William D. (William Darrah) Kelley.

Reasons for abandoning the theory of free trade and adopting the principle of protection to American industry online

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loss of national prestige and threatened revolution, throw
her ports open to unrestricted competition. The effect on
England of the abandonment of the protective system does
not exhibit itself in wide-spread bankruptcy as it did with
us. The enormous accumulations of capital held by her
privileged classes have prevented this. It is, however, ob
servable in the disappearance of the small farmer, and of the
small work-shop that in more prosperous times would have
expanded into a factory ; in the concentration of land and
machinery in the hands of a constantly diminishing number
of persons ; and in the rapidly increasing destitution, idle
ness, intemperance, and despair of her laboring classes.*

In the course of his admirable sermon before the Univer
sity of Oxford, December 20th, 1868, Rev. Brooke Lambert
said : " The severance between the rich and the poor is to me
an even sadder thing than the wretched state of the labor
market. . I can fancy a remedy possible for the one, I can
foresee no remedy for the other. The gap between them
seems widening every day, as trade and land fall into the
hands of large capitalists, who absorb all smaller concerns,
all smaller holdings." And BlackwoocVs Magazine for April,
1810, in an article entitled "The State, the Poor, and the
Country," says : " The lamentable depression of trade, and
consequent want of employment which have recently prevailed,
have now reached a most serious magnitude in many of the
larger towns, and most of all in London and its far-spreading
suburbs. The intensity of the distress in the metropolitan
districts has not been equalled in recent times. And the
break-down of our Poor-law system, despite all efforts of
voluntary associations, has been appalling in its results.
Not a week passes without several cases of deaths from
starvation, duly attested by the verdict of coroners in
quests, where the medical and other evidence reveals an
amount of unaided wretchedness and starvation, which one
would suppose impossible in a civilized country. Men,
women and children dying from sheer famine in the heart
of the wealthiest city in the world ! "

The extracts from the works of Sir John Byles, Sir
Edward Sullivan, Professor Kirk, Messrs. Grant, Patterson,
Smith, Hoyle, and other recent British writers, which will
be found in notes throughout this volume, more than con-

* See extracts, Appendix, pp. 29-32.


firm this statement. Sir Edward Sullivan admonishes the
governing classes that if they do not wish to reduce England
to the condition of a manufacturing country without work
shops or skilled workmen, they must protect native industry
sufficiently to restore the home market for cotton fabrics,
which has fallen off 35 per cent., by reason of the fact that the
enforced idleness of masses of the working people has de
prived them of the ability to consume this indispensable ele
ment of comfortable attire ; and Mr. Hoyle produces from
official statistics the figures to prove the startling statement.

Nor can the British Government longer close its eyes to
this distress and continue to assert that THE LAW OF SUPPLY
AND DEMAND is the heaven-appointed and all-sufficient regu
lator of societary movements. It is even now feebly attempt
ing to regulate both supply and demand by its own action.
To this end Earl Granville, Foreign Secretary, as early as
the 14th of April, 1870. addressed a circular dispatch to the
Governors of British Colonies, from which I take the follow
ing paragraph :

" The distress prevailing among the laboring classes in
many parts of the United Kingdom has directed public
attention to the question of Emigration as a means of relief.
It has been urged on Her Majesty s Government that while
there are in this country large numbers of well-conducted,
industrious laborers, for whom no emplo3 T ment can be found,
there exists in most of the colonies a more extensive demand
for labor than the laboring class on the spot can supply.
The result of emigration would, therefore, it is said, be
equally advantageous to the emigrant and the colonies to
the former, by placing him in a position to earn an indepen
dence ; to the latter, by supplying a want that retards their
progress and prosperity. Under the circumstances, Her
Majest} 7 s Government is anxious to be furnished with your
opinion as to the prospects which the colon}" under your
government holds out to emigrants, both of the agricultural
and the artisan class.

" The points on which we should be specially desirous of
receiving information are : the classes of laborers whose
labor is most in demand in the colony under your govern
ment ; the numbers for whom employment could be found ;
the probable wages they would earn ; whether married men
with families could obtain wages to enable them to support
their families, and house accommodation for their shelter;
what assistance or facilities would be provided to pass the
emigrants to the districts where their labor is in demand ;
and whether any pecuniary assistance would be granted


either toward their passages, or toward providing depots
and subsistence on their first arrival, or toward sending
them up to the country."

