In January 1919 I addressed
a meeting of the merchants and manufacturers in Los Angeles at their
urgent request at which there were four hundred present. The Foreign
Trade Committee of the Chamber of Commerce was also present.
ADDRESS BEFORE MERCHANTS
The question that is
troubling all thinking men today is: How are we going to operate our
ships after the war? Seeing that in normal times our present laws and
regulations make it a financial impracticability, we must not be carried
away with the present abnormal condition and rates of freight, which
make it quite possible for anyone to make a profit, no matter how
inexperienced. So all the figures and considerations in this article are
based on normal conditions which are sure to come after the war.
So that you may fully
understand the folly of our past legislation, I herewith give you a copy
of a diagram prepared by Mr. P. W. II. Ross, showing the percentage of
American goods carried in American ships in years gone by.
This was during the
period of preferential duties.
Another illustration that
would not be out of place here is one showing the conditions on the
Pacific Ocean up to May, 1917. In 1913, before the war and before the
Seamen's Bill had gotten in its deadly work, Japanese vessels in
American trade on the Pacific were, 26.05%; American vessels, 26.10%.
After May 1, 1917,
Japanese vessels increased their trade to 50.90%, while the trade of
American vessels (as a result of the Seamen's Bill) fell off to 1.97%.
The following records,
taken from our books, is the cost, per month of the crew's wages on
three steamers which we were operating in 1914. The indicated horsepower
of the vessels was exactly the same and the tonnage nearly the same. The
difference in man power is due to governmental regulation: American
steamer, 47 men, $3270; British steamer, 36 men. $1308; Japanese
steamer, 36 men, $777.
On the Pacific the keen
competition Americans have to meet is from the Japanese, and after the
war this competition wiill also be felt oil the Atlantic. The foregoing
figures give a good idea of what our handicaps are. Japanese shipowners
made enormous profits during the war; therefore, competition with the
Japanese will be backed by plenty of money on their side, in addition to
their having subsidies for shipbuilding and for carrying the mails, and
other advantages that American shipowners must combat. There is some
talk of our government chartering its ships to individuals after the war
and not selling them. This will be a fatal mistake. The men, who in the
past developed American and British foreign trade, were shipowners. Ship
charterers having no money invested, will operate the ships only as long
as they can make a profit. Responsible shipowners will keep up the
business even at a loss, and stay with the business until times get
better, thereby keeping up the foreign trade of our country.
At a banquet in
Philadelphia the Secretary of the Navy announced the contemplated
extension of government ownership, to own and operate American ships and
to engage in foreign trade; thereby destroying the private ownership of
ships and going into competition against our merchants in the foreign
trade. (Our Government has already started to trade commercially, I
understand, in Siberia.) The result of this policy would be to destroy
the initiative,' "pep" and "getup" of our merchants in that trade and
the few shipowners we have left; and this while we are on the even of
the keenest competition the world has ever seen. Then, in addition to
all this, we were told that the rates of freight would be lower than
those of our foreign competitors. (The foreigners will have something to
say about the rates.) In as much as we are in direct competition m our
foreign trade, and as our country is going to require this trade as
never before, it is the opinion of our bankers, merchants and the people
generally that the administration has another guess coming before it
will be permitted to carry out such a destructive and disastrous policy.
I suggest that, instead
of government ownership, the ships should be sold at prices to meet
competition and on reasonable terms of payment, so as to encourage the
ownership of ships by men of moderate means.
Example: Government ships
should be sold at the current price of similar ships and on the same
terms prevailing in London; one quarter cash, one-quarter in one, two
and three years, with interest at 4% per annum, and when the various
payments fall due the amount to be paid shall be the price prevailing
then in London, thereby putting our shipowner on an exact equality with
our foreign competitors as to the first cost of the ship. In other
words, keeping the cost of the ships so bought equal to the cost of
foreign ships while the owner is paying for them. 'The difference in
cost to the Government and the amount sold for, to be charged to the
cost of the war, the same as ammunition, etc.
Wages: As explained, the
wages of the crew is a very important matter; and, as the American
cannot be brought down to the level of his foreign competitior, any more
than the foreigner can be raised to the level of the American, the
American will, as a consequence, leave the sea unless he can get about
the same wages as he would receive on shore. I offer as a solution of
this condition, that shipowners hire their crews at full American wages,
but that the difference between this wage and what is paid by Japanese
competitors be paid by the Government to shipowners on proper
certification by the shipping commissioner of the amounts so paid.
As for example, if the
wages of the American seaman is $60 per month, that of the Japanese
seaman $15 per month, then have the United States Government pay the $45
per month difference. This will enable American labor to receive its
full wage and permit the American ship to compete with its foreign
rivals in trade with their lower paid crews. This is no subsidy to
shipowners, but only an equalization of American vs. foreign labor.
To those who are not
familiar with the custom I would explain that when a man hires to work
on a ship he must go before a United States commissioner and sign the
articles of contract, which is explained to the man by the commissioner.
