Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

The North American review (Volume 139) online

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humanity was found more disheartening by reason of the con
trast. In the Augustan age, one-half of the population of the
Roman world, according to Gibbon, were slaves. Of the free
population, the multitude forming the rabble of the imperial
city and the peasantry of the provinces were propertyless. They
were in a state of hopeless poverty and of irredeemable igno
rance. They formed a majority of the freemen or non-slaves
of the republic and afterward of the empire, but of their number


we have no definite record. Latin civilization doomed them to
poverty and to degradation, and was itself doomed to inevitable
decay. When the members of the aristocratic class became
corrupt and enervated through indulgence, no new element took
their places. Neither the slave population nor the degraded,
propertyless rabble could furnish vigorous recruits.
V^It may be objected that the mischief produced by this
abnormal immigration could not be coextensive with our
national territory ; that, at most, it must be confined to a
single State or section. But, west of the Rocky Mountains, the-
process could be completed with ease and celerity. Let the
change, with its gigantic industries and with all the enter
prise and aggressiveness of such wealth, be established in
that great territory, equal in area to Western Europe, and the
course of social change would soon pass the natural barriers
established by those ribs of our continent, the Rocky Mount
ains. In the South, Chinese laborers would be introduced
gradually through the great southern transcontinental railroad
lines. It is safe to say that Chinese laborers, who have proved
so efiicient in the climate of California, would, in the cotton
fields of the South, prove three times as efiicient as the unstable
and comparatively unindustrious negro. They would, without
doubt, stand the climate with equal ease, and would prove swift
and steady workers. They would be constant in their work, and
submissive to their overseers and employers. The old negro
quarters would be reproduced upon the plantations of the South
in all their essential features. Quarters would again be estab
lished upon those plantations as the habitations of a class of
laborers incapable of becoming property-owners in this case in
consequence of their apathy, indifference, and want of energy.
With abundance of such labor, what fortunes might not be made
upon the cotton and sugar plantations of Mississippi and

The same process of the abandonment of labor to a swarm
ing class, which attended slavery in the South, would take
place in the new South. Wealth would augment immensely,
but it would remain in the hands of the planters and manufac
turers. The white laborers of the South would find themselves
dragged down to the level of the Chinese, for wages would fur
nish no margin by which they might ascend to property, posi
tion, and culture. The negroes would find their feeble efforts at


improvement futile, and the progress toward stronger manhood,
upon which that race had entered, would cease. Substantially
the same state of society that existed under slavery might, and
in all probability would, be renewed in the South.

In manufacturing New England, this immigration would
have a ruinous effect upon her democratic society. Chinese
laborers would supplant white employes in her factories. Wit
ness the fact, that in California, in 1870, 52 T 5 Q per cent, of the
woolen and cotton mill operatives were Chinese. They would be,
without doubt, employed for less wages than are given at present
to the operatives of New England. Witness the fact that in Cal
ifornia, where the cost of living is at least twenty-five per cent,
greater than in Massachusetts, the operatives in the woolen
mills receive at the present day less in every capacity than do
the operatives in the mills of New England.* The white labor
ing population would be uniformly reduced to comparative
destitution. At the same time, the wealth of the property-
owning classes would augment in consequence of the greater
profitableness of their capital through extremely cheap labor.
Labor, attended by perseverance and thrift, would cease to be a
means to little homesteads, and would cease to be the highway
for the transition of multitudes of men from the wage-earning
classes to the ranks of the property-owning and affluent

Were this process of the substitution of cheap labor to con
tinue quietly until wide-spread and powerful interests, depending

* From the report by Edward Younge, Chief of the United States Bureau
of Statistics, for 1875, upon labor in Europe and America, I take the follow
ing figures in regard to the wages paid operatives in woolen mills in the
various capacities in California and Massachusetts respectively. In California,
all the operatives, except overseers and the men in the engine-rooms, were
Chinese :






.... $5.25





Wool- washers

. ... 5.25






. ... 5.25






ift on
















5 . 25



.. 5.25



.... 6.00






. ... 7.25









... 21.00



. ... 18.00








Weavers . .

. 5.25


Engineers . .

