Henry Charles Carey.

Commerce, Christianity, and civilization, versus British free trade. Letters in reply to the London Times; online

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Online LibraryHenry Charles CareyCommerce, Christianity, and civilization, versus British free trade. Letters in reply to the London Times; → online text (page 1 of 5)
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'•Oh wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursel's as others see as !
It wad frne monie a blunder free as
And foolish notion." — Burns.



The first four of these letters were sent to a friend
in London, in tlie hope of thus securing their appear-
ance in the Times. Replying to this suggestion, he
said, in effect, that that paper, in common with nearly
all other English journals, was so hopelessly given
over to the advocacy of free-trade doctrines as to
make it wholly useless to offer them for publication.
This will account to American readers for the delay
that has attended their publication here.




To the Editor of (he Times : —

A FRIEND abroad having kindly sent me your paper of 22d ult.,
I find therein the words "ignorance and imbecility," "folly and
iniquity," unhesitatingly applied to persons holding, in regard to a
purely scientific question now much discussed, opinions differing
from your own ; and myself specially selected for introduction to
your numerous readers as the " redoubtable champion" in reference
to whom such expressions may most properly be used. Believing,
Mr. Editor, that in all this you have made a serious mistake, and
that it has resulted from a steady contemplation of one side of the
shield to an entire neglect of the other, I propose as briefly as may
be possible to present this latter, in the hope of satisfying you
that on this important question men may perhaps differ from you
without forfeiting their claim to be possessed of sense, and entitled
to be treated as almost, even if not quite, equal with yourself in
their right to be spoken of, and to, as gentlemen.

The passages in which these words occur are here given, as
follows : —

"Yet as to the cardinal doctrine of English politioal economy, which is held in this
'country as an unquestionable scientific truth, to question which must indicate igno-
rance or imbecility, our kinsmen and fellow Bubjects of the Dominion are evidently
heretical. It is not the French population alone or chiefly which is protectionist.
Some of the leading advocates for the artificial fostering of ' home industry.' are of
British origin, and the interests which are to benefit by the proposed legislation are
principally directed by men of the same race. Even Englishmen and Scotchmen

who have grown up in our Free Trade pale, and have been taught to believe that
the exploded doctrine could not be honestly held by an intelligent person, Bud ex-
cuses for a reconsideration of their opinions when they settle in the new country.
Their argument, or, at least, their assertion, is that there is seme essential difference
between a new country and an old one, between a large country and a small one,
between a thinly-populated country and one where the population is dense as in
England. Free Trade is never attacked in principle ; it is always assume,! as the
ideal to which the economy of a State should tend; but the friends of Protec-
tion are always ready with some exceptional circumstances which make the appli-
cation of the theoretically perfect system impracticable in their own community.
The late Mr. Carey, of Philadelphia, the redoubtable champion of the protective Bystem
in the United States, labored to prove that Free Trade was unsuited to the present
condition of his country, but that, if the Americans would only establish a stringent
system of imposts upon foreign manufactures, jind persevere in it long enough, they

would call into being an industrial power which would enable them in due time to
burst upon the world with a Free Trade policy, and overwhelm all creation with
their goods. This theory, repeated in hundreds of magazines and newspapers, and
forming the staple of endless orations, has affected the economical policy of the
Union up to the present time, and is held by multitudes even of those whose private
interests suffer by it. To make the country independent of the foreigner, capable
of producing everything for itself, and self-sufficient even if shut off from the rest of
the world by a powerful enemy, is a principle of government gravely avowed by
persons who on other matters judge and speak with intelligence. . . . There-
fore, as a financial policy, pure and simple, as the means of present relief, as the
direct path to prosperity, the Canadian Board of Trade recommends Protection. It
is not that indirect taxation is the easiest of application in practice ; it is that in a
large country and scattered population customs duties are the only means of reach-
ing the mass of those who should contribute to the State's necessities ; it is protec-
tion for itself that we find maintained as au economical doctrineon opposite sides of
the globe, by vigorous communities of British origin, after we have been maintain-
ing its folly and iniquity for thirty years."

