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A cursory Inquiry into the Embargo Policy of the American Government.
Ac mihi qiiidem, si proprium et verum nomen nostri mali quxratur, fatal is quodam cslamitas incidisse videtur et improvidas hominum mentis occupavisse. (Cic. Pro Lig )
Embargoes, of the form and character which they have acquired in this country, are political measures so singular and novel, and, at the same time, in their consequences, so serious, as to he particularly deserving of a careful examination in all their bearings and effects.
Much has been said on the subject, in desultory debate, but we do not know of any satisfactory investigation of it on record, nor do we think that it has been at all considered, under some of its most important aspects.
A new embargo, just laid for three long months, at the very moment when the navigation opened, after an interruption /or an unusual length of time, in consequence of a protracted winter,* has revived the interest of the discussion, or rather, the terror of the measure, from which a great proportion of the community had scarcely begun to recover.
Under these circumstances we flatter ourselves, that a number of our readers will be gratified by the attempt we shall now make, to lay before them, with perspicuity, and precision, the principal reflections, which these extraordinary, and, in our opinion, most ill judged political expedients, can scarcely fail to force upon the attention of every intelligent, and unbiassed observer.
An embargo is either, like the continental svstem of Napoleon, a war measure, the direct object of which is to distress the nation, with whom we are dissatisfied, by depriving her of the advantages, resulting from an intercourse with us; or else it must be a measure of safety; or a measure preparatory for war.
If intended as the first, we have then to ask, what injury is it likely to cause to our enemy,—in the instance before us to Great Britain—and what to ourselves?
*Now, the trade of Great Britain with us, forms only a part, and not even the principal part of her trade. That, which the embargo destroys for us, is all our trade, at least all our fo
•The very first sloop which descended tht Hudson from Albany tpri:ig, met, at New York, the news of the embargo.
reign trade. Thus, even this broad view of the question, gives us reason to apprehend, that our embargoes will prove infinitely more prejudicial to ourselves, than to those against whom they are levelled. A further investigation will corroborate this inference.
Great Britain can only suffer from our determination to shut ourselves up at home, on account of her not receiving, in this case, the usual supply of those commodities, the productions of our soil, which we have generally furnished; and, on account of her losing our market, for so much of her manufactures, as we used to take from her in exchange. On the score of freights and insurances she will hardly lose any thing, because these we have long been in the habit of earning ourselves.
It is a safe basis of political calculation to assume, that the value of all imports for home consumption, is generally equal to that of all native exports; and, considering that our importations from the East Indies, from South America, the West Indies, the Mediterranean, France, the North of Europe, &c, are of great magnitude, whilst our exports of native commodities to countries other than Great Britain, her dependencies, or allies, amounted, during the year preceding the first of October, 1811, only to 6,719,366 dollars,* or, to speak in round numbers, to six millions and a half, it is a very liberal admission, to take it for granted, no more than that the value of all our importations from Great Britain for home
* The following- is the Report of the Secretary of the Treasury to the House of Representatives of the 21st January, 1S12, warranting this statement.
Treasury Department, January 21, 1812.
1 have the honour to transmit herewith a statement of goods, wares and merchandise, exported from the United States, during one year, prior to the first day of October, 1811, and amounting to 61,316,83.3 dollars. The goods, wares and merchandise, of domestic growth or manufacture, included in this statement, are estimated at g45,294,043 And those of foreign growth or manufacture, at 16,022,790
The articles of domestic growth or manufacture may be arranged under the following heads, viz.
Produce of the sea, ..... 1,413,000
agriculture, .... 35,556,000
Uncertain, - - .... 663,000
And consumption, is equal to the whole amount of native productions furnished to herself, her dependencies and allies, which was in the year just mentioned, agreeably to the Treasury Report referred to above,—38,574,677 dollars, or thirtyeight millions and a half.
The real value of the exports of Great Britain—taking the average of the five years from 1805 to 1809—amounted to 54,121,626/. sterling, or to 240,000,000 dollars, annually.* Her own consumption of domestic manufactures may be estimated at nearly double that sum.j The total value of the annual produce of her manufacturing industry falls little short of seven hundred millions of dollars.
The amount, therefore, which we take from Great Britain, even under the most favourable supposition, is not quite one sixth part of her annual exports; not quite one eighteenth part of the total annual production of her manufacturing industry
The amount of native commodities, which Great Britain, her dependencies and allies together receive from us, on the principle, that generally speaking, the exports and imports of
And they were exported to the following countries, viz.
To the dominions of Russia, Prussia, Sweden and Denmark, 3,055,833
Ditto Great Britain, , 20,308,211
Ditto Spain and Portugal, - - 18^266,466
Ditto France and Italy, - - - 1,194,275
To all other countries, or not distinguished, - . . 2,469,258
The goods, wares and merchandise of foreign growth or manufacture, were exported to the following countries, viz.
