Front Page Titles (by Subject) no. xxv - The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 6
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no. xxv - Alexander Hamilton, The Works of Alexander Hamilton, (Federal Edition), vol. 6 
The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 6.
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It will be useful, as it will simplify the examination of the commercial articles of the treaty, to bear in mind and preserve the division that we find established by the 12th, 13th, and the 14th and 15th articles; each respects a particular branch or portion of the trade between the two countries, the regulations whereof differ from, and are severally independent of, each other. Thus one is relative to the West Indies, another to the East Indies, and a third, distinct from both the former, respects our trade with the British dominions in Europe.
That Great Britain will consent to place our trade with her West India colonies upon an equally advantageous footing with her own, is improbable; this would be doing what none of the great colonizing nations has done, or is likely to do; it would be to relinquish the principal ends of the establishment and defence of her colonies; it would be equivalent to making her islands in the West Indies the common property of Great Britain and America, for all commercial and profitable purposes; and exclusively her own in the burden of support and defence.
The Senate have, however, and, I think, wisely, considered the terms and conditions, on which it is agreed by the 12th article that we should participate in the trade of the British West Indies, as less liberal than we may, with reason, expect. The exclusion of all vessels above the burthen of seventy tons, would diminish the benefits and value of this trade; and though we cannot calculate upon obtaining by future negotiation a total removal of a limitation on this subject, it is not altogether improbable that a tonnage something larger may be procured.
Those who are conversant with our present intercourse with the West Indies can best determine whether many vessels under seventy tons burthen are not, at this time, profitably employed in that trade. It is believed to be true, that, previous to our independence, vessels of this burthen were much engaged in that employ, as well in the Southern as in the Eastern States.
This limitation, though disadvantageous, is not the strongest objection to the 12th article: the restraining or regulating of a portion of our trade, which does not proceed from, and is independent of, the treaty, forms a more decisive reason against the article than any thing else that it contains.
The cause of this restraint is found in the commercial jealousy and spirit of monopoly which have so long reigned over the trade of the colonies. Under our treaty with France and the French colonial laws, it has been shown that we could not procure from the French islands sugar, coffee, cocoa, cotton, or any of the other productions, molasses and rum excepted. Great Britain has seen it to be compatible with her interest to admit us to share more extensively in the productions of her islands; but she has desired to place limitations on this intercourse. To have left it entirely open and free, would have been to have enabled us not only to supply ourselves by means of our own navigation, but to have made it an instrument of the supply of other nations with her West India productions.
When we reflect upon the established maxims of the colony system, and, moreover, when we consider that an entire freedom of trade with the British West Indies might, at times, materially raise the price of West India productions on the British consumers, the supply of whom is essentially a monopoly in the hands of the British planters, we shall be the less inclined to believe that Great Britain will yield an unrestrained commerce with her West India possessions to any nation whatever.
But if this was the object of the restraint, it may be asked why it was not confined to such enumerated articles as were of the growth or production of her own islands, instead of being so extended as to comprehend all molasses, sugar, coffee, cocoa, and cotton, including even the cotton of the growth of our own country. It is very possible that the circumstances of our native cotton’s becoming an article of export to foreign markets might not have occurred to our negotiator. This would be the less extraordinary, as heretofore it has not been cultivated, except in a very limited degree, and as an article of export rather in the manner of experiment than otherwise; and as, moreover, from the expense and difficulty of separating the seeds from the cotton, we have been hardly able hitherto to class cotton among our exports. Its cultivation is said latterly to have become an object of attention in Georgia and South Carolina,—still, however, it cannot yet be considered as a staple commodity. But from the recent ingenious and simple machine for spinning cotton, it is hoped that the cultivation may be extended, so that not only our own domestic manufactures may be relieved from a dependence on foreign supply, but the catalogue of our valuable exports enriched by the addition of this inestimable production.
In answer to the question that has been stated, it may be further observed that these enumerated articles, though the productions of different territories, being so much alike as not easily to be distinguished, it is probable that the difficulty in discriminating the productions of the British islands from those of a different growth was supposed to be so great, that an apprehension was entertained that the prohibition to re-export the former would be easily evaded and illusory, while the latter remained free.