Waiving for the moment any comment upon the views thus pre-
sented. I ask you to look with me to that fountain-head, or well-
spring, of economic science, the Wealth of Nations, a work that has
stood a century's test, and stands now. so far ahead of those of its
writer's countrymen who claim him as their chief while discarding
his most essential principles as to warrant the belief that he will
be remembered when they and their works will have been long
forgotten. Why should this be so? For the reason, that in his
high appreciation, manifested throughout his admirable work, of
the superior advantage, material, mental, and moral, of a domestic
commerce over foreign trade, lie struck the keynote of a sound social
science. Exchanges performed twice or thrice a year were in his
eye far more profitable than those which could be but once per-
formed. Exchanges with neighboring nations he regarded as far
preferable to those with communities more distant. A fortiori, ex-
changes performed from week to week, from day to da}', from hour
to hour, from minute to minute, must be still more advantageous;
and so, in his view, they were. To the end that such exchanges
might become possible, it was essential that there should be that
diversification of employments to the exposition of whose ad-
vantages so much of his work was given. With every step in that
direction producers and consumers were, as lie saw, more nearly*
brought together; production and consumption followed more
closely on each other ; labor became more and more economized ;
the various members of society became more and more enabled to
find the places for which they had been intended; labor of all
kinds became more and more productive, with hourly increase
of rapidity in the socictary circulation and corresponding develop-
' of all those faculties, mental and moral, by which the
human animal is distinguished from the brute. Such, Mr. Editor,
although not precisely so expressed, were the ideas Adam Smith
il to impress upon his countrymen; and such, exactly, are
• which, as humble follower of ;i man who, in my belief, is en-
titled to stand side by side with Shakspeare as greatest, of all the
human productions of the British soil, 1 have urged not only on
my own countrymen but upon the people of all the nations ol the

earth. What there is therein to warrant an attack like to that
above reproduced, I leave you to determine for yourself.

The British policy of Smith's day was in direct opposition to
all his teachings. The colonist Briton was allowed to make no
exchanges with his neighbors, of wool for cloth or hats, of iron for
nails or bolts, of hides for shoes or straps, except through the
medium of British ships, British traders, and British shops. Most
righteously was this regarded by our great author as "a manifest
violation of the most sacred rights of mankind ;" and as tending to
make, of the great community of which he was a part, a mere
'•nation of shopkeepers," amassing fortune by means of a policy as
injurious to their victims as in the end it must prove destructive to
themselves. Against that policy it was that Smith raised his voice
when crying aloud for freedom of trade. With what results, how-
ever? Has there in the century that since has passed been any
single case in which Britain has voluntarily abandoned the system
which for so long a period had had for its object that of making of
herself the "workshop of the world"? Foreign tariffs and a con-
sequent growth of competition for the sale of manufactured goods,
opened the eyes of Mr. Huskisson half a century since, and
twenty years later those of Sir Robert Peel. But for American and
German resistance the Navigation Laws might, and probably would,
still remain on the statute book of Britain. In the interest of free
trade a reciprocity treaty, so called, was obtained by Canada from
us, and the measure was hailed with great delight by all such gentle-
men as now constitute the Cobden Club. When, however, shortly
afterward, the various British possessions of this Western hemisphere
sought to establish among themselves a similar free trade measure,
the Privy Council refused permission, on the ground that such
measures were not in accordance with the Imperial policy. Re-
ciprocity had been regarded as sauce for the goose, but could not be
accepted as sauce for the gander. It may, as I think, be doubled if
any single measure can be shown as having been adopted by Britain,
except as conducive to maintenance of the system denounced by
her great economist as utterly unworthy of the great nation of which
"he was a part.

