Second. Upon the second question, whether the regulations have caused any diminution in the number of vessels engaged in foreign commerce, the report of the Secretary of the Treasury gives such information as satisfactorily establishes the reverse to be the case.
In addition to the statements made by him, derived from official returns, the Secretary of War reports that many new steamers are understood to be on the way to engage in the trade, notwithstanding the impression which prevails that the stringency of the blockade is constantly increasing.
The number of vessels which arrived at two ports of the Confederacy between the 1st of November and 6th of December was forty-three, averaging more than one per day, and indicating no check in the trade. A further and conclusive proof that the profits of this commerce under present regulations are sufficiently tempting to secure its increase, is afforded by the fact that the shares of the companies engaged in it have greatly advanced in value. The shares of one company, originally of $1,000 each, were selling in July last for $20,000 each, and now command $30,000. Those of another company have increased in the same period from $2,500 to $6,000; and all exhibit a large advance.
Third. Your third inquiry seeks information whether the legislation and regulations have been beneficial or otherwise in their effect on the success of our arms and the supply of means necessary to the public defense.
My opinion has already been indicated on this point, and the reports of the Secretaries are decided in the expression of their own convictions of the wisdom of the laws, and the beneficial effects produced by them, in connection with the regulations established for giving them effect.
These laws and regulations have enabled the Government not only to provide supplies to a much greater extent than formerly, and to furnish the means for meeting the installments on its foreign loan, but to put an end to a wasteful and ruinous contract system, by which supplies were obtained before Congress determined to exercise control over the imports and exports.
Instead of being compelled to give contractors a large profit on the cost of their supplies, and to make payment in cotton in our ports at 6 pence per pound, we now purchase supplies abroad by