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my friend from Maryland,* who presented to the consideration
of the Senate the first memorial ever sent to Congress on the
subject of protection. It was from the city of Baltimore, and it
was in 1789. And from that day to this, Baltimore has been
more earnest and steady in her attachment to a system of law
which she supposed gave encouragement to her artisans, than
almost any other city of the Union. I say, Sir, she has been
steady and earnest. If she ever falters for a moment, she in
a moment resumes her attitude, and pursues her accustomed

Now, Sir, taking the mass of men as they exist amongst us,
what is it that constitutes their prosperity? Throughout the
country, perhaps more especially at the North, from early laws
and habits, there is a distribution of all the property accumulat-

* Mr. Johnson.


ed in one generation among the whole succession of sons and
daughters in the next. Property is everywhere distributed as
fast as it is accumulated, and not in more than one case out of
a hundred is there an accumulation beyond the earnings of one
or two generations. The first consequence of this is a great
division of property into small parcels, and a considerable equal
ity in the condition of a great portion of the people. The next
consequence is, that, out of the whole mass, there is a very
small proportion, hardly worthy of being named, that does not
pursue some active business for a living. Who is there that lives
on his income ? How many, out of millions of prosperous peo
ple between this place and the British Provinces, and through
out the North and West, are there who live without being en
gaged in active business ? The number is not worth naming.
This is therefore a country of labor. I do not mean manual
labor entirely. There is a great deal of that ; but I mean some
sort of employment that requires personal attention, either of
oversight or manual performance ; some form of active business.
That is the character of our people, and that is the condition of
our people. Our destiny is labor. Now, what is the first great
cause of prosperity with such a people ? Simply, employment.
Why, we have cheap food and cheap clothing, and there is no
sort of doubt that these things are very desirable to all persons
of moderate circumstances, and laborers. But they are not the
first requisites. The first requisite is that which enables men to
buy food and clothing, cheap or dear. And if I were to illus
trate my opinions on this subject by example, I should take, of
all the instances in the world, the present condition of Ireland.

I am not, Mr. President, about to prescribe acts of legislation
for Ireland, or principles to the Parliament of Great Britain for
the government of Ireland. I am not about to suggest any
remedy for the bad state of things which exists in that country ;
but what that state of things is, and what has produced it, are
as plain and visible to my view as a turnpike-road ; and I con
fess that I am astonished that learned and intelligent men have
been brought up under certain notions or systems which appear
to have so turned their eyes from the true view of the case, that
they have been unable to solve the Irish problem. Well, now,
what is it ? Ireland is an over-peopled country, it is said. It
has eight and a half millions of people on an area of thirty-one


thousand eight hundred square miles. It is, then, a very dense
population ; perhaps a thicker population, upon the whole, than
England. But why are the people of Ireland not prosperous,
contented, and happy ? We hear of a potato panic, and a pop
ulation in Ireland distressed by the high price of potatoes.
Why, Sir, the price of potatoes in this city is three times the
price of potatoes in Dublin ; and at this moment potatoes are
twice as dear throughout the United States as throughout Ire
land. There are potatoes enough, or food of other kinds, but
the people are not able to buy them. And why ? That is the
stringent question. Why cannot the people of Ireland buy po
tatoes, or other food ? The answer to this question solves the
Irish case ; and that answer is simply this, the people have not
employment. They cannot obtain wages. They cannot earn
money. The sum of their social misery lies in these few words.
There is no adequate demand for labor. One half, or less than
one half, of all the strong and healthy laborers of Ireland are
quite enough to fulfil all demand and occupy all employments.
Does not this admitted fact explain the whole case ? If but half
the laborers are employed, or the whole employed but half the
time, or, in whatever form of division it be stated, if the result is
that there is, in so thickly peopled a country, only half enough
of employment for labor and industry, who need be surprised
to find poverty and want the consequence ? And who can be
surprised, then, that other evils, not less to be lamented, should
also be found to exist among a people of warm temperament
and social habits and tendencies ? It would be strange if all
these results should not happen.