Years after Mr. Huskisson had become in part convinced of the
necessity for abandoning some of the various modes of taxation of
other nations that had till then been practised, an eminent member
of parliament described in the words that follow the real objects of
men who were the loudest in their expressions of free trade admi-
ration : —

"It was idle for us to endeavor to persuade other nations to join with us in adopt-
ing the principles of what was called free trade. Other nations knew, as well as the
noble lonl opposite, and those who acted with him, that what we meant by " free
trade" was nothing more nor les- than, by means of the great advantages we enjoyed,
to get a monopoly of all their markets for cur manufactures, and to prevent them,
one and all. from ever becoming manufacturing nations. When the system of reci-
procity and free trade had been proposed to a French ambassador, his remark was,
that the plan was excellent in theory, but. to make it fair in practice, it would be
necessary to defer the attempt to put it in execution for half a century, until France


should be on the same footing with Great Britain in marine, in manufactures, in
capital, and the many other peculiar advantages which it now enjoyed. The policy
France acted on was that of encouraging its native manufactures, and it was a wise
policy ; because, if it were freely to admit our manufactures, it would speedily be
reduced to the rank of an agricultural nation, and therefore a poor nation, as all
must be that depend exclusively upon agriculture. America acted, too, upon the
same principle with France. America legislated for futurity — legislated for an in-
creasing population. America, too, was prospering under this system."

How the monopoly system thus described has since been carried
into practical effect is shown in the following passage from a Report
made to Parliament b} r Mr. Tremenheere: —

•' The laboring classes generally in the manufacturing districts of the kingdom, and
especially in the iron and coal districts, are very little aware of the extent to which
they are often indebted for their being employed at all to the immense losses which
their employers voluntarily incur in bad times, iu order to destroy foreign competi-
tion, and to gain and keep possession of foreign markets. Authentic instances are
well known of employers having in such times, carried on their works at a loss
amounting in the aggregate to £300,000 or £400,000 in the course of three or four
years. If the efforts of those who encourage the combinations to restrict the amount
of labor ;.nd to produce strikes were to be successful for any length of time, the great
accumulations of capital could no longer be made which enable a few of the most
wealthy capitalists to overwhelm all foreign competition in times of great depression,
and thus to clear the way for the whole trade to step in when prices revive, and to
carry a great busiuess before foreign capital can again accumulate to such an extent
as to be able to establish a competition in prices with any chance of success. The
large capitals of this country are the great instruments of warfare against the com-
peting capitals of foreign countries, and are the most essential instruments now
remaining by which our manufacturing supremacy can be maintained ; the other
elements — cheap labor, abundance of raw materials, means of communications, and
skilled labor — being rapidly in process of being equalized."

Here is "warfare." By whom, and on whom? By the very men
whose policy was denounced by Adam Smith. Upon people of
distant lands who see and know that what they need is that diver-
sification of employments regarded by him as so essential to that
increase of mental, moral, and material force of which we speak
as evidence of growing civilization. It is a "warfare" for pre-
vention of any growth of that domestic commerce which marks
the decline of barbarism. Such being the case, and that such it
is cau not be denied, where would Adam Smith now stand were he
member of any of the communities upon which this war was being
made? Assuredly on the side of resistance, that resistance taking
the form of protection to the farmer in his efforts at bringing to
his side the consumer of his products, thereby enabling him to
exchange both services and products with little intervention of
trader or transporter, and thus freeing himself from the necessity
now imposed 14)011 the purely agricultural nations of the earth for
Limiting their exchanges to those made yearly or half yearly and
held in so slight regard by Smith.

In another letter, 1 propose, Mr. Editor, to exhibit the working
of the two systems in an old and a new country, meanwhile remain-

Yours respectfully,

Philadelphia, Feb. 15, 1870.


