Our Merchant Marine: The Causes of Its Decline, And the Means to Be Taken For Its Revival.

By Lieut.-Commander F. E. Chadwick, U.S.N.

The total payments of freight money in 1879 were estimated by Dr. E. H. Walker, Statistician of the New York Produce Exchange, at 133,000,000 of dollars, of which 88,000,000 were paid for exports and 45,000,000 for imports. As our exports by sea in 1880 exceeded those of 1879 by 16 per cent., and our imports for 1880 exceeded those of 1879 by 63 per cent. We may fairly estimate that there were paid to ship-owners whose vessels were in the American trade, in the last fiscal year, not less than 177,000,000 of dollars for ocean-borne freights. Not less than $11,000,000 were paid by cabin passengers coming to and going from the United States, and not less than $12,500,000 were paid by immigrants.

American vessels carried in 1880 22 per cent, of our imports and 13 per cent, of our exports, so that the owners of foreign bottoms received $146,000,000 of this freight money against $31,000,000 received by Americans. Add $10,000,000 of the passage money paid by cabin passengers to the foreign freight receipts, and all the immigration money, and we have a total of 168,500,000 dollars as the amount paid to foreign bottoms in the American trade. This is much more than twice the excess of our imports of specie over our exports in 1880 ($75,891,391); is more than the excess of our exports of merchandise over the imports ($167,683,912); is 37 per cent, of the total value of our wheat crop in 1880 ($453,558,371); is more than 27 per cent, of the value of our corn crop ($617,485,125), and is about 60 per cent, of the value of our iron production in the same year ($296,557,685).

I give these statistics to show that from a money point of view this carrying trade is worth striving for, and that it represents a gigantic industry. Thirty years ago the relative positions of American and foreign tonnage were almost exactly reversed, and our merchants of that period could hardly have imagined that the time would so soon come when only 17 per cent, of our ocean commerce would be carried in our own ships.

Given ships, the ocean whereon to sail them, with freedom to enter almost every port in the world, why should we find it more difficult to make money in such a calling than do the men of other nations? Even before the Revolution, American ships were feared by British commercial circles as rivals, and, by 1790, our flag had found its way to almost every sea. By 1800 our over-sea tonnage was almost double that which it was ten years before (667,107 against 346,254); and thenceforward there was a general advance, with occasional reverses, until, in 1850, we almost equaled Great Britain in the carrying capacity of our ships, and had far outstripped her in the quality of our vessels and of the officers and men who sailed them.

This was the golden age of sailing ships. The American clipper, with yacht-like hull, perfect equipment, and commanded by men who were as a body unequalled then and scarcely since, were the favorites the world round, obtaining the highest freights, the lowest insurance, and making the quickest passages. The Flying Cloud, the Challenge, the Great Republic, are names of a day when we bade fair to possess the commercial sovereignty of the sea; and it is hard to realize, looking at the port of New York to-day, that the time was so shortly since when we felt thus secure in our supremacy. Steam was then but just beginning to assert itself. We had (1850) 44,942 tons of registered steam against the 187,631 of the United Kingdom. We were upon the eve of a change which our shipping-men failed to foresee, but which Englishmen did; and with this change disappeared our superiority. The decade between 1850 and 1860 saw scarcely any material advance in our registered steam tonnage; it touched its highest point in 1855, when there were 115,045 tons. The war came, and gave an increased momentum to the downward course of our sailing fleet; and in the sixteen years which have passed since our civil contest ended we have gone from bad to worse, and to-day have but half the registered tonnage of 1861 (1,352,810, against 2,642,628).

The history of the growth of our shipping interest is an interesting one; its beginnings were almost simultaneous with the establishment of our New England colonies, those of the southern portion of our coast showing no greater tendency to seafaring in the early days than they do now. This, however, was in the nature of things; the sterile and rocky coasts of New England enforced the seeking of a likelihood in some other way than by agriculture, and the men of the eastern colonies early became the carriers for those of the more fortunate lands of the south; the Newfoundland fisheries, too, famous for many years previous, were near at hand, and the people of Massachusetts Bay were not slow to use the immense advantage which proximity gave to them over the fishing fleets of England and France, which, years before any settlement in the present United States, had come yearly to the Banks. The first New England vessel entered the Thames in 1638, a remarkable fact, indicative of the energy of a colony of but eighteen years' growth, who so soon were able to practice one of the most difficult of arts, and to become in a few years largely their own carriers.

The trade between the mother country and the plantations quickly grew to great importance, and the endeavor to secure this trade exclusively for her own shipping, combined with the desire of injuring the Dutch, who at that time had nearly half the tonnage of the world, led to the passage by England of the Navigation Acts of 1650 and 1660, whereby the Dutch, who had largely entered into the American trade, were excluded.

The growth of our carrying trade, the laws which now govern it, its prosperity and its decline, are so intimately connected with that of Great Britain, that a statement of the origin and changes of the British Navigation Laws must necessarily have a place in any philosophic discussion of this question. An able resume is given in the evidence of Sir Stafford Northcote, at that time legal adviser to the Board of Trade, before the Parliamentary committee on the subject of the Navigation Laws in 1848. I shall take this evidence as a basis, as it was a clear and continuous statement by a high authority of the origin, growth and changes of the law which the free trade party of England was so desirous of abolishing, and which was abolished in the early part of the succeeding year (1849), against the strenuous and unremitting and well-intentioned efforts of the shipbuilding interest of the country. It is amusing to read now, in the light of after-events, the prophecies of the woe which was to follow the repeal of these famous acts.

The existence of these laws may be said to date from the time of the Commonwealth, but the earliest Navigation Laws of England date from the fifth year of Richard IL This was an enactment that no English subject should be allowed to export or import any merchandise except in British ships, on pain of forfeiture of ships and goods. It was modified in the next year, when it was found impossible to carry it into effect, by putting in a clause providing that if British ships could not be had, foreign ships might be used. Some years afterwards another act was passed, providing that British ships should carry goods at reasonable rates, and if they did not do so, foreign ships might be employed. This was followed by another act about the time of Henry VII, fixing the rates which were to be charged by British ships. There were two or three acts also passed between the reigns of Richard and Elizabeth which prohibited the importation of particular articles except in British ships, but the general rule was that goods were to be brought at certain rates of freight, and if British ships were not to be had at these rates, foreign ships might be used.

In the reign of Elizabeth this policy was reversed, the restrictions on importing in foreign ships were altogether abolished, and any goods could be imported or exported in any ship whatever, with a proviso that if in alien ships they should pay aliens' duties; it was a law, not of navigation, but of discrimination. There were two motives for the change given in the preamble to this act, viz. that the existing laws were injurious to commerce, and that it provoked the retaliation of foreign states.

The unimportant statutes between this and the time of Cromwell had relation to the colonial trade. The principal object of these acts was to cause the produce of the colonies to be sent to England, but they did not restrict their being sent in any particular ships. There was, however, an act in 1646 which removed the export duty on goods sent from England to the colonies in English ships, which amounted in fact to a discriminating duty in favor of these ships.

Foreign ships were first excluded from English colonies in 1650. Several of the colonies had remained on the side of the Stuarts and had given offence to the Commonwealth, and all trade with them was prohibited. The act of 1651 was the parent of the Navigation Act proper of 1660, and prohibited importation into England of the products of foreign countries, except in British ships, or in ships of the country of which they were the produce or from which they were generally exported. It appears this act originated from hostility to the Dutch, in order to destroy their very extensive carrying trade, though this does not appear upon the face of the act in any way. The expression of Adam Smith is well known, that "national animosity aimed at the same object which the most deliberate wisdom would have recommended." "It had been observed with concern that for several years past the merchants of England had usually freighted Dutch shipping for fetching home their merchandise, because their freight was at a lower rate than that of English ships. The Dutch shipping was employed in the importation of our own American products, whilst our own shipping lay rotting in our harbors; our mariners, also, for want of employment at home, went into the service of the Dutch."

In the reign of Charles II, one of the first enactments| was to reenact the laws of the Commonwealth, combining the colonial system established by Cromwell, and the navigation. In one act, commonly known as the First Navigation Act. The preamble of this act puts it on the footing of the encouragement of British shipping. In Cromwell's law there was no distinction as to build of ships. In the Navigation Act of Charles II, the trade of the plantations was confined to ships owned by the English, or built in the plantations, but it was not until 1662 that it was enacted "That no foreign-built ship shall enjoy the privileges of English or Irish built ships, even though the owners be Englishmen; prize ships only exempted." "This statute," says Sir Stafford Northcote, "did not wholly prohibit the employment of foreign-built ships, but subjected them to aliens' duties on the same principle that aliens were always charged double duties." Sir Stafford continues, "In 1686 the British coasting trade was closed to foreign-built ships, the preamble of the act citing the decay of the shipbuilding trade as the cause, although ever since the time of Elizabeth it had been confined to ships owned by British subjects." Thus, notwithstanding the closure of the trade of the colonies to foreign shipping, it is clear that the home shipping trade was not in a happy condition. There can be no question, of course, that some benefits accrued from the exclusive use of British ships in the colonial traffic. A new world was opening up, and the rapidly increasing demand for tonnage would in any case have given some impetus to the shipping trade; but the Dutch, in spite of the repressive measures chiefly leveled at them (a fact which they so fully understood that we have the famous naval contests between themselves and the English as mementoes of the period), still prospered, and it is clear that in 1680, after thirty years' restriction, the Dutch occupied much the same status in relation to the English that the latter occupy towards ourselves to-day.

