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ment resort, again, to non-intercourse or non-importation; should any sudden revolution in commerce take place, all can see the dangers to which our people would be exposed.
The means of procuring a full and adequate supply exist in our own country. They are found on the long line of our sea coast, in numerous parts of our deep interior. The manufacture already exists, to a greater or lesser extent, in nineteen of the twenty-four States of the Union. Investments of capital, improvements for perfecting the article, were daily making, and would have continued with accelerated rapidity, had they not been partially arrested by the act of last session.
If our country must depend on a foreign supply, the consumers of all classes are exposed to other dangers. The greatest proportion of imports will be made in our principal seaports. The salt trade is conducted by comparatively a few.' It is not cut up and divided as much as that of other branches of foreign business. It is generaily received by our shipping rather as ballast than for the purposes of profitable freight. It is easily monopolised. Our merchants on the seaboard could, whenever they pleased, take it under their own control. Like every other class of our citizens, they are in pursuit of gain. To inonopolise an article at cominon prices, and then demand exorbitant profits, is no uncommon occurrence. To-day the market is glutted, and prices settle down to the lowest point, when monopoly advances and grasps the whole. Next week there seems to be a scarcity, and prices advance as high as speculation can reach. This is considered one of the most capital operations of trade. No article has been more under its influence than salt. If, of late, it has been less so, it is owing to the great domestic production. The effects of this will be more fully explained in this report.
Besides the common danger of dependence on external supply, it is heightened by a knowledge of the fact that a great proportion of that supply is derived from a single nation and its dependencies. In 1826, we received from Great Britain and its dependencies, .
- 3,533,796 bushels. From all other places,
• 4,564,720 bushels.
In 1829, from Great Britain and its dependencies,
- 4,114,047 bushels. • 1,831,500
- 5,945,547 bushels.
Even under the influence of the great domestic supply, during the past season, salt in some of our cities rose to 55 cents the bushel; recently it sold at 423. It was supposed by many that the advance was caused by a belief that the domestic production would have been limited under the influence of the act of last session. But, had the recent sales been effected at 10 cents, instead of 424, the country trader will be required to pay the common market price, when he shall resort to the emporium to replenish his store next spring.
This also applies, in some degree, to the country trade. The great proportion of northern mercantile business concentrates in New York. It is car
ried on chiefly at some annual periods, spring and fall. Country merchants understand with great accuracy the condition of their customers, what supplies are needed, and what proportion, among several in the same town or village, each usually furnishes. All are careful not to overstock the market. If one purchases in New York at a price reduced to the lowest point from some accidental cause, and ten days after his neighbor purchases at a higher price of five or ten cents per bushel, still they both must offer.the article in the same market. Should the highest purchaser feel confident that he can dispose of what he has bought in a reasonable time, he will keep up the price to meet cost and profit. This is equally known to the lowest purchaser, and he can safely ask the same price for what cost him much less than it cost the other. Hence it is evident that the consumer gains little or nothing by the common fluctuations of trade; he pays for all the profits of monopoly and speculation, and enjoys no equivalent in return. It would seem that these remarks apply with even greater force to the vast population west of the mountains, in the broad valley of the Mississippi...
The quantity of salt imported into New Orleans, in 1830, was a little less than 400,000 bushels. The uantity manufactured on the western waters amounted to about 2,400,000. The present consumption requires at least 2,800,000. From the rapid increase of population, 3,500,000 bushels in a short period will be required, and the ratio of increased consumption will rapidly advance for half a century to come. Suppose the required supply should be imported, the importation must, of necessity, be confined to a few individuals; it would be exposed to all the varied causes of fluctuating trade. New Orleans would be the only door through which it could pass to the immense western regions. It must be bought at all events. Concentrated at . one point, it could be gathered up by monopoly, having unlimited capital at control, and dealt out to waiting want and necessity at prices which speculation might please to demand. A domestic supply is now certain, and may be for ever secured. It can never be controlled by any external cir. cumstances. Domestic monopoly cannot exist to any dangerous extent among nearly a hundred establishments, scattered along a line of a thousand miles, and where 'new sources of supply, to any extent, may be opened, whenever they may be required.
It appears, by the evidence before the committee, and annexed to this report, that there has been a steady and rapid decline in the price of salt, in the western country, since 1820. At Nashville, Tennessee, in the years 1817, ’18, '19, and '20, salt sold from two to three dollars per bushel of fifty pounds. The present price is 624 cents; 75 cents is the average price for the past year. At Louisville, the price, during the season past, has been from 45 to 50 cents. In Madisonville, Indiana, the price, for the past twelve months, has been 50 cents per bushel. At St. Louis, during the same period, the price has varied from 56 to 62) cents.
