Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; online

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fect will be that the consumer will pay one cent more per pound
than before, the producer will take one cent less, and the merchant
one cent less in profits ; in other words, the burden of the duty will
[be] distributed over consumption, production, and commerce, and
not confined to either. But if a duty amounting to fuU protection
be levied upon an article which can be produced here with as little
labor as elsewhere, — as iron, — that article will ultimately, and at no
distant day, in consequence of such duty, be sold to our people
cheaper than before, at least by the amount of the cost of carrymg
it from abroad.

First. As to useless labor. Before proceeding, however, it may
be as well to give a specimen of what I conceive to be useless la,bor.
I say, then, that all carrying, and incidents of carrying, of articles
from the place of their production to a distant place for consump-
tion, which articles could be produced of as good quality, in suffi-
cient quantity and with as little labor, at the place of consumption
as at the place carried from, is useless labor. Applying this prin-
ciple to our own country by an example, let us suppose that A and B
are a Pennsylvania farmer and a Pennsylvania iron-maker whose
lands are adjoining. Under the protective policy A is furnishing B
with bread and meat, and vegetables and fruits, and food for horses
and oxen, and fresh supplies of horses and oxen themselves occa-
sionally, and receiving in exchange all the iron, iron utensils, tools,
and implements he needs. In this process of exchange each receives
the whole of that which the other parts with, and the reward of la-
bor between them is perfect — each receiving the product of just
so much labor as he has himself bestowed on what he parts with for
it. But the change comes. The protective policy is abandoned,
and A determines to buy his iron and iron manufactures of C in
Europe. This he can only do by a direct or an indirect exchange
of the produce of his farm for them. We will suppose the direct
exchange is adopted. In this A desires to exchange ten barrels of
flour — the precise product of one hundred days' labor — for the
largest quantity of iron, etc., that he can get. C also wishes to ex-
change the precise product, in iron, of one hundred days' labor for
the greatest quantity of flour he can get. In intrinsic value the
things to be so exchanged are precisely equal. But before this ex-
change can take place, the flour must be carried from Pennsylvania
to England, and the iron from England to Pennsylvania. The flour
starts. The wagoner who hauls it to Philadelphia takes a part of it


to pay him for his labor j then a merchant there takes a little more
for storage and forwarding commission, and another takes a little
more for insurance ; and then the ship-owner carries it across the
water, and takes a little moi-e of it for his trouble. Still, before it
reaches C, it is tolled two or three times more for storage, drayage,
commission, and so on ; so that when C gets it there are but seven
and a half barrels of it left. The ii'on, too, in its transit from Eng-
land to Pennsylvania, goes through the same process of tolling ; so
that when it reaches A there are but three quarters of it left. The
result of this case is that A and C have each parted with one hun-
dred days' labor, and each received but seventy-five in return. That
the carrying in this case was introduced by A ceasing to buy of B
and turning [to] C ; that it was utterly useless ; and that it is ruin-
ous in its effects upon A, are all little less than self-evident. "But,"
asks one, " if A is now only getting three quarters as much iron
from C for ten barrels of flour as he used to get of B, why does he
not turn back to B?" The answer is: "B has quit making iron,
and so has none to sell." " But why did B quit making ? " " Be-
cause A quit buying of him, and he had no other customer to sell
to." ''But surely A did not cease buying of B with the expectation
of buying of C on harder terms ? " " Certainly not. Let me teU
you how that was. "When B was making iron as well as C, B had
but one customer, this farmer A ; C had four customers in Europe."

It seems to be an opinion very generally entertained that the con-
dition of a nation is best whenever it can buy cheapest : but this is
not necessarily true, because if, at the same time and by the same
cause, it is compelled to sell correspondingly cheap, nothing is gained.
Then it is said the best condition is when we can buy cheapest and
sell dearest ; but this again is not necessarily true, because with both
these we might have scarcely anything to sell, or, which is the same
thing, to buy with. To illustrate this, suppose a man in the present
state of things is laboring the year round, at ten dollars per month,
which amounts in the year to $120. A change in affairs enables him
to buy supplies at half the former price, to get fifty dollars per
month for his labor, but at the same time deprives him of employ-
ment during all the months of the year but one. In this case,
though goods have fallen one half, and labor risen five to one, it is
still plain that at 'the end of the year the laborer is twenty dollars
poorer than under the old state of things.

