Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 86.djvu/355

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351
EXTENSION OF OUR MERCHANT MARINE

marvelous. In the memory of living men it used to cost 32½ cents a bushel to bring wheat from Duluth to Philadelphia. Last fall it was brought over the same route for 6½ cents a bushel. Grain has been moved from Duluth to Buffalo for 1 cent a bushel, and coal and iron between Superior and the lower Lake ports for 40 cents to 50 cents a ton. There is no reason to doubt that what these freighters have accomplished in lake transportation, and what a great Detroit manufacturer has done in automobile construction may be, to a great extent at least, duplicated in ocean transportation. Standardization is the secret, but standardization is only effective when it can be applied on a large scale, and what opening, it may be asked, is there for it when, as at present, there is practically nothing to standardize?

This brings me to a discussion of some of the remedies which have been suggested by individuals or organizations interested in the subject. Among these suggestions are the removal of duty on materials entering into the construction of vessels; the admission to American registry of foreign-built vessels; subsidies; and various modifications of the navigation laws. It is perfectly evident that, as President Wilson said in his last message to Congress, "To correct the many mistakes by which we have discouraged and all but destroyed the merchant marine of the country, to retrace the steps by which we have, it seems almost deliberately, withdrawn our flags from the seas, except where here and there a ship of war is bidden carry it or some wandering yacht displays it, would take a long time and involve many detailed items of legislation, and the trade which we ought immediately to handle would disappear or find other channels while we debated the items." American shipbuilders are already handicapped by the higher cost of materials and higher wage scale which they have to meet, and to admit foreign-built vessels to American registry as a regular and permanent thing would probably be a fatal blow to the ship-building industry. The admission of ship-building materials free of duty would be wholly inadequate to meet the situation. Many people have argued for many years in favor of subsidies, which have been suggested to successive Congresses in many forms, sometimes undiguised, and sometimes disguised as payments for carrying the mails, or as a guarantee of the bonds of private corporations, or as a government loan to a private corporation. It is a well-known fact that the democratic party is opposed on principle to subsidies, either disguised or undisguised, and as it was never possible to get any form of subsidy through a republican congress, it is scarcely worth while to consider the possibility of its getting through a democratic congress. Any attempt to modify the existing navigation laws will certainly be opposed by the Seamens' Union, supported by all the other labor unions, and reinforced by the enthusiastic advocates of the "safety at sea" idea, whose cause has been so much strengthened by