but value. If the owner attempts to save a part of five per cent. ad valorem equally so, because they the duties, or evade the laws, he will risk the can be smuggled with greater profit and less risk whole, for, I trust, Congress will not neglect any of detection. A man can carry on his shoulders security that may be derived from sufficient penvaluable goods subjected to a duty of five times alties upon the violators of the law. For my part
, as great an amount as what is charged upon a I have no doubt but the revenue will be faithfully hogshead of rum. A pound of Hyson tea at two collected; but certainly there are many other arshillings is a greater incentive to smuggling than I ticles more liable to objection on this account
Duties on Imports.
than rum, yet there was no adverse argument rum is popular; I will agree with the gentlemen; urged against them: therefore I suppose the com- but still a high duty will induce people to run mittee were satisfied with them as they stand. it, and though the consumer may pay the tax
Mr. Ames.--The gentleman from Pennsylva- without complaining, yet it will go into the pocnia set out with informing us that nothing new kets of individuals who defraud your revenue. had or could be offered on the subject; yet you Gentlemen have complained that we do not offer found, Mr. Chairman, the gentleman had a good a substitute for what we find fault with. I will deal to say, which I thought new and much to endeavor to explain a system I would place in the the purpose. As to applying the observation to room of this. "I would reduce the duties genemyself, in common with the advocates for low rally so low as to hold out no encouragement to duties, I shall decline it, only noting that the long smuggling; in this case it is more than probable discussion which the subject has had would re- the amount of the impost at the end of one year strain me from rising on this occasion more than would exceed the collection under the present any remarks of the nature made by the gentlemen rate. By giving this proof of moderation and from Pennsylvania and Connecticut; but I am wisdom, we should obtain the public favor and actuated by higher motives than a regard to my confidence; the Government would be acquiring own feelings, otherwise I should come reluctantly strength, its movements would be more certain, forward to press arguments which the committee and we could in every subsequent year extend may be fatigued with listening to. But I feel the system and make the whole productive; then such strong impressions on my mind, with regard it would be in the power of Government, by aids, to the effects our impost law is likely to produce, to improve our agriculture, manufactures, and
that I cannot pass it over with a silent vote. i commerce. Our imports are now very great; by : must admonish gentlemen that the events which the increase of our commerce we shall probably
may result from our present measures are of the find our revenue produce twice as much seven most alarming nature. When I was up before, I years hence as it can be expected to do at endeavored to show the degree of power the Gov- present. ernment could exercise without being charged The duty on West India rum is moderate and with an ill administration.
popular, say gentlemen; it is not the interest of I shall now proceed briefly to consider the ar- Massachusetts that it should be reduced; so I am guments used in reply to what has been advanced arguing against the interest of the State I have by the advocates for moderate duties. I believe the honor to represent. The higher the duty on it is a good rule to judge of the strength of a cause West India rum, the more country rum will be by the arguments used to defend it; and here I used; but I should sacrifice the sacred trust demust take the liberty of saying that the gentle-posited in my hands if I were to be actuated by men on the other side of the question have ad-la local motive of this nature. The higher the duced not one to support their opinion that has duty, the more officers must be multiplied, the carried conviction to my mind. I consider that, more guards must be employed, the more troops by a decision of this question, the good which the must be kept in pay, for the suppression of clannew Government is expected to produce may be destine trade. Under high duties, the people will rendered problematical. Though I am fully im- pay much, the Government receive little. Will pressed with the necessity there is for revenue to they not, then, justly complain of the useless bursupply the public expenses, yet I cannot believe dens you have imposed ? Useless I call them, we are likely to obtain more by heavy duties than unless Government have in contemplation to by temperate ones, and it is to this point that my make them conducive to oppress and injure their arguments tend. I do not believe that in either constituents. If you punish severely the breach case we shall procure fully sufficient to supply of your laws, will not the people combine against the public demands. If we have to procure eight them? Will it not be an additional source of millions of dollars, I venture to say not near the dissatisfaction, that the attempts to relieve them half could be raised by an impost system ; but are unsuccessful? If