Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 7 Commerce and Manufactures

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Chapter 7. Records of the Committee on Commerce and Related Committees, 1816-1968

Records of Committees Relating to Commerce, 1816-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committee records discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on Commerce and Manufactures, 1816-25
Motion for the appointment of standing committees in 1816.
Motion for the appointment of standing committees, December 5, 1816 (SEN14A-B6) from NARA's National Archives Catalog.  

7.4 The Committee on Commerce and Manufactures was established as one of the original standing committees, following adoption of a resolution proposed by James Barbour of Virginia on December 10, 1816. William Hunter of Rhode Island was the first chairman of the committee.

7.5 The committee`s records consist of committee reports and papers, 1818-25 (2 in.), and petitions and memorials referred to the committee, 1816-25 (2 ft.). The committee reports and papers are arranged chronologically for each Congress, and several of the reports have supporting documents. Some petitions and memorials are arranged by subject, but most are arranged chronologically by date of referral for each Congress.

7.6 Given its brief existence, the records, especially the petitions, show substantial activity by the committee. The principle subjects of the records are tariffs (all Congresses); harbor improvements such as lighthouses (16A-G2, 17A-D2, 17A-G2, 18A-G2.3); the regulation of shipping and revenue collection (all Congresses), and the welfare of sick and disabled seamen (15A-D2, 16A-G2, 16A-G2.2, 17A-D2). The single most prominent subject was the tariff, particularly the protectionist Tariff of 1824 (18A-D2). From the outset, the committee received petitions and memorials from various individuals or groups seeking protection for their particular industry, and a few from agricultural interests, such as those from various agricultural societies of Virginia, seeking less tariff protection (17A-G2). Many memorials requesting higher duties on imported iron and products manufactured from iron were received, mainly from citizens of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, during the debate of the 1824 tariff (18A-G2, 4 in.). Prominent textile manufacturer Samuel Slater and other Rhode Island citizens also memorialized the Senate about the 1824 tariff (18A-G2.2). Registration of vessels (15A-D2), establishment of new collection districts (15A-D2, 15A-G2) and ports of entry (16A-G2.1), and collection of duties on sales at auction (16A-G2, 18A-G2.1) were some of the activities relating to shipping and revenue collection that are documented in the records.

7.7 The Tariff of 1824 was a pivotal issue for the committee. In December 1825, the chairman, Mahlon Dickerson of New Jersey, proposed that the committee be split into separate committees--one for commerce and one for manufactures. Dickerson, a protectionist, believed that it was "improper to blend two subjects so distinct from each other as Commerce and Manufactures" and he was supported in his proposal by fellow Senator James Lloyd of Massachusetts, a free trader, who thought that low tariff advocates on the existing committee were a distinct minority. On the other hand, Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina argued that such a division reflected narrow, sectional interests, and proposed that agriculture be added to give a single committee oversight of the Nation's economic interests. Dickerson's motion was adopted and the committee was split.

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.