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There has been no reduction in first class postage in thirty years, except that involved in an extension of the weight limit from onehalf an ounce to one ounce, and that occurred as long ago as 1885. It is doubtful if a reduction at this time to one cent would result in more than a moderate and temporary reduction in revenue ; because the last time that the postage was lowered this resulted in a large increase in the number of letters transmitted and the loss in revenue lasted only a short time. These is no reason to believe that a different result would follow a reduction in letter postage now. Certainly a reduction would be of great benefit to business in all its different branches, and your committee believes that it is not fair that the merchants of this country, and others who put out large quantities of first class mail matter in the course of their daily business, as well as the host of private letter writers, should be obliged to wait any longer for the readjustment of the rate on second class matter, before obtaining the one cent letter rate.
A bill providing for one cent letter postage was introduced in the last Congress by Senator Burton of Ohio, and in the House by John W. WEEKS, who was recently elected United States Senator from Massachusetts; and your committee strongly favors the enactment of a similar bill by the new Congress.
Your committee, therefore, recommends the adoption of the following resolution :
Resolved, That the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York urges upon Congress the passage of a bill making the rate on first class mail one cent per ounce or fraction thereof.
EUGENIUS H. OUTERBRIDGE.—Mr. President and members of the Chamber of Commerce: In the latter part of the last year there passed the House, in Washington, a bill known as the WILSON Seamen's Bill, which bill contained some very objectionable provisions extremely threatening not only to the shipping industry, but also inimical to the import commerce of the United States. Your committee prepared a protest against this bill with a view of having it acted upon by the Chamber of Commerce and then submitted to the Senate, the bill being at that time in the United States Senate.
The report was printed for submission to our meeting held on February 6th, and also for the adjourned meeting held on February 13th, but the attention of the Chamber was then taken up by the report on Panama Canal Tolls and therefore it was not reached for consideration. Inasmuch as Congress would adjourn before this meeting, and as it appeared imperative to the members of the committee that the Senate should at least be informed of the opinion entertained by the members of your committee, the report was printed as a report of the Committee on the Harbor and Shipping, without any notation of any action by the Chamber at large, and Mr. President, it was with your consent, sent to the members of the Senate.
I report this now for the purpose of asking the Chamber to ratify that action of the committee, which was perhaps a little irregular.
I may say that the bill has failed of becoming a law.
On motion of EBEN E. OLCOTT seconded by Louis WINDMULLER the action of the committee was approved. The following is the report :
To the Chamber of Commerce :
House of Representatives Bill No. 23673, known as the WILSON Bill, which has passed the House and is now pending in the United States Senate, is entitled: “an act to abolish the involuntary servitude imposed upon seamen in the merchant marine of the United States while in foreign ports, and the involuntary servitude imposed upon the seamen of foreign countries while in the ports of the United States, to prevent unskilled manning of American vessels, to encourage the training of boys in the American merchant marine, for the further protection of life at sea, and to amend the laws relative to seamen.'
Your committee has given serious consideration to this measure and respectfully reports :
The well being of American seamen has always been an object of the Chamber's solicitude. Its influence has, from the earliest years, been exerted for their protection and uplift. As early as 1796 it advocated strongly the passage of a law for the protection of sailors ; and its records show how often since that time it has exerted all its power to secure for seamen adequate defence against abuses at sea and on land, and provision for care in sickness and old age. By law it elects one of the commissioners entrusted with the duty of licensing and regulating sailors' boarding houses ; and one of the most laborious duties imposed upon the Chamber's President is that of acting as Trustee of Sailors Snug Harbor. The Chamber has always stood for the better protection of life and property at sea, for the more skillful manning of vessels and for the better training of boys for the trade of seamen.
It is, therefore, with no prejudice against the interests of American seamen that your Committee on the Harbor and Shipping has taken up for consideration and report this Wilson Bill. On the contrary, so far as the proposed enactment undertakes to justly improve the conditions of seamen, your committee believes it is entitled to support. The bill as drawn, however, would subject owners and masters of American and foreign ships to an “involuntary servitude” quite as bad as that which it was formerly alleged existed in the case of seamen.
It is one thing to protect seamen against the tyranny and injustice of an employer. It is quite another thing to give seamen the power to work injustice to their employers, and if so disposed, actually to tie up the shipping of the world. In the recent report of the arbitrators in the controversy between the railways and the engineers, the board, after stating that the balance of power in the control of wages had passed to organized labor, proceeded to show what a calamity would follow a general railroad strike. Your committee believes that an infinitely worse condition would be produced by a change of thě balauce of power from the shipmaster to the seamen's union. So exposed is the position of a ship at sea and in a foreign port, is absolutely essential that control should remain with the owner and his agent, the master; and no laws should be enacted that would put him absolutely at the mercy of his crew.