gentlemen consider this admitting that it could by a high scale of duties subject seriously, they will see cause to be alarmed. for the first year, it could not be done in the sub- who, in this case, can you apply to for support? sequent ones. Now, I regard this as a permanent Not to the people, they want an alleviation of system of revenue rather than a productive one; their miseries; you have, then, nothing left but if it is laid high, you will find your collection an- the impotency of a Government not sufficiently nually diminish. Now, will any Government matured to support itself. take such measures in gathering in its harvest as Gentlemen say that the funds to be produced to ruin the soil? Will they rack-rent their tenants by the proposed impost are insufficient for the in such a manner as to deprive them of the means public demands: if so, why not stop somewhat of improving the estate? Such can never be the shorter? If we must have recourse to some policy of this enlightened country. We know, other mode of obtaining revenue, let us divide from the fundamental principles of republics, that the burden, and not destroy one means by loading public opinion gives the tone to every action of it too heavily; if we do, the other means will not the Government-the laws ought to correspond only have its own proportion to sustain, but the with the habits and manners, nay, I may almost accumulation of its weakened fellow. Or, do add, wishes of the people.
gentlemen suppose they will clear the United Well, Mr. Chairman, we are told a tax upon 1 States of incumbrances by one effort ? They do
[H. of R. not. Why are we to grasp at so much in this this system, with what is raised in Great Britain, way? It would be much better to call in the aid and we shall be apt to infer that they are not só of other taxes and excises, than, by overloading, oppressive as gentlemen seem to insinuate. Tadepress one of the most capable and valuable king the highest estimate that I have heard menfunds in our possession. Under the British Gov- tioned, and it will not produce three millions of ernment, they have excise, stamp duties, impost, dollars. The population of the United States malt, and land-tax, from which to defray their exceeds three millions of souls, hence the tax expenses; why should we endeavor to do that does not amount to one dollar per head. Great with a single fund, when we have more in our Britain, on the highest estimation, does not conpower?
tain eight millions of inhabitants, and has an The gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Fitz- annual revenue to provide of thirteen millions SIMONS) has mentioned the great probability sterling. It is true "she has recourse to other there is of getting a great duty from this article, means beside an impost for the purpose of obtainbecause the consumption is more extensive in the ing such a revenue; but those other means are United States than in any other part of the world; certainly more objectionable in that country, and but this circumstance will furnish a strong in- would be much more so here. Each individual ducement to smuggle. He says there is but as of that kingdom pays eight times as much as is small quantity of rum smuggled into England. required by the United States; now, where is Gentlemen no doubt consider that Great Britain the propriety of making a comparison between is an island well watched; her cutters and cus- them? tom-house boats are ever on the look-out; but, Mr. Baldwin asked if the Government of the with all these guards, and the advantage of her United States of America was four or five times insular situation, she is unable to prevent smug- worse to be administered than the Governments gling
in Europe? Whether the public opinion was It has been remarked, that under the State four or five times more unfavorable to such an laws, experience has taught us that such duties as administration? If these questions are answered the bill has in contemplation can be collected; in the affirmative, then the inferences which genand the gentleman says, if they be collected tlemen have drawn of the impracticability of under the State laws, they can be collected under collecting the duties laid in the bill
, are just. this Government. If they have been able to col. But this is not allowing the General Government lect high duties in Virginia, it is because their the common chance of executing its laws. If it trade is confined to enter at one channel. But it were the worst Government on earth, it might is not so with the Eastern States; there every be allowed a chance of doing one quarter of what attempt to raise high duties has proved ineffec- others perform. If we find by experience, that we tual; and the universal opinion there is, that five are too weak to execute a system which is so per cent. would be more productive of revenue much easier than other nations have adopted, it than fifty. This is not mere matter of opinion, may be proper to alter it. We shall be better as has been said, but is demonstrable from facts able to judge how far we are likely to succeed,
