Page images

lations which relate particularly to the Department of Agriculture, has been to threaten a grave interference with the commerce of the country. It is proposed that the law in question be amended, at least so far as the penalty is concerned, and that as a purely agricultural matter it be placed entirely within the jurisdiction of the Agricultural Department. This can be accomplished by providing that the failure of an exporter to provide his meats with the inspection tags of the Agricultural Department shall subject those meats to confiscation or the owner to imprisonment or fine or any other punishment which seems to the Department immediately concerned adequate to the offense, but shall not hamper the movement of the vessel. Any endeavor by those concerned in agriculture to establish by law regulations for vessels is as certain to result in confusion and injury to shipping as an effort by those directly concerned in navigation to regulate by law the inspection of animals would be injurious to the agricultural interest.


I have the honor respectfully to renew the suggestion, made in this report last year, that bureaus and branches of the Treasury service established to regulate and promote shipping be assembled under the immediate supervision of one Assistant Secretary of the Treasury. In that report it was stated and is now reiterated:

[ocr errors]

This organization of the Treasury would secure prompter, more efficient, and more economical administration of the laws relating to the merchant marine, and would satisfactorily meet what appears to be a popular wish.

The agitation for the creation of a new department of the Government, to be known as the department of commerce, with a new Cabinet officer at its head, seeks a proper object by an impracticable method. The Government must carry on its direct dealings with the merchant marine mainly through the collectors and surveyors of customs responsible to the Secretary of the Treasury. To subject them at the same time to the orders of another Cabinet officer is so obviously objectionable that the reasons need not be presented. Clashes of authority between the Departments would be inevitable from such an arrangement.

The proposition that the heads of the several Treasury bureaus having charge of the affairs of the merchant marine be combined, with certain other gentlemen in or out of official life, into a marine board, appears to be equally objectionable. From the nature of their widely different duties the heads of the several Treasury bureaus can not be expected to be, and as a matter of fact are not, familiar with the work performed in each other's bureaus, and are not therefore qualified to give advice collectively concerning the bureaus of one another. From such a board, made up of men each assigned to a special line of work, practical results could not be expected. In operation such a board would surely lead to delays in the administration of the laws and to increased expenses consequent upon its establishment, for which such advantages as might follow from its debates would be an altogether insufficient compensation.

The arrangement of the Treasury bureaus which I have the honor to suggest possesses all the advantages of the two projects referred to, and is open to none of the objections to those schemes. At present the Marine-Hospital Service and the Steamboat-Inspection Service are assigned to one Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, the Revenue-Marine Service to another Assistant Secretary, and the Bureau of Navigation, the Life-Saving Service, and the Light-House Board to still another Assistant Secretary. That these and other branches of the merchant-marine service have acted in accord and without friction is due to the courtesy and consideration of those responsible for the administration of the Treasury and its bureaus rather than to any merit in the system, which creates opportunities for delays and conflicting action.

The compact organization and closer cooperation of all the marine bureaus proposed would at the same time afford the opportunity for concentration of energies in other branches of the Treasury Department. By simplifying work it well might disclose opportunities for retrenchment and increased efficiency which under the system of divided control could not appear. Either through neglect or through the pressure of other matters deemed of greater importance by the people, as one chooses to regard it, the nation has fallen during the last thirty years far below the rank it

should hold among maritime powers. Even after general laws necessary to enable Americans to enter again into competition for the oversea carrying trade have been enacted, sedulous attention and intelligent study of details will be needed daily on the part of the Administration to give our merchant marine the advantages which the shipping interests of other nations possess in administrative departments or bureaus, observant of every step of progress abroad and equipped for prompt and harmonious action.

The organization of Treasury bureaus proposed would be welcomed by the public as the proof of the purpose of the administration to promote systematically the development of our merchant marine, not only by advocating liberal laws in accord with modern requirements, but also by the closest and promptest attention to the daily needs of navigation.

The plan has the further advantage that, if some years hence it should prove desirable to establish a department of commerce, similar to the British board of trade, with a corps of officers at the ports of the country, responsible to the secretary of commerce, with local boards and the other machinery requisite to make such a department effective, the proposed Treasury consolidation would furnish au organization already in working order from which such a department could be constructed.

The Secretary of the Treasury has sufficient authority to effect this concentration, and if it can be done without any undue interference with the existing allotments of official duties within the Department it is suggested that the authority be exercised. The matter is deemed of enough consequence to administration and of enough value to our merchant marine to observe that should such concentration be inadvisable on account of the present allotment of Treasury duties, the Secretary of the Treasury would be warranted in requesting Congress to provide for an additional Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in order to carry out the project. The expense of the creation of this office could be saved to the Treasury in economies which should ensue from placing the marine bureaus under one Assistant Secretary, and the saving to commerce in the more expeditious execution of the marine and navigation laws should be considerable.


