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be in the abstract to oppress trade; for we must have - for our consumption the manufactures of the country on which they are proposed to be laid.
3. To serve as a contrast to the conduct of Great Britain, we are told of the liberal overtures for a commercial treaty lately made by France.
It has been already remarked, that the conduct of France towards us since the commencement of the revolution, is no basis of reasoning: it has undergone as many revolutions as their political systems: their measures at one period, with respect to our tobacco, were of a complexion peculiarly hostile to us. The duty of twenty-five livres per kentle on that article, carried in our bottoms to France, and of only eighteen livres fifteen sous on the same article, carried in French bottoms, amounted to a complete prohibition to carry our tobacco in our own bottoms.
The duty of twenty livres per kentle on foreign fish is another important instance of severity of regulations, a duty admitted by the secretary of state to be prohibitory.
If there have been regulations and propositions of a more favorable nature, they are to be ascribed to causes of the moment. · During the continuance of the revolution, it is of necessity that we have carte blanche in the French West Indies. We know that we are getting admission into the British and Spanish Islands also.
And as to the overtures for a permanent system, Mr. Genet's instructions published by him explain the object. Privileges of trade in the West India Islands are to be the price of our becoming a party in the war. The declamations against the liberticide maxims of the ancient government and in favor of free principles of commerce, resolve themselves into this. This is a bargain which I trust a majority of this house will not be willing to make; I am sure our constituents would not thank us for it.
But it may be asked, are we to sit with folded arms and tamely submit to all the oppressions, restrictions
and exclusions to which our trade is subject—if not, what are we to do? I answer, nothing certainly at the present juncture. If the foundation of the question were more solid than I believe it to be, candidly and dispassionately considered, this is of all moments the most unfavorable for an experiment. Any movement of the kind would, as before observed, be construed into a political maneuvre and an attempt to embarrass one of the belligerent powers, and would interest the feelings of all those united with her, producing consequently either war or additional trammels in cvery quarter upon our trade; besides the weighty argument, that the great source of subsidiary supply to which we might have heretofore looked has been obstructed.
But I answer further, that we ought with great caution to attempt any thing at a future day, till we have acquired a maturity which will enable us to act with greater effect, and to brave the consequences, even if they should amount to war, and till we have secured more adequate means of internal supply; to which point we should bend our efforts, as the only rational and safe expedient, in our present circumstances, for counteracting the effects of the spirit of monopoly, which more or less tinctures not the system of Great Britain merely, but that of all Europe. But this it seems is not the favorite course, it is not high seasoned enough for our political palate; we not only turn aside from it with neglect, but we object away the plainest provisions of the constitution to disable ourselves from pursuing it.
Every year, for years to come, will make us a more important customer to Great Britain, and a more important furnisher of what she wants. If this does not lead to such a treaty of commerce as we desire, the period is not very distant when we may insist with much better effect on what we desire, without any thing like the same degree of hazard. This last observation is not meant to be confined to Great Britain, but to extend to any other power, as far as the stipulations of treaty may permit.
Wisdom admonishes us to be patient, “to make haste slowly." Our progress is and will be rapid enough, if we do not throw away our advantages. Why should we be more susceptible than all the world? Why should this young country throw down the gauntlet in favor of free trade against the world? There may be spirit in it, but there will certainly not be prudence.
But again it may be asked, shall we put nations, disposed to a more liberal system, upon the same footing with those differently disposed? Will not this tend to produce an unfriendly treatment from all ?
I answer first, that I think it has been proved, that the nation against which we have been invited principally to aim our artillery, treats us with at least as much liberality as other nations, I mean in a commercial sense.
I answer secondly, that if there be nations, who are seriously disposed to establish with us more free and beneficial principles of trade, the path is plain ; let treaties be formed, fixing upon a solid basis the privileges which we are to enjoy, and the equivalent. I have no objection to granting greater privileges to one power than to another, if it can be put on the stable foundation of contract, ascertaining the boon and the equivalent. But I think it folly to be granting voluntarily boons at the expense of the United States without equivalent. The mode of treaty secures the ground; it is inoffensive to any third power. Our reply to objections would in that case be, “ here is the price to us clearly defined and fixed by treaty, for which we grant the greater advantages of which you complain : give us the price, and the like advantages are yours.
But capriciously to grant greater privileges by law to one nation than to another, when, upon a fair comparison, we are not better treated by one than by another, is neither equitable, politic, nor safe.
Let us then leave changes for the present to the course of national treaties, and continue to proceed in the path in which we have hitherto found prosperity and safetv.
SPEECH OF JOHN NICHOLAS,
MR. MADISON'S RESOLUTIONS,
DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED
STATES, JANUARY 16, 1794.
In the committee of the whole, Mr, Nicholas spoke as follows :
MR. CHAIRMAN, I FEEL a great embarrassment, in speaking on this subject, from a distrust of my ability to treat properly its acknowledged importance, and from the apparent expectation of the audience. I feel too, as the member from Maryland who spoke yesterday did, from the imputation of motives, well knowing that the Representatives of my country are industriously reported to be enemies of the government, and promoters of anarchy, and that the present measure is imputed to these principles. It is somewhat remarkable, that farther North we are charged with selfishness and want of attachment to the general welfare, for a supposed opposition to measures of the import of the present. I mention this contradictory inference, to show that the shameful designs, charged upon us, are not proved by the fact, and to place the guilt where it only exists, in the malignity of the accuser.
It is a commonly received opinion, that trade should be entrusted to the direction of those immediately interested in it, and that the actual course of it, is the best which it could take; this principle is by no means
a safe one, and as applied to the trade of America, is extremely fallacious. It can never be just, where the beginning and growth of commerce have not been free from all possible constraint as to its direction, as that can never be called a business of election, which has been created under foreign influence. The manner in which America was first peopled, and the nurture she received from Great Britain, afford the most striking contrast to the requisite beforementioned. The first inhabitants of America were educated in Great Britain, and brought with them all the wants of their own country; to be gratified chiefly by the productions of that country, aided by British capital in the settlement of the wilderness; and depending on the same means for the conveyance of its produce to a place of consumption, it was inevitable that the demand for British commodities should keep pace with the improvement of the country. In the commencement of American population and during its early stages, there does not appear to have been a chance of comparing the advantages of commercial connexion with different countries, and it will be found, that in its progress it was still more restrained. In the last years of the dependence of America on Great Britain, the principal part of America was occupied by large trading companies, composed of people in Great Britain, and conducted by factors, who sunk large sums in the hands of the farmers to attach them to their respective stores, by which means, competition was precluded, and a dependence on the supplies of those stores completely established. Since the revolution, the business has been conducted by persons in the habit of dependence on Great Britain, and who had no other capital than the manufactures of that country, furnished on credit. The business is still almost wholly conducted by the
In no stage of its growth then, does there appear to have been a power in the consumer to have compared the productions of Great Britain, with those of any other country, as to their quality or