To the dominions of Russia, Prussia, Sweden and Denmark, 5,340,11
Ditto Great Britain, ..... 1,57.5,344
Ditto Spain and Portugal, .... 5,772,572
Ditto France and Italy, .... 1,712,537
To all other countries, or m>t distinguished, - - . 1,624,220
I have the honour to be, with great respect, sir,
The honourable the Speaker of the
* See Report, together with minutes of evidence and accounts, from the select committee, appointed to inquire into the cause of the high price"' gold bullion, &c. London 1810. Account LXXI1I. of the Appendix.
+ See Macpherson's Annals of Commerce, vol. IV. It is stated a'24° millions sterling, in the Quarterly Review for June last. (Review of Visk)on the Military Policy of Great Britain.) The same Review compoWf only one eltven'th part of the commercial prosperity of Great Britain, 14 *rivtd from customers over whom she has no control.
a nation, square, cannot reach one sixth part of the annual importations of Great Britain alone.
But, of the commodities which we furnish, not a single one is exclusively the production of our country. Those of the Southern states—cotton, rice, tobacco—succeed almost equally, well in some parts of South America, in the East and West Indies, along the Asiatic shores of the Mediterranean. Naval stores and potash can be obtained from Canada and the North of -Europe. Our exports of grain—in the natural or manufactured state—without which, we sometimes imagine that the armies of Portugal and Spain would perish with famine, and Great Britain herself be brought to the eve of starvation, are trifling in amount, when compared with the total annual consumption of Great Britain, to which our largest known contributions in grain, in any one year, have scarcely borne a greater proportion than one fiftieth; or with the vast quantities, which are actually shipped every year, or may be procured, from Chili, from the coast of Barbarv, from the shores of the Black Sea, or from the North of Germany and Poland. At the two ports alone of Taganrock and Odessa, in the Black Sea, from eight hundred to one thousand vessels of two hundred tons burthen each, load every year with small grain, and chiefly with wheat.*
Great Britain may the more readily relinquish all apprehensions, with regard to the want of many raw materials, and grain, since an extensive licensed trade is now regularly established between that country and France, as it were, in . derision and contempt of the United States, particularly on the part of Napoleon. For,with him, this licensed trade amounts to an infraction of his continental system, no doubt from motives of superior, or more pressing- interest, while he leaves no means untried, to make us subservient to the extension of that system, though at the expense of our own political consequence and prosperity.
The supplies, therefore, of such native commodities as we can furnish to Great Britain, are taken from us, because we bring them, even before they are called for. Our vigilance, thanks to the enterprising spirit of our merchants, anticipates every want abroad. We are so prompt, and, on account of out wide-ranging activity, can be satisfied with such small profits, that it becomes the interest, of those with whom we trade, to receive our produce, rather than seek for the same commodi
bomas Mac GUI's Travels in Turkey, Italy, and Rusf i.i. London
ties elsewhere. But, so little are we indispensable to the wellbeing, or even to the greatness of a nation, to whom all the world may be considered as accessible, that, if the United States were swallowed up by the ocean, though the event, like our embargo measures, might cause some momentary inconvenience, yet, in a commercial point of view, after the lapse of six months, or of a year at most, our non-existence would be no longer feltConsequently, our embargo system, as far as h operates through the withholding of- our exports, can have no other effect on Great Britain, than to cause her thousands of merchants, to seek elsewhere, the commodities which we choose to keep at home.
For the momentary inconvenience she may suffer, from the interruption of the usual course of supplies, she will be, in a great measure, indemnified by the advantage of finding additional employment for her shipping; of earning herself those freights and insurances, which before made part of our gain; of obtaining, therefore, in a national point of view, those same commodities cheaper than before, should the consumers even have to pay the same, or somewhat larger prices; and of repossessing herself of so much direct trade with other countries, as our vigilance and activity as carriers, or other causes arising from our local circumstances, had wrested from her.
She may consider—although erroneously—the paralyzed condition of a young, and, in other respects, vigorous commercial rival in the light of a further advantage and indemnification. The celebrated navigation act of Oliver Cromwell was regarded as a cause of grievance by other nations, and as the foundation of the naval and commercial power of Great Britain. Our embargo system, without involving her in the same odium, may appear to her to be productive of the same beneficial effects in relation to her maritime interests.
She must finally consider as among the number of beneficial effects, resulting from the course of measures we pursue, the greater demand for the productions of Canada, and the encouragement, which agricultural industry will receive in other parts of the world, from which, greater abundance of supplies, and lower prices, must ultimately ensue.
From the loss of our custom, as consumers of her goods, it must be admitted that Great Britain, as a manufacturing country, will sustain some injury. But, even this will be mujch less considerable than is imagined, by those, whose whole attention is engrossed by the riots of her stocking-weaversjor the clamours of some journeymen out of work. In Englaudi