This apprehension, however, it is believed, was carried too far; as, on a minute examination of the subject, it will be found that our laws relative to drawback, with a few analogous provisions in addition, can be made sufficiently to discriminate and identify, on re-exportation, all such articles of the growth of the British islands as may be within our country, and that they will afford the same security for a faithful and exact execution of the prohibition to re-export such articles as that on which our own Government relies against frauds upon the revenue. [The application of these laws, with the requisite additions and sanctions, may be secured by a precise stipulation for that purpose in the treaty, in such manner as would afford an adequate guard against material evasions.
But though the conduct of the Senate in withholding their assent of this article is conceived, upon the whole, to be well judged and wise, yet there were not wanting reasons of real weight to induce our negotiator to agree to it as it stands.
The inviolability of the principles of the navigation act had become a kind of axiom, incorporated in the habits of thinking of the British Government and nation. Precedent, it is known, has great influence, as well upon the councils as upon the popular opinions of nations!—and there is, perhaps, no country in which it has greater force than that of Great Britain. The precedent of a serious and unequivocal innovation upon the system of the navigation act dissolved, as it were, the spell by which the public prejudices had been chained to it. It took away a might argument derived from the past inflexibility of the system, and laid the foundation for greater inroads upon opinion, for further and greater innovations in practice. It served to strip the question of every thing that was artificial and to bring it to the simple test of real national interest, to be decided by that best of all arbiters, experience.
It may, upon this ground, be strongly argued that the precedent of the privilege gained was of more importance than its immediate extent—an argument certainly of real weight, and which is sufficient to incline candid men to view the motives that governed our negotiator in this particular with favor, and the opinion to which he yielded with respect. It is perhaps not unimportant by way of precedent, that the article, though not established, is found in the treaty.]
Though the 12th article, so far as respects the terms and conditions of the trade to the British islands, forms no part of the treaty, having been excepted, and made the subject of further negotiation, it may nevertheless be useful to take notice of some of the many ill-founded objections that have been made against it; of this character is that which asserts that the catalogue of articles permitted to be carried by us to the British islands, may be abridged at the pleasure of Great Britain, and so the trade may be annihilated.
The article stipulates that we may carry to any of his Majesty’s islands and ports in the West Indies, from the United States, in American vessels, not exceeding seventy tons, any goods or merchandises “being of the growth, manufacture, or production of the said States, which it is or may be lawful to carry to the said islands, from the said States, in British vessels”; not all such articles as it is and may be lawful to carry, but in the disjunctive, all such as it is or may be lawful to carry; in other words, all such articles as it is now lawful to carry, together with such others as hereafter it may be lawful to carry. The catalogue may be enlarged, but cannot be diminished. [It may also be remarked incidentally that this objection sounds ill in the mouths of those who maintain the essentiality of the supplies of this country, under all possible circumstances, to the British West Indies; for if this position be true, there never can be reasonable ground of apprehension of too little latitude in the exportation in British vessels, which is to be the standard for the exportation in ours.]
This article has been further criticised on account of the adjustment of the import and tonnage duties payable in this trade, and it has been attempted to be shown that the footing on which we were to share in the same would, on this account, be disadvantageous, and the competition unequal. What is the adjustment? The article proposes that British vessels employed in this trade shall pay, on entering our ports, the alien tonnage duty payable by all foreign vessels, which is now fifty cents per ton; further, the cargoes imported in British bottoms from British West Indies shall pay in our ports the same impost or duties that shall be payable on the like articles imported in American bottoms; and on the other side, that cargoes imported into the British islands, in American bottoms, shall pay the same impost or duties that shall be payable on the like articles imported in British bottoms—that is to say, the cargoes of each shall pay in the ports of the other only native duties, it being understood that those imposed in the British West Indies, on our productions, are small and unimportant, while those imposed in our ports, on the productions of the West Indies, are high, and important to our revenue. The vessels of each shall pay in the ports of the other an equal alien tonnage duty, and our standard is adopted as the common rule.
Is not this equal? Can we expect or ask that British vessels should pay an alien tonnage duty in our ports, and that American vessels should enter their ports freely, or on payment only of native tonnage duties? Can we in equity require them to pay, on the importation of their cargoes in British vessels, an addition of ten per cent. on the duties payable on the importation of the like articles in American vessels, and at the same time demand to pay no higher or other duties on the cargoes carried in our vessels to the British islands, than those payable by them on the like articles imported in British vessels? The very stating of the question suggests to a candid mind an answer, that demonstrates the injustice of the objection. [To expect more, were to expect that in a trade in which the opinions and practice of Europe contemplate every privilege granted for a foreign nation as a favor, we were by treaty to secure a greater advantage to ourselves than would be enjoyed by the nation which granted the privilege.]
