The American Merchant Marine of the present day exhibits a curious spectacle. While an immense amount of exports and imports annually passes through the harbors of this country, only nine per cent of them is carried in American bottoms. An American cargo carried in an American ship is the exception and not the rule. While in every other branch of business and manufacturing, the perseverance and enterprise of the United States have made her preeminent, in this branch, which was formerly one of our main resources, we have been admitting ourselves unable to compete with foreign nations.
At one time, ninety per cent of our commerce was carried in our own ships; our merchant tonnage was equal to that of Great Britain and exceeded that of every other nation; and the products of this country were spread over the entire globe. Shipbuilding was then the chief industry of the most prosperous section of the country; every effort was made by law to protect and encourage our foreign carrying trade; and by means of discriminating tonnage dues and other devices, American ships were more than enabled to hold their own, in spite of the competition of other nations.