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more progressive nation, has not thus far subjected its early shipping laws to close scrutiny with a view to discarding what has become inapplicable to modern conditions.
Section VIII of chapter 60 of the laws of the twenty-sixth year of George III provided:
VIII. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That no subject of His Majesty, his heirs and successors, whose usual residence is in any country not under the dominion of His Majesty, his heirs and successors, shall be deemed entitled, during the time he shall continue so to reside, to be the owner in whole or in part of any British ship or vessel, required and authorized to be registered by virtue of this act, unless he be a member of some British factory, or agent for, or partner in, any house or copartnership actually carrying on trade in Great Britain or Ireland.
Both the American and the British law were products of the mutual distrust of the time of their enactment and reflected a fear on the part of each country that in some manner those professing to be its citizens would use its flag against their own country. The privateer merchantman, against which the laws in question were addressed, exists now only in history and fiction. The freedom of the United States from foreign alliances and complications and our position as the world's great neutral power may well be turned now to the advantage of our commerce. Through their extended colonial systems Great Britain, Germany, and France are in a position to conduct the great share of the carrying trade of Asia, Africa, South America, and the islands of the Atlantic and Pacific. The American citizen who, for trade purposes, becomes a resident of the undeveloped or partially developed regions of the world is at best at a disadvantage in competition with the citizen of any of the powers named, who has the unflagging support of the laws of his country in his efforts to push trade. It seems an unnecessary and unreasonable hardship to deny to any American citizen, with the enterprise to seek to develop new channels of trade, the complete and recognized use of an American vessel.
If an American citizen goes to.Central or South America or the islands of the Pacific to build up trade with the United States, legisla tion should favor, not impede, his venture. Yet the law in question denies to him the right to buy and register an American-built vessel to carry on his project unless he receives an appointment as consul or is an agent for or partner in some American firm. He is at entire liberty to charter for an indefinitely long period a foreign vessel and use it in trade between his place of temporary abode and the United States, or a foreigner can buy and operate an American vessel in trade with the United States. But the American citizen can own and operate in that trade a vessel built in his own country only on the conditions named or as a matter of record, not of register, thus placing the vessel outside the documented American merchant fleet. The law, to be sure, can readily be evaded, for it is easy to organize on paper a copartnership in the United States and thus go through the form of compliance with its provisions. It is the spirit of the law which is oppressive.
It need not be apprehended that the repeal of the law is a covert attack on domestic shipbuilding. In so far as it has any effect, the law as it has stood for a century is an injury to American shipbuilding by rendering it difficult for certain American citizens, likely to require ships for trade, to obtain them in domestic yards under the national register. Section 4134 was enacted at the request of President Jefferson, and is one of the earliest steps in legislation which culminated in the embargo and non-intercourse acts so destructive for the time to American navigation. As the theory of those later acts was that our merchantmen
were unable to take care of themselves and the Government was not strong enough to take care of them, and that, therefore, it was wisdom to keep them off the seas altogether, so this section was enacted on the theory apparently that the fewer the owners of American vessels in remote parts the less would be the responsibility of the Government for their conduct and protection. If it be the present aim of the law to restrict the number of American shipowners the statute is still defensible. But if the law aims to extend American ship owning and shipbuilding this statute may well be repealed.
The nation undertakes to afford the fullest protection in the enjoy ment of all their rights to its naturalized citizens abroad as well as at home, and there seems to be no reason at this time why the naturalized citizen should be put under suspicion by the law as one not to be trusted abroad with the ownership of a registered American-built vessel. The theory on which the law was enacted that the Government might be unable to protect the remote commercial ventures of its citizens is no longer tenable. In addition to its present function as the protector of our missionaries and religious enterprises abroad, our Navy is rapidly becoming strong enough, when necessary, to protect an American foreign commerce, if only that commerce be allowed to exist. The denial to any American citizen, native born or naturalized, of the right to own a registered American-built ship at home or abroad is to the full extent of its operation a discouragement to American navigation, and also to American shipbuilding. The repeal of sections 4133 and 4134 is provided for in section 15 of bill L, in "Proposed legislation."
Only American-built vessels have the privilege of engaging in the coasting trade of the United States. That privilege has a money value, and with it a vessel is worth more than without it. Yet in certain cases the law has virtually stripped American vessels of this factor of value, and to an extent thus works to the disadvantage of our shipbuilders and shipowners. It is assumed that the United States desire to sell vessels to foreigners. Legislation which deprives our vessels of any factor of value is in conflict with this desire. Section 4165 of the Revised Statutes, comprising acts of 1797 and 1804, provides that an American vessel which has been sold to a foreigner shall not be entitled to an American register when repurchased by an American citizen.