These reflections show that to reason and act correctly on this
subject we must look not merely to buying cheap, nor yet to buying
cheap and selling dear, but also to having constant employment, so
that we may have the largest possible amount of something to sell.
This matter of employment can only be secured by an ample, steady,
and certain market to sell the products of our labor in.

But let us yield the point, and admit that by abandonmg the pro-
tective policy our farmers can purchase their supplies of manufac-
tured articles cheaper than by continuing it; and then let us see
whether, even at that, they will upon the whole be gainers by the


change. To simplify this question^ let us suppose the whole agricul-
tural interest of the country to be m the hands of one man, who has
one hundred laborers in his employ; the whole manufacturing in-
terest to be in the hands of one other man, who has twenty laborers
in his employ. The farmer owns all the plow and pasture land, and
the manufacturer all the iron-mines and coal-banks and sites of
water-power. Bach is pushing on in his own way, and obtaining
supplies from the other so far as he needs, — that is, the manufac-
turer is buying of the farmer all the cotton he can use in his cotton-
factory; all the wool he can use in his woolen establishment; all
the bread and meat, as well as all the fruits and vegetables, which
are necessary for himself and all his hands in all his departments ;
all the corn and oats and hay which are necessary for all his horses
and oxen, as well as fresh supplies of horses and oxen themselves to
do aU his heavy hauling about his iron-works and generally of every
sort. The farmer, in turn, is buying of the manufacturer all the
iron, iron tools, wooden tools, cotton goods, woolen goods, etc., that
he needs in his business and for his hands. But after a while far-
mer discovers that were it not for the protective policy he could
buy all these supplies cheaper from a European manufacturer, owing
to the fact that the price of labor is only one quarter as high there
as here. He and his hands are a majority of the whole, and there-
fore have the legal and moral right to have their interest first con-
sulted. They throw off the protective policy, and farmer cpases
buying of home manufacturer. Very soon, however, he discovers
that to buy even at the cheaper rate requires something to buy with,
and somehow or other he is falling short in this particular.


In the early days of our race the Almighty said to the first of our
race, "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread"; and since
then, if we except the light and the air of heaven, no good thing has

/ been or can be enjoyed by us without having first cost labor. And
inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that
all such things of right belong to those whose labor has produced
them. But it has so happened, in all ages of the world, that some
have labored, and others have without labor enjoyed a large propor-
tion of the fruits. This is wrong, and should not continue. To se-

; cure to each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as
possible, is a worthy object of any good government.

But then a question arises, How can a government best effect this?
In our own country, in its present conditiob, wiU the protective prin-
ciple advance or retard this object ? Upon this subject the habits of
our whole species fall into three great classes— useful labor, useless
labor, and idleness. Of these the first only is meritorious, and to it
all the products of labor rightfully belong; but the two latter, while
they exist, are heavy pensioners upon the first, robbing it of a large
portion of its just rights. The only remedy for this is to, so far as
possible, drive useless labor and idleness out of existence. And,
first, as to useless labor. Before making war upon this, we must
learn to distinguish it from the useful. It appears to me that all