Since the last report of the Bureau was issued the Government of Great Britain has replied in the negative to the invitation of the United States to enter into an international agreement for the reporting, marking, and removal of derelicts in the North Atlantic Ocean, outside the coast waters of the United States bordering thereon. This refusal was based on the report of a joint commission of the Board of Trade and Admiralty, which concluded that the number of casualties from collisions with derelicts is very small, as, in its opinion, there were only about 20 derelicts afloat at any one time in the 10,000,000 square miles of the North Atlantic and that the chance of discovering and destroying these is infinitesimal. Some conception of the extent of actual danger may be found from study of the table in Appendix M, showing the losses of merchant vessels of all nations during the last calendar year. So far as the merchant marine is concerned, the interest of the United States in the matter is much less than that of other nations. During the fiscal year 1894 American merchant vessels made only 252 voyages, going and coming, across the North Atlantic, between the United States and Europe, while vessels under foreign flags, chiefly the British, German, and French, made the voyage 10,233 times. Our direct maritime concern in the condition of the midAtlantic, is thus only one-fortieth part of the world's interest, except in so far as American capital owns a large amount of shipping which is forbidden by law to use the American flag and in so far as American cabin passengers, immigrants, and cargoes constitute more than half of the trade of the foreign vessels of the North Atlantic merchant fleet.


The act of March 2, 1895, concerning the measurement of vessels has met with the unqualified approval of all shipowners who have availed themselves of its provisions and of seamen for whom it secures more comfortable quarters. Its general effect has been to reduce navigation charges and taxation on our vessels at home and abroad, and while it has been attended by the reduction of revenue from tonnage taxes, foreseen in the recommendation of the bill in the last report of the Bureau, the general gain to navigation more than offsets this loss of revenue, which can readily be made good by legislation recommended in other pages. The passage of the act by the Senate, it is interesting to note, was immediately followed by the enactment of a measure, identical in nearly all its terms, by the German Reichstag, and both acts went into effect almost simultaneously. The method of ascertaining gross and net tonnage is now the same in the United States, Great Britain, Germany, Norway and Sweden, Denmark, and Austria, and the gain to international navigation from this uniformity both in time and money is considerable. Incidentally statistical science has been the gainer, for so long as net tounage meant one thing in one country and something different in another country, statistics of commerce and navigation in terms of net tons had variable meanings.

So important has such uniformity of measurement been deemed that the United States early in 1894 were urged to join in calling an international conference to consider the subject. In its reply this Government pointed out that a more effective means to attain the desired end would be a direct appeal to the lawmaking authority in each country. The degree of uniformity which has been attained within the last eighteen mouths has demonstrated the soundness of the position taken by the United States concerning the proposed international tonnage conference. The French law continues to authorize deductions greater than those possible under the laws of the seven maritime powers named, and the deductions permitted by the laws of Italy, Holland, Russia, Spain, and Hawaii, so far as last ascertained, are somewhat less. The advantage of bringing their laws on the subject into conformity with the laws of maritime nations owning more than three-fourths of the world's tonnage is so obvious that unquestionably the remaining nations will soon adopt substantially the law enacted by Congress last year.

The uniformity which has been recently secured removes the objections raised in the last annual report of this Bureau to the acceptance of net tonnage as a basis of tonnage tax, and destroys the chief argument for the imposition of that tax upon gross tonnage. If net tounage has a definite meaning, the same in all maritime nations, it is the preferable basis of taxation, for by the exemption from taxation of those portions of a vessel set apart for the crew and for machinery an incentive is offered for the construction of comfortable quarters and for the use of higher-powered machinery with more space for its safe manipulation by the engineer force, which will be lacking if all parts of a vessel, regardless of their uses, are taxed, and economy thus prompts meager accommodations for the crew and restricted engine


The law incidentally has been the means of reducing various State and local taxes, charges, and license fees on American vessels, and thus has been of both direct and indirect benefit to navigation. In some instances vessels which were slightly over 5 tons net under the former

law, by the new measurement have become less than 5 tons net, and are thus exempt from documents. They are thus dropped from the lists and statistics of the Bureau and of the custom-houses. This is believed to be a gain, for many of the severe restrictions of our laws can not well be applied to such very small craft without imposing hardships on the owners, who are usually poor men, sailing their vessels for fishing or in small local trade. Germany does not take legal cognizance of vessels under 18 tons.