It would seem that when the article can be obtained in abundance at such prices, there is no substantial reasons for complaint, more especially when , it is mainly owing to the domestic supply, produced under the influence of protecting duties, and, also, when there is every reason to anticipate a continued reduction if the domestic manufacturer may be permitted to pursue his course unmolested.
By some, it may be supposed, that, if prices are advanced by monopoly or the fluctuations of trade, the manufacturer can participate in the advantages equally with the dealer in the foreign article. This would be impos
i sible. It is only by a regular steady demand, and price that he can puri sue his business. When there will be a glut in the market, when scarcity, when monopoly will control, he cannot foresee. An extraordinary depression in price, for a season, may ruin him. His capital may be wasted before remunerating prices return. It requires years for the manufacturer to make preparations; the rise of all prices may be effected in a moment. Uncertainty will prevent the use of establishments already in existence, and new ones will not be undertaken.
The committee cannot discover any object more valuable, more national, more vitally important to the country than a steady, uniform, abundant, and uncontrollable supply of an article so essential at all times to every rank and condition of life. It should be secured by all reasonable means which the Government can command. It is easily accomplished by a just improvement of the resources which the nation possesses within itself in the fullest abundance. By pursuing this course, the nunierous dangers to which our people are perpetually exposed while dependent on foreign supply would be readily averted.
The committee would now allude to the effects which, clearly, have been produced by the domestic manufacture of salt. On an average for each of the last five years, it amounted to about 4,250,000 bushels. Importations for the same period, annually, have averaged about 5,500,000 bushels; the annual consumption of all kinds, 9,750,000. Suppose the domestic manufacture destroyed—the annual production of 4,250,000 annihilatedwhat must be the consequence? The effect, for a season, might be, perhaps, to depress prices, because a good supply, both of foreign and domestic salt, is on hand, waiting the ordinary demands of consumption. In anticipation of an advance in price, the foreign surplus, if any, or even a draft on common supply from abroad might be made and thrown into our markets. A mo. mentary glut would take place, and depression of price might follow. But another consequence would rapidly succeed. The domestic production of nearly one half which the country consumes would be nearly destroyed, and a limited supply take place. This would, of course, be attended with the highest prices. But the work of destruction would be completed. This great necessary of life would depend on foreign labor, foreign capital, the vicissitudes of foreign trade, and of foreign and domestic speculation. The ruins of our manufactories would be a perpetual warning against any further effort. Should, at some future day, the wants of the country offer prviection, prudence would avoid the allurement to another sacrifice.
The committee would offer another reason in favor of retaining the former duty on foreign salt. As has been observed, one of the greatest dangers to which the consumers of salt would be exposed is a monopoly of the arti. cle by dealers on the seaboard, if we depended solely on a foreign supply. This has been in a great measure prevented by the immense quantity manufactured in the United States. If an effort was made by speculators to raise the price of the foreign article exorbitantly high by monopoly, country dealers would leave it on their hands. If they should purchase and transport it to the interior, the people would not purchase, because a great stock of domestic salt is always to be found, or can be easily obtained, at moderate rates. Before this could be exhausted, sales of the foreign article must be made. Country capital would fail in the contest. Prices given to seaboard speculation would come down to prices demanded by the domestic article. Here is the distinct cause why a monopoly by our seaboard merchants would be wholly unavailing. But should the country depend entirely on the foreign importations, or chiefly, every one can readily perceive the danger to which all classes of consumers would be exposed. Little sympathy would be felt for them by those who were gaining fortunes, even at the expense of want and suffering. The country dealers must purchase, and could safely purchase. The people must buy of the merchant, or live without; to no other source of supply could they look. If the domestic manufacture flourishes, the people can pass by the foreign article with indifference. Those along the sea coast can find if there; those in the north can find abundance at the great salt works of New York: from thence it is readily distributed, by canals and lakes, to every part of the interior. The west can be supplied abundantly from its own resources. Monopoly finds a barrier against its operations in every part of the country. In case of war or interruption of commerce, and foreign supply is withheld, every thing is prepared for an extension to meet every possible want.
Another reason is offered. The domestic manufacture employs and sustains thousands of our people. They have been diverted from other pursuits, already reduced to the lowest point of profit. The people around the manufactories, for a considerable distance, can obtain a supply in exchange for various articles, which they have to spare, and which could not bear transportation to those places where foreign salt is obtained.
