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Doc. 137.-rebel commerce.


Memorial of four Governors.

To the Senate and House of Representatives, in Congress assembled:
the undersigned, Governors of their respective States, beg leave, respectfully, to invite the attention of Congress to the fact that the States of the Confederacy have great need of many articles for State use which can only be obtained by importation. And the Legislatures of several of the States have made appropriations for the purpose of exporting cotton and other productions, and importing necessary articles for the use of the States, including clothing, shoes, blankets, and other articles indispensably necessary to the comfort of their troops in confederate service, who frequently suffer fiom want of necessary articles, which it is not, at the time, in the power of the confederate government to furnish. These exportations and importations are to be made by the Governors of the States, under the authority of the Legislatures, at the risk and expense of the States, upon vessels purchased or chartered for that purpose.

The Governors of several of the States, in the execution of the acts of their State Legislatures, have purchased or chartered steamers preparatory to the exportation of cotton which they now have on hand as the property of the States, to place funds abroad with which to purchase supplies, to be returned upon the vessels to confederate ports for State use. At this point they regret to say that they are met by an order from the Secretary of the Treasury, under the authority of the President, which prohibits the Custom-House officer from granting clearance to vessels owned or chartered by the States with State cargoes, some of which are now aboard, unless they will consent to allow the confederate government to use one half the storage-room of their vessels upon terms which would cause actual loss to the States. Surrounded by all the embarrassments with which they have to contend, they cannot consent to this; and believing, as they do, that the order has grown out of an erroneous construction of the late act of Congress, which, as they understood it, exempts the States from all the restrictions thrown around exportations and importations made by private individuals or companies; and feeling assured that those who represent the sovereign States and people would fail to carry out the views or wishes of the people, or governments of their respective States, if they should attempt by any law or regulation to prohibit the States from the exportation of their own productions upon their own vessels, or such as they may charter for that purpose, and the importation of such supplies as they need, the undersigned appeal with confidence to Congress to remove said restrictions, and enact such laws as shall secure to all vessels in the service of the States speedy clearances upon application to the Custom-House officers at the ports from which the vessels are expected to go to sea.

While the undersigned are aware of the importance of exportations and importations by the confederate government, and would gladly facilitate its operations in every proper way, they are of the opinion it is better that each government should conduct its own business and affairs for itself.

But independently of this view of the case, they can not yield their assent to the doctrine that the confederate government has any right to impose any such restrictions upon the States, or compel them to submit to any such terms. When in their power to assist the confederate government with State vessels, they will do so with great pleasure, but they will not consent to do this under compulsion.

They deny that the provision in the Constitution which authorizes Congress to regulate commerce “among the several States” confers the power to destroy the commerce of States, or to detain State vessels till they consent to relinquish half their storage-room to the confederate government. If Congress has the power to place this restriction upon the commerce and vessels of the States, it may claim for the Confederacy three fourths or nine tenths of the room, or may deny the right of the State to clear a vessel upon [597] any terms. The power to regulate commerce does not include the power to destroy it, or to put any such restrictions upon it.

The undersigned beg leave, further, to submit to the consideration of Congress the question of the propriety of allowing the State to export produce and import supplies necessary for State use, free of export and import duties, as the importations are made for the public use and in furtherance of our cause.

In considering this question, it is hoped Congress will not fail to take into account the fact that the Legislatures of part, if not all, the States, have passed laws exempting cotton and other property belonging to the confederate government, within the limits of the State, from all State tax; and they submit, whether, upon principles of reciprocity and comity, apart from the want of constitutional power in Congress to tax State property, it is not the duty of Congress to exempt State property, including exportations and importations by the States, from all confederate taxation. The undersigned beg leave to add that it is not their intention to import articles of luxury, or indeed, any articles not necessary for the public use, and for the comfort of the troops from their respective States, in military service.

April, 1864.
J. E. Brown, Governor of Georgia. Charles Clark, Governor of Mississippi. T. H. Watts, Governor of Alabama. T. B. Vance, Governor of North-Carolina.


Correspondence.

Executive Department, Milledgeville, May 9, 1864.
I have purchased thirty thousand soldiers' blankets for the State of Georgia, now in the Islands, and have to send out cotton to pay for them. The steamer Little Ada, chartered by the State, has been loaded for three weeks with about three hundred bales of cotton ready for sea. She lies thirty miles from Charleston. I ask clearance for her to go out now, while we have dark nights. She is detained at heavy expense to the State. I solicit an early reply.


Your telegram of the ninth to the President in relation to steamer Ada, has been referred to this department. On the twelfth of April a telegram was sent you, stating that the act of Congress, imposing restrictions on export of cotton, required that the regulations of trade should be uniform.

Therefore the requirement that one half of the cargo of every outward-bound vessel should be for account of the confederate States, cannot be relinquished as an exception in your favor.

April twenty-seventh, Mr. Lamar applied for a clearance for the steamer, and was informed that she could not go out until she had complied with the regulation.

C. G. Memminger, Secretary of Treasury.

Executive Department, Milledgeville, May 21, 1864.
Your telegram of the tenth did not reach me till yesterday. The act of Congress to which you refer, which prohibits the exportation of cotton and other productions, except under such uniform regulations as shall be made by the President, has in it this express proviso, “that nothing in this act shall be construed to prohibit the confederate States or any of them from exporting any of the articles herein enumerated on their own account.” The three hundred bales of cotton upon the Little Ada belong to the State of Georgia, and I propose to export it on State account to pay for blankets for Georgia soldiers, and if any surplus, to apply it to the purchase of cotton-cards for the people of the State, under an act of the Legislature.

I deny your right to repeal the act of Congress by your order, or to refuse clearance to the State under any just rule of construction which you can apply to the plain proviso in the act of Congress. I therefore, again demand clearance as a right, not as a favor, and waiving for the present the question of your right to ask it of the State, offer to pay export duties.

Joseph E. Brown. Hon. C. Memminger, Secretary of the Treasury, Richmond, Va.

Your telegram of the twenty-first instant is received. Clearance cannot be given except in conformity with the regulations of the President.

C. G. Memminger, Secretary of the Treasury.

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