In assuming, Mr. Editor, as you seem to do, that I regard protec-
tion as especially necessary for new countries, you are much in
error. The societary laws are applicable to all countries alike, the
great object to be accomplished being the promotion of that domes-
tic commerce held in so great regard by the illustrious founder of
a real economic science. In the days of the later Stuarts, when the
men of the Rhine were enabled to boast that they bought of the
stupid Englishmen whole hides for sixpence and paid for them in
tails at a shilling, Britain stood as much in need of protection as we
do now. "So, too, was it half a century since when German men
exported wool and rags and took their pay in cloth and paper, pay-
ing at the British custom house a heavy tax for the privilege of
making exchanges among themselves through the medium of Brit-
ish ships and shops. So, again, was it less than a century since in
the now most prosperous and independent of the manufacturing-
countries of the world, as will here be shown. — Almost unceasingly at
war abroad or at home; brought repeatedly by political and religious
dissensions to the verge of ruin; governed by priests and prostitutes
in the names of worthless kings — France, on the day of the assem-
ling of the States Genera], in 1789, had made so little progress in the
industrial arts that her markets were crowded with British wares;
that her workshops were closed ; that her workmen were perishing
for want of food ; and that the French school of art had almost en-
tirely disappeared. The Few were magnificent — more so, perhaps,
than any others in Europe. Of the Many a large majority were in
a state closely akin to serfage, and ignorant atmost beyond concep-

The Revolution, however, now coming, the people did for them-
selves what their masters had refused to do; re-establishing the
system of Colbert, the greatest statesman the world has yet seen,
and making protection the law of the land. Since then, consuls and
kings, emperors and presidents, have flitted across the stage ; con-
stitutions almost by the dozen have been adopted ; the country has
been thrice occupied by foreign armies, and thrice has it been com-
pelled to pay the cost of invasion and occupation ; but throughout
all these changes it has held to protection as the sheet-anchor of the
ship of State. With what result? With that of placing France in
the lead of the world in reference to all that is beautiful in industrial
and pictorial art. With that of making her more independent, com-
mercially, than any other country of the world. Why is this? For
the reason that she enables her artisans to pass over the heads ol'
other nations, scattering everywhere the seeds of that love of the
beautiful in which consists a real civilization, and everywhere
stimulating while defying competition ; Britain, meanwhile, seeking
everywhere to stifle competition by means of cheap labor, shoddy
cloth, cinder iron, and cottons that, as recently certified to by


British merchants in China, lose a third of their weight on their first
immersion in the tab.

But a few months since Monsieur Michel Chevalier gave to his
English friends an eulogium upon this shoddy system, saying, how-
ever, not a word as to the fact, that the tariff for which he claims
the credit is the most intelligently, and the most effectively, protec-
tive of any in the world; not a word to show how perfectly it had
been made to accord with the views presented in his then, as I
think, latest work, and which read as follows: —

"Every nation owes it to itself to seek the establishment of diversification in the
pursuits of its people, as Germany and England have already done in regard to cot-
tons and woollens, and as France herself has done in reference to so many and so
widely different departments of industry, this being not an abuse of power on the
part of the government. On the contrary, it is the accomplishment of a positive duty
which requires it so to act at each epoch in the progress of a nation as to fnvor the
taking possession of all the branches of industry whose acquisition is authorized by
the nature of things."

Prior to the date of the Cobden treaty, 1860, the regime of France,
for almost seventy years, had been that of prohibition so nearly abso-
lute as almost to preclude the importation of foreign manufactures
of any description whatsoever. Prior to 18(31, that of this country
had for a like period of time, with two brief and brilliant excep-
tions, been that of revenue, and almost free-trade, tariffs dictated by
subjects of the cotton king holding a full belief in the morality of
human slavery, and in a sort of right divine to buy and sell their
fellow-men. We have thus two contemporaneous systems differing
from each other as light does from darkness, and may here with
some advantage study their working as regards the great question
now before us, that of civilization. The last four years prior to
1861 were in this country so much disturbed by reason of the great
free-trade crisis of 1857 that, desiring to give every advantage to
free-trade theorists, I prefer to throw them out, taking for compari-
son the year 1856, one in which the world at large was rejoicing in
the receipt of hundreds of millions of gold from California and Aus-
tralia; and when, if ever, our Southern States must have been grow-
ing rich and strong by means of the policy of which they so long
had been the ardent advocates.

