Erastus B. (Erastus Brigham) Bigelow.

The tariff policy of England and of the United States contrasted online

. (page 5 of 5)
Online LibraryErastus B. (Erastus Brigham) BigelowThe tariff policy of England and of the United States contrasted → online text (page 5 of 5)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

its own interests ; and thus, in beautiful harmony with the
similar arrangements among individuals of the same nation,
each, however unconsciously, contributing to that general
good which is but the aggregate of the separate good of all
the parts." l

If, then, it is a part of the Divine economy for the human
race to organize itself into separate communities called nations,
the right to protect and defend national interests must also
be a part of the same Divine arrangement. There is no more
reason to expect the adoption of universal free-trade than of
universal peace. Both theories rest on substantially the same
grounds. When the world (if ever) is in a condition to
practise the one, it will be in a condition to practise the other ;

1 London Quarterly Review, No. 171, p. 86.


but, till then, it is as much the duty of a nation to defend its
industries by customs duties, as it is to defend its territory by
force of arms.


Let it be deeply and widely impressed on the popular
mind, let it be adopted as an axiom by our government,-
that the nation which produces the most in proportion to its
numbers will be the most prosperous and powerful nation.
That our natural advantages for the attainment of so impor-
tant a result are all that could be desired, no one will ques-
tion. It rests with ourselves to determine whether those
advantages shall be turned to the best account. To that
end, it is necessary that we should diversify industry, and
thereby give employment to all the people, according to their
tastes and capacities.

I have dwelt much on the fact, that the great manufac-
turing industries which enrich nations and promote the welfare
of the people cannot expand and prosper here, unless the dis-
parities against us in the great industrial contest are counter-
acted by customs duties. It is also necessary that we should
have an unwavering public policy. For the best results in
any pursuit, it is necessary that tl^ose who engage in it should
possess a well-grounded confidence in the wisdom and sta-
bility of legislation ; and in no department, probably, of
human affairs is such confidence so necessary or so useful as
in the prosecution of manufacturing industry. Such confi-
dence the English manufacturer has always enjoyed. Alike
in peace and in war, and under all administrations, he has been
able to rely upon the steady and enlightened co-operation of
his government. How different in this regard is the position
of the American manufacturer ! His government is some-
times hostile (though unwittingly so), sometimes friendly,
and sometimes indifferent to the needs of manufacturing
industry ; and, at all times, partisan and theoretical discus-
sion so misleads the popular judgment as to make him dis-
trustful in regard to its future action. We cannot attain


the high position as a manufacturing nation to which our
opportunities entitle us, unless our tariff policy becomes
more intelligent in purpose and more uniform in character.
Surely the settlement of so momentous a question should no
longer be left to chance legislation. The general require-
ments of production ; the relations and reciprocal depend-
ence of the producer and the distributor ; the statistics of
our own trade, agriculture, manufactures, and other indus-
tries, and similar statistics in regard to all the great commer-
cial and producing countries, are among the facts which our
legislators need to know, arid without which they cannot
safely act.

The question must be removed from the narrow arena
of partisan politics, of sectional and individual selfishness.
There is one safe ground which we may all take, one
broad ground on which we can all stand, and that is, the
American ground. Let us ever remember that it is our own
country, and not some other country, whose interests are
intrusted to our keeping. Providence has not imposed upon
us the impossible task of looking after the rest of the world.
In taking proper care of ourselves, always, however, with
strict regard to the unchanging rules of honor and justice
and to the best dictates of humanity, we shall, as a nation,
pursue the path that leads, not only to wealth and happi-
ness at home, but to respect and influence abroad. It is
the nation of great internal resources, of vigorous productive
power and self-dependent strength, which is always best pre-
pared and most able, not only to defend itself, but to lend
others a helping hand. It is by conforming to the plain
teachings of common sense and experience, not by listening
to the dreamy suggestions of a chimerical cosmopolitanism,
that we are to raise our country to its proper place among
the nations, a place which, if we are true to ourselves, will
be second to no other in arts or in arms.