labor done directly and indirectly in carrying articles to the place of
consumption, which conld have been produced in sufficient abun-
dance, with as little labor, at the place or consumption as at the place
they were carried from, is useless labor. Let us take a few examples
of the application of this principle to our own country. Iron, and
everything made of iron, can be produced in sufiQcient abundance, and
with as little labor, in the United States as anywhere else in the
world J therefore all labor done in bringing iron audits fabrics from
a foreign country to the United States is useless labor. The same
precisely may be said of cotton^ wool, and of their fabrics respec-
tively, as well as many other articles. While the uselessness of the
carrying labor is equally true of all the articles mentioned, and of
many others not mentioned, it is perhaps more glaringly obvious in
relation to the cotton goods we purchase from abroad. The raw cot-
ton from which they are made itself grows in our own country, is
carried by land and by water to England, is there spun, wove, dyed,
stamped, etc., and then carried back again and worn in the very
country where it grew, and partly by the very persons who grew it.
Why should it not be spun, wove, etc., in the very neighborhood
where it both grows and is consumed, and the carrying thereby dis-
pensed with! Has nature interposed any obstacle? Are not all the
agents — animal-power, water-power, and steam-power — as good and
as abundant here as elsewhere? Will not as small an amount of
human labor answer here as elsewhere ? We may easily see that the
cost of this useless labor is very heavy. It includes not only the
cost of the actual carriage, but also the insurances of every kind, and
the profits of the merchants through whose hands it passes. All
these create a heavy burden necessarily falling upon the useful labor
connected with such articles, either depressing the price to the pro-
ducer or advancing it to the consumer, or, what is more probable,
doing both in part.

A supposed case will serve to illustrate several points now to the
purpose. A, in the interior of South Carolina, has one hundred
pounds of cotton, which we suppose to be the precise product of one
man's labor for twenty days. B, in Manchester, England, has one
hundred yards of cotton cloth, the precise product of the same
amount of labor. This lot of cotton and lot of cloth are precisely
equal to each other in their intrinsic value. But A wishes to part
with his cotton for the largest quantity of cloth he can get. B also
wishes to part with his cloth for the greatest quantity of cotton
he can get. An exchange is therefore necessary; but before this
can be effected, the cotton must be carried to Manchester, and the
cloth to South Carolina. The cotton starts to Manchester. The man
that hauls it to Charleston in his wagon takes a little of it out to pay
him for his trouble; the merchant who stores it a while before the
ship is ready to sail takes a little out for his trouble ; the ship-owner
who carries it across the water takes a little out for his trouble.
StiU, before it gets to Manchester it is tolled two or three times more
for drayage, storage, commission, and so on ; so that when it reaches
B's hands there are but seventy-five pounds of it left. The cloth,
■ too, in its transit from Manchester to South Carolina, goes through


the same process of tolling; so that when it reaches A there are but
seventy-five yards of it. Now, in this case, A and B have each parted
with twenty days' labor, and each received but fifteen in return.
But now let us suppose that B has removed to the side of A's farm
in South Carolina, and has there made his lot of cloth. Is it not clear
that he and A can then exchange their cloth and cotton, each getting
the whole of what the other parts with?

This supposed case shows the utter uselessness of the carrying
labor in dl similar cases, and also the direct burden it imposes
upon useful labor. And whoever wQl take up the train of reflection
suggested by this case, and run it out to the full extent of its just
application, will be astonished at the amount of useless labor he wiU
thus discover to be done in this very way. I am mistaken if it is
not in fact many times over equal to all the real want in the world;
This useless labor I would have discontinued, and those engaged in
it added to the class of useful laborers. If I be asked whether I
would destroy all commerce, I answer, Certainly not ; I would con-
tinue it where it is necessary, and discontinue it where it is not.
An instance : I would continue commerce so far as it is emptloyed in
bringing us coffee, and I would discontinue it so far as it is em-
ployed in bringing us cotton goods.

