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TRADE WITH THE BRITISH WEST
FROM the 24th of August 1822, to the 1st of November 1823, ten American vessels have sailed from this port to the British West Indies, measuring in the whole one thousand five hundred and forty-seven tons, and carrying cargoes worth twenty-three thousand one hundred and twenty-one dollars. Of these vessels, five are now absent; and the remaining five, measuring nine hundred and fifteen tons, have returned with cargoes which were invoiced in the West Indies twenty-six thousand and thirty-six dollars. It has been ascertained that these return cargoes were purchased entirely with the proceeds of the outward cargoes. These facts furnish a striking proof of the fallacy of the old doctrine of the balance of trade. Only one half of the vessels engaged in this branch of the West India trade have yet returned; yet the custom-house books exhibit an excess of imports over exports of two thousand nine hundred and fifteen dollars. If the remaining vessels should dispose of their cargoes on the same terms, and should arrive in safety, this excess of imports will amount to twenty thou
sand eight hundred and rinety-eight. Mr. Carey of Philadelphia and the Political Economists of his school, will infer from this fact that the balance of trade is against us; that we are in debt to the West India planters at least to the amount of that excess; and that to pay the debt, we must make new shipments of lumber and provisions, or drain our coffers of specie. Yet, as if to make the whole argument ridiculous, it is a fact that nearly all these vessels brought home specie, as well as colonial produce.
There is another fallacy, however, in this view of the subject, which is worth pointing out. It must not be inferred that there has been a gross profit of more than ninety per cent. on these shipments, because there will be an excess of twenty thousand eight hundred and ninety-eight dollars on the invoice price of the return cargoes. On the contrary, it is by no means certain that the business has yielded any profit to the merchant. It is well known, that in the West Indies nearly all the trade with foreign vessels is carried on by barter, and in most of the colonies a system of artificial prices is kept up for the express purpose of attracting foreign trade. Thus in Demarara, they will very liberally offer an American captain to purchase his lumber at thirty dollars a thousand, but then he must take his pay in molasses at thirty-two cents a gallon. If the purchase were made on either side with specie, without reference to an equivalent sale, the nominal amount would probably be reduced at least forty-five per cent.
But whatever profit has been reaped by the merchant, it is certain that only a small portion of it remains to him at
the termination of the adventure. He is merely the agent of a large number of persons, who share with him the advantages of commerce. When he has paid the farmer and manufacturer who have furnished his outward cargo, the numerous laborers who have prepared and brought it to market, the mechanics who have fitted his vessel for sea, and the mariners who have performed the voyage, there usually remains but a small sum to pay him for his time and skill, to say nothing of the risk he has run of failing entirely in his enterprise.
Nov. 15, 1823.
Ir was our intention to give a particular examination of the provisions of the bill establishing a new tariff; but the subject is so extensive in itself, and has already received so much attention, that we shall confine our remarks to one or two points of more immediate interest to this vicinity. To those who are desirous of examining the subject more at large, we recommend the very able essays of the editor of the Boston Daily Advertiser, which have been published in that paper, and in the Weekly Messenger, during the last ten days.
The friends of the new tariff are perpetually asserting, that its object and tendency are to encourage national industry and increase the national wealth. We shall show, on the contrary, that in some particulars at least, it is hostile to domestic manufactures, and will be, in its effects, oppressive to the poor.
One of the most valuable articles of domestic manufacture is a well-built ship. It employs materials derived from the forest and the soil, and requires the labor and skill of a great number and variety of artisans. At least eight thou
sand days' work are necessary to build and equip a vessel of three hundred tons. And the whole of this labor is manly and athletic. In this particular our carpenters, and riggers, and blacksmiths, and ropemakers may claim some superiority over the spinners and weavers of a crowded manufactory. We do not mean to speak disrespectfully of any branch of honest industry; but in reasoning upon the policy of any national act, its effect upon the character and habits of the people should be taken into the account.
It may be assumed as a fact, that for the present at least, all articles which are derived wholly or in part from foreign countries, will, if the tariff bill be passed, rise to the price at which the foreign article can be procured. The very fact of our resorting to foreign countries at all, is a proof that the domestic supply is not sufficient, or cannot be afforded at so cheap a rate as the foreign. Consequently, if the price of the foreign article be increased, the domestic manufacturer will raise his price to the same standard, without fearing any increased competition from abroad. The following statement, with which we have been favored by a gentleman who has had much experience in ship-building, will show the amount of duties which will be paid under the new tariff for every well built ship of three hundred or three hundred and fifty tons.
10 tons of hemp, at 2 cents per lb.
$448 00 285 00
1 chain cable and fixtures, at 3 cts. per lb.
for rigging, spikes, &c. if estimated on the