IN establishing an American tariff policy, the following
citations of the views held by some of the ablest statesmen
of our day, and the wisest of those who laid the foundations
of the Republic, are worthy of thoughtful consideration.
Dr. FRANKLIN, writing from London in 1771, to HUMPHREY
MARSHALL, used the following language :

" Every manufacturer encouraged in our country makes part of
a market for provisions within ourselves, and saves so much
money to the country as must otherwise be exported to pay for
the manufactures he supplies. Here, in England, it is well known
and understood that, wherever a manufacture is established which
employs a number of hands, it raises the value of land in the
neighboring country all around it ; partly by the greater demand
near at hand for the produce of the land, and partly from the
plenty of money drawn by the manufacturers to that part of the
country. It seems, therefore, the interest of all our farmers and
owners of lands to encourage our young manufactures in prefer-
ence to foreign ones imported among us from distant countries."

In 1815, THOMAS JEFFERSON wrote, as follows to J. B.

" Experience has shown, that continued peace depends not
merely on our own justice and prudence, but on that of others
also ; that, when forced into a war, the interception of exchanges
which must be made across a wide ocean becomes a powerful weapon
in the hands of an enemy domineering over that element, and, to
other distresses of war, adds the want of all those necessaries for
which we have permitted ourselves to be dependent on others,
even arms and clothing. This fact, therefore, solves the question,
by reducing to its ultimate form, whether profit or preservation is
the first interest of the State? We are consequently become


manufacturers to a degree incredible to those who do not see it,
and who only consider the short period of time during which we
have been driven to them by the suicidal policy of England. The
prohibitory duties we lay on all articles of foreign manufacture
which prudence requires us to establish at home, with tha^atriotic
determination of every good citizen to use no foreign article
which can be made within ourselves, without regard to difference
of prices, securesus against relapse into foreign dependency."

The constitutionality of our protective laws was strongly
affirmed and conclusively argued by JAMES MADISON ; and
no one certainly could speak on such points with more au-
thority. In a letter to JOSEPH C. CABELL, dated Sept. 18,
1828, Mr. MADISON thus winds up the long and convincing

" A further evidence in support of the constitutional power to
protect and foster manufactures by regulations of trade an evi-
dence that ought of itself to settle the question is the uniform
and practical sanction given to the power by the general govern-
ment for nearly forty years, with a concurrence or acquiescence of
every State government throughout the same period ; and, it may
be added, through all the vicissitudes of party which marked that
period. No novel construction, however ingeniously devised, or
however respectable and patriotic its patrons, can withstand the
weight of such authorities, or the unbroken current of so pro-
longed and universal a practice ; and well is it that this cannot
be done without the intervention of the same authority which
made the Constitution. If it could be so done, there would be an
end to that stability in government and in laws which is essential
to good government and good laws, a stability the want of
which is the imputation which has, at all times, been levelled
against republicanism with most effect."

In a letter to the same individual, written a few weeks
later, Mr. MADISON thus alludes to the laissez faire doctrine,
and to the fallacy of free-trade :

" The theory of ' let us alone ' supposes that all nations concur
in a perfect freedom of commercial intercourse. Were this the


case, they would, in a commercial view, be but one nation, as
much as the several districts composing a particular nation ; and
the theory would be as applicable to the former as to the latter.
But this golden age of free-trade has not yet arrived, nor is there
a single nation that has set the example. No nation can, indeed,
safely do so, until a reciprocity at least be insured to it. ... A
nation leaving its foreign trade, in all cases, to regulate itself,
might soon find it regulated by other nations into subserviency to
a foreign interest. In the interval between the peace of 1783 and
the establishment of the present Constitution of the United States,
the want of a general authority to regulate trade is known to have
had this consequence. . . . The theory supposes, moreover, a per-
petual peace ; a supposition, it is to be feared, not less chimerical
than a universal freedom of commerce."