But let us yield the point, and admit that by abandoning the pro-
tective policy our farmers can purchase their supplies of manufac-
tured articles cheaper than before; and then let us see whether,
even at that, the farmers will upon the whole be gainers by the
change. To simplify this question, let us suppose our whole popu-
lation to consist of but twenty men. Under the prevalence of the
protective policy, fifteen of these are farmers, one is a miller, one
manufactures iron, one implements from iron, one cotton goods,
and one woolen goods. The farmers discover that, owing to labor
only costing one quarter as much in Europe as here, they can buy
iron, iron implements, cotton goods, and woolen goods cheaper
when brought from Europe than when made by their neighbors.
They are the majority, and therefore have both the legal and moral
right to have their interest first consulted. They throw off the pro-
tective policy, and cease buying these articles of their neighbors.
But they soon discover that to buy, and at the cheaper rate, requires
something to buy with. Falling short in this particular, one of
these farmers takes a load of wheat to the miller and gets it made
into flour, and starts, as had been his custom, to the iron furnace.
He approaches the well-known spot, but, strange to say, all is cold
and still as death ; no smoke rises, no furnace roars, no anvil rings.
After some search he finds the owner of the desolate place, and calls
out to him, " Come, Vulcan, don't you want to buy a load of flour ? "
"Why," says Vulcan, "I am hungry enough, to be sure, — have n't
tasted bread for a w^ek ; but then you see my works are stopped,
and I have nothing to give you for your flour." "But, ViJcan,
why don't you go to work and get something V "I am ready to do
so. Will you hire me, farmer?" " Oh, no ; I could only set you to
raising wheat, and you see I have more of that already than I can
get anything for." " But give me employment, and send your flour


to Europe for a market." "Why, Vuleau, how silly you talk!
Don't you know they raise wheat in Europe as well as here, and
that labor is so cheap there as to fix the price of flour there so low
as scarcely to pay the long carriage of it from here, leaving nothing
whatever to me ? " " But, farmer, could n't you pay to raise and
prepare garden-stuffs, and fruits, such as radishes, cabbages, Irish
and sweet potatoes, cucumbers, watermelons and musk-melons,
plums, pears, peaches, apples, and the like"? All these are good
things, and used to sell well." " So they did use to sell well ; but it
was to you we sold them, and now you tell us you have nothing to
buy witii. Of course I cannot sell such things to the other farmers,
because each of them raises enough for himself, and in fact rather
wishes to sell than to buy. Neither can I send them to Europe for
a market, because, to say nothing of European markets being
stocked with such articles at lower prices than I can afford, they
are of such a nature as to rot before they could reach there. The
truth is, Vulcan, I am compelled to quit raising these things alto-
gether, except a few for my own use ; and this leaves part of my
own time idle on my hands, instead of my finding employment for

If at any time all labor should cease, and all existing provisions
be equally divided among the people^ at the end of a single year
there could scarcely be one human being left alive ; all would have
perished by want of subsistence. So, again, if upon such division
all that sort of labor which produces provisions should cease, and
each individual should take up so much of his share as he could, and
carry it continually around his habitation, although in this carrying
the amount of labor going on might be as great as ever so long as
it could last, at the end of the year the result would be precisely the
same — that is, none would be left living.

The first of these propositions shows that universal idleness would
speedUy result in universal ruin ; and the second shows that useless
labor is, in this respect, the same as idleness. I submit, then,
whether it does not follow that partial idleness and partial useless
labor would, in the proportion of their extent, in like manner result
in partial ruin ; whether, if all should subsist upon the labor that
one half should perform, it would not result in very scanty allow-
ance to the whole.

Believing that these propositions and the conclusions I draw from
them cannot be successfully controverted, I for the present assume
their correctness, and proceed to try to show that the abandonment
of the protective policy by the American government must result in
the increase of both useless labor and idleness, and so, in propor-
tion, must produce want and ruin among our people.

(The foregoing scraps about protection were written by Lincoln
between his election to Congress in 1846 and taking his seat in De-
cember, 1847.)


December 5, 1847.— Letter to "William H, Herndon.

Washington, December 5, 1847.

Dear William : You may remember that about a year ago a man
by the name of Wilson (James Wilson, I think) paid us twenty dol-
lars as an advance fee to attend to a case in the Supreme Court for
him, against a Mr. Campbell, the record of which case was in the
hands of Mr. Dixon of St. Louis, who never furnished it to us.
When I was at Bloomington last fall, I met a friend of Wilson, who
mentioned the subject to me, and induced me to write to Wilson,
telling him I would leave the ten dollars with you which had been
left with me to pay for making abstracts in the case, so that the
case may go on this winter ; but I came away, and forgot to do it.
What I want now is to send you the money, to be used accordiagly,
if any one comes on to start the case, or to be retained by you if no
one does.

