Front Page Titles (by Subject) james madison Speech in the House of Representatives on Commercial Retaliation and Discrimination 25 April 1789 - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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james madison Speech in the House of Representatives on Commercial Retaliation and Discrimination 25 April 1789 - Lance Banning, Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle 
Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, ed. and with a Preface by Lance Banning (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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james madison Speech in the House of Representatives on Commercial Retaliation and Discrimination 25 April 1789
On 8 April 1789, the first day of business for the First Federal Congress, Madison introduced a set of resolutions looking toward the imposition of import and tonnage duties, which would provide the new government with a steady source of independent revenues. In addition to favoring native shippers, these would have levied higher duties on the merchants of nations that did not have commercial treaties with the United States than on those of nations that did—a proposition clearly aimed to discriminate against the English and in favor of America’s French allies. Madison defended this proposition in a speech of 9 April and again in this speech of 25 April.
… Let us review the policy of Great Britain toward us; has she ever shown any disposition to enter into reciprocal regulations? Has she not by a temporising policy plainly declared that until we are able and willing to do justice to ourselves, she will shut us out from her ports and make us tributary to her? Have we not seen her taking one legislative step after another to destroy our commerce? Has not her legislature given discretionary powers to the executive, that so she might be ever on the watch and ready to seize every advantage the weakness of our situation might expose? Have we not reason to believe she will continue a policy void of regard to us, whilst she can continue to gather into her lap the benefits we feebly endeavor to withhold, and for which she ought rather to court us by an open and liberal participation of the commerce we desire? Will she not, if she finds us indecisive in counteracting her machinations, continue to consult her own interest as heretofore? If we remain in a state of apathy, we do not fulfill the object of our appointment; most of the states in the union have, in some shape or other, shown symptoms of disapprobation of British policy; those states have now relinquished the power of continuing their systems, but under an impression that a more efficient government would effectually support their views. If we are timid and inactive we disappoint the just expectations of our constituents, and I venture to say, we disappoint the very nation against whom the measure is principally directed.
It has been said that Great Britain receives all the produce of this country in our own bottoms. I believe that in some ports of that kingdom our vessels are admitted, but those in the West Indies, into which we want admission most, are closely barred against us; but the reason that she admits us is because it is necessary to repay herself for her exports to this country and to constitute herself a market for this and the European nations. Adventitious causes have drawn within the commercial vortex of her policy almost all the trade of America, and the productions of the most distant clime, consumed among us, are tributary to her revenue; as long therefore as we do not protect ourselves and endeavor to restore the stream of commerce to its natural channel, we shall find no relaxation on the part of Britain, the same obnoxious policy will be pursued while we submissively bear the oppression. This is a copious subject, and leads to serious and important reflections. After what has passed, I am certain that there is a disposition to make a discrimination, to teach the nations that are not in alliance with us that there is an advantage to be gained by the connection. To give some early symptom of the power and will of the new government to redress our national wrongs must be productive of benefit. We soon shall be in a condition, we now are in a condition, we now are in a condition, to wage a commercial warfare with that nation. The produce of this country is more necessary to the rest of the world than that of other countries is to America. If we were disposed to hazard the experiment of interdicting the intercourse between us and the powers not in alliance, we should have overtures of the most advantageous kind tendered by those nations. If we have the disposition, we have abundantly the power to vindicate our cause; let us but show the world that we know justly how to consider our commercial friends and commercial adversaries. Let us show that if a war breaks out in Europe, and is extended and carried on in the West Indies, that we can treat with friendship and succour the one, while we can shut the other out of our ports. By these favors, without entering into the contest, or violating the law of nations, or even the privilege of neutrals, we can give the most decided advantage.
I will not enlarge on this subject; but it must be apparent to every gentleman that we possess natural advantages which no other nation does; we can therefore with justice stipulate for a reciprocity in commerce. The way to obtain this is by discrimination; and therefore, though the proposed measure may not be very favorable to the nations in alliance, yet I hope it will be adopted for the sake of the principle it contains. I should rather be in favor of a small discrimination than a large one, on purpose to avoid the loss of revenue which anyhow in this article will be but trifling.