But, then, this only advances the inquiry to the real question,
which is, Why are the laboring people of Ireland so destitute of
useful and profitable employment? This is a question of the
deepest interest to those who are charged with the duty of reme
dying the evil, if it can be remedied. But it is rather beside
any present purpose of mine. It may be said, in general, that
Ireland has been unfortunate, as well as badly governed. In the
course of two centuries, much the greater part of the soil of Ire
land, generally supposed to be as much as nine tenths, has been
forfeited to the crown ; and by the crown given or sold to per
sons in England, the heads of opulent families, or others. These
new English proprietors are known as absentee landlords. They


own a vast portion of the island. The absentee landlord is not a
man who has grown up in Ireland, and has gone over to England
to spend his income. He may be a man who never saw Ireland
in his life. I have heard of families no member of which had
visited its Irish estates for half a century, the lands being all the
time under " rack-rent," in the hands of " middle-men," and all
pressing the peasantry and labor to the dust.

There is a strange idea, at least it seems strange to me, which
most respectable men entertain on this subject of Ireland. Mr.
McCulloch, so highly distinguished an authority, for example,
will insist upon it that there is no evil in Irish absenteeism.
He proceeds on the theory, which, he says, admits of no excep
tion, that it is best for a man to buy where he can buy cheap
est. Well, that is undoubtedly so, if he have the means of buy
ing. If Irish absenteeism did not diminish the employment of
the people of Ireland, and so diminish their means of buying,
the argument would hold. But who does not see, that, if the
landlord lived in Ireland, consuming for his family and retainers
the products of Ireland, it would augment the employment of
Ireland ? It seems clear to me that residence would not only
give general countenance and encouragement to the laboring
classes, and benefit both landlord and tenant, by dispensing with
the services of middle-men, but that it would also do positive
good by producing new demands for labor. From early times
the English government has discouraged, in Ireland, every sort
of manufacture, except the linen manufacture in the North. It
has, on the other hand, encouraged agriculture. It has given
bounties on wheat exported. The consequence has come to be
this, that the surface of Ireland is cut up into so many tene
ments and holdings, that every man s labor is confined to such a
small quantity of land, that there is not half employment for
labor, and the lands are cultivated miserably after all. Mr.
McCulloch says that four fifths of the labor of Ireland is laid out
upon the land. There is no other source of employment or oc
cupation. This land, being under a "rack-rent," is frequently
in little patches, sometimes of not more than a quarter of an
acre, merely to raise potatoes, the cheapest kind of food. This
is the reason why labor is nothing, and can produce nothing but
mere physical living, until the system shall be entirely changed.
This constitutes the great difference between the state o things

VOL. v. 20


in Europe and America. In Europe the question is, how men
can live. With us the question is, how well they can live.
Can they live on wholesome food, in commodious and comfort
able dwellings ? Can they be well clothed, and be able to edu
cate their children ? Such questions do not arise to the politi
cal economists of Europe. When reasoning on such cases as
that of Ireland, the question with them is, how physical being
can be kept from death. That is all.

Sir, if I were not overwhelmed with topics, and if I were
not conscious of having already occupied the time of the Sen
ate quite too long, I would turn your attention to the con
trasts, produced by the very causes which we are now consider
ing, between Ireland and Scotland. The population of Ireland,
as I have said, is eight millions and a half, on an area of thirty-
one thousand eight hundred square miles. Scotland has a pop
ulation of less than three millions, and an area of twenty-six
thousand square miles, only one third of which is arable.