There was much complaint of the action of the Navigation Laws in the colonies. Sir William Berkeley, Governor of Virginia, in 1671, says: "Mighty and destructive have been the obstructions to our trade and navigation by that severe act of Parliament which excludes us from having any commerce with any nation of Europe but in our own ships; we cannot add to our plantations any commodity that grows out of it, as olive trees or cotton or vines. Besides this, we cannot procure any skilful men for our own hopeful commodity of silk, and it is not lawful for us to carry pipe-stems or a bushel of corn to any place in Europe out of the king's dominions. If this were for his majesty's service, or the good of the subject, we should not repine whatever in our suffering, but on my soul it is contrary for both, and this is the cause why no small or great vessels are built here. For all are most obedient to the laws, whilst the New England men break through them and trade to any place that their interest leads them to." The words of the act of 1663 will fully explain the grounds of this complaint. It was then enacted "That for the further improvement of former Navigation Acts, no merchandise of the growth, production or manufacture of Europe shall be imported into any of the English plantations or factories in Asia, Africa, or America, but what shall be laden in England in English-built shipping, and navigated by at least three-fourths English mariners, and shall be carried directly from England, and nowhere else, on forfeiture of ships and ladings; and none of the products of English plantations, viz. sugar, tobacco, ginger, fustic and other drugs, shall be carried anywhere (except to other plantations) till they be first landed in England, under the like forfeiture of ships and cargoes."Scotland was not admitted to the trade of the plantations until the union in 1706, and Ireland not until 1780. The prohibition of trade between the colonies and foreign countries held until 1766, but there had been throughout these years a lucrative illicit traffic with the foreign West India colonies, which the British government was obliged to largely ignore.

It is clearly to be seen from all that is said on this subject, whether by Child, Macpherson, Chalmers, or by those who testified before the committees of 1 844-1 848, that the commerce with the American colonies had a paramount influence upon the direction of British laws regarding shipping up to the period of our Revolution. A field for the employment of shipping had been opened far surpassing in importance any ever before known. Sir Josiah Child, an enthusiastic supporter of the Navigation Act, estimated in 1670 that two-thirds of English shipping was employed in the American trade; the energetic Dutch had been forced elsewhere, and the whole of the great and growing traffic was in the hands of England, who, in the light of the times, was conscious of having right on her side; no one at that period expressing a thought that colonies were founded other than exclusively for the benefit of the mother country. But it was soon seen that their fellow-countrymen on this side of the Atlantic were also to claim a share in this trade, and American competition had so increased by 1725 that in that year "the shipwrights of the river (Thames) came up to Whitehall with a complaint that their business declined and their workmen emigrated because the plantations furnished England with ships." English trade in other ways was suffering; the manufactures established in the colonies were beginning to seriously interfere with the sales of the British merchant. A commission of the House of Commons at this time, in a report upon the subject, states "that it were wished that some expedient might be fallen upon to direct their thoughts from undertakings of this kind. So much the rather that those manufactures in process of time may be carried on in a greater degree, unless an early stop be put to their progress, by employing them in naval stores." An attempt was even made to prohibit the exportation of the " great numbers of horses and great quantities of lumber " from the continental colonies to the foreign sugar colonies, on the ground that the latter were thus "enabled to more easily carry, on their sugar plantations." A bill to this effect passed the Commons, but failed in the House of Peers.

In 1733, however, a tax of 6d. per gallon of molasses and 5s. per cwt. of sugar was laid on all such imported from any but the British West Indies (6 Geo. II. c. 13), naturally to the great grievance of the North American colonies, who were thus prevented bringing return freights from any islands than those subject to the British crown. In this same year too, "as the manufacture of hats had long since been brought to perfection in England, and great quantities thereof annually exported to foreign ports, and particularly to the British American plantations till of late years; and as great quantities are now made in the northern plantations, and from thence exported to foreign markets which were heretofore supplied therewith from Great Britain, for remedy thereof it was enacted that no hats or felt whatever should be exported from any of the plantations to foreign parts, nor be laden with that intent, under forfeiture thereof, and of £500 for every such offence." None were permitted to make hats in the colonies but those who had served an apprenticeship of seven years, and "no master is to have at any time above two apprentices, nor employ any negro in that manufacture" (5 Geo. II. c. 22). "The conveniences, in point of cheapness, which the Americans have beyond their mother country in the plenty of beaver, hair, coney-wool and many other furs gave them such advantages that, had they not been thus restrained, they would soon have supplied all the world with hats."

I give the above to show something of the restrictions of our early commerce; but lest this be thought exceptionally absurd, it is well to state that the regulation regarding the number of apprentices had held in England for many years previous, and it was not so dissonant with the public opinion of the time as one would think; only one hundred years before (in 1630), "the King issued another proclamation against erecting houses on new foundations in London, Westminster, or within three miles of any of the gates of London or of the palace of Westminster; also against entertaining inmates in houses, which would multiply the inhabitants to such an excessive number that they could neither be governed nor fed." Such interference with affairs was frequent, and even extended to insistence upon the deprivation of the mass of the people from eating meat in Lent, "so that the fisheries of the kingdom might be encouraged, and the number of seamen employed therein increased." These are but examples of the interference with personal liberty of a comparatively unenlightened age. It took many generations to produce a mind in England wise enough to doubt that such laws as applied to foreign intercourse were otherwise than right and efficacious. In 1849 she shook herself free of the trammels which even then her shipbuilders and thousands of others, men generally wise in affairs, regarded as her safeguard. More than thirty years have passed since then, and we are still clinging to laws patterned after those which England has discarded. It would seem axiomatic that permanent prosperity cannot be secured by beggaring our neighbors, but it is precisely this principle which governed the legislation of Great Britain for two centuries, and which still has its weight in ours to-day.

From 1733 onwards the restrictions regarding our commerce increased, and at the time of the beginning of the War for Independence the American colonies could import or export nothing but in British vessels (colonial ships however being regarded as British).

They could not export the most important articles of their produce to any part of Europe other than Great Britain.

They could import no goods from any part, of Europe other than Great Britain.

Notwithstanding these and other laws of like tenor, our shipping had grown and prospered. On the register of the underwriters at Lloyd's for 1775, comprehending the shipping of the three preceding years, there were 3908 British-built vessels of 605,545 tons, and 2311 of American build with a tonnage of 373,618.

Macpherson gives the following returns of vessels built in three years before our commerce had become seriously affected by the preliminary difficulties of our struggle.

            1769                                        1770                                        1771

 

Colony

Square rigged vessels

Sloops and schooners

Tons

Square rigged vessels

Sloops and schooners

Tons

Square rigged vessels

Sloops and schooners

Tons

N. Hampshire

16

29

2425

27

20

3581

15

40

4991

Massachusetts

40

97

8013

31

118

7274

42

83

7704

Rhode Island

8

31

1428

16

49

2035

15

60

2148

Connecticut

7

43

1542

5

41

1522

7

39

1483

New York

5

14

955

8

10

960

9

28

1698

New Jersey

1

8

83

..

..

..

..

2

70

Pennsylvania

14

8

1469

8

8

2354

15

6

1307

Maryland

9

11

1344

7

10

1545

10

8

1645

Virginia

6

21

1269

6

15

1105

10

9

1678

North Carolina

3

9

607

..

5

125

..

8

241

South Carolina

4

8

789

..

3

52

3

4

560

Georgia

0

2

50

..

3

57

2

4

543

Totals

113

276

20001

118

282

20610

128

291

24065

Chalmers estimates the value of our imports from the West Indies immediately preceding the Revolution at £500,000 sterling yearly.

In 1772, 282 American vessels of 32,457 tons cleared from the British West Indies, against 397 English of 63,114 tons.  Notwithstanding the effort of the government in 1766 to rigidly enforce the laws of non-intercourse with the foreign West India colonies, the trade thither was too valuable and important to be given up.  The Spanish islands afforded us our chief supply of silver, and this supply enabled us to pay for the large excess of our imports from, over our own exports to, Great Britain, the balance of trade between ourselves and the mother country being previous to 1764 largely against us.  The following tables show the state of our trade in 1769, though at this time it was somewhat injuriously affected by the parliamentary enactments of the preceding five years.

Imports in £ Sterling

 

 

From Great Britain

From South of Europe

From West Indies

From Africa

Totals

New Hampshire

Massachusetts

Rhode Island

Connecticut

 

} 223,696

652

21,908

2,581

267

48,529

155,387

56,840

53,944

..

..

180

..

 

} 564,034

New York

75,831

14,927

97,420

698

188,976

New Jersey

..

327

1,644

..

1,990

Pennsylvania

204,980

14,249

180,592

..

399,820

Maryland

Virginia

} 714,944

4,683

9,442

32,198

77,454

5,400

7,020

} 851,140

North Carolina

South Carolina

} 327,083

933

6,166

10,604

65,666

1,080

124,181

} 535,714

Georgia

58,341

547

9,407

13,440

81,735

Totals

1,604,975

76,684

789,754

151,998

2,623,412

Exports in £ Sterling

 

 

To Great Britain

To South of Europe

To West Indies

To Africa

Totals

New Hampshire

Massachusetts

Rhode Island

Connecticut

 

} 142,775

464

16,702

1,440

2,567

40,431

123,394

65,226

79,3995

97

9,801

7,815

..

 

} 550,089

New York

113,882

50,885

66,324

1,313

231,906

New Jersey

..

..

2,531

560

22,531

Pennsylvania

28,112

203,752

178,331

..

410,757

Maryland

Virginia

} 759,961

66,555

73,365

22,305

68,946

..

..

} 991,401

North Carolina

South Carolina

} 405,014

3,238

72,881

27,944

59,814

72

619

} 569,584

Georgia

82,270

614

13,285

..

96,179

Totals

1,531,516

552,736

747,910

20,278

2,852,447

An annual average of 2,953,042 gallons of rum were imported from 1770-1773 from the West Indies to the present United States, besides molasses, nearly the whole export of which came to New England for the manufacture of rum.  Not all of this rum was used in the United States however; in 1773, 608,025 gallons went to Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Newfoundland, and 416,366 gallons to Africa, for purposes which can be easily understood.  New England was not at that time careless of the profits to be derived from the slave trade (in this however being not below the level of the opinion of the time), and held to them with a tenacity which made itself felt in national legislation on the subject many years later.