That England will soon so far modify her revenue system
as to re-adopt many of the distinctive features of the Pro
tective System, I confidently predict. Not that I credit her
privileged classes with quick or enlarged sympathy with the
laboring classes, but because I know that they have always
had sufficient tact to avert popular outbreak by timely con
cession. And though I remember how the people of Ireland
and Orissa were permitted to starve, I still believe that
the consumers of England will consent to pay duties on
such goods as compete with English labor in the home mar
ket, and relieve from taxation the tea, coffee, sugar, currants,
raisins, tobacco, and spirits of the laboring classes, rather
than incur the risk of widespread famine in London, Lanca
shire, and other great industrial centres of the country. But,
were they capable of the fatuity of withholding their consent,
the question has passed from their decision. Their last con
cession to the popular will, the extension of the suffrage,
makes this one inevitable. The article in Blackwood, alread} r
referred to, thus defines the position of the question :

"A new power has been introduced into our political sys
tem, new forces are at work within the pale of the Constitu
tion. The Government has become National in the fullest
sense of the word ; and with the change a new breath of life
is stirring society. New views are rapidly forming ; new
hopes and aspirations are entering into the heart of the
masses. The rule of the middle classes established by the
Reform Bill of 1 832, has come to an end ; and the doctrines
Which regulated the legislation of that period are now being
tested and considered from a different, indeed opposite point
of view.

" For nearly forty years the prime object of our legis
lation has been the interests of the Consumers ; now, we
shall soon have the masses advocating their own interests as
Producers. What is more, the State has now become simply
the nation itself, acting through a chosen body of adminis
trators ; and it is easy to discern that under the new regime
the Government will be called upon to adopt a very different
policy in domestic affairs from that represented by the prin
ciple of the Whigs and doctrinaires, which has been para
mount since 1832. That principle well suited the interests
of the wealthy and comparatively fortunate classes, who
needed no help from the State, yet who got all they asked
for, by the abolition of all custom duties which shackled
their business. But will that principle keep its ground now
that the weaker classes also have a voice in the Government ?


Will they not maintain that they, as an integral part of the
nation, have a claim to be fully considered in the policy of
the Government ; and that, if they can point out any system
of governmental action which will benefit them, without
doing injustice to the rest of the community, no doctrinaire
limitations upon the actions of the State shall be allowed to
stand in the way? The maxims of the Liberals, which have
been predominant since 1832, will be thrown into the crucible
and tried anew. Already in vague murmurs, which ere long
will become distinct and earnest speech, the masses are be
ginning to say that the principles which have been in vogue
during the rule of the middle classes will not suit them.
Our interests, they say, are those of Producers, not of

" We also are poor, and you are wealthy; we are weak,
and you are strong ; with us employment is a far more pre
carious thing than it is with you, and we have but small
earnings to fall back upon when out of work. State help,
though not needful to the middle classes, is needed at times
by us ; and we shall never rest contented until that principle
is acknowledged and properly applied. "

The government cannot long refuse to listen to this de
mand, which no longer comes from the laboring classes alone,
but is enforced by many such writers as those to whom I am
indebted for many of my most instructive notes, and now by
Blackwood, the Quarterly Reviews, and other great organs
of opinion. That school of political economists who pro
pound free trade as the result of their system is finding less
favor with the thinkers of England than heretofore. They
discover that it is not producing the results it promised, but
other and very different ones, and are demanding that it be
tested by the inductive system, and proven by the facts of
experience. It has become clear to many of them that
under its influence the working people are not prosperous
or contented ; that the home market for some of their great
staples diminishes steadily ; and that in spite of Government
assurances that British trade increases, it is stationary, if
not absolutely diminishing. Discarding statements prepared
by skilful statistical jugglers like Mr. Wells, our late Com
missioner of Revenue, they are comparing and analyzing re
sults for themselves, and have thus detected the fraudulent
practices by which they have been deceived. The last trick
British statistics have been made to play was by her Majesty s
Commissioners of Customs, who, to prove the steady in
crease of trade, proclaimed with much triumph that the ex
ports during 1870 were 11 per cent, greater than they were
in 1868. This cheering result, which, isolated from the gen
eral facts to which it is related, is true, is made to prove^the