The principle of taxation is to produce the when the bill for the collection of the revenue is greatest sum of money with the greatest ease to brought forward. Such a bill is now in the the community. If a gentleman in trade has on hands of a committee, and it is to be hoped, when hand a cargo of rum, he is able to afford it at a they report it, it will be found sufficient to insure less price than the person who imports it subject the collection; till then, it will be best to conto these duties; therefore, the latter will be under tinue the rate as it stands. the necessity of smuggling, or storing his com Mr. Boudinot.-When we consider the argumodities, for he cannot afford to sell at a loss. ments of gentlemen on both sides of this quesA gentleman has mentioned, that if we do not tion, we shall find they do not differ so much as, succeed in the collection of these duties, we may on a superficial view, gentlemen may be led to lower them. But will any gentleman say, that imagine. It is agreed, that a revenue must be if we lose our duty by the establishment of a sys- obtained adequate to our wants; but some gentem of smuggling, we shall not continue to lose tlemen think we shall not receive a greater sum after the law shall be repealed, and a lower rate because we lay a high duty ; in this opinion I am of duties is imposed? If gentlemen depend upon with them. I think the present is a favorable this fund alone, I think they ought not to strain it time to lay an impost duty, and expect very contoo much; though I do not know why we should siderable aid from the public spirit; but I am in not take to our aid an excise duty ; it certainly is favor of a low duty, because I would do nothing not unpopular as it respects the distillation of to check that spirit
. If we lay high duties, and spirits. If I were an enemy to the Constitution, a man finds smuggling the most profitable busiI should be an advocate for high duties; because ness he can follow, we shall have to contend with it would disgust the people, and render the Gov- private interest. If we lay a light duty of thirty ernment un popular; but, as I am a sincere friend or forty per cent., the temptation will be too to the Government now established, and desire its strong for resistance, and the sum collected may perpetuity, I am against any measure which I not amount to ten per cent. on the whole importathink will endanger its existence.
tion; whereas, if we lay twenty or fifteen per Mr. Madison. Let us compare the probable cent., the whole may probably be collected, and amount of the revenue proposed to be raised by the treasury be better filled, because it does not
H. OF R.]
[May, 1789. hold out so strong an inducement to evade the where they can deposite their cargoes with safety, payment of the duties.
and will make use of these advantages to defraud Another objection has been stated which is of your revenue. great weight: a system of high duties will neces- With regard to the equity of the impost syssarily engage us in a system of drawbacks. If tem, I conceive direct taxation will be more equiwe are forced into this measure, it will be a great table. We, in the Southern States, shall then injury to the revenue.
pay in proportion to our numbers; but under this We ought also to consider the inconvenience to law we shall contribute much more. which high duties will subject our merchants. It Gentlemen talk of improving the morals of the is a common case in America that our mercan- people by taxation. For my part, I conceive tile capitals are limited. Gentlemen engaged in revenue has nothing to do with the morals of the commerce can ill spare so large a proportion in people; therefore such considerations have no the payment of duties.
weight on my mind. All that I contemplate is, It has been mentioned by gentlemen, that Great drawing as much money as we can with equity; Britain collects four shillings sterling per gallon and here I believe more can be obtained by a less on rum; yet she is exposed to great difficulties in impost than by a greater; therefore, I am in faobtaining it. But I ask gentlemen, whether vor of reducing the duties. It will likewise be Great Britain ever laid such a high duty in the more honorable to the Government to begin gradfirst instance as we are about to impose ? I be- ually and win the affections of the people, rather lieve they did not: they began, I apprehend, with than disgust them by oppressive measures ; for, if moderate duties, and increased them as circum- we lose their confidence, we lose our power and stances authorized, when the people became habit- authority. uated to the imposition. This is the very princi- Mr. Gerry. It appears to me, that gentlemen ple I wish to adopt, and show the world that our place their arguments on the name of high duties, conduct is founded in wisdom, propriety, and rather than on principle; for if they were certain experience. If we shall discover our mistake in that the energy of Government would effect all laying high duties, and are driven by necessity to they aspire at, then it would follow, that we have reduce them, such measures will operate to the nothing more to do than to name the sum we injury of the fair trader; whereas, if we increase want. But if these ideas are not well supported, them by degrees, it will be rather favorable to the superstructure they have raised upon them their interest than otherwise; at all events, it will must fall to the ground. The energy of your injure none.