The close of the Revolution found us with but little shipping on our hands, excepting the privateers which had been successful, the vessels which had been captured, and the regular ships of war which we built or purchased. But that the first served as a good school for seamen is shown by the statement made in the House of Peers in 1778, "that 733 vessels had been taken by the Americans, of which forty-seven had been returned and 127 retaken. The value of the remainder appeared from the statements of merchants to be at least £2,6oo,ooo. . . . Insurance to the West Indies was raised from two and a-half per cent, with convoy, and to fifteen without, though in general no insurance at all could be made on ships in such circumstances." Coxe's "View of the United States of America" says, "The most important consequence of the expulsion of American fishermen from their legitimate employment was that almost all the men and fast sailing vessels were immediately employed in privateering, and that 1095 British vessels were carried, in the course of the war, into the ports of Boston, Salem, Beverly, Newburyport, Marblehead, Gloucester, Haverhill and Ipswich, in the middle district of Massachusetts Bay, as appears by the record of the maritime court, besides what were carried into other ports, and those that were retaken, which were estimated to have been about half as many as were carried into port by the captors. At least 550 sail were computed to have been taken by the privateers belonging to the other two districts of Massachusetts Bay; and those belonging to the fishing ports of the other New England governments were equally successful in destroying British commerce. Infinitely better," continues the author, "had it been for British merchants if the hostilities of these men and vessels had still been directed against whales and cods." These captures show in themselves the extent to which our shipping interest had already grown. With peace came the question of the status of American ships in trade with British dominions. Mr. Adams represented our willingness to enter into a commercial treaty, and he proposed that the United States and the United Kingdom and its colonies should be placed somewhat on the same footing as to commercial and maritime affairs as before the war; the principal demand being that the ports of the United States and those of the West Indies, as also those of British North America, should be on a reciprocal footing of navigation and trade. The West India colonies urgently upheld this demand; opinion in England was much divided, and there was a war of pamphlets, relics of which we have in the volumes of Mr. Chalmers and of Lord Sheffield, both of whom were vehemently opposed to this view; the latter going so far as to advise that the Barbary corsairs should be treated as leniently as possible, as, the United States having no navy, our commerce with southern Europe would fall an easy prey, and England would thus be rid of a rival in this trade without trouble or expense to herself.

Mr. Pitt, then prime minister, leaned to the broader and wiser view, and brought forward a bill, March 5, 1783, authorizing a free and entire intercourse between the United States and the British dominions, but his ministry going out on the 2d of April on another question, it was defeated under the succeeding ministry, and an act was passed enabling the king to regulate the trade between the two countries by orders in council. The new government held to a rigid interpretation of the Navigation Acts, and the orders in council issued allowed only certain enumerated articles to be imported from the United States to the West Indies, and these only in British vessels.

The extreme rigidity of the orders issued in this and succeeding years occasioned very great dissatisfaction and resentment in America. The General Court of Massachusetts passed at act prohibiting the export of any American products or manufactures from their ports in vessels owned by British subjects after August 1, 1785; the temper of other colonies was shown in similar resolutions, and on the meeting of the first Congress in 1789 one of the most important questions before it was that of the regulation of our foreign commercial intercourse.

This question of the regulation of commerce had been intimately associated, in the convention which framed the Constitution, with that of the slave trade. An able resume of the proceedings on this subject is given by Mr. David A. Wells in the New York World of February 21, 1881. "The fourth section of the seventh article of the Constitution of the United States as originally reported by the Committee of, Detail, provided that ' no tax or duty shall be laid by the legislature on articles exported from any State, nor on the migration or importation of such persons as the several States shall think proper to admit; nor shall such migration or importation be prohibited.'" Mr. Luther Martin, of Maryland, held this latter clause as "inconsistent with the principles of the Revolution, and dishonorable to the American character to have such a feature in the Constitution." Messrs. Rutledge and Pinckney, of South Carolina, and Mr. Baldwin, of Georgia, warmly protested against Mr. Martin's proposition to amend this section by authorizing Congress to lay a tax or prohibition at discretion upon the importation of slaves, as uncalled-for interference with the slave trade. Mr. Ellsworth and Mr. Sherman, of Connecticut, were both for leaving the clause as reported. "Let every State," they said, "import what they please." George Mason, of Virginia, expressed himself with great energy in opposition to the views of the delegates from Connecticut. "This infernal traffic," he said, "originated in the avarice of British merchants," and "he lamented that some of our eastern brethren had, from lust of gain, embarked in this nefarious traffic." The whole question was finally referred to a committee; and what this committee did is told by Luther Martin, one of its members, in a letter to the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates. "I found the Eastern States, notwithstanding their aversion to slavery, very willing to indulge the Southern States, at least with a temporary liberty to prosecute the slave trade, provided the Southern States would gratify them by laying no restriction on the enactment of Navigation Acts; and after a little time the committee agreed on a report by which the general government was to be prohibited from preventing the importation of slaves for a limited time, and the restrictive clause relative to Navigation Acts was to be omitted." (Elliott's Debates, second edition. Vol. I, p. 373.)

"The limit set by this committee was 1800; but when the report came before the convention, Mr. Pinckney, of South Carolina, moved to amend by substituting 1808 in lieu of 1800, as the term of the permitted traffic, and this motion was seconded by Mr. Gorham, of Massachusetts." In the vote carrying this amendment, "all of the three New England States, with South Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, and North Carolina, voted for it, and Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, voted against it."

"Thus by an understanding, or as Gouverneur Morris called it, ‘a bargain,' between the commercial representatives of the Northern States and the delegates of South Carolina, and in spite of the opposition of Maryland and Virginia, the unrestricted power of Congress to enact Navigation Laws was conceded to the Northern merchants; and to the South Carolina rice-planters as an equivalent, twenty years' continuance of the African slave trade." (Hildreth's United States, Vol. Ill, p. 520.)

The first Congress thus imposed discriminating duties on articles imported from India or China in foreign vessels, by act approved July 4, 1789.

July 20, 1789, a tax of six cents a ton was laid on vessels belonging to citizens of the United States; thirty cents a ton on vessels built in the United States belonging wholly or in part to subjects of foreign powers; and fifty cents a ton on all built and owned abroad. This tax, in the case of vessels built and owned in the United States, and employed in the coasting trade or fisheries, was payable yearly; in all other cases at every entry. 

Efforts were made later to increase this tax, but to this the Southern States as a rule were opposed, claiming that these restrictions were in general detrimental to their commerce, as they were obliged chiefly to depend upon foreign tonnage for the export of their products.

Dec. 31, 1792, the Registration Act, in substance as it is to-day, was passed.

Feb. 18, 1793, the coasting trade was wholly closed to foreign vessels. Our own sea traffic had rapidly increased; our ships had found their way to China by 1785, and were pushing themselves everywhere where trade was possible. The political complications of Europe were at this time a great aid, as we were about the only neutral bottoms, but later it would seem to us of to-day that the risks of such trade much more than outweighed the benefits.

Judging from the general tenor of the expression of opinion on the part of the best known men of this period, one cannot but think that our laws at this time were retaliatory in character rather than being the expression of a settled policy. The conduct of Great Britain made such laws a necessity. The country at large would have been much better satisfied with a free and unrestricted trade in shipping. Our present laws are the legacy of a procedure forced upon us; though a fitting of ourselves to actual circumstances has brought us to believe, as the English believed of theirs, that success can only lie in their retention.

The excessively unsatisfactory state of our commercial relations with Great Britain led to the special mission of Mr. Jay and to the formation of the treaty of 1794. By this treaty the citizens of the United States were permitted to carry, in vessels not exceeding seventy tons, to the British West Indies, all such products and manufactures of the United States as could be lawfully carried from the United States to the Islands in British vessels, and also carry back all West Indian produce that might be lawfully carried in British vessels. No discriminating duties were to be levied by either country. The United States, however, were expressly debarred from carrying molasses, sugar, coffee, cotton, &c., the produce of the West Indies, to any other part of the world. The liberty of continuing to trade to the territories of the British in the East Indies was confirmed; the government of the United States engaging that such vessels as traded thither should carry goods from India only to America. This treaty was sanctioned by the United States, April 20, 1796, though the British Parliament did not pass the act for carrying it into effect until July 4, 1797.

We had now entered upon the stormy era in which our shipping interests were ground between the upper and nether millstones of British and French aggression and spoliation. The American state papers of the period afford most curious reading. Our ships were seized in all waters under any or no pretext. "According to a document sent to Congress in 1812, the number of the British captures and seizures of vessels since the commencement of the continental war was 917, of which 528 had occurred previous to, and 389 since, the orders in council of Nov. 1807. The French seizures and captures were 558, of which 206 were before, 317 under, the Berlin and Milan decrees, and 45 after the alleged repeal. The Danish captures amounted to 70 and the Neapolitan to 47 (properly French). The actual losses, however, by France exceeded those suffered from England " (on account of the much greater number condemned and destroyed). Our claims against France on account of these spoliations amounted to 80,000,000 francs.

The trade carried on in the face of the outrageously sweeping and rigorous decrees of Napoleon and the British Government must have been enormously remunerative, else there had been a general outcry for war. As it was we had a short-lived maritime contest with France, but in the succeeding years we underwent tremendous humiliation and losses. In spite of these our tonnage gradually crept up. 346,254 in 1790, it was 529,471 in 1795, 667,107 in 1800, 744,224 in 1805, 981,019 in 1810.

These figures show a wondrous energy and enterprise on the part of our merchants and ship-owners in the face of the difficulties which beset them.

In 1811 our registered tonnage suddenly fell to 763,607, and in 1814 had decreased to 574,633, reductions due to the war of 1812 and the troubles preceding it. By the treaty of 1815 the equalization of the duties on tonnage and imports was extended to the vessels of both nations as far as related to the British dominions in the East and the United States. By that treaty the English confirmed to the United States free direct communication with their East Indian possessions, and British merchandise and vessels were exempted from payment of extra duties, provided the vessels arrived from the East Indies and the merchandise consisted of their growth, produce or manufactures. There was, however, a special provision that the intercourse between the British West Indies and the United States should remain as before. Retaliatory enactments on our part had their effect. Our ports were virtually closed by laws of 1817 and 1818 to British vessels coming from British North America and West Indian colonies. The President was empowered to open our ports by proclamation on the same terms as those granted our shipping in foreign ports, and in 1822 there was a considerable relaxation in British colonial trade. In 1823 arose another war of restrictions, which did not cease until perfect reciprocity was established in 1830; and in November of this year a British Order in Council was issued, "authorizing vessels of the United States to import into British possessions abroad any produce of the United States from those States, and to export goods from the British possessions abroad to any foreign countries whatever." Previous to this we had entered into relations of reciprocity with nearly all the Northern European States, much to the benefit of our trade, especially with North Germany.

