Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/187

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
159
Provisional Congress.

be invested shall be paid from the public Treasury without any other condition than that the person making such proposition shall have actually expended in the prosecution of the proposed work one-fourth of the capital to be invested in it, and that his undertaking shall not be, in the opinion of the Secretary of War, visionary or impracticable, or at points too remote for the advantage of the Confederacy. As an example of the disadvantageous operation of the bill herewith returned, the attention of Congress is called to the contemplated case of the manufacture of gunpowder. Our present necessity is not for an increase of powder mills, but for a supply of the material for the manufacture of gunpowder. The mills now in existence, and which could be readily put to work, far exceed in their capacity to manufacture our ability to supply the requisite material. Yet under the operation of this bill it would follow that any one who should propose to establish a powder mill upon unobjectionable locality, and that he had invested one-fourth the capital to be employed, would be entitled to claim an advance equal to 50 per cent of that amount for a work which the Government did not require, and which, as there is no limitation of time for the fulfillment of his contract, could not be pronounced visionary or impracticable. The power already exists to make advances equal to 33 1-3 per cent on contracts for arms or munitions of war, and experience has not shown that any larger advance is necessary to stimulate the undertaking of such contracts; on the contrary, it has not yet been found necessary in a single instance to make advances to the full amount now permitted by law. The requirement of the bill that liberal profits shall be granted and an extraordinary advance be made, coupled with the absence of any Executive discretion to refuse any contract proposed for the supplies mentioned in the bill, would inevitably expose the Treasury to heavy drafts from the class of speculating contractors.

I regret that these features of the bill compel its return, as some of its provisions would be valuable adjuncts to existing legislation in enabling the Government to aid in the establishment of manufactures of arms and the creation of artificial saltpeter beds.

Jefferson Davis.