They say history repeats itself.
From sheer carelessness on the part of our government, or from something worse, the credibility of all kinds of American official papers, connected with commerce, such as bills of health, manifests, &c. has sunk so low in the estimation of foreign powers, that they have been induced to place agents of their own in all our seaport towns, to be supported at the expence of our merchants. To this imposition they compel us to submit, by suffering no American vessel to enter their ports, unless the truth and correctness of her papers are certified by their agent at the port from which she sails. –
Though this is sufficiently oppressive and injurious, the evil does not stop here. Even this guarantee of the veracity of the American government is not deemed satisfactory. An American vessel sailing from the port of Philadelphia when in perfect health, and having her bills of health in due form, certified by the Spanish consul, at the expence of the owner, on her arrival at Cadiz, though that city was then afflicted with disease, was not permitted to enter until she had performed a quarantine of 15 to 20 days. This inequitous exaction having taken place late in the season, has been the only cause that many of our vessels have been occluded from our ports by the ice, and driven to the West Indies.
In these remarks upon the conduct of foreign nations relative to American commerce, it is our duty to exempt the government of Great Britain from the charge of authorising these shameful and degrading contributions. — They place their Consuls in our seaport towns, and they pay them for their services. For signing certificates of health, &c. the British Consul neither receives nor demands any tribute.
The Portuguese Consul, for certifying both bills of health required by law, is authorised by his government to demand and receive of our merchants 2 dollars.
The Spanish Consul is in like manner authorised to levy a contribution of 2 dollars for each bill of health; and upon the cargo, 2 dollars for every separate article specified in the manifest so that on a cargo consisting of
the owner must pay 20 dollars to the Spanish Consul for signing the manifest, and in the same proportion for any greater number of articles.
If our government could be prevailed upon to take the least interest in the commerce of the country, we might expect either that foreign governments would be prevented from thus levying taxes upon a part of our citizens for the support of their own officers, or es??tnar the Consuls in Spain, &c. ? aid be authorised to demand like privileges in the places to which they are sent.
There is still another particular in which our merchants are taxed by foreign governments, without any reciprocity on our part. Whenever an American vessel arrives at any port in Spain or Portugal, a guard, or customhouse officer is immediately put on board, where he remains during the time of quarantine and until the cargo is discharged, who, besides living on board, receives daily wages at the expense of the vessel; consequently, as we make no such demands of their vessels coming to our ports, we allow our merchants to be taxed for the purpose of defraying the expense of their custom house regulators. The length of time allo, which our vessels are detained in their ports is no small addition to the inequality of terms upon which commerce is carried on. — Here a foreign ship will be off ????ed in 10 or 20 days, in Spain an American vessel will be detained 40 or 50 days, including quarantine.
Let us now invite our democratic brethren to take a view of these notorious facts, thus briefly stated, and compare them with what they have so often said about the high national spirit of our government, which d???? setforth to be tributary to any nation under ?????. If this is not tribute, and levied too in the most humiliating form, we are unable to conjecture what would be the tribute. If a petty consul or commercial agent may be sent to each of our seaports, and authorized to levy contributions upon our citizens for his support, upon the same principle, a??b???? ?ors and their fate may be ????e?ssed to support themselves at our expence, and upon the same principle their ships of war, coming into our ports, may demand and take whatever supplies they may chose to want of provisions, military stores, or any thing else. Should they choose, however, to carry the principle into operation in its full extent, they will do well to confine their exactions to the merchants in which case they will have nothing to fear from the interference of our government.
**The quality of the digital image of this paper was very poor in spots, and I couldn’t figure out some of the words. Adding to the difficulty, during this time period, the “S” was printed like an “f” except at the end of a word.