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In the view which I shall take of the question, disengaging the inquiry from all topics of a political nature, I shall strictly confine myself to those which are commercial, and which alone are, in my judgment, properly connected with the subject.
Called upon to decide on propositions, merely commercial, and springing from a report, in its nature limited to commercial regulations, it would be as illtimed, as it would be irregular, to mingle with the discussion considerations of a political nature. I shall accordingly reject from the inquiry every idea which has reference to the Indians, the Algerines, or the Western Posts. Whenever those subjects require our deliberations, I shall not yield to any member in readiness to vindicate the honor of our country and to concur in such measures as our best interests may demand.
This line of procedure will, I trust, be deemed by those gentlemen who follow me the only proper one, and that the debate will be altogether confined to commercial views; these will of themselves open a field of discussion sufficiently spacious, without the intervention of arguments derived from other sources. It would indeed argue a weakness of ground in the friends of the propositions, and imply a distrust of the merits of their cause, were they compelled to bolster it up
with such auxiliaries, and to resort for support to arguments, not resulting from the nature of the subject, but from irrelative and extraneous considerations.
The propositions, as well as the report, being predicated upon facts and principles having relation to our commerce and navigation with foreign countries, by those facts and principles, and those alone, ought the propositions to stand or fall.
It will not be denied, that this country is at present in a very delicate crisis, and one requiring dispassionate reflection, cool and mature deliberation. It will be much to be regretted then, if passion should usurp
the place of reason; if superficial, narrow and prejudiced views should mislead the public councils from the true path of national interest.
The report of the secretary of state, on the privileges and restrictions on the commerce of the United States in foreign countries, is now before the committee. The tendency of that report, (whatever may have been the design of the reporter,) appears to be, to induce a false estimate of the comparative condition of our commerce with certain foreign nations, and to urge the legislature to adopt a scheme of retaliating regulations, restrictions and exclusions.
The most striking contrast, which the performance evidently aims at, is between Great Britain and France. For this reason, and as these are the two
with whom we have the most extensive relations in trade, I shall, by a particular investigation of the subject, endeavor to lay before the committee an accurate and an impartial comparison of the commercial systems of the two countries in reference to the United States, as a test of the solidity of the inferences which are attempted to be established by the report. A fair comparison can only be made with an eye to what may be deemed
the permanent system of the countries in question. The proper epoch for it, therefore, will precede the commencement of the pending French revolution.
The commercial regulations of France, during the period of the revolution, have been too fluctuating, too much influenced by momentary impulses, and, as far as they have looked towards this country with a favorable eye, too much manifesting an object of the moment, which cannot be mistaken, to consider them as a part of a system. But though the comparison will be made with principal reference to the condition of our trade with France and Great Britain antecedent to the existing revolution, the regulations of the subsequent period will perhaps not be passed over altogether unnoticed.
The table which I have before me, comprises the
principal features of the subject within a short compass. It is the work of a gentleman of considerable commercial knowledge, and I believe may be relied on for its correctness. An attentive reference to it will, with some supplementary remarks, convey a just conception of the object. A view to conciseness and simplicity has excluded from it all articles (the production and manufactures of the United States,) which are not of considerable importance.
Accustomed as our ears have been to a constant panegyric on the generous policy of France towards this country in commercial relations, and to as constant a philippic on the unfriendly, illiberal and persecuting policy of Great Britain towards us in the same relations, we naturally expect to find, in a table which exhibits their respective systems, numerous discriminations in that of France in our favor, and many valuable privileges granted to us, which are refused to other foreign countries; in that of Great Britain, frequent discriminations to our prejudice, and a variety of privileges refused to us, which are granted to other foreign nations. But an inspection of the table will satisfy every candid mind that the reverse of what has been supposed is truly the case; that neither in France nor the French West Indies is there more than one solitary and unimportant distinction in our favor, (I mean the article of fish oil, either with regard to our exports thither, our imports from thence, or our shipping; that both in Great Britain and the British West Indies, there are several material distinctions in our favor, with regard both to our exports thither and to our imports from thence, and, as it respects Great Britain, with regard also to our shipping; that in the market of Great Britain a preference is secured to six of our most valuable staples, by considerably higher duties on the rival articles of other foreign countries; that our navigation thither is favored by our ships, when carrying our own productions, being put upon as good a footing as their own ships, and by the exemption of se
veral of our productions, when carried in our ships, from duties which are paid on the like articles of other foreign countries carried in the ships of those countries; that several of our productions may be carried from the United States to the British West Indies, while the like productions cannot be carried thither from any other foreign country; and that several of the productions of those countries may be brought from thence to the United States, which cannot be carried from thence to any other foreign country.
These important differences in the systems of the two countries will appear more fully by passing in review each article, and presenting, at the same time, the remarks which it will suggest.
[Here Mr. Smith entered into a critical examination of our export trade with France and Great Britain, from which he drew an inference, that Great Britain and her dominions consumed annually a much greater amount of our commodities than France and her dominions, and consequently, that Great Britain was a much better customer, as a consumer, than France. He then proceeded to take a view of our import trade with those countries, from which he drew the conclusion, that Great Britain was our best furnisher as well as our best customer. Mr. Smith next adverted to our navigation with France and England. After going into a detail of facts upon this subject, he proceeded thus
We find then, upon a comprehensive and particular investigation of the system of Great Britain, that instead of its wearing an aspect particularly unfriendly towards us, it has in fact a contrary aspect; that compared with other foreign nations, it makes numerous and substantial discriminations in our favor; that it secures by means, which operate as bounties upon our commodities, a preference in her markets to the greatest number of our principal productions, and thereby materially promotes our agriculture and commerce; that in the system of France there is but a
single and not very important instance of a similar kind; that if France allows us some advantages of navigation in her islands, she allows the same advantages to all other foreign nations, while Great Britain allows advantages to our navigation with herself directly which she does not allow to other foreign nations; that if France admits our salted fish into her West India islands, she does it under such duties upon ours and such premiums upon her own as would exclude us from them, if she had capacity to supply herself, while she formally prohibits our flour; that if Great Britain excludes our fish from her islands, she freely admits our flour; that while France, as far as we are permitted to trade with her islands, lets in other foreign nations to a competition with us on equal terms, Great Britain excludes from a competition with most of the articles of the United States, which she admits into the islands, the like articles of other foreign countries; that while France permits us to be supplied directly from her islands with nothing more than she permits to other nations, and with only the two articles of molasses and rum, Great Britain allows us to be supplied directly from her islands with a considerable number of essential articles, and refuses a direct supply of those articles to other foreign countries; that if the system of France is somewhat more favorable to our navigation, that of Great Britain is far more favorable to our agriculture, our commerce, and to the due and comfortable supply of our wants; that Great Britain is a better furnisher than France of the articles we want, from other foreign countries, and a better customer for what we have to sell; and that the actual relations of commerce between the United States and Great Britain are more extensive and important than between the United States and France, and it may be added, or any other country in the world, for our trade with France is no doubt second in importance.
Where then is the ground for extolling the liberal