steady increase of trade by a device that would do no dis
credit to the cunning and audacity of our great statistical
manipulator. This is the process by which it is done.
The French array moved toward the German frontier about
the 15th of July, 1870, and at the close of the year the war
was at its height, promising not only to be of long dura
tion, but threatening to involve all Europe. It caused a
general suspension of the industries of France and Germany,
whose wares and fabrics were crowding those of England
out of so many markets, or the employment of their opera
tives in the production of arms and munitions of war. It
also gave England an immense market for these. But what
was, perhaps, more important than all this, it caused the
withdrawal of the commercial marine of those countries from
the ocean, and gave the ships and shops of England a mo
nopoly of the carrying and foreign trade of the world. Her
trade could not fail to be exceptionally large that year, as
owing to the war having extended far into it, and been pro
longed by the folly of the Commune it will be this year.
The Commissioners of Customs prove the virtues of free
trade by contrasting the exports of this exceptional year
with those of 1868, in which they were lower than they have
been since 1865. The following official figures will suffice to
show that the exports from Great Britain for the last four
years, including 1870, which was so exceptionally large, have
on the average been less than during 1866 by the consider
able sum of more than $6,700,000 per annum:

1866. Total value of British Exports 188,917,536

1867. " " " 181,183,971

1868. " " " 179,463,644

1869. " " 189,953,957

1870. " 199,649,938

The reader who will add the value of the four years, 67-70,
and divide the result by four, and compare the figures thus
obtained with the total exports of 1866, will ascertain pre
cisely how rapidly and steadily the trade of Great Britain

Mr. Syme, in the course of his article in the Westminster
Review, to which I have referred, says : " Political Economy
exhibits no sign of progressiveness. Instead of discoveries,
of which we have had none of any consequence since
Adam Smith s time, we have had endless disputation and
setting up of dogmas. Whatever progress may have been
made in other sciences during the last century, there has
been none in this. The most elementary principles are
still matters of dispute. The doctrine of free trade, for
instance, which is looked upon as the crowning triumph
of Political Economy, is still very far from being uni
versally recognized. Even in England, after twenty years


trial under most favorable circumstances, free trade has
been put upon its defence. We make no progress, and
from the very nature of our method of investigation, we can
make none. The Political Economist observes phenomena
with a foregone conclusion as to their cause. His method,
in fact, is the method of the savage. The phenomena of
nature, the thunder, the lightning, or the earthquake, strike
the savage with awe and wonder ; but he only looks within
himself for an explanation of these phenomena. To him,
therefore, the forces of nature are only the efforts of beings
like himself, great and powerful, no doubt, but with good
and evil propensities, and subject to every human caprice.
Like the Political Economist, he works within the vicious
circle of his own feelings, and he cannot comprehend, any
more than the savage, how he can discover the laws which
regulate the phenomena which he sees around him. The
savage would reduce the Divine mind to the dimensions of
the human ; the Political Economist would reduce the human
mind to the dimensions of his ideal.

" Our conclusion is, that the inductive method is alone
applicable to the investigation of economic science, and that
we shall never be able to make any solid progress so long
as we continue to follow the & priori method a method
which has not aided, but clogged and fettered us in the pur
suit of truth, and which is utterly alien to the spirit of mod
ern scientific inquiry."

For the edification of those who may be incredulous as to
free trade being on its defence in England, Mr. Syme refers
( to Professor Bonamy Price s arraignment of it in the Con
temporary Review of February, 1871.*

The London Quarterly Review for July [1871], contains
a spirited article on " Economical Fallacies and Labor Uto
pias," in which it handles with great freedom " the school of
political economists now in the ascendant." The date at
which it was published proves that the author could not
have seen the article entitled " Free Trade Revenue Re
form," in our Atlantic for October, yet he says : " There is
an utopianism which counts its chickens before they are
hatched, nay, cackles over chickens it expects to hatch from
eggs that are addled." Referring to Mr. John Stuart Mill,
who, had the Atlantic s article been anonymous, might, from
the freedom with which it disposes of existing relations and
interests, well have been suspected of its authorship, the
Quarterly proceeds to s&y :

" If Mr. Mill, the recognized leader of that school, is to be
designated as an economical enthusiast, or perhaps more

* See also remarks of Sir John Byles and Mr. R. H. Patterson, in notes,
pages 199 and 200; and also of Sir Edward Sullivan, in note, pages 378, 379.