The whole history of our legislative enactments during this time in relation to shipping clearly shows a willingness to place foreign shipping upon an equal footing in our own ports with that granted our own abroad; and every act which loosened the trammels of commerce has but proved the wisdom of non-restriction. In 1830 we fully entered upon the era of reciprocity. Our registered tonnage had increased from 674,633 in 1814 to 854,295 in 1816, from which it almost as quickly decreased to 589,954 in 1818. Our shipbuilders had not taken into account the immense British tonnage set free by the general peace, and had overbuilt. It was not until 1838 that our steady upward rise began, and we entered upon a career that was as successful in its day as that of the English is to-day. There is a wide difference, however, in the circumstances; the instrument of our success was sails, that of the English steam.

The repeal of the British Navigation Acts in the year 1849 marks an era in the history of shipping. Loss of trade, decrease in the value of shipping property, failures among shipbuilders, brought about an agitation which resulted in this vital change, which fitly crowned the work of the men who brought about the repeal of the corn laws and had changed the character of Parliamentary representation.

These laws, as they stood immediately preceding the repeal, were as follows:

"1st. Certain enumerated articles of European produce could only be imported into the United Kingdom, for consumption, in British ships, or in ships of the country of which they were the produce, or in ships of the country from which they were usually imported.

"2d. No produce of Asia, Africa, or America could be imported for consumption into the United Kingdom from Europe in any ships; and such produce could only be imported from any other place in British ships, or in ships of the country of which the goods were the produce and from which they were usually imported.

"3d. No goods could be carried coastwise from one part of the United Kingdom to another in any but British ships.

"4th. No goods could be imported from the United Kingdom to any of the British possessions in Asia, Africa, or America (with some exceptions in regard to India), except in British ships.

"5th. No goods could be carried from any one British possession in Asia, Africa, or America to another, nor from one part of such possession to another part of the same but in British ships.

"6th. No goods could be imported into any British possession in Asia, Africa, or America in any but British ships, or in ships of the country of which the goods were the produce; provided, also, in such case, that such ships brought the goods from that country.

"7th. No foreign ships were allowed to trade with any of the British possessions unless they had been specially authorized to do so by order in council; and

"8th. Powers were given to the Queen in Council which enabled her to impose differential duties on the ships of any foreign country which did the same with reference to British ships; and also to place restrictions on importations from any foreign country which placed restrictions on British importations into such country."

This extraordinary series of laws, the product of two hundred years' legislation on the subject, repealed, added to, amended until it became in substance what has just been given, is a stupendous monument of unwisdom; the best example in the history of legislative enactment of blindly doing that least calculated to attain the desired end. I know no more valuable or interesting reading for the student of this subject than the testimony taken before the Parliamentary Committees of 1844 and 1847, whose reports formed the basis of the repeal. The bill passed the Commons in April, the Lords in May, and, June 26, 1849, received the Royal assent and became law; it having been opposed throughout in the most vehement manner by the entire shipbuilding interest of the country.

Our shipping at this time had come into most marked competition with that of Great Britain. Our registered tonnage had gone from 762,838 in 1840 to 1,047,454 in 1847. British tonnage in the same time had risen from 3,311,538 to 3,952,524, about one-fifth of which was colonial, but our ships were making money while theirs were not. As the period between 1840 and 1855 marks our era of greatest success in the carrying trade, the reasons for this success form a most important point in this discussion.

At this period the average of the percentage of American shipping in the total which entered our ports was about seventy per cent. In 1820 it was as high as ninety, and had remained about 88 per cent, until 1831, when it fell to 76.6; it gradually fell to 63 per cent, in 1837, but rose to 69 in 1838, and from thence on to 1847 was as stated. British tonnage at the same time was an average of 83 per cent, of the total foreign tonnage which came to America. The annexed tables furnished the Parliamentary Committee of 1847 by

Mr. Robert B, Minturn, of New York, are interesting as a statement of the state of our carrying trade.

Mr. Minturn’s testimony was amongst the most valuable, as being that of one who knew intimately the state of our own shipping trade and was well acquainted with that of England.

It was clearly shown by repeated testimony that there was an undoubted preference given to American ships in the trade between England and the United States, and that in this trade Americans received higher freights.  Captain Briggs, an American shipmaster, states that an American ship would receive one-sixteenth of a penny per pound more for freight on cotton than an English one, and he also estimates that we had two-thirds of the trade between Great Britain and ourselves.  He thinks (Ques. 4846) that Americans carried more goods, making more trips in the course of the year, than the English; he attributed this largely to the fact that English masters were as a rule paid by the month, and Americans received a percentage on the cargo besides a fixed pay.  American captains too were often also part owners in the ship. The abolition of spirits on board ship he thinks had a most marked effect; insurance companies insured at lower rates, or (as testified Mr. Minturn) in the earlier days of the temperance movement the underwriters returned ten per cent, of the insurance on those vessels which made their voyages without spirits. The abolition of spirits also tended to decrease the number of men carried.

Our ships (Mr. Minturn) carried fewer men, but two and a half as a rule to the hundred tons against three and a half or four in the British service. The pay as a rule was much higher, $18 a month being paid in the Transatlantic trade at New York against £2 10s. in Liverpool. The proportion of men to the tonnage given by Mr. Minturn referred "to ships of from goo to 1200 tons, and which were manned with a view to making as short passages as possible." "In our common freighting ships we have a smaller number, say 2 ½ to the 100 tons. The Henry Clay, 1207 tons American measurement, has 30 sailors, 2 boys and a carpenter. There is another ship of 1400, a three-deck ship, which measures about the same in American as English tonnage, and she had about the same number of men as the Henry Clay. The number carried has much diminished of late years. No ships of any nation carry heavier cargoes than ours, and as evidence that they did not suffer more than others it may be stated that they commanded through this year quite as high freights as any others, and were insured at lower rates."

A comparison was given by Mr. W. Phillips (Ques. 6606) of the crews carried in Hamburg and British ships and the wages paid per month, by which it appears that in these two of the same size the wages in the British vessel exceeded that of the other by more than £15 per month (£40 10s. against £25 2S, 8d.) In a British vessel of 448 tons, given as an example, the master received £10 per month, £5 table money, one-half of the freight carried in the cabin and two-thirds the cabin passage money; the ship provided each passenger with a foremast hand's rations, the master supplying what were regarded as luxuries. The mate received £5 5s., second mate received £3 10s., carpenter received £5, steward received £3, cook received £2 15s., sixteen seamen received £2 5s. each. The total monthly wages were thus £53 10s., exclusive of the captain's.

The cost of provisioning the men was in all the trades from is. 3d. to 1s. 5d. per day, being in this regard slightly in excess of the cost in American ships, which Captain Briggs estimated at 30 cents a day.

The wages at this period in Prussian ships were: Master, £4. 10s. per month; mate, £2 14s. per month; carpenter, £2 0s. 6d. per month; boatswain, £1 13s. per month; seamen, £1 7s. and £1 0S. 3d. per month; boys 13s. 6d. per month.

The number of men employed in Mr. Minturn's ships hardly give a fair idea of the number of men we employed at that time per hundred tons, as the vessels he owned were much larger than the average ship. In 1844, in an average of 575 American ships, 3.29 men were carried per 100 tons; in 1845, in an average of 741 ships, 3.22; in 1846, in an average of 744 ships, 3.19. In the same years the average numbers employed in British ships in trade with the United States were 3.96, 4.21, 3.72, respectively. These numbers include all except officers.

The cost of British ships was undoubtedly somewhat greater than those of most other nations; it being stated in the evidence as from £17 to £20 per ton ready for sea. This price was for vessels rating at the Lloyds A1 for twelve years. Mr. Minturn gave the price of the New York packets, "universally acknowledged to be the best

ships built in America, all of which had in them a portion of live oak, as about seventy dollars per ton, exclusive of the cabins" (the cost of the cabins would in a 1200 ton ship add about five dollars a ton to the cost). English measurement differed however from American measurement, in that in England poop cabins were estimated, so that the Henry Clay of 1207 tons American measured 1467 tons English when she came to be measured for light dues in Liverpool. In flush-deck ships, however, the measurements were about the same.

It seems that the British ships employed in the general trade were much inferior to those in special trades, and from analysis of the evidence it seems quite clear that the cost of a ship in England was not greater than the cost of one of an equal class in America. Captain Briggs testifies that the first cost is equal, and that repairs are more cheaply done in England than here (in this differing with Mr. Minturn). As we imported all our iron, our chain cables, much of our canvas, all our sheet copper, and as much of our timber was brought from the Southern States (the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida), and as our wages were much higher, one can hardly resist the conclusion that it must have been quite as expensive to put afloat a first-class ship here as in England. Mr. Young, a veteran English shipbuilder, and a vehement opposer of any change in the Navigation Laws, testified that "a ship built to stand for twelve years on the first letter would cost £18 per ton; it is my opinion that a ship so built as to stand for eleven years on the first letter would cost £1 less, or £17 a ton, and so downwards"'—the ship costing one pound per ton less for each year taken from her standing. A ten-year ship would thus cost £16 per ton. Captain Briggs (American) testified that our ships which had cost £16 3. ton to build in 1844, were costing £20 a ton in 1847 (in this differing very materially with Mr. Minturn), and "that the Americans have no ship that would stand for twelve years in this country " (England).

It seems clear from an analysis of the evidence that our ships cost nearly as much as English ships of the same class.

That our wages for seamen were much higher, from sixteen to eighteen dollars against £2 5s. or £2 10s. That the cost of victualling was about equal.

That though we carried fewer men by 18 per cent., this difference was largely offset by the fact that a large part of the greater number in British ships were boys, which British law required to be carried as apprentices.

Wherein, therefore, was our superiority?

Our models were finer, which aided our ships in making more frequent passages.

Our captains had a greater interest in making quick and frequent passages, and in carrying the cargo in good condition; greater attention was paid to stowage, the master himself generally attending to this, instead of its being, as in British ships, looked after by a mate.

