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former and $1.00 per quintal for the latter. A duty of three cents a pound on starch, and four cents a pound on hair powder and glue, was charged in lieu of the present duty of fifteen per cent. ad valorem. On calicoes and gunpowder the duty was raised from twelve and a half to fifteen per cent. The duties exacted on tarred cordage and cables of $1.80 per hundred, and on untarred cordage $2.25, were changed to two cents per pound on the former, and on the other half a cent more.
The report of the Committee was adopted. By so doing wås signified the desire of Congress to encourage the development and growth of home industries—to continue that “sound policy” which, in the language of the preceding Committee of Commerce and Manufactures, pointed to the necessity of granting Governmental aid for the protection of such manufactures as were obviously capable of affording the United States an adequate supply of their several and respective objects, either by admitting free of duty the raw articles essential to their manufacture, and which could not be procured in the United States, or by imposing a higher duty than was paid on those articles to the manufacture whereof our citizens were incompetent
It may be observed that, besides the protection thrown over the manufacturing interest by Congress during this period, the wars which raged in Europe affected it in a favorable manner. American commerce rode the waves of an unexpected and brilliant prosperity. As the United States was a neutral nation, she fattened on the miseries of the European nations, and her commerce increased with astonishing rapidity. She excited the envy and jealousy of the English Government, whose commerce was rapidly diminishing. To her this was the most bitter part of the cost to subdue Napoleon. Our manufactures flourished from the same cause, though not to a corresponding degree.
Notwithstanding these favoring circumstances, the early impediments with which American manufactures contended were very great. There was a lack of workmen, especially of those possessing much skill; wages usually were high, and machinery could not be easily procured, Foreign manufacturers were wide awake to the determination of keeping all machinery from the country that would enable us to manufacture at better advantage. In 1787, two carding and spinning machines which were in the possession
of a person in Philadelphia, and“ which were calculated to save the labor of no less than one hundred and twenty workmen, daily," were purchased by the agency of a British artisan, packed in cases as common merchandise, and sent to Liverpool. The object of purchasing these machines was apparently to get them away. The hostility to American manufacturing was manifested in another way during the same period. Experiments were then rise for introducing the cotton plant into the country. Whether the English manufacturer at that early day foresaw the adaptation of the plant to the climate and soil, we do not know; but, with the vain hope of destroying its cultivation here, a considerable quantity of cotton seed was purchased and burned in Virginia by a British agent, in order, if possible, to arrest the injurious effects to the British manufacturer, of cotton raising and cotton manufacture in the United States. The same spirit continued for years, the irrefragible evidence whereof may be found in the history of the British treatment of Slater, who introduced machinery for making cotton goods, and whose praiseworthy efforts were rewarded by his English countrymen's attempting to destroy his life with various infernal contrivances.
At first, duties were both specific and ad valorem. Both kinds have been levied during the greater period of our history; but on several occasions the current has run more strongly toward one system than the other. Hamilton, in the last communication he ever made to the House, favored the contraction of the ad valorem system and the extension of specific duties. The reason for the change he declared was obvious. “ It is to guard against evasions which infallibly happen, in a greater or less degree, where duties are high. It is impossible for the merchants of any country to have manifested more probity than those of the United States on this subject; and it is firmly believed that there never was one in which illicit practices to the disadvantage of the revenue have obtained so little hitherto as in this; yet it would be a delusive expectation, that, with duties as considerable as those which now exist, a disposition will not be experienced in some individuals who carry on our import trade, to evade the payment of them, and this to an extent sufficient to make it prudent to guard with circumspection and by every reasonable precaution against the success of such attempts.” Hamilton offered to “digest the details of a
plan for this purpose ;" but, resigning shortly afterward, the bill was never drawn, and so the old system, constantly modified, was continued.
