Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/353

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349
EXTENSION OF OUR MERCHANT MARINE

these exports we pay a large part of our annual charge of 600 to 800 millions due to the rest of the world for interest, dividends, freights, and payments and remittances of various kinds. If there were no ships in which these goods could be exported, what pen could describe the financial and industrial chaos in which we should be plunged? Think of the point to which wheat would drop. Think of the iron furnaces out of blast, the mines closed down, the farmers ruined, and our gold-supply exhausted, unless universal repudiation were enforced. The picture is too horrible to contemplate, and yet, like a drunken man dancing on a tight rope, we go on relying upon the Providential mercy which has thus far preserved us from such a national catastrophe. This is no figure of rhetoric, or over-drawn picture. It is a self-evident peril, which stares us in the face and to which only fatuous folly will seek to close its eyes.

But have we no ships, you may ask? Oh yes, if you will refer to the last issue of Lloyd's Register you will be gratified to find that the American Merchant Marine comprises 3,100 vessels of over 5,300,000 tons gross register, and these figures are the narcotic which has lulled to sleep so many of our statesmen and business men and economists. But if you will analyze these figures, and subtract the vessels which ply only upon our lakes, rivers, bays, sounds, or canals, and which are either absolutely imprisoned on our inland seas, or otherwise unavailable for ocean transportation, you will have left only 361 vessels of a gross tonnage of 1,375,000 tons to represent our ocean-going American Merchant Marine, and even from that paltry remnant there should probably be a further deduction made on account of vessels which, owing to their limited size, are not commercially available. The available ocean-going marine is therefore just about equal in tonnage to the fleet of one single German company. Put in a different form, whereas in 1861 over 65 per cent. of our foreign commerce was carried in American bottoms, in 1901 only 8 per cent. was so carried. To-day our foreign commerce represents about one eighth of the world's total, and not more than one tenth of that one eighth, or 1¼ per cent. of the world's commerce, is carried in American bottoms. For the carriage of the other nine tenths of our foreign commerce it is estimated that we are paying to the shipowners of other nations in ocean freights and passage-money from $200,000,000 to $250,000,000 a year. This is a direct loss, and takes no account of the profits we might make if, like other nations, we engaged in the business of transporting goods other than our own. By the neglect of this business it is therefore evident that we are not only (a) losing these last-mentioned possible profits, and (b) paying this enormous and killing charge, but we are also subjecting ourselves daily to the frightful risk of an utter paralyzation of our whole foreign trade.