Our captains were men of far higher intelligence than most of those in other employ; many of the best and most substantial families of the country having representatives afloat as masters or mates of ships. Many of these officers had entered before the mast to learn their profession, or indeed this may be said of most of them. Finally, as the last of our own qualifications, our ships were temperance ships, "not one in a hundred," as was testified by Captain Briggs, "carrying spirits."

These good qualities would have availed us little had not England brought them so in relief by the character of her merchant officers. A circular was issued July 1, 1843, requesting information on this head from British consular officers, and the answers sent in clearly show one great reason for the greater trust in American ships and American masters. Consul Baker, of Riga, says: "I am sorry to state that in my opinion the British commercial marine is at present in a worse condition than that of any other nation I have always been convinced that while British ship-owners gain more by the more economical manner in which their vessels are navigated, they are great losers from the serious delays occasioned, while on the voyage and discharging and taking in cargoes, growing out of the incapacity of their shipmasters and their intemperate habits. I have had occasion to remark while Consul in the United States that American vessels, in particular, will make three voyages to two of a British vessel, .... and also from their superior education and consequent business habits, obtaining better freights and employment for their vessels on foreign exchanges." He also remarks further, "that he had been compelled on representations of the consignees, in several instances, to take from shipmasters the command of their vessels in a foreign port, and to appoint others for their return voyage," on account of their constant intoxication.

Consul General Yeames, at Odessa, says: "Some of the shipmasters are shamefully illiterate, and are not qualified to do justice to the owners in common transactions that occur in this port. They are indifferent to their cargoes and careless of their preservation." The Consul at Dantzig said, "Only lately a master left his vessel which was loaded with a valuable cargo and ready for sea, and was after several days' search found in a house of ill-fame; his mate very little better than himself, and his people, following his example, a set of drunkards." He said occurrences nearly as bad are by no means rare, and that a Prussian ship was sure to obtain a preference when freights were remunerative.

The reports from the Mediterranean, Brazil, and the United States, were quite as bad; the general accounts of the British shipmaster showing him as frequently incompetent, generally inebriate, careless of his cargo, and the conduct of his crew as being excessively bad.

In reading this testimony there can be no doubt as to whence a large part of the commercial favor granted our marine came. It was not our better models, though this was an element; it was not so much that we built or sailed our ships more cheaply; it was the character and intelligence of our masters which had weight here as in every other walk of life.

Mr. Minturn testified his conviction that none of this favor arose from national feeling, and was very emphatic in so stating; it was simply a question of safety, economy and despatch. He attributed the general increase of our tonnage to the opening of our internal communications and an augmentation of products to be exported; to the opening of mines, to the increase of manufactures. He thought that reciprocity had worked neither special good nor harm, and "that though some of our merchants had shortly after 1830 advocated another cause, opposition had now ceased."

We were now in the full tide of prosperity; the annexation of California came to add to our carrying trade; no others could clear from Atlantic ports for those on our Pacific coast than ourselves; the voyage from New York to San Francisco was ruled as a coasting voyage, and our clippers were thus enabled to proceed thence to China or the East Indies and freight from there for America (or England after the repeal of her Navigation Acts) at a great advantage over foreign competitors.

The English Navigation Acts were repealed in the face of a tremendous opposition from the shipbuilding interest of the country; property in ships depreciated, while the change was in question, to one-half or one-third its value, and it is almost amusing, as an example of shortsightedness, to read the words in which some of the earnest and able opponents of the repeal foretold the decadence of England's power and commercial influence; her ships were no longer to have employment, the carrying trade of the world was to go to America, and, worst of all, the Navy would no longer have a source from which to recruit its men, and England's safeguard would be impotent. They little saw that not many years after they would practically become the monopolists of the carrying trade, and that the Navy, instead of depending upon the merchant marine, would train its whole force from boyhood, and furnish the merchant service its most efficient and trustworthy men.

Why did we lose this superiority which statistics and all evidence show us to have possessed? Why were we within thirty years to carry only 17 per cent, of our freights instead of the 78 per cent, of 1850, though our foreign trade of last year was $1,613,770,633 against the $317,885,252 of the other date?

The first element of the change is found in the fact that the British employed better men to command their ships than they had done before; many American captains were induced into their service, and the rigid examination under the auspices of the Board of Trade was soon made a necessary step for the holding of a certificate; they changed their models, so that by 1856 they fairly held their own in speed, and American and British clippers leaving port on the same day in China, a few years later, took pilots in British waters at the same time. The English were wise enough to learn from the enemy and turned their knowledge to good account. We no longer had a monopoly of labor-saving methods; our double topsail yards, winches and blocks were soon adopted, so that in all these matters, captains, models, labor-saving appliances, &c., the British in a few years stood upon an equality with ourselves; the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 (amended and added to in 1855, 1862 and 1867) was passed, furnishing an example of excellent legislation on the subject which it would be well for us to copy.

But the great and final cause of our discomfiture was the change from sail to steam and from wood to iron.

In 1847, 24,496 tons of foreign steam shipping had entered our ports against none of our own. Although we had been the first to successfully use the steam engine afloat, and had sent the first steamer across the Atlantic, we were slow to learn that we were dealing with a great force which was to revolutionize our shipping methods, and indeed, judging by the persistency with which we cling to sails, have scarcely learned it yet. It is not until 1848 that we find an entry, 12,614 tons of American steam tonnage, and the race between the English and ourselves then began in which we came out decidedly the worse. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company was established in 1847; in 1838 the first British steamers had arrived in the United States, the Sirius and Great Western, of 700 and 1340 tons, both arriving on the 23d of April of that year. The practicability having been demonstrated, the Admiralty issued advertisements for tenders for the conveyance of the North American mails by steam, and the contract was awarded to Samuel Cunard, who with George Burns and David MacIver formed the company to become afterwards so famous. The original contract was for £55,000 per annum, for which three ships were to be furnished and two voyages a month performed between Liverpool, Halifax, and the United States; another ship was afterwards added, and the price advanced to

£81,000 per annum. The largest of these ships, which were all of wood, was 1156 tons gross (615 register); was but 207 feet between perpendiculars, and had 740 indicated horse-power. These ships began their service in 1840 between Liverpool, Halifax, and Boston. This was the beginning of what is generally called the subsidizing system, but it was really nothing more than a fair payment for mail service performed. We must remember that the British North American provinces, parts of the West Indies, the Cape of Good Hope, &c., are as much integral parts of the British Empire as our outlying Western Territories are parts of our own possessions, and I think we should find on careful inspection that no more has been paid by Great Britain to keep up mail communication with the distant portions of her dominions than has been paid by ourselves to give similar advantages under somewhat similar circumstances; the difference has been that her distant routes led across the sea, ours (with the exception of that to our Pacific coast for many years) are all by land.

In 1843 the Great Western Company, which had been much chagrined by the success of Cunard in obtaining the contract, built the Great Britain of iron, with a length of 296 feet between perpendiculars, and 322 over all; beam 51 feet; 2984 tons, and 1000 horse power, by far the largest ship then afloat. She was the first screw ship built for Transatlantic traffic, though from her stranding on the coast of Ireland she never performed the service contemplated. In 1845 Mr. R. B. Forbes put afloat the Massachusetts, an auxiliary screw-ship, which sailed for Liverpool in September of that year as a general carrier. She was chartered by our government in 1846 to carry troops to Mexico, and was afterward bought and known in the navy as the Farallones; she was sold again by the Government, and was again in the merchant service a few years since, with her machinery removed, as the Alaska.

Our first attempt at competition with the Cunard Company was in the building of the Washington of 1750 tons, which started as the pioneer ship of a line between New York and Bremen (calling at Southampton) on her first trip in June 1847. In 1850 the Collins Line was established, with a subsidy of $19,500 per voyage, twenty voyages being required yearly between New York and Liverpool; this subsidy was soon increased to $33,000 per voyage in return for an increased speed. The company began their service with the Arctic, Baltic, Atlantic, and Pacific, each of about 2900 tons register, with a length of 282 feet and a beam of 45. These steamers were all of wood and all straight-bowed, the latter a marked advance on the general idea of the day in steamship construction. The Cunard Company were then receiving £7 10s. sterling a ton freight, but in two years after, the rate from competition had fallen to £4. The British mail subsidy had also been advanced to £145,000, weekly trips being made by the Cunard Company's ships to Halifax, and thence alternately to New York and Boston.

In 1854 the Arctic foundered; the Pacific left Liverpool January 23, 1856, and was never afterwards heard of. The Adriatic, the most splendid steamer of her time, took their place in the Collins fleet, but in 1858 the company, after enormous losses, gave up the contest, and the knell of our Transatlantic steam traffic had been sounded. The attempt had been wretchedly managed; it was not a business-like effort, but rather one of national vainglory to beat the English at any price. The ships were enormously expensive in build, equipment and management; they never paid, even with the large subsidy granted, and collapse, under the circumstances, inevitably followed the heavy losses in ships at sea.

The Cunard line put afloat the Persia in 1855, and in 1862 the Scotia, paddle-ships of great size and power and both of iron. In the last named year was also built the China, the pioneer screw-ship of their present magnificent fleet, the last of which, the Servia, has a length of 530 feet, a beam of 52, a tonnage of 8500 tons, and a speed of 17 ½  knots. This is more than two and a half times the length of the first ships, fourteen times their registered tonnage and nearly eight times their gross tonnage; the first could carry but 225 tons of cargo, the last 6500 (the Bothnia and Scythia carry 3000); the first expended 4.7 lbs. of coal per indicated horse-power per hour, the latter ships but 2.2.

In the meantime other British companies had started and prospered. The Inman line was established in 1850, the Anchor line in 1856, the National line in 1863, the Guion line in the same year, and the White Star line in 1870.

Occasional American steamers made sporadic efforts to keep up a European intercourse, but in vain: our glory had departed. While these magnificent steamers were building we were still hammering away at our great wooden fleet, so soon to be extinct; building in 1853, 425.572 tons; in 1855, 583,450; in 1857, 378,804, and in 1859, 156,602. A large portion of this tonnage was in ships, the numbers being:

In 1853,           269 ships out of a total of        1710 vessels.

