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The Merchant Marine 1

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THE MERCHANT MARINE 1. How our exports and imports are carried.—The percentage of exports and imports of the United States carried in vessels of American registry has steadily declined since 1825, indicating that Ameri can business has been to an increasing extent depen dent upon foreign ships.

The following table shows the percentage of ocean-borne commerce carried in American bottoms for five-year periods : The National Foreign Trade Council, in a docu ment published by the House of Representatives, makes the following statistical comparison between the ship owning nations : These figures show the condition in 1915. They do not show how the relative position of the United States had been declining in importance. The fol lowing table shows the condition of the American Merchant Marine in 1890 and 1915 as compared with the total world's tonnage : These figures are based on Lloyd's Register. Ac cording to the Commissioner of Navigation, the total number of United States ships of all types regis- . tered, enrolled or licensed was, on June 30, 1919, 27,513, or 12,907,300 gross tons. Of this total only 5,006 vessels measuring 6,665,376 gross tons were registered for foreign trade.

2. History of our merchant marine.—The causes which contributed to the decline of our shipping were economic and political. A brief statement of its his tory may serve to make the causes clear.

Shipbuilding in the North American colonies was encouraged by the cheapness of suitable lumber. By 1775 one-third of all ships flying the British flag were American built. American ships carried on an important commerce with the West Indies. After the Revolutionary War the American ships were excluded from English colonies, English shipowners were forbidden to buy American built ships, and many restrictions were placed on the importation in • Great Britain of American products in American ships. The activities of the Barbary pirates unre pressed by Great Britain contributed toward making the life of the American sailor precarious.

In order to encourage American shipping, the first Congress in 1789 allowed a discount of 10 per cent of tariff duties on imports brought into the country in-vessels built and owned by American citizens. The

effect of this and other favorable legislation showed in the rapid increase in tonnage from 123,893 tons in 1789 to 438,863 in 1794 and 667,107 in 1800.

3. Effect of War of second war with England affected tonnage unfavorably. By 1819 the total American owned tonnage had dropped to 581,230. In the subsequent treaties preferential treatment of American ships was abandoned by our government, but the English reserved their right to regulate trade with the West Indies and with Canada. In 1817, Congress retaliated for the exclusion of American ships from these trades by excluding all foreign ships from coast-wise traffic.

In spite of obstacles the merchant marine increased steadily until it reached 757,998 tons in 1828. Mr. W. L. Marvin quotes a statement of the London Times of May, 1827: Twelve years of peace, and what is the situation of Great Britain? The shipping interest, the cradle of our navy, is half mined.( ?) Our commercial monopoly exists no longer ; and thousands of our manufacturers are starving, or seek ing redemption in distant lands. We haVe closed the West ern Indies against America from feelings of commercial rivalry. Its active seamen have already engrossed an im portant branch of our carrying trade to the Eastern Indies. Her starred flag is now conspicuous on every sea, and will soon defy our thunder.

This period represents the most flourishing period of our merchant marine.

4. Period of decline.—From then on the American merchant marine has declined in relative importance. The entire withdrawal of governmental support by the Reciprocity Act of 1828, the introduction of iron and steel for the building of ships and finally the sub stitution of steam for sails all played their part in bringing about the decline. The use of iron gave England the advantage in the cost of building, pos sessing, as she did, facilities for the production of the metal and workmen trained in the working of it.

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