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Our Early Shipping Policy
WITH A CONFUTATION OF THE ARGUMENTS SUPPORTING
THE PRESENT EVIL POLICY OF MARITIME
Esc-U. S. Commissioner of Navigation, Naval Architect and Shipbuilder;
on the Shipping Question,
HAT an intelligent man should make such a poor use of
his reason as to employ it in perverting the truth, and especially the truth of history, seems a thing strange and hard to understand. It has been ascribed to the love of contention, to insincerity, the bias of theory, mental obliquity, and even imbecility. Whatever the cause, the failing is to be regretted in proportion to the mischief which it does. For instance, it is most desirable to know and spread the truth concerning our early shipping policy and the cause of its success, as there is not now before the country a civil question of higher importance than the best way of rehabititating our marine in the foreign trade. The problem cannot be even superficially considered without understanding the reasons which moved the fathers to create a merchant marine, and to select the adequate measures which proved successful. To obscure the motives, pervert the facts, and cover up our early shipping legislation with dust and doubt, is at once to strike a blow at the National interest and to do a good turn to foreign countries.
Foreign nations have no interest that it should be the concern of our citizens, much less of our Government officials, to
Nevertheless, it would seem that some of our public characters take no care to make distinctions when they should see that their theories and contentions run counter to their country's good. But for the persistence in the visionary, antiAmerican, and absurd notion that "free ships” would prove remedial for our shipping decline and decay, we might have had Congressional action on the right line twenty-five years ago. The delay has served the interest of foreign countries and been a great misfortune for our own. The end of this fatuity is not in sight. We have now a Commissioner of Navigation, retained as a relic in office, who conceives it his duty to antagonize the revival of the shipping policy of the fathers, and to do his utmost to misrepresent and cast reproach upon it, to deny its principle, and to insist that other causes than its application induced success. In other words, a part of our Government is engaged to-day, without scruple and without repugnance, in delaying and scouting the passage of measures vitally necessary to the rebuilding and maintenance of an American marine for the foreign trade.
Answering a request to look carefully over the specious monograph of the Commissioner of Navigation on our early shipping policy and its wise discriminating duties, which was issued from the Government printing office after the appearance of his Annual Report for 1896, and to set out a criticism of its eight “conclusions," I will omit much that might fitly be said, and be as brief as possible.
The Commissioner's “conclusions " drawn up at the end of eleven pages of print will be considered in their order. Taken singly or together, the postulation is unique and illustrates the genius of those gifted mortals who come into the world so wise as to have nothing to learn from its history or philosphy, or the skill and experience of practical men,
Reciprocity has always been the policy of the United States. Discrimination was resorted to only in retaliation for discrimination by other nations against our shipping."
The fact is that Congress took up the policy and adopted the measures in vogue in several of the States before the adoption of the Constitution. Foreign nations had, indeed, systems of ship protection, some ante-dating the acts of the Colonies, but it is absurd to contend that any of these retaliated against protection abroad. Protection was the plain, and sometimes the expressed purpose in view. The Commissioner's formulation is artful and sophistical. Why was discrimination "resorted to ?” For protection, was it not? What did discrimination accomplish? Protection did it not? Then why was not protection, instead of reciprocity, our early policy? It certainly was, for our coasting and inland navigation, and our shipbuilding-two of the three parts of our early policy-still survive and are protective, so much so as to be denounced by the votaries of free trade. Shipprotection in the foreign trade was alone suspended by the act of 1828. The proceedings of Congress leave no doubt at all that our early statemen intended to create, what the States separately failed in attempting, an American marine to supercede the foreign that engrossed our commerce in 1789. Our position was fairly stated by Mr. MADISON, the leader of the House, May 4, 1879, in the debate upon the tonnage duty, the original measure for shipping protection. Mr. Madison said :
“I conceive, Mr. Speaker, that we must consider this as a general question involving these points: How far is it expedient, at this time, to make a discrimination between foreign nations and the United States for the purpose of promoting and accelerating the improvement of the American navigation? And how far is it expedient to make such a discrimination between foreigners, as may induce them to permit us to extend our own navigation on principles of reciprocity? For I imagine those subjects will be found to be connected. The arguments offered against the measure are founded on a maxim of impolicy, It is