In 1855,           381 " " " "                                2024 "

In 1857,           257 " " " "                                1434 "

In 1859,           89 " " " "                                  870 "

The Crimean war and Indian mutiny came to help our sailing fleet somewhat; we were still in 1856 carrying 75.2 per cent, of our exports, but from this time forth we fell off, and our ships had to seek business elsewhere. We had overbuilt enormously, a fact which we were beginning to find by 1856, as the above statistics show.

Consul Morse, in his interesting report to the Secretary of State, 1868, on the commercial policy of Great Britain, states that of the large amount of American tonnage which arrived in England during the four years before the rebellion produced its effect upon our commerce, nearly fifty per cent, was in foreign employ.

Our total tonnage in 1861 was 5,539,813

That of Great Britain and dependencies, 5,895,369

Mr. Morse estimates all others at 5,800,767

Of these there were employed in the international carrying trade:

United States, 2,642,683

Great Britain, 3,179,628

All others, 2,177,689

Total, 8,000,000

"Yet had all our export and import trade been done by her own ships, she (the United States) would have had a large surplus tonnage for an extensive foreign trade outside of her own territory and trade, because less than fifty per cent, (of her registered tonnage) could have done all her own foreign carrying trade. If trade had taken such a course," (i. e. had we done all our own carrying), "some 1,300,000 tons of American shipping would have been left in a trade with which the United States have no connection except as a carrier." I need hardly enter into the estimates by which Mr. Morse establishes his deductions; they are, however, perfectly clear and trustworthy, and any one can satisfy himself upon this point by turning to our Treasury Reports. Mr. Morse, in continuing, says: "An American ship coming to Europe takes an American cargo, or a cargo of deals from the British Provinces to some port in Europe. Such ships in a majority of cases obtain charters for long voyages, such as to India, China, or to some port in the Pacific, or elsewhere, and back to Europe. In this foreign trade American ships were often kept for years without once returning to the United States, because their owner found such employment more profitable than confining them to the short Atlantic voyage between Europe and America, even if our foreign trade was sufficient to afford business for all our tonnage at the same rates of freight."

The rebellion merely hastened an inevitable catastrophe in our shipping trade; during the few years of the war, 774,652 tons passed into foreign hands, and at the end we had 443,032 tons less in our total tonnage than at the beginning. In the meantime, foreign nations had been strengthening their steam connections. Brazil, the west coast of South America, and indeed nearly all parts of the world, had been brought into frequent and rapid communication with Europe by steamships. We had only been holding on to our sailing ship trade, because steam even as yet was in a somewhat tentative stage, and there were many cargoes which could still be carried, and were carried years later, by sail instead of steam, from the mere fact that it cost 70 per cent, more per horse-power at the epoch of our civil war than it has cost in the last few years.

While England was building her present vast iron screw fleet, the Pacific Mail, the only important line of steamers left to us, was building wooden paddle-wheel ships; putting forth, from 1867 to 1870, the

magnificent failures of the Alaska, China, America, Constitution, and Japan. There surely must be something peculiarly conservative in the American character that has thus made us cling to the practice of almost the infancy of steam navigation. The British iron screws which were built at the same time, are many of them still in active service, while not one of the great wooden steamers I have named is in existence as a sea-going ship. In later years, the dearly bought lesson taught by the failure of these ships produced the present fine iron screw steamers of this line, but in building them we were only following in the footsteps of our great commercial rival, where we should have been equal to taking the initiative. The great advances in steamship practice have come not from us, but from the English and Scotch; how great these advances are has been already detailed, but will bear some reiteration. In 1840 the cargo capacity was but one-fifth the gross tonnage of the ship, to-day it is three-fourths; then the average speed was but 8.3 knots, to-day it is from 14 to 17; the expenditure per horse-power to-day is but 42 per cent, of that of 1840, but 51 per cent, of that of 1850, and but 54 per cent, of that of 1860. These wonderful changes have been brought about by energy and sheer ability, and I say honor to the men who have made them, whether Americans or Englishmen. There is nothing to be gained by depreciating an adversary's merits; an honest, straightforward recognition of an opponent's abilities is worth a great deal of self-laudation, in which we are too accustomed to indulge, and which goes but a little way towards building and operating steamships, and I see no reason for scant praise of such men even if it is at the expense of no small portion of our self-esteem.

The causes of British success, and our consequent decadence, may thus be summed up:

The elevation of the British shipmaster in intelligence, by requiring him to reach a certain standard and pass an examination before a certificate could be granted, by which he was put on an equal footing with our own.

The change in British models, in which they copied our clippers and made equally good passages—in these two changes thus giving their sailing fleet equal chances with our own.

The adoption of a most excellent Merchant Shipping Act.

The change from wood to iron.

The change from sail to steam.

To emphasize these there has been the fact of the existence of great and distant British colonies in every quarter of the globe, with which quick and constant communication has been a necessity. Steam connections with India, the Cape of Good Hope, &c., have been imperative, and thus great steam lines have grown from social and governmental reasons which cannot exist for us. Still the British have successfully organized and operated great lines elsewhere, notably to the East and West coasts of South America, to which steamships than which there are none finer afloat are, and have for many years, been running with great frequency and regularity. I may say here that the establishment of the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, certainly in the number and character of the vessels of its fleet one of the finest in the world, was due to Mr. William Wheelwright, an American, at one time our Consul at Guayaquil, and for many years a notable and honored resident on the west coast. He sought aid in England after he was unsuccessful in his attempts to induce American capitalists to enter the field, and the result has been the monopoly of the great trade of Western South America. The time was then to secure the trade of this coast. The forty years' start in the race given England by the failure of our capitalists to listen to the wise words of Mr. Wheelwright, will hardly be recovered in this generation at least, let our efforts, diplomatic or otherwise, be what they may.

England has thus strongly established her mercantile influence in the most distant quarters of the world; her merchants have had a long and intimate knowledge of the requirements of various trades, and have entrenched themselves in a manner which will make dislodgement difficult, and our success, when it does come, can only come through steady, persistent and long-continued effort. It will not be the work of a day.

The question of relief is bound up in that of:

First, cheapening the cost of our ships.

Secondly, cheapening their running expenses.

There is nothing clearer than the fact that the merchant is going to send his cargo by the cheapest conveyance, safety and despatch being equally assured. We see quite as eager a competition for freights between British steam lines as we should see between British and American. Merchants do not do business for sentimental considerations, and there can be scarcely a doubt that the most patriotic of them would not hesitate to save a sixth of a penny a bushel freight on a cargo of wheat if he could do so by shipping it in a trustworthy foreign steamer instead of in one under his own flag. This being the case, it seems axiomatic that the ship-owner must be enabled to buy his ships as cheaply and operate them as cheaply as any of his rivals of equal reputation. The question thus becomes one of methods of bringing this about.

First, we must make up our minds that it is steam with which we must deal, and not sails. We have clung with a sort of desperation to hulls of wood, and to the wind as our motor; but the verdict of progress is against us, in spite of the pleasantly poetic words of Mr. Blaine, that "as long as wood grows and the winds blow, wooden sailing ships will be built "; true, no doubt, but they will not be the ships which will give us back our vanished prosperity on the sea, or enable us to meet on equal terms our rival who is strong in steamships. It is the story again of the stage-coach and the railway; the "scene is but shifted from the land to the ocean.

Under our laws vessels are divided into two classes:

1st. The registered (employed in the foreign trade).

2d. The enrolled and licensed (employed in the coasting trade and fisheries).

No vessel can be registered, enrolled or licensed unless built wholly within the United States, or unless it has been captured in war, or forfeited for breach of United States laws, or unless she has been wrecked and afterwards purchased by a citizen of the United States, who in that case must satisfactorily show to the Secretary of the Treasury that the repairs put upon such vessel are equal to three fourths the cost of the vessel when so repaired. (Sections 4132 and 4136, Revised Statutes of the United States.)

The vessel in all the above cases must be owned wholly by citizens of the United States. (Section 4132.)

All officers must be citizens of the United States. (Section 4131.)

The registry is invalidated if the owner or part owner usually resides abroad, unless he be a consular officer of the United States, or is a member of a house of trade consisting of citizens of the United

States actually carrying on trade in the United States. (Section 4133.)

The registry is invalidated if the owner, being a naturalized citizen of the United States, resides for more than a year in the country from which he originated, or for more than two years in any foreign country, unless he be a consular officer of the United States. (Section 4135.)

No subject or citizen of any foreign power or State can be, directly or indirectly, by way of trust or confidence, or otherwise, interested in an American vessel or the profits thereof. (Section 4142.)

No American ship, once sold or transferred to a foreigner, can be brought again under the American flag. (Section 4165.)

No vessel under thirty tons can be used to Import anything at any seaboard port. (Section 3095.)

If a vessel be repaired abroad, the cost of the repairs must be entered at the Custom House on her return to the United States, and a duty of fifty per cent, ad valorem must be paid. (Section 3114.)

All American vessels in foreign trade (vessels in the fisheries excepted) shall pay an annual tonnage tax of thirty cents a ton. (Section 4219.)

This is a short statement of the laws regulating the ownership, &c., of our shipping.

As it is a vital necessity to the American ship-owner to build or buy as cheaply as his rival before he can fairly compete with him, one of the most serious questions in the consideration of the foregoing is whether the prohibition of buying abroad shall stand or not.

In sailing ships we are unquestionably underbid in cost of vessel by the builders of the British Provinces. A prominent ship-owner in South street, New York, has lately informed me that he has just paid $58 per ton for a Maine-built ship; a larger ship sailed for California in November, 1881, launched in the same year, which cost a trifle under $50 per ton; either of these ships could have been built in 1879 for $47 to $48 per ton. A vessel of the same size as the first-named (1800 tons) has been lately built in Nova Scotia for $35 a ton. There is no doubt that either of the first-named ships is a better ship than the last, but this last ship will do the same work that the first-named will do, will be employed in the same trades, and get as large freights, though possibly she will not be insured at so low rates. But the Nova Scotian has cost but 66 per cent, of the cost of the American, and the American owner is certainly tremendously handicapped under such circumstances. The Englishman can sail his ship now with as few hands as we ourselves; double topsails and all other labor-saving appliances are quite as much affected in British ships as in our own; his wages are about the same. But both are surpassed in cheapness of ships and cost of sailing them by the numerous sailing fleets of Sweden and Norway. I have before me data from the Consul of these kingdoms at New York, which gives some interesting information regarding their merchant service. I find that from fourteen to sixteen persons form the crew of a ship of 600 or 800 tons, the wages paid being as follows: Mate, from $15 to $20 ; seamen, $10 to $13; ordinary seamen, $8 to $10.