. 18.00



upon the presence of this labor for their prosperity, should become
influential enough to move the Government to protect this influx,
and, under the form and pretense of law, to suppress popular
protests against it, would it not be possible for a complete change
in the constitution of our society to be established in the course
of a couple of centuries ? Had the immigration continued, the
introduction of this labor into the South was extremely probable ;
and its introduction into the East was not improbable. The
white planters of the South had long been greatly dissatisfied
with the negro laborers ; especially when the negroes were leaving
in great numbers for the new Western States was the discontent
extreme. At that time it was proposed to introduce Chinese la
borers upon a large scale ; and the tide of Mongol immigration
would have been turned in that direction had it not been for the
policy of exclusion adopted in 1880. Once introduced into the
South, and, after a few years, in Louisiana alone a hundred
thousand of these Chinese males would have been seen working
in the fields as serviceable and tractable laborers, in place of

Were this social change to be consummated, its ultimate effect
would be to wreck our institutions. Were society divided into
an opulent class on the one hand, and, upon the other hand, a
class of propertyless laborers, consisting in part of the Chinese,
but comprising also the major portion of the white population,
our institutions would have to undergo rapid change. Among
the degraded white laborers, communism would find efficient in
struments. Popular tumults would threaten to overturn society.
Unchecked, they would tend to the demolition of existing social
and political creations, to the destruction of existing vested rights
of property, and to anarchy. The instinct of self-preservation
would drive the wealthy classes to change the character of our
Government, and to make it, with its judiciary and military estab
lishment, the instrument for the maintenance of their fortunes
and class position against the majority of the population. The
protection of property, the preservation of the only vested rights
in society, would be held a holy and just cause by the sentiment
of the influential, the cultured, and the intelligent classes. It
would be their rights which were threatened, and their sentiments
would conform to their interests. A radical alteration of our ex
isting system of popular rule would inevitably follow as the only
means of preserving its material interests, its culture, its learning,


and of preventing the rule of ignorance, passion, and communism,
and hence the reign of anarchy and of universal spoliation.

It is not, however, necessary to show that any such social
change would be worked over our whole national territory. It
is sufficient to show that the presence of the Chinese laborers
tends to produce this change in all labor fields in which they es
tablish themselves. It follows, then, as a consequence, that the im
migration in its present character does not improve the condition
of the Chinese, while it ruinously affects the welfare of our labor
ing and middle classes. As the magnitude of the Chinese popu
lation increases, just in that proportion does it degrade the
condition of our laborers, and just in that proportion does it
tend to eliminate the middle classes of moderate means from our
society, and to augment the fortunes of a limited and constantly
narrowing class. These changes, were they continued, would
be productive in future of popular distress, and of popular
disturbances more terrible than any yet experienced in our coun
try. In California, laborers who are subject to the direct compe
tition of the Chinamen are about equal in number to the Chinese
laborers in that State 70,000. The Kearney agitation had a
real moving cause in the hardship this competition had produced
among the laboring classes in the year 1880. Aside from the
causes of distress to be found in the improvidence of laborers,
an abnormal depression of wages had in fact occurred. The Chi
nese had, as a matter of fact, depressed wages and made employ
ment to some extent abnormally scarce at that time. Compara
tive destitution prevailed among the laboring classes, unexampled
in California. The result was this agitation. Its consequences
have been seen in intemperate attacks upon great interests in
California. This is but a foretaste of the terrible commotions
that would disturb our country were the Chinese influx to

' Wlien the presence of these laborers is calculated to work
such evil to our working and middle classes, and to so menace
our institutions without permanent benefit to themselves, it is
clear that the American policy does not require 'their admission
on the ground that this great country is the asylum of the
oppressed of all nations. That policy contemplates the im
provement of the condition of the immigrant. In this case, that
condition is not improved. It contemplates the elevation of the
moral, mental, and physical condition of ordinary humanity.


This immigration defeats that end. That policy assumes, also,
that such immigrants as are admitted will not tend to destroy
the democratic constitution of society and the honorable, inde
pendent, and happy condition of our laboring and middle classes,
who form the bulk of our nation and give strength to our insti
tutions. This immigration threatens to destroy the democratic
constitution of our society, to diminish, if not to obliterate, the
middle class, and to hopelessly degrade the laboring class. The
policy of exclusion in this light is not a narrow and illiberal
policy. It is a policy of self-preservation, which looks not only
to our own welfare, but to the continued existence of our help
fulness as a people to other people.

If, now, the object of our national policy is to secure the
accumulation of great wealth in our country, regardless of the
effect upon the condition of the mass of men, and regardless
of the resulting distribution of wealth, then the only great de
sideratum is cheap labor under any circumstances, and the
Chinese ought to be admitted. If it is better to have a slower
development of wealth, but therewith a development of the wel
fare and intelligence of the masses, the laborers, and small
property-holders, then this cry of cheap labor cannot be too
severely condemned. It is hardly necessary to add that the
reasons for the exclusion of the Chinese do not operate in the
case of immigrants from Europe. Whether those immigrants
come from England, Ireland, or Germany, they come with their
families, and are as anxious to raise their standard of living
and to acquire property as is our own native population. They
do not tend to drag down our laboring population to a condition
of comparative destitution and of hopeless and irredeemable