But, nevertheless, the shipping tonnage of Scotland is four
hundred and twenty-nine thousand tons, employing twenty-
eight thousand men ; while that of Ireland is only one hundred
and forty thousand, employing eleven or twelve thousand men.
With regard to the agriculture of Scotland, though her climate is
not so good, nor her soil so rich, as that of Ireland, yet Scotland
is a wheat-growing country, and the prices are high, and all
agricultural business active. How has this come about ? This
great reformation, it is said, has been accomplished within sixty
or seventy years ; and respectable authorities say that the growth
of the manufacturing cities of Glasgow, Paisley, Edinburgh,
and the rest, by furnishing a market for the immediate sale of
agricultural products, has doubled those products, raised them
from a lower to a higher species of production, and changed the
whole face of the country. I will not pursue this illustration
further. It is enough to say, that Scotland has commerce, man
ufactures, and a variety of employments for labor. In Ireland
there is little of commerce and little of manufactures, four
fifths of the whole labor of the country being bestowed on
the land. These facts are enough to show why Scotland is
the Scotland which we find her, and Ireland the Ireland which
we find her.

Now, Sir, no man can deny that the course of things in this


country, for the last twenty or thirty years, has had a wonder
ful effect in producing a variety of employments. How much
employment has been furnished by the canals and railroads, in
addition to the great amount of labor, not only in the factories,
rendered so odious in some quarters by calling them monopolies
and close corporations, but in the workshops, in the warehouses,
on the sea and on the land, and in every department of busi
ness ! There is a great and general activity, and a great variety
in the employments of men amongst us ; and that is just exactly
what our condition ought to be.

The interest of every laboring community requires diversity
of occupations, pursuits, and objects of industry. The more that
diversity is multiplied or extended, the better. To diversify em
ployment is to increase employment, and to enhance wages.
And, Sir, take this great truth; place it on the title-page of
every book of political economy intended for the use of the
United States ; put it in every Farmer s Almanac ; let it be the
heading of the column in every Mechanic s Magazine ; proclaim
it everywhere, and make it a proverb, that where there is work
for the hands of men, there ivill be work for their teeth. Where
there is employment, there will be bread. It is a great blessing
to the poor to have cheap food ; but greater than that, prior to
that, and of still higher value, is the blessing of being able to
buy food by honest and respectable employment. Employment
feeds, and clothes, and instructs. Employment gives health,
sobriety, and morals. Constant employment and well-paid
labor produce, in a country like ours, general prosperity, con
tent, and cheerfulness. Thus happy have we seen the country.
Thus happy may we long continue to see it.

And now, Sir, with a very few words addressed to particular in
terests, I shall relieve the Senate. It has appeared to me partic
ularly strange that our friends from the grain-growing States of
the Northwest do not take a different view from that which they
now entertain of their ultimate, permanent interest. They are
grain-growers. They entertain the hope, especially since the
repeal of the British corn laws, that they shall be able to pro
duce wheat to a still larger extent, and obtain for their commod
ity a commensurate price abroad. For myself, I am fully of
opinion that there will be a great disappointment in this respect
I do admit, for I have always believed it, that, with the British


ports open to the admission of American Indian corn, or maize,
there will be a great deal of it sent to Europe, because of the
cheapness of the article, and because, when it comes to be
known, it will be, I think, well received amongst the laboring
classes. But it seems to me that a few facts may be enough
to satisfy us that there cannot be a vast augmentation of West
ern and Southwestern exportations of wheat, on account of any
new demand in Europe. In the first place, our agricultural
products have done little more than to keep pace with the in
crease of our own population. In the next place, the agricul
tural product of England about keeps pace with her augmenting
population, from year to year. And in the third place, if we
refer to the list of prices, we shall find that wheat is at this
moment, after all we have heard of panics and fears of panics,
twenty per cent, lower than in former years ; and I see by Mr.
Brown s price-current of the 3d of this month, that prime flour
was $ 5.28 per barrel in Liverpool, or, rather, yielded that return
to the exporter from the United States. It does appear to me,
Sir, that gentlemen who live on these fertile lands of the West,
among the most prosperous and most favored communities,
would do exceedingly well to consider whether, in fact, they
gain any thing by a supposed augmentation of exportations,
whether they profit any thing by an extension of the market
abroad, whilst they diminish the demand at home. If, by an
importation of British manufactures, we encourage the produc
tion of the articles manufactured in Europe rather than in
America, and bringing the goods here to the United States,
is that not certain to diminish the consumption at home of agri
cultural products, by diminishing the number of consumers?
So that, after all, it comes to this, whether it is better for an
agriculturist to have a home market than to have a foreign
market !