There were belonging to the two kingdoms in 1878,

18,595 sailing vessels with a tonnage of         1,929,641 tons.

1,058 steamers " " "                                        133-793 "

Total                                                                 2,063,434 "

A tonnage slightly more than half our total tonnage, registered, enrolled and licensed.

We hear a good deal said of the scant food of foreign crews, but the annexed Swedish table compares very favorably with our own or any other. "For three alternate days during the week one and a half lbs. of salt meat and two-thirds of a pint of peas or small beans for soup, and for the remaining four days, three-fourths lb. of salt pork and one sixth of a pint of groats with which to make soup, with onions or other vegetables. Every man also receives per week 8 lbs. bread, ½ lb. wheat flour, ¾ lb. butter or ½ pint olive oil, 1/3 pint of vinegar or 1/6 pint of lemon juice, ½ lb. of coffee (in the bean), 1 oz. tea, ¾ lb. sugar or 1 lb. syrup, ½ oz. mustard. When the vessel lies in port where fresh meat can be had, 1 ½ lbs. must be furnished at least twice a week instead of salt meat, for making soup with groats or vegetables. For cooking and drinking every man is entitled to at least one gallon of water daily.

"The master is responsible for the good quality of the food.

"Wine or other spirits cannot be claimed by the crew unless there is an express stipulation to that effect in the shipping articles; but if not furnished, each man receives Kr. 1.50 per month in lieu thereof."

The northern nations of Europe are in their turn underbid by the Italians, who pay rather lower wages, and whose crews support themselves sometimes on an allowance often cents a day.

But the whole question of sail, and especially wooden sail, may be relegated to the background as a rapidly decreasing interest compared with steam, as is shown by the following changes in percentages carried by sail and steam:

By sail.             By steam.

1850. Per cent, carried,           86                    14

1860. " "                                  71                    29

1870. " "                                  57                    43

1880. " "                                  39                    61

In 1870 Great Britain built 226,591 tons of steam against 136,286 tons of sail; in 1879, 297,720 tons of steam against 59,153 tons of sail; the size and speed of steamers is constantly increasing, so that even for a given amount of tonnage, the disparity becomes greater year by year."

Can we meet this necessity of using steam instead of sail by building iron or steel steamers as cheaply as the British? In November, 1880, at the sitting of the convention of ship-owners, in Boston, Mr. John Roach stated that it would not cost more than ten per cent, to build here over the cost of England; so that this may be regarded as the minimum of difference. Wages have risen since, so that it can hardly be regarded as less than fifteen per cent, at present under the best circumstances.

I find in "Free Ships," by Captain John Codman, a note from one of the firm of Wm. Denny & Brothers, Scotch shipbuilders, the following prices given of transatlantic steamers:

2,000 gross tons         13 knot speeds on trial                        £44,000

3,000 gross tons         13 ¾ knot speeds on trial        £62,000

4,000 gross tons         14 ¾ knot speeds on trial        £96,000

5,000 gross tons         16 knot speeds on trial                        147,500

Mr. Stephen B. Packard, U. S. Consul at Liverpool, in his report to the Department of State, February 15, 1881, gives what are generally considered trustworthy estimates regarding British prices. He states that those ruling at that time for iron sailing ships of large tonnage were $56 to $61.30 per ton, and gives the following table for steam:

 

Trade in which employed

Gross registered tonnage

Horse Power

Speed in knots

Consumption of coal

Price per ton in Dollars

Atlantic, large cabin accommodation

8000

1400

18

120

$126.53

Ditto

5000

700

14

60

$116.80

Atlantic, cargo

3600

400

12

35

$97.33

Ditto

3600

300

10

28

$77.86

General, cabin accommodation

2000

250

12

24

$97.33

Cargo

2000

160

9

16

$77.86

Cabin accommodation

1000

120

11

11

$97.33

Cargo

1000

90

8

7

$82.73

The first on the list would about represent the Servia, which at this rate would have cost $1,076,505.  Mr. Packard has later stated that the above estimates have been carefully reconsidered, and he vouches for their accuracy, also “upon good authority it is stated that there are now contracted for in the United Kingdom, vessels to the aggregate of 650,000 tons.”

I doubt very much we can bring our rates within 10 or 15 per cent of those given.  I should think it very safe to say we cannot; but I think, on the broad basis of right, the ship-owner should be allowed to buy his ship wherever he pleases.  I can see no reason for ranking such property with obscene publications, as is now done under our law; these publications being the only articles which cannot be imported excepting ships.  The right to lay a duty upon ships is clear; but the prohibition of the importation of such an article of merchandise is a violation of the rights of the citizen.

We have to-day in one of the steamships of the Pacific Mail Line at least one set of machinery of British manufacture.  We can thus buy the engines, the iron for hull, the cordage, the masts, every item which is found in the construction and equipment of a ship, and in addition may import the labor to build her, but we cannot buy the ship as a whole.  I can see in the law as it at present stands, nothing but a sentiment.  At its foundation it was retaliatory, our commercial attitude towards England was one of well-founded bitterness, and I can only wonder that more extreme measures were not resorted to than were. Down to 1849 our course was founded on the principle of absolute and perfect reciprocity; our laws of 1816-17-18 and later were only enacted with a purpose of obliging England to annul her absurd regulations regarding international traffic, but we seem to have lived under some parts of our first Navigation Acts so long that what was enacted as a temporary remedy has solidified into a general principle.

As the matter stands at present we have a coasting traffic entirely closed to foreign ships. The building and repairing of this shipping is entirely in our own hands. We are not building any steamers for foreign trade. Under any circumstances the occupation of our iron shipbuilders would not be lessened by the introduction of registered foreign-built ships, so that the fear of the destruction of the shipbuilding knowledge and skill we now possess must be groundless. We are at the lowest ebb under our present system: why not at least try the other? It is at least worthy the effort.

The statute laying a tonnage tax of thirty cents a ton should be repealed: the $390,000 arising there from the United States can well spare; the ship-owners cannot afford to pay it. In 1789 the tax as first laid was six cents a ton, and the present tax was instituted in 1862, when we had need to make use of every means of income. Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania have abolished local taxation, thus taking off a great burden. English taxes are but from one to two per cent, on the profits, if any, and there is a small tax upon the premises occupied as offices, machine shops, &c. A ship owned in New York and valued at $100,000, would heretofore be assessed at 60 per cent, of her value, and pay a tax of 2 ½ per cent, upon this amount whether she made anything are not. The repeal by these great States, however, of this unjust discrimination in favor of foreign shipping is practically a repeal for the whole Union.

Section 4131, requiring that officers should be citizens of the United States, should be modified, as working at times great hardship through the impossibility of finding, in many cases of necessity, American citizens fitted to take the places of officers who have died or become incapacitated for duty. I can see no reason, should we ever establish a system of examination for certificates for the position of officer in our merchant marine, why we should not permit any one to take out such certificate whatever his nationality; following in this the example of England, who in her repeal of the navigation laws took this broad ground, with the result of attracting into her merchant service many of our own best masters; and at least one of the largest British steamships now entering the port of New York is commanded by a man of American birth and citizenship.

Section 4578. "All masters of vessels belonging to citizens of the United States and bound to some port of the same are required to take such destitute seamen on board at the request of the consul . . . and transport them to the port in the United States to which such vessel may be bound, on such terms, not exceeding ten dollars for each person, as may be agreed upon between the master and consul. Every such master who refuses the same shall be liable to the United States in a penalty of $100 for each seaman so refused."

This section is so unjust upon its face that no comment is necessary. A reasonable and just compensation should be allowed. As it stands, the same amount would be paid for the transportation of a man from Havana as from the Cape of Good Hope.

Section 4580, "Upon the application of any seaman to a consular officer for discharge, if it appears to such officer that he is entitled to his discharge under any Act of Congress or according to the general principles or usages of Maritime Law as recognized in the United States, the officer shall discharge such seaman, and shall require from the master of the vessel from which such discharge shall be made the payment of three months' extra wages over and above the wages which may then be due to such seaman." In case the cause of discharge is the misconduct of the seaman, part of this sum may be remitted.

Section 4582, "Whenever a vessel belonging to a citizen of the United States is sold in a foreign country and her company discharged, or when a seaman, a citizen of the United States, is, with his own consent, discharged in a foreign country, it shall be the duty of the master to produce to the consular officer the certificate list of his ship's company, and to pay to such consular officer for every seaman so discharged, designated on such list as a citizen of the United States, three months' pay over and above the wages which may then be due to such seaman."

These and Sections 4583, 4584 and 4585, so far as they relate to the payment of the extra three months' wages, should be modified. Chapter XIII, part III, of the British Merchant Shipping Act appears to cover admirably the whole ground of leaving seamen abroad, and we could not do better than adopt it as a base for a law upon this subject. There is no question that seamen should be carefully protected against the rapacity and abuse to which they are frequently subjected by shipmasters abroad. Cases wherein cruel treatment has been resorted to force desertions and thus be free of the payment of wages due, or be clear of the expense of supporting an idle crew during a long stay in port, are but too well authenticated and have been too frequent; but by a careful revision of our laws and the establishment of a thoroughly sound consular system, we should be able to protect both the seaman and the owner. One case of which I know will serve to exhibit the unjust action of these laws. An American steamer, which had been for some time employed in the coastwise trade of Brazil, was to be taken to Montevideo to be sold; a crew was shipped with the express stipulation that they were to be discharged on arrival at Montevideo; the steamer arrived and was sold, but the consul refused to return the ship's register to the captain unless the three months' extra wages were paid. The case was finally adjusted after much difficulty, the fine of $2000 dollars to which the master was liable for non-delivery of the register to the Custom House of the port of registration being remitted under the circumstances.

Our consular system should be entirely remodeled.