It is especially incumbent upon capital in the United States
to discourage every influence which tends to depress wages
abnormally, and thus to make laborers throughout the country
uniformly propertyless and poverty-stricken; which tends to
dimmish the numbers of our middle class of modest fortunes by
preventing accession to it from the ranks of mere laborers.
Everywhere in the West, attacks have been made upon accumu
lated wealth, especially when invested in the form of railroads.
These attacks have been comparatively harmless because of the
protection afforded by our national constitution and our
national judicial system. But the national constitution and


judicial system were efficient for the purpose of protection,
because the great majority of the population had property
rights whose security depended upon the integrity of our
national constitution and judicial system only. Make that
majority property less, make them suffer permanent destitution,
and opinion among that majority would soon require govern
mental action amounting to the confiscation of wealth. Uni
versal suffrage would secure such governmental action. The
restraint of our national constitution would be opposed to
the interests, desires, and sentiments of the majority of our
population. That majority composed of all the ignorance and
passion of society, and embittered by destitution, would not
listen to any reasons urged to restrain them. The constitution
would have to yield, and virtual revolution would be accom



THERE is no one subject in respect to which all thoughtful
men are at present more anxious and perplexed than the extra
ordinary and prolonged industrial and financial depression and
disturbance of the country, and the outlook for what is to be in
the future. It is proposed, in the limited space here allowed, to
ask the consideration mainly of a single point, namely, the con
nection between what has happened and is likely to happen, and
our existing tariff policy; or the extent to which speedy and
radical, but at the same time judicious, tariff reforms are essen
tial to continued national prosperity and national development.

To the head of one of the largest manufacturing estab
lishments (not textile) in the country, who was recently com
plaining of business depression, no profits, and an apparent
necessity for a speedy suspension of his operations (which last
has since occurred), the following question put by the writer,
" When do you expect better times ? " promptly elicited the fol
lowing reply : " Not until I can sell at a reasonable profit what I
have the capacity and the desire to manufacture. In default of
this, I cannot expect to earn interest on my investments (on
buildings or machinery) or give employment to my operatives."
Here, then, we have the present condition of industrial affairs,
and the proximate remedy for most of what is at present indus
trially unsatisfactory, simply outlined by an intelligent man,
who, at the time of speaking, was not thinking of the tariff, and
who afterward expressed himself as in opposition to free trade.
In other words, the country has more commodities agricult
ural and manufactured of its own production than can be
sold in existing available markets at a profit, or even at cost;
and it has more capacity for producing them than can be kept
steadily employed under existing circumstances.

To illustrate and demonstrate these assertions more specific
ally, let us consider first the condition of agriculture.



During the decade from 1870 to 1880, our population in
creased in a ratio of a little less than 30 per cent. During the
same period our exports of agricultural commodities, which are
a measure of our surplus production, increased as follows :
Cereals, 214 per cent. $ hog products, 1138 per cent, j beef,
433 per cent. ; live cattle, 690 per cent. ; dairy products, 182
per cent. ; cotton, 96 per cent. And yet, great as is this
surplus product, the whole tendency of things is to increase
it still further. Thousands of acres of new grain lands
are being annually added to our area of cultivation; im
proved methods of culture, increasing product and diminish
ing the necessity for manual labor, are being continually in
troduced 5 while less than one-sixth of our arable land has yet
been brought under the plow. How is this surplus to be dis
posed of, as it must be, at a reasonable profit, in order to ensure
reasonable prosperity to the great agricultural interest and to
all the other interests especially that of railroad transportation
which are collateral or dependent on it ? A popular answer is,
by enlarging the field of our other industries, especially that of
manufacturing, through the fostering aid of Government and
the protective system. " If we cannot go into the markets of
the world," said Judge Foraker, one of the candidates last year
for Governor of Ohio, " without being subjected to degrading
competition, we will make ourselves independent of these
markets by making markets of our own. Instead of sending
our raw cotton across the ocean, to be there manufactured and
sent back to us, we will have cotton-mills here. We will mine
our own coal, develop our own minerals, manufacture our own
iron and steel, build our own railroads with our own products,
and thus have home markets and domestic commerce.' 7 But if
the sphere of our manufacturing industries could be at once
enlarged to an extent sufficient, as proposed, to furnish a
market for all our surplus agricultural products, the problem
confronting us would not be solved, but only changed by sub
stituting "manufacturing" in place of "agricultural" surplus.
The following data, furthermore, will afford some conception of
the extent to which domestic manufacturing industry furnishes
a present home market to the American agriculturist for his
surplus, and of the enlargement of such industry that must be
brought about in order to provide for his present entire sur
plus, wheat being taken as the standard of cereal consump-