Well, Sir, allow me to say a word on this subject to gen
tlemen of some of the Southern States. They will allow me at
least to give them tables and calculations. I will not undertake
to instruct their reason, but wish to draw their attention to
facts. The State of Massachusetts is a great grain-purchasing
State. I have here a table of the quantities of grain and
some other articles purchased by and consumed in Massachu
setts in one year, and it strikes me to be worthy of attention.


Flour, 630,000 bbls. at $ 5.50 per bbl., . . . $ 3,465,000

Corn and other grains, 3,100,000 bushels, at 54c., 1,674,000

Coal, 180,000 tons, at $ 5.75 per ton, . . . 1,035,000

Wool, 7,200,000 Ibs., at 33c. per lb., .... 2,376,000

Lumber of all kinds, 4,100,000

Lead, 1,300,000

Beef, pork, bacon, and lard, 3,000,000

$ 16,950,000

The corn comes chiefly from the eastern shore of Virginia,
North Carolina, and Maryland. Where else can these States
expect to find a market like this ?

Now, Sir, what is the advantage to these corn-growing States
of turning our people, the consumers of these articles, out of their
workshops, and making agricultural producers of them also?
This is a strange policy ; where men have already more agricul
tural products than they can find a market for, to increase the
product! On the other hand, where there are more mouths to
feed than can be supplied, to increase the number of mouths !

The Northwestern States are destined to be manufacturing
States. They have iron and coal. They have a people of la
borious habits. They have already capital enough to begin
works such as belong to new States and new communities;
and when the time comes, and it cannot but come soon, they
will see their true interest to be, to feed the Northern and Eastern
manufacturers, as far as they may require it, and in the mean
time begin to vary their own occupations, by having classes
of men amongst them who are not of the now universal agricul
tural population. The sooner they begin this work the better ;
and begin it they will, because they are an intelligent and ac
tive people, and cannot fail to see in what direction their true
interest lies.

Sir, it does not become me to do more than suggest in what
the interest of other parts of the country appears to me to con
sist. Men more competent to judge will decide, and I do not
wish to exempt them from an exercise of their judgment. But
now, in regard to this manufacture of cotton, I said the other
day that I should not take up the New England case. She
would be injured, injured to a certain extent, unquestionably ;
but she would not be injured so much as the new establish
ments of the South. It appears to me the plainest proposition


in the world, that there is nothing which the whole South can
so profitably turn its attention to as the manufacture of these
coarse cotton fabrics. The South might soon come to under
sell New England altogether, because it is a fabric in the value
of which the raw material is the most important element. As
labor, therefore, forms but a small portion of the article pro
duced in its manufactured state, it requires less capital for
machinery and expensive establishments. The raw material
being the principal element composing the value gives, of
course, an advantage to those who raise the raw material, and
who manufacture it just where it is produced. Now I must
say, that, at the exhibition here last month or the month be
fore, nothing appeared to me better done than some of these
cheap cotton fabrics from Virginia, North Carolina, and Geor
gia ; and I believe, as strongly as I may venture to believe any
thing against the opinion of men of more local knowledge, that
these manufactures will succeed and prosper, if we let them
alone, in the Southern States. And I wish them to prosper.
They have arisen in a desire on the part of the Southern people
to clothe themselves and their people against New England
competition. I conceive it to be for the interest of every com
munity to produce its own clothing ; and it strikes me that the
effort on the part of the South ought to be encouraged.