Government depends upon the approbation of the If a sense of the committee could be obtained people. No doubt the citizens of the United on a general reduction of ten or fifteen per cent. States will support the Government they have on the rate the articles now stard at, I should be adopted, so long as they approve the measures it glad to vote in favor of such a motion; but I pursues, but no longer. Gentlemen trust much, could not approve of reducing the article of rum on this occasion, to the co-operation which they alone, because I do not think it charged out of expect from their constituents; but I would wish proportion with the others.
them to examine this argument. These duties are Mr. Jackson differed from his colleague, (Mr. to be collected from the several States into which Baldwin.) He thought, although the British ceriain goods are imported. If the people of laid four shillings on rum, they did not collect it; Massachusetts shall conceive any particular duty and that their custom-house establishments were peculiarly oppressive on them, they will seek to so expensive as to leave a mere trifle for the net evade it. This opens a door for smuggling all the produce of the impost duty. If America em- other articles. ployed such a host of revenue officers as to secure I conceive gentlemen to be mistaken with rethe payment of high duties, there would be very spect to the effects which high duties will produce little left, after compensating their services, to on the mercantile interest. I think there cannot supply the federal treasury.
be a doubt but they will be obliged to smuggle; Mr. Wadsworth desired gentlemen to consi- if they mean to continue their business, their capder that the citizens of the United States owned ital will be insufficient for the purposes of comvessels as well calculated for smuggling as any merce and the payment of high duties. Gentlethat were employed between the Netherlands and men will not draw knowledge from the experiEngland; therefore, they had little more security ence of Great Britain ; therefore, it is unnecessary against smuggling than Great Britain.
to adduce her example. But let us see what we Mr. Jackson.-It was well observed by the are taught by the practice of our own States. honorable gentleman from Connecticut,'(Mr. Massachusetts drew a very considerable revenue Wadsworth) that America has vessels well from an impost; she lately tried to increase it by adapted for smuggling: I can declare it, from my doubling the duties; but, instead of doing so, they, own knowledge, to be the fact. It is not, Mr. found the revenue lessened, and they were obliged Chairman, the large vessels coming off long voy- to alter what they had so injudiciously attempted. ages that we are to apprehend danger from; it is I am willing to suppose with gentlemen, that the our coasters, small vessels constantly coming in Government is invested by the Constitution with and going out; these can run goods from foreign sufficient energy to carry any regulation of this ports adjacent to the United States; they are kind into effect; but is ihis the time to try the best acquainted with the unfrequented parts, I energy of your Government, when your com
Duties on Imports.