tion. The wheat crop of 1880 was, in round numbers, five
hundred million (498,000,000) bushels ; of which aggregate
312,000,000 were retained for home consumption (food, seed, and
reserve), and 186,000,000 sent to foreign countries for a market.
The great manufacturing States of the Union are the six New
England States, with New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, and Maryland. But these same States are also
largely agricultural ; and during 1880 they so far fed their own
population with their own agricultural products as to require
(on the assumption of an average consumption of five bushels
of wheat per capita) only 34,585,667 bushels, out of the entire
home consumption of 312,000,000 bushels, to make up any defi
ciency in respect to this staple.* To furnish a domestic market
adequate to absorb the probable wheat surplus of the present
year would therefore require an enlargement of our manufactur
ing enterprises to at least fivefold what they are at present.
The idea of any such immediate enlargement being chimerical,
it remains to consider the promise of the future; and here
experience, the only guide for forming an opinion of what is to
be, if the present fiscal policy of the country is to be continued,
is most instructive and also most conclusive.

It is clear that there is no need whatever, at present, for any
more furnaces or factories to supply any domestic or home de
mand ; and that, if even the existing furnaces and factories are
to be kept fully employed, and any construction of new ones
entered upon, a larger market, or a market outside of the coun
try, must in some way be obtained. Our exports at present are
mainly agricultural ; and although we boast of exporting some
cotton goods to England, and some machinery and railroad
equipments to Mexico and Australia, the aggregate of all such
exports constitutes but an insignificant item of the foreign trade
of the United States. In fact, our manufacturing industries, so far
as their occupation of foreign markets is concerned, hold almost
exactly the same position that they did twenty-three years ago.
Thus in 1859-60 manufactured products constituted 17.7 per

* For 1880, Massachusetts produced 15,768 bushels of wheat, and con-
sumed, over and above her product, 8,899,657; while Pennsylvania, con
suming 19,462,405 bushels, required to purchase outside her own territory
but 1,952, 052 bushels. New York, with an annual consumption of 25,-
414,000 bushels, had a home supply of 11,587,766 bushels, and a defi
ciency, to be supplied outside her territory, of 13,826,589 bushels.


cent, of the total value of our exports of domestic merchandise.
In 1869-70 this ratio was 13.4 per cent., while in 1879-80 it
had further declined to 12.5 per cent. For 1882-3 the ratio was
returned at 13.9 per cent., constituting a total of $111,890,000
out of an aggregate valuation of all exports of $804,223,000.

From this analysis of the situation, the following deductions
would seem to be almost in the nature of axioms. First, there
is no sufficient market for our surplus agricultural products ex
cept a foreign market, and in default of this, such surplus will
either not be raised, or, if raised, will rot on the ground. And
if any further evidence of national dependence upon these
foreign markets for continued prosperity is needed, it is to be
found in the circumstance that the partial interference of only
two of the states of Europe with the imports into their territories
of only one of our great agricultural products, pork, has been
sufficient to alarm every interest of the great West, and excite a
feeling of grievance sufficiently serious to occasion talk about
national commercial retaliation. Second, the domestic demand
for the products of our existing furnaces and factories is very
far short of the capacity of such furnaces and factories to sup
ply ; and until larger and more extended markets are obtainable,
domestic competition, while not preventing large sales (for a
nation of fifty-six millions requires a large amount of commodi
ties) will, nevertheless, inevitably continue as now to reduce
profits to a minimum and greatly restrict the extension of the
so-called manufacturing industries. Third, with restricted op
portunities for labor and the profitable employment of capital,
the continued addition to our population from natural increase
or immigration will inevitably tend, through increased competi
tion, to reduce the wages of labor, and promote social discontent
and antagonisms between employers and employes.

The main cause, therefore, in the opinion of the writer, of our
present industrial depression and business stagnation is our
existing tariff and national commercial policy, which restricts
our opportunity to sell or exchange what we have the capacity
and desire to produce, by unnaturally increasing, through
excessive taxation, the cost of all production, and by intention
ally obstructing commerce with other countries. The existing
tariff, it will not be denied, is a great restriction on imports.
But it is impossible to place restrictions upon the imports of a
country without at the same time limiting the markets for its


exports ; for all trade and commerce, in the practical business
of life, is the interchange of products and services, and there
can be no buying without selling, or selling without buying.

Other causes have undoubtedly come in and contributed to
the present unsatisfactory condition of affairs ; but they are all
subordinate and insignificant in comparison with the influence
of the existing tariff. Excessive and unprofitable investments

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 27 of 60)