PROTECTION AND SHIPBUILDING.
fTo THE EDITOR OP THE " SPECTATOB."1
Sin,—The shortest answer I can give to Mr. David Maclver's bald assertion "that Protection had nothing whatever to do with the killing of American shipbuilding" (Spectator, December 17th) is to quote at length the evidence of Americans themselves as given before the United States Commission on the Mercantile Marine. When you want to ascertain facts in regard to any country, the evidence of the men who live in it is of more value than the romantic speculations of those who do not.
Mr. Joseph D. Lee, Assistant-Secretary to the Board of Trade, Portland, Oregon, says :—" Now comes the question of getting it [an efficient, merchant marine] under a tariff system. Other things being equal, it is not possible to compete with free trade in building and operating ships. I think that has been shown."
Senator Addison G. Foster, Tacoma, Washington, says:—" Our shippers know that under the prevailing conditions ships can be built in foreign yards from 25 to 40 per cent. cheaper than in this country, where the Protective system insures higher wages for our labour and higher prices for materials."
Mr. E. T. Wheelock, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (editor Milwaukee Sentinel), says :—" It is charged that the protective policy operated bring about that decline [in the merchant marine], and to a certain extent that charge is true. We have raised the wages of working men to a point where it is impossible for ship- owners to hire American crews. We have raised the cost of provisions above the price paid by foreign shipmasters. We have raised the price of shipbuilding material 30 per cent. higher than the foreign shipbuilder is forced to pay. All this has been done by and through protection."
Mr. Kremer, Chicago, Illinois, shipowner, and intimately con- nected with shipbuilding, says :—" The American shipowner is injured for the benefit directly of the American shipbuilder. You might as well say to him, You can buy a ship where you please, but you will pay, according to the size and quality, any- where from 25 to 50 per cent. of the cost of that ship as a bounty, tariff or duty to the U.S. Government.' You might as well say that to him as do what is being done to-day." Mr. Orcutt, president of the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, says :—" If I was called on to build a tramp, corresponding to a British tramp of 3,000 tons, the material alone going into the tramp would cost 40 per cent. more here than if the vessel were built in Great Britain. Because everything in the way of material entering into the construction of a ship is highly protected here. It is not only the steel that forms the bulk of the vessel that is affected in price. It is every conceivable item that goes into a ship."
Mr. Stanbury, Principal Surveyor for the United States, says : —" I consider the high cost of labour and materials the most important factors, and these are the direct consequences of the protective system of the United States. The tariffs of the country necessarily increase the cost of living here. It follows that the cost of labour must be higher than it is in countries where the tariffs are less."
Finally, Mr. Winsor, Chairman of the Committee on Commerce of the Board of Trade, New York, says The present condition of the American merchant marine has been caused by the high protective tariff upon all other products."
I stated in my original letter that all shipbuilding materials were admitted duty free into America, with one fatal reserva- tion. Mr. Maclver, having read my letter, proceeded to look up his facts, and having unearthed the section to which I referred, now quotes it with a flourish of trumpets, ignores the vital point, and says the American shipbuilder practically enjoys the blessings of Free-trade. For his information, and that of your readers, I now quote the evidence given before the Commission on this point, by men who may be presumed to know their business:— Mr. Frank Waterhouse, managing agent of the Boston Steam- ship Company, Seattle, Washington, says :—" The law which grants a rebate equivalent to the tariff rates is ineffective for this reason: The law only applies, as I understand it, to regis- tered vessels that are to be engaged in the foreign trade ; it does not apply to enrolled vessels that will perhaps be engaged in the lake or coasting trade, and American shipowners will not take advantage of that law, because it prohibits them from using their vessels in the coasting business."
Mr. Lewis Nixon, naval architect and shipbuilder, New York, says :—"It is true we have the right to import steel free at present, and a great many people say You can go abroad and buy the material and get a rebate.' We are practically driven to buy our material and our labor in American markets. We cannot go to work in building American ships and buy our material 3,000 miles away. It is not practicable. They do not know the difficulties, the heart-breaking difficulties. The chances of the boat being belated, the chances of delay in shipment, and the chances of ship-plates being bent and angles distorted. It will help us if you took the tariff off of anything. Anything you take the tariff off of will be cheaper." Mr. Sewall, of Bath, M.E., shipbuilder, says :---"As to foreign steel, I will say here that we have built one steamer of imported steel. There are several reasons against using it, but the first and the all-important reason to my mind is that it is un-American. There are other reasons, and one is that in importing foreign material the rebate of duty has to be indorsed on the ship's register, and she cannot be employed in the coasting trade. We are shut out from disposing of the vessel as we could when we find a purchaser desiring a clean register. To-day our yard is closed. It has been closed now for over a year."
I leave it to your readers to judge whether independent evidence like this, taken from different parts of America, and given by men who are all strong Protectionists, is or is not of more weight than Mr. MacIver's personal views, based ap- parently on nothing but personal bias, and unsupported by one tittle of evidence. The American climate I must respect-
fully refuse to discuss. If any man, in the teeth of the above evidence, chooses still to hug to his soul the idea that a hot summer and a cold winter are the real explanation of the decay of American shipping, I must leave him secure in his belief. He is indeed beyond the reach of envy because he is beyond the reach of argument. —I am, Sir, &c.,
179 Ashley Gardens, S.W. AUSTIN TAYLOR. [We can publish no more letters on this subject. —ED. Spectator.]