merce is struggling with every kind of difficulty payment of the duties. As mankind was govand embarrassment ? Formerly, our merchants erned by interest, it required all the attention of were able to extend their operations by the means the Government to prevent a breach of the law; of an established credit in Britain; but unfortu- because, when the banks and bulwarks of defence nately this is no longer the case. How, then, is were once broken down, the full tide of clandesit possible they can continue their trade when tine commerce would overflow the country. Genyo lop off another part of their capital ? Be- tlemen recollected the circumstances which atsides, as was said by the worthy gentleman from tended the depreciation of the late Continental Virginia, (Mr. BLAND,) there is not money enough money. Some persons, from motives of interest in the United States to pay the duties. I believe or necessity, firsi made a distinction between it it is well known, that our commerce is greatly and specie, and although every exertion was made distressed by the universal want of specie; there by the patriotic among our citizens to prevent the has not been less in circulation for many years alarming evil, yet every thing was insufficient; than there is at this time. Gentlemen who have they were at length obliged to acquiesce in measproperty cannot convert it into money; then how ures they could not prevent. This was the case will the merchant be able to raise cash for the on that occasion, and will be the case whenever payment of duties equal to thirty or forty per our laws or regulations run counter to private cent. on his capital į These are serious and interest. alarming circumstances, and such as prove to Mr. SHERMAN.—The gentleman from Massamy mind that commerce was never less able to chusetts (Mr. Ames) has said, that because we bear a high impost than at present, nor ever stood cannot raise the whole sum necessary to supply in greater need of the fostering hand of Govern- our wants, we should be content to stop half way. ment for its support. If gentlemen are convinced I know we shall not be able to obtain money of the truth of these observations, and they are so enough by the impost to pay off our whole debt, notorious that they cannot have escaped the knowl- but then I wish to raise as much as possible in edge of any one, they will see the necessity of this way. I believe the people are able to pay as turning their attention to the encouragement of much as the necessities of the Government re· navigation and trade, rather than think of draw- quire; if they are not, we shall never restore the ing an oppressive revenue from them.
public credit, which is one of the chief ends of When gentlemen compare these duties with our appointment. I believe they are not only those collected in Great Britain, they ought to able but willing to contribute sufficient for this consider that the mercantile capital in this coun- purpose. The resources of this country are very try bears no kind of proportion to the capital of great if they are properly called into action; and that kingdom. When gentlemen tell us that although they may not be so great as those of England raises four times as much by way of Britain, yet it should be remembered, that nation impost, do they not know that the capital engaged has occasion for twelve times as much revenue in the commerce of that nation is ten times as as the United States. great as in America ? If they admit this, then it Gentlemen have had recourse to popular opinfollows that we cannot pretend, with equal ease, ion in support of their arguments. Popular opinto levy a quarter of what is there collected. ion is founded in justice, and the only way to
I do not pretend to deny the necessity we are know if the popular opinion is in favor of a measunder of raising revenue, or that an impost is the ure, is to examine whether the measure is just most certain and agreeable means in our power; and right in itself. I think whatever is proper but I contend against straining the duties so high and right, the people will judge of and comply as to make them burdensome, and occasion the with. The people wish ibat the Government establishment of a clandestine trade, which will may derive respect from the justice of its measprove destructive of the end we aim at.
ures; they have given it their support on this Mr. Madison submitted, whether the burden account. ' I believe the popular opinion is in favor would not operate more on the Southern States of raising a revenue to pay our debts, and if we than the Northern. The duties could be collected do righi, they will not neglect their duty; therein the Middle States, this was proved by the ex- fore, the arguments that are urged in favor of a perience of some years; for they had collected in | low duty will prove that the people are contented ihose States, in many instances, duties nearly with what the bill proposes. The people at this equal to what were proposed. In the Eastern time pay a higher duty on imported rum than States, it was the interest of the manufacturers what is proposed in this system, even in Massato see the duties were well collected; they had chusetts; it is true it is partly laid by way of exbeen imposed to favor their interests. The dis- cise, but I can see no reason against doing it in tillers would exert themselves in aiding the Gov- this way as well as the other. ernment to collect the duty on foreign rum, be- The article of molasses is a good deal used in cause it particularly interfered with country rum; that country, but I do not think it so much a nefrom hence he concluded that the impost could cessary of life but that every citizen could live be collected with tolerable certainty even in that without it; and I believe the people would be country most convenient for carrying on a clan- very well contented to contribute their proportion destine trade.
of the public expenses by a small duty on that Mr. Ames contended that it would be the par- article. Those who consume foreign luxuries are ticular interest of one set of men to evade the generally able to pay for them. When gentlemen