In that year the domestic exports of France amounted to $310,000,-
000, having far more than trebled in twenty-five years; doing this,
too, under a system that, as we now are told, must have destroyed
the power to maintain any foreign commerce whatsoever. Of those
exports, $1.40,000,000 consisted of textile fabrics weighing 20,000
tons, the equivalent of 100,000 bales of cotton, and sufficient, per-
haps, to load some five and-twenty of the ships that, as 1 think,
were then in use. The charge for freight was, as may readily be
seen, quite insignificant, and for the reason that the chief articles of
value were skill and taste, $100,000,000 of which would not balance
a single cotton bale. Arrived out, the goods were all finished and
ready for consumption; and, as a consequence of these great l'acts,
there were no people retaining for themselves so large a proportion
ol the ultimate prices of their products as did those of France.


At that elate two hundred and fifty years Lad elapsed since the
first settlement of Virginia, and the whole country south of the
Potomac, the Ohio, and the Missouri, had then been taken po
sion of by men of the English race, the total population having
grown to almost a dozen millions. The territory so occupied con-
tained, as I believe, more cultivable land, more coal, and more
metallic ores, than the whole of Europe; and it abounded in rivers
calculated for facilitating the passage of labor and its products from
point to point. What now had become, in 1856, the contribution
of this wonderful territory, embracing a full half of the Union, to
the commerce of the world? Let us see! The cotton exported
amounted to 3,000,000 bales. To this may now be added 100,000
hogsheads of tobacco, the total money value of the exports of this
vast territory having been almost precisely $140,000,000 — barely
sufficient to pay for the cargoes of five-and-twenty ships, of a joint
burden of 20,000 tons, laden with the beautiful fabrics of France.

For the carriage to market of this cotton and tobacco how many
ships were required? Thousands! How many seamen? Tens of
thousands! Who paid them? The planters! Who paid the charges
on the cotton until it reached its final consumer? The planter,
whose share of the two, three, or five dollars a pound paid for his
cotton by his customers in Brazil, Australia, or California, amounted
to but a single dime. It may, as I think, be safely asserted that of
all people claiming to rank as civilized there have been none who
have retained for themselves so small a portion of the ultimate prices
of their products as have those who have been accustomed to supply
raw cotton to Britain and to France.

The first of all taxes is that of transportation, preceding as it does
even the demands of government. Of this the Frenchman pays
almost literally none, the commodities, taste and skill, which mainly
be exports, being to be classed among the imponderables. The
planter, on the contrary, gives nine-tenths of the ultimate prices
of his products as his portion of this terrific tax, doing so for
the reason that he is always exporting, in the forms of cotton and
tobacco, the weighty food of mere brute labor, and the most valu-
able portions of the soil upon which that labor had been expended.

Throughout the world, as here among ourselves, the exporters of
raw produce pay all the taxes incident to a separation of consumers
from producers, the manufacturing nations profiting by their col-
lection. Hence it is that while the former tend from year to year
to become more dependent, the latter tend equally to become more
independent, thus furnishing conclusive evidence of growing civili-

The protected Frenchman, freed from the most oppressive of all
taxes, grows in love of the beautiful, in love of freedom, in that love
of his native land by which he is everywhere so much distinguished
— each and every stage of progress marking growth of real civiliza-

The unprotected men of the South, on the contrary, have been so
heavily taxed on the road to their ultimate market as to have pro-


duced a constantly growing need for abandoning their exhausted
lands, and a corresponding growth of belief in human slavery, which
is but another word for barbarism.

Since the date above referred to, France and the South have passed
through very destructive wars, but how widely different is their
present condition ; the one being more prosperous than ever before,

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Online LibraryHenry Charles CareyCommerce, Christianity, and civilization, versus British free trade. Letters in reply to the London Times; → online text (page 1 of 5)