Then, when the voyage is ended, the shipowner does not pay off the crew,
but takes the money to the commissioner, who pays the men. By this
arrangement the men would receive the full American wages, and such fine
young Americans as are now being trained in great numbers would be sure
to continue to follow the sea, if the entire crew of a ship were
composed of Americans. And especially if that vicious clause in the
Seamen's Act is abrogated, which provides that 65% of the crew must be
certificated able seamen; no other nation calls for such regulations,
and, if it were enforced, would tie up half of our ships, as there are
not nearly enough of so-called able seamen to man half our vessels.
The manner of licensing
our officers must also be modified so as to be the same as our
In ships running to the
tropics, Americans will not stand the work in the hot fireroom. and in
that trade it is also a question if Americans would work in the
steward's department. All American owners have had this experience.
American sailors on deck, however, get along all right. Outside of the
equalization of wages of the men, and the proper payment for service
rendered in carrying the mails, I claim that to maintain American ships
on the ocean no other financial assistance by the Government is required.
But our laws and
regulations must be radically changed, not in such a way as to give
shipowners any advantage over their competitors, but to put our ships on
an exact footing with those of all other nations. To do this it will not
cost our country a cent, except in equalizing wages.
Following are some of the
changes in our laws that are necessary. For example, the standard
steamer of 8800 tons deadweight, of which scores are being built for the
The steamer Robert
Dollar, of which all these are duplicates, according to British
measurement, has a net tonnage of 3420 tons; under American measurement
she will average net 4283 tons, a difference of 863 tons. Since all port
charges, pilotage, drydocking, etc., are based on the net tonnage of a
vessel, the American ship in foreign trade pays 25% more than the ships
of any other nation; and, since this is paid in foreign ports and to
foreign nations, is it not up to Congress to tell us why our ships are
(Note—The laws of Great
Britian and ours, as to measurement, are about the same, but in the
application of the law there is a difference. The fact remains, however,
that the actual difference is as stated.)
(Note—In November, 1921,
it is reported that the American Government has at last capitulated and
changed its form of measurement to correspond with the British method.
It has taken twenty-five years to accomplish this reform.)
In an address delivered
by Colonel Goethals in San Francisco we were told of two sister ships,
one under the British flag and the other under the American flag. The
latter paid $500 more tolls than the Britisher. I would again ask
Congress, why? In this connection it might be pertinent to ask why an
American ship carrying a cargo of lumber pays more tolls than a ship
carrying merchandise, coal or iron.
regulations, the ship must be free of cargo, and the boilers filled with
cold water; therefore, handling of cargo must be suspended, and the
inspection must be completed before work is again resumed. On British
ships no work stops. One part of the inspection is finished; then, when
another part of the hull, boilers or engines is ready, that is
inspected, and if the inspection cannot be completed the vessel is
allowed to proceed to the next port, where it can be finished. The
instructions to the inspector are, not to stop the ordinary work of
handling cargo. In the successful operation of ships, one of the most
important factors is then quick dispatch in port.
The American regulations
require a cold water hydrostatic pressure, once and a half the working
pressure, to be applied to the boilers once a year; this racks the
boilers and piping, causes much expense and shortens the life of the
boilers. This method is not required annually by any other nation, and
they have no more explosions of boilers than those inspected under the
American plan. American rules require a fusible plug in each boiler.
This is not required by any other government. The loss of time and
expense to American ships is considerable. Again I ask, why? Especially,
when no benefit is derived by this loss of time or money. In my opinion,
more inspectors should be employed and the regulations entirely changed,
thus enabling our ships to gain much valuable time.
Secretary Redfield, under
whose jurisdiction this comes, has said that Americans are able to and
can do more and better work than any other workmen, and fully pay their
employers for their higher wages and better board. Therefore, it is
again quite pertinent to ask why, on a 10,000-tons deadweight American
steamer, it takes 30% more men than on a similar sized steamer of any
other nation? On a ship of this class the British require two licensed
engineers, where the American requires four; and, in addition to this,
the American requires three oilers and three water tenders. Ordinarily
on foreign ships the storekeeper, donkeyman and a greaser do the work of
the oilers, and no water tenders are carried. In fact, the name of water
tender is unknown. At an investigation of a committee of the House, 1
was asked what the water tender did. I replied he sat on a box in the
fireroom and did nothing but draw his wages and eat his meals.
Now we come to that
clause in the Seamen's Bill which states that 75% of the crew, in each
department, shall be able to understand any order the officers may give.
STEAMER "ROBERT DOLLAR" THE THIRD LARGEST CARGO SHIP AFLOAT
American ships from
carrying 75% foreigners who do not understand the English language. This
is intended to prevent the carrying of Chinese crews on American ships,
which it is necessary for us to do if we desire to successfully compete
with the Japanese. But, the Bill does not prevent Japanese ships from
carrying Japanese crews with Japanese officers; hence, another reason
that has been instrumental in placing the Japanese of to day in full
control of the commerce of the Pacific ocean. Another clause to which I
refer provides that 65% of the crew, exclusive of officers and
apprentices, shall be certificated able seamen. This portion of the law
was so impossible of execution and so unreasonable (because the men were
not obtainable), that no notice has been taken of it during the war.
When peace comes, however, it may be enforced, and will result in the
tying up of half of our merchant marine.