As soon as the tariff law was passed, it was necessary to provide for the collection of the duties imposed. The principal officers for collecting the revenues were divided into three classes,-collectors, naval officers and surveyors. The States were divided into districts, and some of the ports were designated as places where goods might be entered and delivered ; at other ports, there could be only a delivery of goods. To every district a collector was appointed; to many of them a surveyor was added, but a naval officer was attached only to a few. At those ports where the three officers were appointed, it was the duty of the collector to receive all reports and other documents given to him by the commander of any vessel, and to make a record of them; to receive the entry of all vessels and merchandise, with the invoices thereof; to estimate the duties payable thereon, to receive the money paid for them, and to take the bonds for securing their payment; to grant permits for the unloading and delivery of goods, and to employ proper persons as weighers, gaugers, measurers and inspectors at the several ports within his district. He was also to provide, at public expense and with the approval of the principal officers of the Treasury Department, storehouses for the safe keeping of goods,
The naval officer was required to receive copies of all manifests, to estimate and record the duties on each entry made with the collector, and to correct any error therein, before a permit to unload or deliver was granted. The duties of the surveyor were more extensive. He was required to superintend and direct all inspectors, weighers, measurers and gaugers, and the employment of the boats which might be provided for securing the collection of the revenue ; to place on board every vessel, as soon as it arrived, an inspector to rate the distilled spirits forming the cargo, and to ascertain whether the goods imported were conformable to the entries made of them. The surveyor was always the servant of the collector and naval officer. When a collector only was assigned to a port or district, as was the case generally, he performed the duties of naval officer and surveyor, and, when a collector and surveyor were assigned, the former performed the duties of naval officer. The collection of duties was to begin the fifteenth day of August, 1789, and on tonnage fifteen days afterward.
As the law for collecting them did not pass until July, it was impossible to appoint and commission all the revenue officers in time for them to put the law in operation on the day prescribed. The custom-houses were organized in the several States during the months of August and September, and in the interval a number of importations occurred. In some instances, duties were paid under State laws; in other cases, none were paid.
Hamilton considered that duties accrued on all importations after the day specified for their collection. A claim for them was made, with a view of getting a legal decision thereon. Nevertheless, he questioned the expediency of collecting duties on merchandise which had been thus imported. The enforcement of the claim, he thought, might be regarded rigorous, and in some cases injurious, especially when goods had been sold without reference to the duty. Besides, it would not be easy to ascertain what ought to be paid. His opinions were shared by Congress, and accordingly it was enacted that all duties which had accrued between the fifteenth of August and the time when each collector entered his office should be remitted, and, if anyone had paid duties to the Government during that period, restitution should be made.
In executing the law, collectors at first followed the regulations which had previously been adopted by the States. But Hamilton, notwithstanding the variety and difficulty of his labors, soon established a system of rules for their guidance. The collectors were required to render a weekly account of their receipts and expenditures to the Treasurer, to report the defects which should be discovered in executing the law, and to make full returns of the work of their offices. Bonds taken for duties, if not paid as stipulated, were to be put immediately in suit ; indeed, “the most exact punctuality would be considered indispensable.” “Resolutions,” Hamilton added, “ under State laws, may give an air of rigor to this instruction ;” but he regarded its strict observance essential, “not only to the order of the finances, but even to the propriety of the indulgence which the law allowed of procrastinated terms of payment of duties.” Indeed, very complete instructions were given to the collectors to guide them in performing their untried duties.
It was not expected that the law, prepared with so much necessary haste, would operate perfectly. Defects soon began to appear. These were afterwards communicated to Congress by Hamilton At the next session, most of the provisions were repealed; another law was passed, which continued in force until 1799, when a still more elaborate statute was enacted, which has served as the groundwork of all subsequent legislation.
For many years, Gallatin affirmed that, notwithstanding the gradual increase of duties, they were faithfully paid, and that the frauds so often committed on the fair trader and the public in countries where a large revenue was derived from customs, were comparatively few in the United States. The whole amount of fines and forfeitures incurred for a period of five years and a half for breaches of the revenue laws, which, during the same time, had yielded a net revenue of $17,000,000, did not much exceed $9,000. Tea, however, formed an exception, as the consumption for the years 1793 and 1794 was only one-half as great as for the two previous years. The temptation offered by the high duty and the small bulk of the article pointed out the true remed y, namely, a decrease of the duty.
At a later period, it was observed by a committee of Congress that the duties on wines had been so injudiciously laid as to produce a strong temptation to enter high-priced wines, which paid a very high duty, under the names of those of a low-price, paying a duty comparatively low. This fraud had been extensively practiced.
When the new Government had been in operation twenty years, a very interesting and instructive report was made concerning “the principles and practice” adopted by the Treasury Department in “mitigating or remitting" the fines, penalties and forfeitures incurred under the revenue laws. Congress had confided to the Secretary of the Treasury a very broad and delicate authority in the matter, which, happily, had been “ used in a manner liberal and just.” He was vested with power to mitigate or remit a fine, forfeiture or penalty, or to remove the disability, or any part thereof, if, in his opinion, it had been incurred without wilful negligence, or any intention of fraud, and to direct prosecutions to cease on such conditions as he deemed reasonable and just. To obtain the benefit of this law, however, it was necessary to have the facts in every case determined by a judge of a district court of the United States, who then transmitted the record to the Secretary of the Treasury for his decision.