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We have covered the matter of the tolls being just and equitable. Suez pays 25 per cent. . and over while foreign nations regard with complacency tolls that pay us less than two per cent.
There is a very clear intimate that while graciously consenting to our granting subsidies in some branches there may be cases where Great Britain will protest if used in connection with the Canal.
The boom in American shipbuilding and consequent ship owning was a dire warning to the great maritime countries of Europe. They bestirred themselves and the boom collapsed.
Of course laying down the law for us and interpreting Article III to their liking it is easy to figure out that all violations of such interpretation are in conflict with treaty provisions and in the end we are permitted to control the Canal; an empty honor as Sir Edward Grey construes it and one which we had in the 1850 agreement if we had furnished the money.
REGULATION OF COMMERCE
We must assume that Congress wishes to regulate commerce in the interest of the United States.
The Baltimore Convention platform representing the views of the party of the Administration advocates the encouragement of our merchant marine through constitutional regulation of commerce. Hence we must seek the meaning of constitutional regulation.
When the thirteen colonies of Great Britain achieved their independence, they were impoverished, with a pitiable small merchant marine, and conditions were such that continuing as they were their poverty would increase and their marine would vanish. These thirteen States had as many means of regulating commerce, leading to endless confusion and loss. So it was realized that a central power to regulate commerce was necessary, and such necessity was the compelling cause of the adoption of the Constitution.
We may safely believe that the men who took part in the framing of the Constitution knew what was meant by its provisions. They were leaders in public thought, so we find many of
them members of the First Congress that carried the ideals and intentions of the Constitution into effect by appropriate legislation.
A close study of the debates leading up to the drafting of the Constitution and the speeches and reports of our statesmen engaged in early legislation has shown me that the power to regulate commerce contemplated discrimination when necessary or desirable. To show how entirely the great men of the day agreed upon great fundamental principles essential to the general welfare I quote from “Debates of Congress," by Colonel Thomas H. Benton:
In the House of Representatives in 1794 occurred one of the most interesting and elaborate debates which our Congress has furnished. It grew out of the clause of the Constitution conferring power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and gives the interpretation of its authors, which is wholly different in its nature and also distinct from the power to lay and collect import duties. The latter was to raise revenue, the former to make such discriminations in trade and transportation as to protect our merchants and ship owners from the adverse regulations and devices of our rivals.
Let us examine the laws passed at the First Congress and see how commerce with foreign nations was regulated, for surely their authors knew the meaning of constitutional regulation. So clear was the course as charted by the Constitution that Jefferson, Madison and Hamilton were in perfect accord.
First a discrimination was secured by allowing 10 per cent. less duty on goods imported in American vessels. Differential tonnage taxes were provided, 6 cents per ton on American-built and owned vessels, American coasting vessels paying but once a year; 30 cents per ton on Americanbuilt and foreign owned vessels and 50 cents per ton on vessels foreign owned and built. The great Asiatic trade was secured by grading duties on tea far lower in American vessels than if brought in foreign vessels. American register was confined to American-built vessels. The same care then for our people on sea and shore inspired laws making the berthing and messing of our seamen the best in the world. What an example in constructive statesmanship! Shipbuilding, ship operations and seamen all fostered by constitutional regulation enacted by Constitution makers.
Before these laws were passed English shipping was doing over 70 per cent. of our trade, but by 1812 this proportion was reversed. Until 1812 the average foreign balance due to profits in shipping, insurance, banking and passenger traffic was not less than $50,000,000. The drain of gold due to dependence upon foreign shipping, now about $350,000,000 annually, must be taken into account and added as an import; for balances of trade, not taking into account transportation charges, are as misleading as those of any shop which omits its delivery charges from its statements.
Then the War of 1812, purposely provided to check our maritime growth, was fought. In 1815, as the price of peace, we abandoned discrimination in the direct trade, or trade to or from a country entirely in the ships of the two countries. But the crowning act of unwisdom and national betrayal was when we, in 1828, threw open our indirect trade to favored nations.
As a result of abandoning preference for our own commerce there has been a constant decline of the proportion of our trade carried in our ships from 9214 per cent. in 1826 to about 8 per cent. at the present time.
Of course the losses due to our Civil War, the change from wood to iron, and from sails to steam, discrimination against our shipping by foreign insurance and rating companies, the bonded warehouses giving credit for duties, contracts for advance charters, foreign shipping conferences, trusts, pools and combines and payments now aggregating $50,000,000 annually to support their shipping, have supplemented this betrayal by our national legislators of a duty enjoined by the Constitution and their oath to support its provisions.
Preference proven in effectiveness by the logic of successful application is what is feared by the foreign nations. They do not fear subsidies, for