Again: Four or five millions of bushels of salt greatly multiply domestic exchanges. The operation is generally confined to the interior, and most of the direct and immediate benefits begin and end there. This, it is true, may diminish the business of those engaged in the foreign salt trade, and may be the sole cause, in the minds of many, for desiring a total suppression of the domestic manufacture. All know that the sharp eye of foreign commerce has watched, and is watching, the progress of domestic industry with jealous alarm. In a case like the present, where the foreign article must, of necessity, pass through the hands of the seaboard merchants, it is very natural that they, like all other classes of people, should suppose that whatever business was profitable to them must contribute to the general geod; that nothing could be useful to the country unless they shared in the profits.' It, therefore, becomes the duty of the Government to examine the interests of all with strict impartiality, consider them fairly, and adjust them in a manner best calculated to promote the prosperity of every portion of our country. S ,,!
The committee considering, also, that the article of salt is one of indispensable necessity; that to depend on foreign nations for a supply would be almost as dangerous as to allow them to control the air; that a superintending Providence has placed the means of abundance within the undisturbed dominion of our own people and Government, it clearly comes within the range of the protecting power and policy. It does not belong to that class of articles on which duties were laid for revenue alone. No one ever supposed that the duty on tea, pepper, pimento, cinnamon, Peruvian bark, capers, and olives, was intended to protect or encourage their production. They have no connexion with the protecting tariff. Duty on these was for revenue, and when revenue is no longer wanted, it may be repealed with perfect safety. But this by no means implies that duties which really effectually sustain some valuable branch of domestic industry, should be abandoned. Even a surplus in the treasury would be a lesser evil.
The committee will proceed to consider the measures adopted by the Government in relation to salt, and the claims which the manufacturer has to a continued support.
The first duty on salt was imposed by the act of Congress in 1789. Its preamble declares, “ Whereas it is necessary for the support of Government, and for the discharge of the dents of the United States, and the en. couragement and protection of manufactures, that duties be laid on goods, wares, and merchandises, imported.” In this preamble is found a full and ample recognition of the power to encourage and protect manufactures, instantaneously following the adoption of the constitution. On sall was laid a duty of six cents per bushela duty higher, in proportion to the foreign value of the article, than was laid on almost every other. It must have been well known in our early life as a nation, how dangerous and unarailing it was to look abroad for a supply. All of the members who composed the Congress of 1789 must have seen the miseries of the revolution; most of them must have largely shared in the common sufferings. The policy of encouraging and protecting the domestic inanufacture was prompted by a full knowledge of the privations of a patriot army, in every degree of distress, of the wants of the whole country. During the last war, also, our farmers, the middling classes, and the poor, well remember how dear was the price of the article, and how difficult to obtain it. Then the Government and people urged on the manufacturer to the greatest exertion; even called it patriotic, and promised faithful, cordial, and lasting support, If, during the late war and restrictions on foreign commerce, our people suffered less, it must be admitted that it was entirely owing to the vigorous efforts of our manufacturers. But, when open and apparent danger seems to be removed to a distance, appeals are often made to the supposed interests of the middling classes and the poor, to sacrifice those who provided for their wants in the time of their utmost need.
By the act of August, 1790, the duty on foreign salt was advanced to twelve cents the bushel. In 1797, the duty on each bushel was twenty cents. This act remained in force for ten years. In 1807 all duties on salt were abolished. The committee are advised from the best authority that no reduction of prices was the consequence. By the act of July, 1813, the duty of twenty cents per bushel was again imposed, to take effect on the 1st January, 1814, and to continue in operation until the end of the then existing war, and one year afterwards. By the act of April, 1816, on a general revision of the tariff, the duty of twenty cents per bushel on salt was made perpetual. The tariff of 1816 was intended to provide a revenue, and at the same time, to be so adjusted as to give efficient protection to the different branches of manufacture which had sprung into existence from previous protection, or from restrictions on commerce, or from the war itself, The tariff, as a protecting system, since 1816, has been twice revised, and at each time the protecting duties have been augmented on almost every article of foreign production which came in competition with the domestic manufacture, excepting the single article of salt. The duty on that is now twenty cents per bushel, the same as was laid by the act of 1797, repealed in 1807, and re-enacted in 1813. From this brief history of our legislation on the subject; from the deep root which the manufacture of salt has taken in the country; from the sacrifices about to be required of a numerous body of our fellow-citizens, and from the exposure of the whole country to the dangers which have been described, the committee most respectfully repeat