But it is time that I relieve the Senate from this discussion.
I certainly feel the momentous importance of the subject. I feel
that, in the course of my public life, I have never had a more
responsible duty to perform, and certainly I never looked for
ward with more interest to the consequences. If the present
system of things be deranged, no man can tell where that de
rangement is to stop, or what are to be the ultimate results.
This, Sir, is a proceeding in which we cannot see the end from
the beginning. With respect to the great question of the reve
nue, I hold that the responsibility of providing revenue for the
treasury rests with Congress. I hold that we are not at liberty
to devolve that responsibility upon the executive government;
and I would ask the administration itself, with all respect, if,
now that there seems less prospect than we had hoped of an
early termination of this war, if now, within three or four
months of the commencement of the next session of Congress,
if now, with the tried system which we are sure of for the pro-


duction of adequate revenue, so far as we may expect revenue
at all from duties and customs, it would not feel safer itself,
after the rejection of this bill, than if it should pass ?

Sir, I beseech gentlemen to pause. If I were a friend of the
administration, and I do not mean to call myself its enemy, for
I have no unfriendly feeling to it, I would beseech it not to make
this leap in the dark, in the early part of its career, unnecessa
rily, in the midst of a war, a war of which no man can see the
end, and of which no man can now reckon the expense. I would
beseech it to stand firm on established ground, on the system on
which our revenue now stands ; and to lay aside all propositions
for extensive and elementary change.

Having said this, I have discharged my duty. I leave it to
the judgment of the Senate. I am not to be seduced, on the
one hand, by any disposition to embarrass the administration.
I certainly feel none ; I hope I have manifested none ; and, on
the other hand, I am not to be deterred by clamor in the press
and elsewhere against those who conscientiously, in matters of
the highest interest, fulfil their duty. And, Sir, though a most
respectable member of this Senate has been made the object of
unmeasured opprobrium, because, on a great question connected
with the credit and honor of the government and its revenues
in time of war, he could not bring himself to think with the
majority of his friends, yet even the consequences which have
fallen upon him shall not deter me from the fearless discharge
of my duty.

I indicated, at the commencement of my speech, that I should
conclude it with a motion to postpone the consideration of this
bill to the next session of Congress. Upon reflection, I deem it
proper to say, that I have so far changed that purpose as that I
shall venture upon one amendment, to see whether a disposition
exists in the Seriate to take this bill exactly as it is, or whether,
in the particular I shall mention, it ought not, in the judgment
of the Senate, to be changed. It is that extraordinary provision
to which I alluded on Saturday, by which, in cases of under
valuation with intention to defraud, the goods are to be seized
and sold, and the importer to be paid the value of the goods as
rated in his invoice, and five per cent. over. I now move that
that provision be struck out.*

* This motion prevailed.


AFTER the conclusion of the foregoing argument, and some further
discussion, Mr. Clayton submitted the following resolution, which passed
the Senate :

" Resolved, That the bill be committed to the Committee on Finance,
with instructions to remove the new duties imposed by said bill, in all
cases, where any foreign raw material is taxed to the prejudice of any
mechanic or manufacturer, so that no other or higher duty shall be
collected on any such raw material than is provided by the act of the
30th of August, 1842 : and further, so to regulate all the duties imposed
by this bill, as to raise a revenue sufficient for the exigencies of the

On the following day (28th July), Mr. Lewis, the chairman of the
committee, reported back the bill without alteration, and moved that the
committee be discharged from the further consideration of the instruc
tions contained in Mr. Clayton s resolution.

A discussion arose on this motion, in the course of which Mr. Webster
spoke as follows.

THE question now before the Senate is in one respect a test
question, as it has been described by the honorable member
from Missouri ; f not exactly in the light in which he views it,
or in the sense in which he wishes to be understood, but in
quite a different sense, in another aspect altogether. We are
here, Sir, calling ourselves every day a democratic Congress, and
the majority of the body is said to be about to pass a great
democratic measure. I suppose, if any meaning is attached
to these terms, it is that this is a measure favorable to the
masses, favorable to the people, preferring the interests of the

* Remarks in the Senate of the United States, on the 28th of July, 1846.
f Mr. Benton.


masses to the interests of a few, preferring the interests of the

Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 23 of 53)