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immediate attention were numerous and important, Chap. m. Much was to be created, and something to be 1789, reformed. A system of revenue, adequate to the urgent demands of the union was to be digested, and brought into operation; departments attached to the executive were to be organized; a judiciary* to be established; and many other matters of deep interest to be originated, or adapted to the new state of things.
As constituting the vital spring without which the action of government could not long be continued, the subject of revenue was taken up in the house of representatives, as soon as it could be introduced. The qualification of the members was succeeded by a motion for the house to resolve itself into a committee of the whole on the state of the union; and in that committee, a resolution was moved declaring the opinion that certain duties ought to be levied on goods, wares, and merchandise, imported into the United States; and on the tonnage of vessels. This resolution was introduced by Mr. Madison from Virginia in a short speech, in which he adverted to the numerous claims upon the justice of the government; and to the impotency which prevented the late congress of the United States from carrying into effect the dictates of gratitude and policy.
As it was deemed important to complete a temporary system in time to embrace the spring importations, Mr. Madison presented the scheme of impost which had been recommended by the former congress, and had already received the approbation of a majority of the states ; to which he
190 THE LIFE OFChap. lii. added a general proposition from himself for a 1789., duty on tonnage. By this scheme specific duties were imposed on certain enumerated articles; and an advalorem duty on those not enumerated. Mr. Fitzsimmons, a member from Pennsylvania, moved an amendment to the original resolution, greatly enlarging the catalogue of enumerated articles. "Among those," he said, "which were contained in the list he wished to subjoin to that in possession of the committee, were some calculated to encourage the productions of our country, and protect our infant manufactures, beside others tending to operate as sumptuary restrictions upon articles which are often termed those of luxury."
On the necessity of an immediate revenue, no division of sentiment could exist; and on the general propriety of selecting specific articles as objects of additional duty, an equal degree of unanimity seemed to prevail. But some apprehensions were expressed that the time consumed in maturing the system might be such as to render it ineligible, in the first instance, to attempt more than a bill which should impose an advalorem duty; and the fear was openly avowed, that in the details of a more permanent and extensive plan, the interests of a part of the union might be overlooked.
Mr. Madison having consented to subjoin the amendment proposed by Mr. Fitzsimmons to the original resolution, it was received by the committee; but in proceeding to fill up the blanks with the sum taxable on each article, it was soon perceived that gentlemen had viewed the subject in very different lights. The tax on many articles Chap. Hi. was believed to press more heavily on some, than \jb9. on others; it was supposed also to favour the products of particular states; and no inconsiderable degree of watchfulness was discovered, lest those which were more populous, and whose manufactures were in greater progress, should lay protecting duties whereby the industry of one part of the union would be encouraged by premiums charged on the labour of another part. On the discrimination between the duty on theDebatMon tonnage of foreign and American bottoms, a great SaSSSgc degree of sensibility was discovered. There not being a sufficient number of vessels owned by the citizens of the United States to export all the produce of the country, it was said that the increased tonnage on foreign bottoms operated as a tax on agriculture, and a premium to navigation. This discrimination it was therefore contended ought to be very small.
In answer to these arguments, Mr. Madison said; "if it is expedient for America to have vessels employed in commerce at all, it will be proper that she have enough to answer all the purposes intended; to form a school for seamen; to lay the foundation of a navy: and to be able to support itself against the interference of foreigners. I do not think there is much weight in the observations that the duty we are about to lay in favour of American vessels is a burden on the community, and particularly oppressive to some parts. But if there were, it may be a burden of that kind
chap.m. which will ultimately save us from one that is 1789T greater.
"I consider an acquisition of maritime strength essential to this country; should we ever be so unfortunate as to be engaged in war, what but this can defend our towns and cities upon the sea coast? or what but this can enable us to repel an invading enemy? those parts which are said to bear an undue proportion of the burden of the additional duty on foreign shipping, are those which will be most exposed to the operations of a predatory war, and will require the greatest exertions of the union in their defence. If therefore some little sacrifice be made by them to obtain this important object, they will be peculiarly rewarded for it in the hour of danger. Granting a preference to our own navigation will insensibly bring it forward to that perfection so essential to American safety; and though it may produce some little inequality at first, it will soon ascertain its level, and become uniform throughout the union."
But no part of the system was discussed with more animation than that which proposed to make discriminations in favor of those nations with whom the United States had formed commercial treaties. In the course of this discussion, opinions and feelings with respect to foreign powers began to develop themselves, which, strengthening with circumstances, afterwards agitated the whole American continent.
While the resolutions on which the bills were to be framed were under debate, Mr. Benson rose to inquire on what principle the proposed discrimination between foreign nations was founded ? Chap.iit. "Itwas certainly proper," he said, "to comply with i789. existing treaties. But those treaties stipulated no such preference. Congress then was at liberty to consult the interests of the United States. If those interests would be promoted by the measure, he should be willing to adopt it, but he wished its policy to be shown."
The resolutions as reported were supported by Mr. Madison, Mr. Baldwin, Mr. Fitzsimmons, Mr. Clymer, Mr. Page, and Mr. Jackson.
They relied much upon the public sentiment which had, they said, been unequivocally expressed through the several state legislatures and otherwise, against placing foreign nations generally, on a footing with the allies of the United States. So strong was this sentiment, that to its operation the existing constitution was principally to be ascribed. They thought it important to prove to those nations who had declined forming commercial treaties with them, that the United States possessed and would exercise the power of retaliating any regulations unfavourable to their trade, and they insisted strongly on the advantages of America in a war of commercial regulation, should this measure produce one.
The disposition France had lately shown to relax with regard to the United States, the rigid policy by which her counsels had generally been guided, ought to be cultivated. The evidence of this disposition was an edict by which American built ships purchased by French subjects became naturalized. There was reason to believe that -vol. tr. c c