Few of our great men have left behind them a deeper im-
pression of their practical sagacity than ANDREW JACKSON.
Read what, in 1824, he wrote to Dr. COLMAN :

" You ask my opinion on the tariff. I answer, that I am in
favor of a judicious examination and revision of it; and so far as
the tariff-bill before us embraces the design of fostering, protect-
ing, and preserving within ourselves the means of national defence
and independence, particularly in a state of war, I would advocate
and support it. The experience of the late war ought to teach us
a lesson, and one never to be forgotten. If our liberty and re-
publican form of government procured for us by our Revolutionary
fathers are worth the blood and treasure at which they were ob-
tained, it surely is our duty to protect and defend them. . . .
This tariff I mean a judicious one possesses more fanciful
than real danger. I will ask, What is the real situation of the
agriculturist ? Where has the American farmer a market for his
surplus product ? Except for cotton, he has neither a foreign nor
home market. Does not this clearly prove, when there is no
market either at home or abroad, that there is too much labor em-
ployed in agriculture, and that the channels for labor should be
multiplied ? Common sense points out the remedy. Draw from
agriculture the superabundant labor ; employ it in mechanism and
manufactures, thereby creating a home market for your bread-
stuffs, and distributing labor to the most profitable account and
benefits to the country. Take from agriculture, in the United


States, six hundred thousand men, women, and children, and yon
will at once give a home market for more breadstuffs than all
Europe now furnishes us. In short, sir, we have been too long sub-
ject to the policy of British merchants. It is time that we should
become a little more Americanized, and, instead of feeding the
paupers and laborers of England, feed our own ; or else, in a short
time, by continuing our present policy, we shall be rendered
paupers ourselves."

In his second annual message to Congress (Dec. 7, 1830),
President JACKSON closes an argument in favor of the con-
stitutional right to so adjust the customs duties as to encour-
age domestic industry, with these words :

" In this conclusion, I am confirmed as well by the opinions of
have each repeatedly recommended the exercise of this right
under the Constitution, as by the uniform practice of Congress,
the continual acquiescence of the States, and the general under-
standing of the people."

DANIEL WEBSTER, addressing, in 1833, the mechanics and
manufacturers of Buffalo, spoke as follows :

"Desiring always to avoid extremes, and to observe a prudent
moderation in regard to the protective system, I yet hold steadi-
ness and perseverance in maintaining what has been established
to be essential to the public prosperity. Nothing can be worse
than that what concerns the daily labor and the daily bread of
whole classes of the people should be subject to frequent and vio-
lent changes. It were far better not to move at all, than to move
forward, and then fall back again.

" My sentiments, gentlemen, on the tariff question are gener-
ally known. In my -opinion, a just and a leading object in the
whole system is the encouragement and protection of American
manual labor. I confess that every day's experience convinces
me more and more of the high propriety of regarding this object.
Our government is made for all, not for a few. Its object is to
promote the greatest good of the whole ; and this ought to be
kept constantly in view in' its administration. The far greater
number of those who maintain the government belong to what


may be called the industrious or productive classes of the com-
munity. With us, labor is not depressed, ignorant, and unintelli-
gent : on the contrary, it is active, spirited, enterprising, seeking
its own rewards, and laying up for its own competence and its
own support. The motive to labor is the great stimulus to our
whole society, and no system is wise or just which does not
afford this stimulus as far as it may. The protection of American
labor against the injurious competition of foreign labor, so far at
least as respects general handicraft productions, is known histori-
cally to have been one end designed to be obtained by establishing
the Constitution; and this object, and the constitutional power to
accomplish it, ought never to be surrendered or compromised in
any degree."

In his farewell Address, WASHINGTON thus points out
the danger of conforming National policy to cosmopolitan
ideas :

" It is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from
another ; that it must pay, with a portion of its independence, for
whatever it may accept under that character ; that, by such accept-
ance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equiva-
lents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with
ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error
than to expect, or calculate upon, real favors from nation to nation.
It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride
ought to discard."

Cambridge: Press of John Wilsou & Son.


'"s?aif |sia~ji te

' s~^=stt"-5


VC 05896

1 2 3 5

Online LibraryErastus B. (Erastus Brigham) BigelowThe tariff policy of England and of the United States contrasted → online text (page 5 of 5)