But it is added that our laws impose a tonnage duty of six cents per ton on the entry of American vessels engaged in foreign trade, and it is not known that British vessels pay any tonnage duty on their entry in their ports in the West Indies; and so uniting the two entries, that is, the entry in the West Indies and the entry on a return to our ports, an American vessel will pay fifty-six cents per ton, when the British vessels will pay only fifty cents per ton. If the British Government impose no tonnage duty on their own vessels, and we do impose a tonnage duty on ours, this certainly cannot form an objection against them. They are as free to refrain from the imposition of a tonnage duty on their own ships as we are to impose one on ours. If their policy is wiser than ours in this respect, we are at liberty to adopt it, by repealing the tonnage duty levied on American navigation, which, if we please, may be confined to the particular case; the effect of such a measure, as far as it should extend, though the duty is small, would be to add a proportionable advantage to our shipping in foreign competition. But the object of the articles in this particular is to equalize, not the duties that each may choose to impose on their own vessels, but those that they shall impose on the vessels of each other; and in this respect the article is perfectly equal. [It is perhaps the first time that the objection of inequality was founded on a circumstance depending on the laws of the party affected by it, and removable at his own option.]
This view of the subject authorizes a belief, that, in the revision of the article, a modification of it may be agreed to that will prove satisfactory. Indeed, from the short duration of the article, taken in connection with the expressions made use of towards the close of it, relative to the renewal of the negotiation, for the purpose of such further arrangements as shall conduce to the mutual advantage and extension of this branch of commerce, we may infer that Great Britain contemplates a more enlarged and equal adjustment on this point.
The relaxations which now exist in the colonial systems, in consequence of the necessities of war, and which will change to our disadvantage with the return of peace, have been considered by some as the permanent state of things. And this error has had its influence in misleading the public in respect to the terms and conditions on which we may reasonably expect to participate in trade to the West Indies. But let it be remembered, that the restoration of peace will bring with it a restoration of the laws of limitation and exclusion, which constitute the colonial system. Our efforts therefore should be directed to such adjustment with Great Britain on this point, as will secure to us a right after the return of peace, to the greatest attainable portion of the trade to her islands in the West Indies.
It has been alleged, should the expected modification of this article retain its present stipulation on the subject of import and tonnage duty, that as France by treaty may claim to enjoy the rights and privileges of the most favored nation, she would demand an exemption from the ten per cent. on the duties upon the productions of the West Indies imported in foreign bottoms, and would moreover be free to impose an alien tonnage on our vessels entering her ports in the West Indies, equal to that imposed on her vessels in our ports. This is true. But in order to make this demand, France must agree, by treaty, to open all her ports in the West Indies, to give us a right to import into them flour, bread, tobacco, and such other articles as Great Britain should permit, and which France by her permanent system prohibits; she must also concede to us a right to purchase in her islands, and bring away sugar, coffee, and pimento, which by the same system she also prohibits; she must do all this, because, by our treaty with her, she can only entitle herself to a special privilege granted to another nation, by granting on her part to us the equivalent of what was the consideration of our grant. Should France be inclined to arrange the trade between us and her islands, we certainly shall not object; because, besides the right to such an arrangement, it would be more advantageous to us than that which now regulates our intercourse with her West Indies.
So much of the 12th article as respects its duration and the renewal of the negotiation previous to the expiration of two years after the conclusion of the war, in order to agree in a new arrangement on the subject of the West India trade, as well as for the purpose of endeavoring to agree whether in any, and in what cases, neutral vessels shall protect enemy’s property, and in what cases provisions, and other articles not generally contraband, may become such, form a part of the treaty as ratified by the President. These clauses sufficiently explain themselves, and require no comment in this place. They, however, prove one point, which is, that after every effort on the part of our negotiator, the parties were not able to agree in the doctrine that free bottoms should make free goods, nor in the cases in which alone provisions and other articles not generally contraband, should be deemed such. Leaving, therefore, both these points precisely as they found them (except in respect to provisions, the payment for which, when by the law of nations liable to capture as contraband, is secured), to be regulated by the existing law of nations, it is stipulated to renew the negotiation on these points at the epoch assigned for the future adjustment of the West India trade, in order then to endeavor to agree in a conventional rule, which, instead of the law of nations, should thereafter regulate the conduct of the parties in these respects.
[The 11th article has been passed over in silence as being merely introductory and formal.]