Another clause in the
Bill provides that a collector of customs may, on his own motion, and
shall upon the sworn information of any reputable citizen, deny
clearance and hold a ship until an investigation is made. So any
waterfront sorehead can hold up any ship. This is so drastic and vicious
that it also has not been enforced: but it is the law nevertheless.
Another clause provides
that a seaman can demand and shall receive half of the wages he has
earned (note the word "earned''- not "due," as it should be,) at every
port the ship goes to, and every succeeding five days he can make other
demands. This has done more harm to the few American ships that were
left than anything else, as it gave to the men money to keep them in a
drunken state. The police records of various ports where American ships
have gone, especially Shanghai, Kobe and Yokohama, bear ample proof of
the bad effect of this law. The intention of this clause was, to allow
the men to draw their wages and desert; but it did not work that way,
although it causes serious delay to a ship at almost every port. This
must be repealed.
The sailors shall be
divided into two watches. On many ships a big crew is carried and enough
men to navigate the ship are put on "watch and watch." The balance of
the crew sleeps all night and works all day, the object being to get the
day crew to keep the ship in good condition. If this section was
enforced, a ship would have to carry a smaller crew and let the keeping
up of the vessel go, as men cannot do any work at night except that
which is necessary in handling the ship.
This Bill is entitled "to
promote the welfare of American seamen." The inspector's records of San
Francisco, shortly after it became a law, show that of 2064 men, 8% were
American born, 17% naturalized citizens, and 75% were aliens. An
American steamer cleared recently from San Francisco with a crew
composed of three Hollanders, four Greeks, one Swede, two Irishmen,
three Englishmen, one Australian and three Americans. What a joke,
calling them Americans!
The clauses in the Bill
providing for greater safety of life at sea and having better
accommodations for the crew should be retained (except the absurdities
relating to davits and lifeboats on cargo vessels, which have never been
enforced). The American ships built recently have excellent
acommodations and leave nothing more to be desired, and the food served
to American crews is much better than that served on board of ships of
any other nation—in fact, it is as good as I have at my home.
The foregoing are only
the most vicious parts of the Bill, and only a few of the many changes
that must be made to put us on an equality. Other parts of the Bill
against foreign ships will, no doubt, be attended to by foreign nations
after the war.
The President said that
if American shipowners could not operate ships the Government would
operate them. This statement is on a par with tying our hands securely
behind our backs and putting us in the prize ring against an opponent
with both hands free and backed by his government.
The answer to this is,
that American citizens before the war were successfully operating
2,500,000 tons of ships under foreign flags. Those same men would be
only too glad to operate them under the Stars and Stripes if our laws
and regulations would only permit them.
More foreign trade is
conceded to be an absolute necessity after the war; therefore, it is
well to remind the people of the United States that our foreign trade is
so linked with our merchant marine that they cannot he separated. This
is also true of our manufacturing plants, banks, merchants and fanners.
The ramifications of this subject are so great that, directly or
indirectly, they affect every American citizen. Therefore, the time has
come to demand the necessary legislation and regulation to put the
operation of our ships on an exact equality with those of our
competitors. Nothing else will do.
We certainly want some
ordinary common sense injected into our laws. Surely the Government will
see that our useless and oppressive laws and regulations will be
changed, in view of the fact that when the reconstruction period is over
we will have nearly as big a merchant marine as Great Britain. If these
changes are not made, we will see our merchant marine melt away, as
shown in the diagram from 1810 to 1914.
Had a very enjoyable
Sunday on the second of February, 1919, when Grace's son and Stanley's
daughter were baptized in the church at San Rafael. They were named
Alexander Melville Dickson and Diana Dollar respectively.
In April I attended the
meeting of the Foreign Trade Convention in Chicago, and addressed a very
enthusiastic gathering at which about two thousand were present. The
subject was "Our Merchant Marine,"
I arranged to establish
an office in Chicago, the principal object being to solicit and collect
freight for our trans-Pacific steamers. This office has been a success,
so we have considerably enlarged its scope by soliciting freight from
many cities for both Vancouver and New York.
I bought five acres of
land in Oakland for the Occidental Board to be used for the bringing up
and the education of small boys and girls of Chinese parentage. Suitable
buildmgs will be erected in due course. This work is ably carried on
under the direction of Miss Donaldine Cameron.
I was recently elected
president of the Pacific American Steamship Association, and although I
am really overburdened with work, accepted the responsibility as I felt
sure the association would do a good work in getting all the companies
to pull together and present a solid front. This also had the effect of
getting the Shipowners' Association to work in with it so that all the
shipowners now present a solid front to obtain what is right. Then they
both, are working in harmony with the American Steamship Company of New
York, so that all the organizations are working together.
About this time we
decided to purchase some more steamers, so Melville and I went across
the continent from Vancouver to Sydney, Nova Scotia, where the steamer
War Melodv was about to arrive, and we wanted an opportunit to inspect
her. She is a vessel of 10,760 tons deadweight, and came near to our
requirements, so we bought her and renamed her Grace Dollar. While she
is not exactly our style of ship, she has turned out entirely
satisfactory. This I learned by sailing on her for over a month in the