The transaction of the daily business of the Bureau and of public offices directly or indirectly connected with it, and the convenience of the shipping interests of the United States for some years have rendered necessary a general compilation of the laws of the United States relating to navigation and the merchant marine. Shortly after the Bureau was organized such a compilation was issued, but the conditions under which the work was undertaken were such as to preclude the attainment of results wholly satisfactory even to those who undertook it. There have been numerous changes in the laws as printed at that time, and, further, that edition was exhausted this year. The Bureau has believed that, during the interval between the sessions of Congress, there was no more necessary work to be done toward the improvement of the laws than a convenient compilation of the laws as they stand. Such a compilation has been made and is incorporated in this report as part second. It has been made a distinct volume for convenience in reference. The effort has been made to include in the volume only laws actually in force. Where sections of the Revised Statutes or of subsequent legislation have been specifically repealed they have been omitted, together with the repealing clauses. Where the Revised Statutes or subsequent laws have been specifically or clearly amended, the present or amended reading of such laws has been employed. In the numerous instances where the effect of repealing or amendatory legislation is not wholly clear or is a matter of construction, it has been necessary to retain both the original and the repealing or amendatory legislation. For this reason, while it is believed that no essential law has been omitted, it is recognized that portions of laws have necessarily been printed which have been modified by subsequent laws also printed.

The effort has also been made to confine the law included in the compilation to the navigation law, meaning by that term the law relating to vessels, their owners, officers, crews, and agents as such. The line between the navigation laws and the customs laws can not always be clearly drawn in legislation or administration, and it has not been possible always to draw it clearly in the compilation. Generally speaking, however, the laws relating to the cargo of a vessel before it is laden and placed in the master's charge and after it is unladen and placed out of his charge have been excluded as matters not of navigation law but of customs law. The laws relating to duties on imports, invoices, drawbacks, debentures, etc., have not been comprised, and the aim has been to include the laws concerning the entry and transportation of merchandise only in so far as it is desirable that the master of a vessel should be familiar with them.

The laws have been arranged in a manner which, it is believed, will make them most readily available for reference. The work has been performed mainly out of office hours without cost to the Government, beyond that of printing.

Should the work commend itself to Congress, and should the numer ous changes in the laws be made at the next session which appear to be desirable, authority is asked for the preparation of a second edition, bringing the navigation laws to date at the adjournment of Congress, omitting portions of the present compilation which may appear superfluous, and making corrections of errors which public scrutiny may develop. A concurrent resolution to meet this suggestion may be found under Proposed legislation."



The List of Merchant Vessels of the United States, prepared under direction of law by the Bureau, was issued to those materially interested in shipping during October, over two months in advance of the time when it has usually appeared. The Bureau this year adopted a method of printing and distributing the list which will considerably reduce the annual cost of the volume, and at the same time give better satisfaction to shipping interests. The illustrations of various types of vessels, new and old, have been omitted as serving no essential purpose and creating a demand for the volume from those who wish it for amusement, to the detriment of those who need it for use. The list of seagoing vessels, arranged in the order of their signal letters, together with the code, has been printed separately in a convenient pamphlet of about 80 pages, and a copy has been supplied, through its owner, to every seagoing vessel of the United States, to the seagoing vessels of the various Departments of the Government, and to signal stations.

This part of the list is almost indispensable to the master of a seagoing vessel, and it is of no service to vessels on inland waters, which do not use the code, nor to owners, insurers, and other landsmen. By issuing it separately the Bureau has been able to supply the seagoing list to everyone to whom it is a necessity. Hereafter it is proposed to supply this code only to new vessels, which will receive it when their signal letters are assigned, or to make good a lost copy on a vessel already furnished. The Hydrographic Office consented during the year to print in its weekly bulletin the names and signal letters of new seagoing vessels, so that any master may keep his book complete to date, and recognize at sea and report any American vessel signaling. Much of the expense of the List of Merchant Vessels has been chargeable to illustrations and signals. This will be saved, as the signals need not be printed again for one or two years, and at the end of that time one issue of 2,000, if left in control of the Bureau, would last a dozen years longer. The list of seagoing vessels will be supplied annually to every such vessel. The remaining parts of the list specifying official number, letter, name, rig, tonnage, home port, place and date of building, and motive power, have been issued in the familiar form for customs officers, shipping commissioners, masters of vessels on inland waters, owners, agents, insurers, forwarders, and others. They have been more fully supplied than hitherto, as the supply has been relieved of the demand from masters of seagoing vessels and of the illegitimate demand for the book as a free, illustrated Government publication.

« PreviousContinue »