There is nothing of consequence new here. Congress is to organ-
ize to-morrow. Last night we held a Whig caucus for the House,
and nominated Winthrop of Massachusetts for speaker, Sargent of
Pennsylvania for sergeant-at-arms, Homer of New Jersey door-
keeper, and McCormick of District of Columbia postmaster. The
Whig majority in the House is so small that, together with some
little dissatisfaction, [it] leaves it doubtful whether we will elect
them all.

This paper is too thick to fold, which is the reason I send only
a half-sheet. Yours as ever,

A. Lincoln.

December 13, 1847. — Letter to William H. Herndon.

Washington, December 13, 1847.

Dear William : Your letter, advising me of the receipt of our fee
in the bank ease, is just received, and I don't expect to hear another
as good a piece of news from Springfield while I am away. I am
under no obligations to the bank ; and I therefore wish you to buy
bank certificates, and pay my debt there, so as to pay it with the
least money possible. I woidd as soon you should buy them of Mr.
Ridgely, or any other person at the bank, as of any one else, pro-
vided you can get them as cheaply. I suppose, after the bank debt
shall be paid, there will be some money left, out of which I would
like to have you pay Lavely and Stout twenty dollars, and Priest
and somebody (oil-makers) ten dollars, for materials got for house-
painting. If there shall still be any left, keep it till you see or hear
from me.

I shall begin sending documents so soon as I can get them. I
wrote you yesterday about a " Congressional Globe." As you are
all so anxious for me to distinguish myself, I have concluded to do
so before long. Yours truly,

A. Lincoln.


December 22, 1847.— Resolutions in the United States
House of Repbesentath^es.

Whereas, The President of the United States, in his message of
May H, 1846, has declared that " the Mexican Government not only-
refused to receive him [the envoy of the United States], or to listen
to his proj)ositions, but, after a long-continued series of menaces,
has at last invaded our territory and shed the blood of our fellow-
citizens on our own soil."

And again, in his message of December 8, 1846, that " we had
ample cause of war against Mexico long before the breaking out of
hostilities ; but even then we forbore to take redress into our own
hands until Mexico herself became the aggressor, by invading our
soil in hostile array, and shedding the blood of our citizens."

And yet again, in his message of December 7, 1847, that " the
Mexican Government refused even to hear the terms of adjustment
which he [our minister of peace] was authorized to propose, and
finally, under wholly unjustifiable pretexts, involved the two coun-
tries in war, by invading the territory of the State of Texas, strik-
ing the first blow, and shedding the blood of our citizens on our
own soil."

And whereas, This House is desirous to obtain a full knowledge
of all the facts which go to establish whether the particular spot on
which the blood of our citizens was so shed was or was not at that
time our own soil : therefore,

Resolved, By the House of Representatives, that the President of
the United States be respectfully requested to inform this House —

First. Whether the spot on which the blood of our citizens was
shed, as in his message declared, was or was not within the terri-
tory of Spain, at least after the treaty of 1819 until the Mexican

Second. Whether that spot is or is not within the territory which
was wrested from Spain by the revolutionary Government of Mexico.

Third. Whether that spot is or is not within a settlement of
people, which settlement has existed ever since long before the Texas
revolution, and until its inhabitants fled before the approach of the
United States army.

Fourth. Whether that settlement is or is not isolated from any
and all other settlements by the Gulf and the Rio Grande on the
south and west, and by wide uninhabited regions on the north and east.

Fifth. Whether the people of that settlement, or a majority of
them, or any of them, have ever submitted themselves to the govern-
ment or laws of Texas or of the United States, by consent or by
compulsion, either by accepting office, or voting at elections, or pay-
ing tax, or serving on juries, or having process served upon them,
or in any other way.

Sixth. Whether the people of that settlement did or did not flee

from the approach of the United States army, leaving unprotected

Online LibraryAbraham LincolnAbraham Lincoln; complete works, comprising his speeches, letters, state papers, and miscellaneous writings; → online text (page 12 of 91)