I prefer that Mr. Blaine's impressions of the action of our consular service, in his letter to the Chamber of Commerce of the city of New York, in June 1880, should be given first instead of my own. He says: "After ships are launched and in trade, they should not be worried and harried and burdened with every form of taxation, port charge and quarantine exaction at home, maltreated and oppressed as they too often are by our consuls in foreign ports.

I believe there has been no profounder abuse under our government than in our consular system. It has, in the words of Mr. Blaine, too often "maltreated and oppressed" our shipping interest, in a manner which has made it a wonder that our owners and merchants have not risen in a body and demanded of Congress an administration of its duties which would give them protection and aid instead of this "maltreatment" and "oppression."

The consular tax upon shipping for the year ending June, 1880, was $592,161, and every penny of it came from our struggling ship-owners. The whole system is bad: the system of appointment, by which men utterly unfitted for such duties are sent abroad, and the system of taxation by which they are supported. I give a copy of fees charged, taken from a number of such bills before me, among which there is one which rises to $163.

February 5, 1879.

For Deposit and Delivery of Vessel's Papers.

I cent per ton on 726 tons,                 $7.26,              £1,       10s.     2d.

For II seamen shipped, $2 each          22.00               4          11        8

For I " discharged, 50 cts.,                  50                                2          1

For I declaration, 50 cts.                      50                                2          1

For 2 certificates, $2.00 each              4.00                             16        8

For judicial proceeding,                        5.00                 1          00        10

£8        3s.       7d.

Notarial Services.

To noting protests,                              £                      8s.       4d.

Copy of contract,                                                         10        6

Copies of accounts,                                                     4          2

Acknowledgment of P. of A.,                                        8          4

                                                            £9                    14s      11d

The British charges are for certificate of entry, is. 6d.

For every seaman engaged or discharged, 2s.

Almost all the other fees are proportionately small, so that in general, consular fees for a British ship are but a small percentage of those paid by an American vessel in similar circumstances. The country can afford to pay its consular officers, and reduce their fees to a nominal sum; there should be no room for exactions of any kind, and finally, our consular system should be placed upon a footing of equality and respectability with that of any other country.

The establishment of training schools, especially for officers, is a necessity. All foreign nations have already done this; the schools of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Hamburg dating back many years. Every port should have its "St. Mary's." The education of a man who is to command a ship costing perhaps a million, which may carry a cargo of two millions, and hundreds of valuable lives, is surely as important as the education of one in any other walk of life, and in these days he can no more be found made to hand than can the lawyer, the physician, or the statesman.

A rigid method of granting certificates should be established, which would ensure the capability of men serving as masters or mates. It could easily be arranged to place the examination of officers under the Navy, which has all the machinery for carrying such a law into effect without additional expense to the country. With the Naval Board there could be associated in each port where the board sits, an active or retired merchant-shipmaster as a member.

Much stress has been laid upon the merchant service as a reserve of seamen in case of war, but the value of such a reserve is becoming less and less as steam supplants sail. The Navy should rather serve as a training school for the better class of men in the merchant service in time of peace. England has for years educated from boyhood the seamen of her navy, and these men when they retire, as they usually do at 38, with a small pension, generally enter the merchant service, and form the most valuable class of petty officers in it, being trained to habits of discipline, &c., in a manner which could not be hoped for in any merchant marine training however efficient. The first naval reserve of England is her Coast Guard, likewise taken from the navy; our life-saving service should occupy a similar position here, giving a discipline and efficiency which it never can attain under its present system, making it a means of communication from sea with any part of the coast, and enabling vessels to ask or send information of any kind whatever. Organized as the English coast guard, its members should be taken from the most deserving of those who have served a sufficient length of time in the navy, revenue marine, or merchant service. This, while furnishing admirable means of communication between vessels and owners or consignees, serving as signal and life-saving stations, we should also have in addition a reserve of seamen sufficient to man a large fleet in event of war, and thus escape the immediate necessity of employing untrained men when trained are most needed.

Propositions have been made that vessels should be required to carry a given number of apprentices according to tonnage. I regard this as a mistake; they are a heavy tax upon the owner, render no adequate return for their pay and food, and would only add to the burdens under which we now labor. Training ships are our only resource for the early training of seamen. Apprenticeship has been a failure in England, and would surely be so here.

Admit all materials actually to be used in the construction and equipment of vessels free of duty.

I cannot think that we shall be able to build up a shipping trade by subsidies. A proper payment for the carriage of mails should be made; an equal rate for equal service performed being paid whether this service is on the sea or land. England paid for the year ending March 31, 1880, the following sums for the conveyance of mails by sea:

Brazil, River Plate and Chili, bi-monthly service from Southampton, £4,878

Fortnightly service from Liverpool, £5,656

East Indies, China and Japan, £417,325

East Coast of Africa, Aden and Zanzibar, £10,000

Table Bay and Zanzibar, £20,000

North America, United States, £57,147

Halifax, Bermuda and St. Thomas, £17,500

Pacific, £5,706

West Indies, bi-monthly service, £85,188

Non-contract service, £991

Additional service, Liverpool, Puerto Cabello, &c., £1,132

Belize and Jamaica, £3,500

Belize and New Orleans, £3,080

St. Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat, £490

Turk's Island and St. Thomas, £900

West Coast of Africa, £7,863

Total: £640,797

If we paid a like sum as subsidies it would be equivalent to about $30 a ton on 100,000 tons of shipping, and then we should be supporting less than 5 per cent, of the steam tonnage of Great Britain. An analysis of the above table shows the extravagance of some of the statements lately made as to the subsidizing of steam lines by the British.

£5656 only were paid the Pacific Steam Navigation Company for fortnightly mails from Liverpool, touching at Bordeaux, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, Puntas Arenas and Valparaiso, extending by subsidiary steamers its service to every port on the Pacific coast north to Panama. Only £57,447 were paid for service to the United States, an amount which scarcely pays for the increased risk and trouble of calling at Queenstown.

£417,325 were paid for mail services to the East Indies, but no comparison can be drawn between this and any mail service which we are likely to establish, as it is not probable that we shall ever have a great tributary empire such as that of the English in the East. Mr. Wetherill of Philadelphia said, in laying this statement of payments before the Boston convention of 1880, "England gives to-day as subsidies for foreign and colonial mail service 640,797, or an equivalent in our currency to $3,200,000. Now I put it to practical men in this convention, if I want to run in competition with an English line and get my vessels as cheap as English vessels, but the English line is subsidized so as to make a profit instead of a loss, how can I run and live?" [Applause.] How such remarks can be made and be applauded in the face of the above table I cannot understand. Less than twenty-three cents per ton (of shipping employed) was received by the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, and not much more by the lines carrying British mails between Great Britain and New York.

I would ask, have subsidies built up the Anchor line, the National line, the Guion and White Star lines?

No, the impulse to build and operate steamships must come from within and not from without. It must have an incentive which has infected the whole commercial body of the country. We can never build up a carrying trade by supporting as a luxury, as a sort of sop to our vanity, a few steam lines which at best would be but a trifling percentage of the tonnage our commerce demands. It must have small beginnings, a foundation of general activity in the minor branches of the carrying trade, and the greater results will then soon follow. We must build from the bottom and not from the top.

I would thus state what in my judgment is primarily necessary to a revival of our shipping:

First. Permitting the person desiring to be a ship-owner to purchase his vessel where it pleases him best to do so I have passed over the frequent assertion that this would result in flooding our ports with broken-down British ships, as unworthy of notice: I still have a strong belief in the common-sense of my countrymen.

Secondly. A repeal of the tonnage tax, and of the laws mentioned relating to discharge, &c., of seamen.

Thirdly. The admission of all articles actually to be used in the construction and equipment of vessels, free of duty.

Fourthly. Establishing training schools for officers, and as many training schools for seamen as possible; combining with this a rigid system of examination for certificates for all officers of merchant vessels.

Fifthly. An entire reconstruction of our consular system, making it equal to any; reducing fees and charges to a minimum, and not causing our shipping interest to support it.

Sixthly. The adoption of a maritime code on the basis of the British Merchant Shipping Act.

In addition to these, a tariff revision is an absolute necessity; having our ships, we must operate them as cheaply as others. There is quite as much competition between English lines leaving New York as there would be between an English and an American line, and our coal, our wages, our repairs, and all the expenses incidental to the management of a great steamship company must be no greater in our case than in the Englishman's. That this should be so requires that an amount of labor must be done by our workmen for the same pay equal to that which is done by the various classes of English laboring men employed on labor connected with steamships. Food here is cheaper; the English themselves grant that our men will do more in a given time than will their own; but it unquestionably costs more to live here in a given scale than it costs in England or Scotland. Our people must be enabled to live as well as they do now on a smaller wage, and the first step towards this is a change in our tariff.

We must wait too until capital finds less ready investment within our own borders. When our capitalists find that new railways no longer absorb their attention, when our internal communications are complete, our ocean trade will revive, and not before. Not enough stress has been laid upon the fact that the great West became a prominent field for the investment of capital about the time when our shipping was at its turning-point (1856). It has so continued; and so long as it thus remains, our shipping interest will be comparatively inert. We cannot do everything at once, and our hands have found enough to do in binding together the widely separated divisions of our great domain, and in giving the products of the most distant of our fields a way to the sea.

But under the best of circumstances we must not expect to instantly leap to the prominence of other days. Conditions have wonderfully changed; the capital needed is immensely greater. England has on hand immense plants for the building of hulls and machinery; has reared thousands of trained and skilled workmen her merchants have made complete and wonderful studies of foreign needs and tastes, and have acquired accurate knowledge of the necessities underlying any particular traffic; they have established their agencies in every port, and their steam lines reach every important seaport on the globe. Added to all this there is governmental administration of national mercantile affairs (by the Board of Trade), in marked contrast with our own absolute want of any system whatever; and a consular system which has aided in the work of the English merchant and ship-owner, instead of hampering it, as has been too frequently the case in our own service.

It will take many years of earnest labor and judicious legislation before we can hope to compete on equal terms with British shipping and British merchants in the general trade of the world. We cannot hope to change the channels of traffic, which have had so long one direction, in a day. 

 

 
 

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