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Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 1 - Chapter Eighteen. Sail for Home on the "Mongolia"


We sailed from Yokohama on the steamer "Mongolia," March 14, 1912. and had many enjoyable addresses and lectures which were instructive as well. Bishop Bashford, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, gave us a very line lecture on the effects of the revolution in China. His diocese is all of China, and he travels all over, so he has a very comprehensive knowledge of the country and is absolutely unbiased and fair.

On the 21st of March, at the request of the passengers, I gave an address on the "Probable Effects of the Panama Canal on the World's Commerce," which follows:

The Panama Canal and our merchant marine are so closely linked that it will be necessary to speak of the latter first. In 1862 we had the largest and far the best lot of ships of any nation. At that time we had 2,496,900 tons engaged in the foreign trade alone. According to the latest reports we now have less than fiv e hundred thousand tons engaged in foreign commerce. The Commissioner of Navigation states in his last annual report that the entire tonnage registered for foreign trade was only 585,730; included in this are the Hawaiian sugar fleet and Yukon River steamers; and. strange to say, there are over one million eight hundred thousand tons of shipping owned by American citizens, which, by our unreasonable laws, are now compelled to run under foreign flags and register.

By our treaty with Great Britain they claim that all American vessels passing through the Canal must pay tolls; we claim this never was the intention, as foreign nations can have no interest in our coastwise trade as no foreign ship can carry cargoes from one American port to another. Therefore, the passing of American ships free through the Canal, that is ships engaged wholly in coastwise trade, does not interest or in any way affect vessels belonging to a foreign country. It is quite fight, however, that American ships engaged in the foreign trade and in competition with foreign ships should all pay the same tolls.

Section 6, of the River and Harbor Bill of 1884, distinctly states that no United States vessel shall pay any tolls for passing through any canal or lock, now constructed, or that may hereafter be constructed. This relates more particularly to coastwise trade. Primarily, the Canal was constructed for national defense and for interstate commerce, and, inasmuch as we have no vessels to use in the foreign trade, it follows that this is of secondary importance as far as the American nation is concerned. While those views are national, they are narrow. But looking at it from the broad viewpoint of the world's commerce, and as such as a world-wide benefactor, we must treat all nations fairly and liberally. As for taking money out of the public treasury and paying shipowners who use the canal as a subsidy, we certainly have a perfect right. Vessels passing through the Suez Canal receive a subsidy from the following countries - Russia. Austria. Italy, Sweden, Japan, and others n a lesser extent.

As to the influence that the Canal will have on the world's commerce. First, domestic and coastwise trade. This is sure to be very great as a big trade is going on now, even handicapped as it is by trans-shipment and railroad haul across the Isthmus of Panama. I do not think it an extravagant estimate to say that there will be four times as much traffic as there is now.

The Commissioner of Navigation complained, and justly, that Americans, except the American-Hawaiian Company, are making no plans to enter this business by building ships, but that foreign nations are making great preparations to start lines of steamers from Europe to the west coast of the United States. There is sure to be big immigration from Europe, as the rate to San Francisco will not be much more from Europe than the present fare to New York. Several large steamers are being built for this service, but what trade will go through the Canal, other than to and from the United States, it is difficult to predict. The rate of tolls and the saving of distance will be the controlling factors. Congress should have removed the uncertainty of charges before now. That the competition of the Suez Canal must be met is a foregone conclusion They have been preparing for it, as twice during the last two years the tolls have been reduced. The tolls are now $1.30. The shortest distance will determine to a great extent the route steamers will take. The saving of distance from Manila to New York via the Panama Canal is four hundred and seventeen miles, Hong Kong to New York five hundred and ninety-seven; but from the Orient to Liverpool the distance is much in favor of Suez

So it can be expected, if the tolls are the same from Hong Kong and Manila to North America, freight would move by way of Panama. But, as the passenger steamers have all their connections, ports of call and coaling ports, via Suez, it; can be expected they will continue running that way. On the other hand, everything for the Orient from Europe would continue to go that way, saving four thousand miles. So it looks as though the American Government is to be the greatest beneficiary of this, the greatest engineering feat of the world.

The benefit that the United States will get out of it will be very great, and justly so, as they furnished all the money to build it. First, as a means of national defense, and thereby doubling the capacity of our navy. Second, it will bring the products of the field, orchard and forest of the Pacific Coast within easy reach and by cheap freight to the people of the Eastern States. Then t will reduce the cost of the manufactured articles from the Eastern States to the people of the Pacific Coast. All this trade exists in a small way at present, and we can confidently expect it to increase very quickly. Third, a great increase will come from the Orient. Japanese trade is sure to increase; the Philippine trade should double the third year after the Canal is opened; but the greatest increase will come from New China, when then four hundred millions of people get properly in order— this increase will be as radical as the throwing off of the Manchu yoke and the establishing of a Republic.

But to take advantage of our opportunity our merchants must go after the trade, and we must have ships. What a sad commentary on our Congress to say that they built a canal costing four hundred millions of dollars, and by their laws prohibited American citizens from building ships to use it in the foreign trade. We talk of awakening China but now we must change that and try to awaken Congress to the great prospect ahead of us.

To show that the efforts 1 have made for increasing the friendship and commerce between China and the United States have been successful and appreciated, on two different occasions I have been decorated by the Chinese Government

We arrived in San Francisco March 30, after a most enjoyable trip, and after a short stay, I made a trip to Grand Rapids, Detroit and New York, returning by way of Seattle.


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