Page:A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, Including the Diplomatic Correspondence, 1861-1865, Volume I.djvu/539

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507
Second Congress.

drained from the States, and that we were receiving in return cargoes of liquors, wines, and articles of luxury; that the imported goods, being held in few hands and in limited quantities, were sold at prices so exorbitant that the blockade runners, after purchasing fresh cargoes of cotton, still retained large sums of Confederate money, which they invested in gold for exportation and in foreign exchange, and that the whole course of the trade had a direct tendency to impoverish our country, demoralize our people, depreciate our currency, and enfeeble our defense. Congress believed these complaints well-founded, and in that belief I fully concurred. None doubted that a remedy was desirable, and your present inquiries seek information in relation to the efficiency of the remedy provided by the legislation then devised, as developed by actual experience.

My conviction is decided that the effect of the legislation has been salutary, that the evils existing prior to its adoption have been materially diminished, and that the repeal of the legislation or any modification impairing its efficiency would be calamitous. This opinion is shared by every Executive Department that has been intrusted with the execution of these laws and regulations, and thus enabled to form a judgment based on observation and experience.

The propriety and justice of a claim on the part of the Government that a share of all the vessels engaged in the blockade trade should be held subject to its use for the benefit of the whole people was so obvious that even before the legislation of Congress few owners refused to place at its disposal one-third of the tonnage, both outward and inward, for the importation of supplies and the exportation of the produce necessary to pay for them. On the passage of the laws it was deemed proper to increase the demand of the Government to one-half. This decision was based not only on the consideration that the Government was burdened with the entire expense of defending the ports of entry, but on the further reason that the enormous gains of the commerce were monopolized by foreigners, free to engage in commerce at their pleasure while our citizens were engrossed in the sacred duty of defending their homes and liberties, and therefore unable to compete for the trade. It was foreseen that this increase would be