If the law laid a duty on repairs to American vessels in foreign ports this section might be regarded as a measure to prevent the temporary transfer of an American vesssel to a foreign flag in order to obtain the benefit of cheap repairs and its subsequent return to the American flag. There is, however, no such law, except for enrolled and licensed vessels on the Great Lakes. A registered American vessel may be repaired to any extent abroad, short of a change of build; so the section as it stands does little or nothing to secure repair work for our yards. It becomes, therefore, a restraint, if only a slight one, on the market for American vessels, which may well be removed. The laws of Cuba and of several South American countries permit only vessels owned by their citizens and under the national flag to engage in their coasting trade. The market for American vessels would be somewhat enlarged, it is believed, if we permitted the sale of vessels to citizens of these countries and their repurchase by American citizens whenever conditions of business rendered it profitable to move from the coasting trade of one country to the coasting trade of another.
Instances have come to the notice of this Bureau where a sale of an American vessel to a Spanish citizen has been made to conform to the
Spanish law and the vessel has been engaged in profitable trade for two or three years. When that trade was concluded permission was asked for the issue anew of an American register, and evidence, almost conclusive, was offered that there had been no bona fide sale, but that a nominal transfer had been made for the purpose of evading the Spanish regulations. Such statutes render difficult shipowning and shipbuilding, and put both interests in this country at a disadvantage compared with our foreign rivals. The value of an American-built vessel and the likelihood of its sale to a foreigner would be increased if the vessel retained the privilege, on again becoming American prop. erty, of entering the coasting trade of the United States, which now can be done only by paying alien tonnage dues, virtually prohibitory. The same section provides that an American vessel seized or captured by a foreign power, when recovered, shall be entitled to a new register only on the application of its owner at the time of seizure, or his estate. This provision of law is most infrequently applied, and no reason is now apparent for the fine distinction in purchasers drawn nearly a hundred years ago, when it was passed. It is believed that the repeal of section 4165 in its entirety would benefit our navigation, but lest there be apprehension that the repeal might deprive American yards of work on the change of build of vessels, it is proposed that the section be amended in such a manner as to prevent even that remote contingency. The three sections, 4133, 4134, and 4165, in so far as they are operative at all, deprive American citizens of the privilege of owning and operating American-built vessels under American registers, and to that extent they discourage American ship owning and shipbuilding. There may have been warrant for section 4165 at the time of its enactment, before our treaties of commerce and friendship were enacted, and when discriminating tonnage taxes were imposed. But by treaty with nearly every maritime nation foreign vessels are now placed on an equality with national vessels. Discrimination is now shown only against the American owner of an American vessel which by foreign purchase has lost the right to a new register on repurchase by an American. An American-built vessel, if sold to a foreigner, can engage in foreign trade with the United States, but can not engage in the coasting trade. If repurchased by an American citizen the vessel is barred by section 2497, Revised Statutes, from engaging in foreign trade with the United States, and can not engage in the coasting trade except by paying a prohibitory tax of 50 cents a ton on each entry.
Whatever differences of opinion there may be concerning American ownership of foreign-built vessels under the American flag, it is submitted that there should be no difference of opinion about giving American citizens the greatest latitude in owning American-built vessels under the American flag. The three sections of the Revised Statutes referred to all curtail that privilege. An amendment proposed to section 4165 may be found in section 9 of bill L.
Section 2835 provides that
Vessels bound up James River, in the State of Virginia, shall not be required to stop in Hampton Roads to deposit a manifest with the collector at Norfolk. But the master of the revenue-cutter stationed at Norfolk shall, under the orders of the Secretary of the Treasury, board all such vessels, and indorse their manifests, and place an officer on board of each vessel bound up James River, having a cargo from a foreign port. If, however, there is no revenue-cutter on that station for the purpose of boarding vessels, or when the state of the weather may be such as to render it impracticable to send an officer on board any vessel bound up James River, having a cargo from a foreign port, the captain shall deposit, with the surveyor at Hampton, a copy of the manifest of the cargo on board such vessel.
The collector of customs at Newport News reports:
We have no account of any foreign vessel touching at this port on its way up James River, and if any have passed they were for Richmond, Va., where there is a customhouse. None of the vessels in the coasting trade up the James River deposit a manifest at this office, or are boarded by any of the officers connected with this port. If the officers of the revenue cutter stationed at Norfolk, Va., ever board any foreign vessel no report has ever been made to this office, and I do not know that such is the practice. A foreign vessel arriving in Hampton Roads, destined to Norfolk or Newport News, goes direct to destination, but if for orders only, the inspector and boarding officer at Old Point Comfort take her in charge and at the expiration of fortyeight hours bring the master to this office to make regular entry. If orders are received within the forty-eight hours the inspector at Old Point certifies the manifest and allows the vessel to depart. As a matter of fact, section 2835 is inoperative on account of the lapse of time since it was promulgated and the present condition of affairs.
