The importance of this subject induces me to present, at some length, my views upon the policy of the law, and upon its effects as developed by experience.
The first section of the law (which was passed at the fourth session of the First Congress and was the expression of its matured judgment) prohibits the exportation of the principal products of the Confederate States, except under uniform regulations, and the reason for this prohibition is expressed in the preamble to be this: "That the condition of the contest demands that the Confederate States should call into requisition whatever resources of men and money they have for the support of their cause."
The fifth section of the law indicates that the purpose of Congress in granting power to allow or refuse permission to export the products of our country was to enforce a return, in whole or in part, of the value of the produce exported "in military or other supplies for the public service."
But a full understanding of the policy of your predecessors can be attained only by taking into consideration another act passed on the same day, and entitled "An Act to prohibit the importation of luxuries or of articles not necessary or of common use." This last-mentioned act actually prohibited during the pending war the importation of any articles not necessary for the defense and subsistence of the country; and among those excluded from importation were wines, spirits, jewelry, cigars, and all the finer fabrics of cotton, flax, wool, or silk, as well as all other merchandise serving only for the indulgence of luxurious habits.
In a word, the two acts were an exercise of the power to regulate commerce so as to make it subservient to the success of our struggle, by prohibiting the importation or exportation of merchandise or produce for any other purpose than national defense and necessary subsistence, until these vital objects should be placed beyond the reach of danger. The two laws form one common system, and they should be so regarded in considering the propriety of the repeal or modification of either.
When signing my approval of these acts I considered them as measures eminently wise and proper, and as well adapted to remedy existing evils. Complaints were rife throughout our country that its foreign commerce was almost exclusively in the hands of aliens; that our cotton, tobacco, and naval stores were being