The commerce of the world would be heavily burdened by such a condition ; the costs of conducting business would be greatly increased, and it would impose threatening and onerous conditions which would seriously retard the hope for the revival of an American merchant marine.
The bill, as it passed the House of Representatives, would give seamen the right to desert at will irrespective of the articles they signed on taking service. It can easily be imagined what would happen if a crew deserted in a port where other seamen were not obtainable. Section 12 of the bill provides that no vessel shall depart, etc., unless she shall have specific percentages of able seamen.
This would appear reasonable; but the section further provides that in no event shall there be less than two able seamen in the deck department for each lifeboat carried. If it is to be compulsory to employ that number, then many vessels would be compelled to carry many more men designated as able seamen than there would be any reasonable employment
Seamen of a foreign ship entering the Port of New York, whatever the conditions of the articles they have signed, could desert here without penalty.
This bill not only legalizes desertion, but makes it mandatory for masters of ships to pay seamen one-half their wages when they desert irrespective of any advances that may have been made to the men or their families before sailing from the foreign port. The enactment of this provision would require the abrogation of many treaties which we have made with foreign governments on this subject.
The bill specifies the qualification of able seamen to be three years experience at sea or on the Great Lakes, and it provides for the issue of certificates of qualification by local inspectors on the mere affidavits of the applicants, without requiring any investigation or other proof. A great deal will depend upon the character and affiliation of those appointed as inspectors what value and reliability may attach to such certificates. Deserters and men of almost any class may easily by these means obtain certificates as able seamen. There is danger that the certificates may get into the hands of sailor's boarding house keepers for sale, or even be rented for the temporary purpose of obtaining berths. No proper provision is provided for indentification, so that substitution and false impersonation could be rife and unchecked.
It seems to be clear that the intention of these provisions is to create conditions that will make it possible not only for the seamen's union to raise the wages of both American and foreign seamen, but also to put the ship owner at the mercy of his own employees in a trade in which discipline is the first essential for the safety of passengers and the regularity of commerce. In fact, the whole bill puts a premium upon desertion and makes articles of agreement not worth the paper upon which they are written.
Of course, such an enactment would inevitably advance freight rates to cover the higher costs and risks. Consumers the world over would have to pay the bill. But a still greater danger and more threatening commercial condition are involved. The United States in its export trade, particularly in manufactured products, must compete in many markets of the world with the productions of other countries. Shipping engaged in carrying merchandise from United States ports, to cover the hazards and expenses implied in this bill, would have to demand higher rates of freight than shipping performing an equal service in carrying the products of other competing countries direct from their ports to the same consuming markets. There would thus be placed a serious menace and handicap upon the entire export commerce of this country.
Your committee believes that the bill should be amended so as to preserve what is proper for the protection of seamen whether organized or not; and, at the same time, protect our commerce from this additional burden and shipping from this assault upon the well defined principles which experience has proved necessary for the maintenance of safety and law and order on the seas.
We, therefore, offer the following resolutions for adoption :
Resolved, That the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York protests against all those provsions in H. R. Bill No. 23673 which would deprive ship owners and ship masters of adequate power to protect life and property and to navigate the seas without being subject to the perils and losses caused by the domination or desertion of crews, and the inability to administer proper discipline; and be it further
Resolved, That copies of this report and these resolutions be sent to every member of the Senate in the hope that final action of that body on this important subject may promote the true interests of American shipping and that the respective rights of both capital and labor may be justly and adequately safeguarded.
E. H. OUTERBRIDGE,
Committee on the
New YORK, January 16, 1913.
METROPOLITAN SEWERAGE COMMISSION.
MR. OUTERBRIDGE, as Chairman of the Committee on the Harbor and Shipping, also presented the following preamble and resolutions and moved their adoption :
Whereas, The Chamber of Commerce has always been deeply interested in the preservation of the waters of the Harbor of New York from pollution ; and
Whereas. With the growth of the city the increasing discharge of sewage into the Hudson and East Rivers so impairs the purity of the water as to threaten the preservation of healthy conditions in and about the harbor ; and
Whereas, An exhaustive and scientific study of these conditions and of possible remedies therefor has been made by the Metropolitan Sewerage Commission ; and
Whereas, This commission, composed of experts in the several departments of sanitation and engineering, was appointed largely through the efforts and because of the urgent presentation of the necessity therefore by the Chamber of Commerce; and
Whereas, The term for which the commission was appointed expires on April 30, 1913, and there still remains work of great importance and value to be done in presenting complete plans and making the final suggestions for controlling the sewage disposal of the city; and