The repeal of section 2835, which is suggested in section 15 of bill L, will remove a superfluous provision of law which serves no purpose. Section 2834 requires the master of any vessel bound to any district in Connecticut by way of Sandy Hook to deposit a manifest of his cargo with the collector at New York before he passes New York, and requires the master of any vessel bound to the district of Burlington, N. J., to deposit a manifest of cargo with the collector at Philadelphia before he passes Philadelphia. The collector of customs at New York reports:
Upon investigation I find that the law is obsolete so far as this port is concerned. Very few, if any, vessels from a foreign port ever come through Sandy Hook bound for Connecticut, and none in recent years. One reason why vessels avoid coming that way is that they evade payment of pilotage at Sandy Hook and again at Hell Gate, which otherwise they would be obliged to pay. Further, the perils of navigation are less by way of Long Island Sound. This, of course, applies to sailing vessels. This office has no knowledge that an ocean-going steamship ever came through Sandy Hook destined for Connecticut.
The collector of customs at Philadelphia reports:
Whatever necessity existed at the time of the passage of the act of March 2, 1799, which required the master of a vessel bound to the district of Burlington to deposit with the collector of the port of Philadelphia a true manifest of the cargo on board, such necessity no longer exists. The upper Delaware is not navigable for vessels to discharge foreign cargoes at Trenton, N. J.; hence no vessels pass Philadelphia for that purpose, and the section referred to is consequently a nullity so far as it relates to this port.
The repeal of the superfluous provisions of section 2834 is recommended in section 14 of bill L, "Proposed legislation."
Section 2584 provides that any vessel of 500 tons or over, coming from or going to sea, may proceed directly to or from the port of Vallejo, and report through the deputy collector at that port to the collector of customs at San Francisco. The collector of customs at San Francisco states:
The causes which led to this legislation do not now exist. Vallejo is not a commercial seaport. No vessels ever enter there, and no customs officer is stationed at said place, the position of deputy collector having been abolished years ago by the Secretary of the Treasury. Should it ever happen that a vessel desires to proceed to Vallejo to discharge cargo after having entered at San Francisco, the provisions of section 29, act of June 26, 1884, would answer the purpose, but there is no probability of such contingency arising.
For the same reasons section 2824, which provides for the discharge of cargo at Vallejo under direction of the deputy collector after entry at San Francisco, has become useless. The repeal of sections 2584 and 2824 are recommended in section 15 of bill L.
Section 2585 provides that any vessel of 100 tons or over, coming from or going to sea, may proceed to or from [either] the port of Eureka [or
the port of Wilmington] and report through the deputy collector to the collector of customs at San Francisco. The collector of customs at Eureka observes that the creation of the collection district of Humboldt, Cal., in 1882 obviates the necessity for the privilege bestowed by section 2585, and adds: "This section is a dead letter and should be directly repealed, as it is now by implication." The collector of customs at Los Angeles notices that the port of Wilmington no longer exists, having become the port of San Pedro, and vessels arriving or departing are reported by the deputy stationed there to the collector for the district of Los Angeles, of which San Pedro is a subport and port of entry. The repeal of section 2585 is provided for in section 15 of bill L. Section 2897 provides that salt may be unladen on the right bank of the Mississippi at any point opposite the city limits of New Orleans. The section is unnecessary, as by section 29 of the act of June 26, 1884, vessels laden with coal, salt, and other articles in bulk may be allowed to proceed to any place within a collection district designated by the Secretary of the Treasury for the purpose of unlading. The collector of customs at New Orleans reports that this section may be repealed without detriment to the interests of vessels or of the Government, and its repeal is proposed in section 15 of bill L.
Sections 2570, 2571, 2572, 2573, 2574, and 2575 of the Revised Statutes relate to the entry and clearance of vessels at the ports of Bayou St. John, Lakeport, Pontchartrain, and the basin of the Canal de Carondelet, near New Orleans. These sections were enacted in 1804, 1816, 1831, and 1854, and the collector at New Orleans reports that there appears to be no further necessity for the special privileges bestowed by these sections. The privileges are covered, to a considerable degree, by general legislation now in force, and the Bureau does not understand that they are now availed of to any material extent. The legislation is special in its nature, except section 2570, which is a reproduction in part of section 2772, Revised Statutes, and in view of the facts, and of the statement of the collector of customs, the sections may properly be repealed, as proposed in section 15 of bill L.
THE REVISED RULE OF THE ROAD.
At the time of the preparation of the last annual report of this Bureau the principal maritime nations of the world that participated in the International Marine Conference at Washington had given their assent to the revised rules to prevent collisions at sea, drafted by the Conference, and expressed their willingness to enforce those rules on and after March 1, 1895. The President of the United States had issued his proclamation, declaring them to be in effect after that date upon vessels of the United States, and it was understood that the most important undertaking of the Conference had at last been successfully carried out. Late in October the British Government, which had proposed March 1, 1895, as the date for the enforcement of the revised rules, notified the Government of the United States that as all the maritime powers had not yet given their adhesion to the new regulations, it would be impossible to enforce them on the date proposed. It was pointed out to the British Government that the principal maritime nations, except Great Britain, had taken or were about to take the necessary measures to enforce the rules at the date agreed upon and the powers of the President of the United States had been exhausted by the issue of his proclamation.