properly as the founder and propagator o^ economical en
thusiasm, he has earned that designation more by the exces
sive exercise of the dialectical than of the imaginative faculty,
and does not so much body forth to himself the forms of
things unknown, as suggest to his disciples revolutions, un
realized even in imagination, of all existing relations between
classes and sexes, as logically admissible, and not to be
set aside as practically chimerical without actual experiment.
His enthusiasm is the speculative passion of starting ever
fresh game in the wide field of abstract social possibilities
philosophically indifferent to all objections drawn from the
actual conditions of men, women, or things in the concrete.
Mr. Mill would be very capable, like Condorcet, of deriving
from the doctrine of human perfectibility the inference that
there was no demonstrable reason why the duration of human
life might not be prolonged indefinitely by discoveries (here
after to be made) in h} r giene. And to all objections drawn
from universal human experience of the growth and decay
of vital power within a limited period, it would be quite in
the character of his mind and temper to reply calmly that
the life of inan, like the genius of woman, had not hitherto
been developed under such conditions as to draw out its
capabilities to the full extent. Like Condorcet, too, while
dealing perturbation all around him, Mr. Mill is impertur
bable, and might be described as lie was, as un mouton en
rage un Volcan convert de neige I "

It was the opinion of the great Bonaparte, that Political
Economy would grind empires to powder, though they were
made of adamant. The British Government is proving the
excellence of his judgment, and schoolmen and theorists are
industriously laboring to induce the American people to
confirm it by even a grander illustration. This pretended
science which, Mr. Mill says, "necessarily reasons from as
sumptions, and not from facts," is sedulously and devoutly
taught at Yale, and most of our leading colleges. It is for
tunate that the intimate relations of many of the students
with the industries and people of the country render the
scholasticisms of their teachers harmless ; and in parting
from them, they sometimes throw back upon them the
terrible results of experience, as their reply to the weary
chapters of deductions from assumptions with which they
have been tortured. How boldly and aptly, yet respectfully
this may be done, was shown by Mr. Orville Justus Bliss,
of Chicago, at Yale s last commencement. A leading scholar
of his class, he had been selected to deliver the Valedictory,
in the course of which he said :

"A cry for relief has gone forth, and refuses to be hushed.


We cannot always ignore these men. Neither can we for
ever satisfy them by quoting Adam Smith. Suppose some
wise individual should stand with a copy of * The Wealth
of Nations in his hand before a mob of London bread-
rioters, and begin to read the chapter on wages ; would they
all go off rejoicing in the beauties of the science, and con
vinced that they were happy ? Political Economy has had
ample trial in England. A mill agent recently said, I re
gard my work people just as I regard my machinery. So
long as they can do my work for what I choose to pay them,
I keep them, getting out of them all I can. When my
machines get old and useless, I reject them, and get new ;
and these people are part of my machinery. Is not that a
sufficiently rigorous application of the law of demand and
supply ? And it describes the whole factory system in Eng
land, up to the time when the agitators took it in hand.
What it has done for England, I need not repeat. Suffice it
to say, that Political Economy, as a solution of this question,
is a disastrous failure."

And again : " The poor cannot help themselves. They
are tied hand and foot with an enslaving destitution. We
say : It is a free country ; let every one make of himself as
much as he can. We challenge one and all to an unbounded
competition. But to these people the seeming fairness is
mockery. It rivals the brave boy who first takes a good
long start, and then turns around and offers to race with you
to the next corner. The child of the laborer may lift him
self from his degradation, and become a power for good.
But there must be some measure of intelligence, to serve as
a basis upon which to build. They must be made to feel
that society is their friend, not an enem}^, whose prosperity
is their defeat. What, then, is the laying of a cable, or the
spanning of a continent? What beauty do they find in
literature, what exaltation in science I had almost said,
what solace in religion ? Not in the name of an endangered
society, imminent as its peril is ; not in the interests of great
money-wielders, plainly as those interests point to educated
labor, do I plead the cause of these people ; but because
they are part of our common humanity, and have a right to
partake of our common, intellectual, aesthetic, and social

I have said that I believe England will soon readopt many
of the distinctive principles of the protective system. Un
less we determine otherwise, she must do this soon. Hei
newly enfranchised producers will demand it, and the action
of her colonies will impart vehemence to the demand. Pro
tection is a settled principle with the governments of Vic


toria, New South Wales, Queensland, and other Australian
colonies. Speaking of this, together with the fact that they
are establishing Customs Unions on the principle of the
Zollverein, Charles Wentworth Dilke, in his Greater Britain,
says : " It is a common doctrine in the colonies of England
that a nation cannot be called independent if it has to cry
out to another for supplies of necessaries ; that true national
existence is first attained when the county becomes capable
of supplying to its own citizens those goods without which
they cannot exist in the state of comfort they have already
reached. Political is apt to follow on commercial depen
dency, they say." After a somewhat glowing portrayal of
the moral beauty of cosmopolitanism or free trade, Mr.
Dilke, recurring to the colonies, says : " On the other hand,
it may be argued that if every State consults the good of its
own citizens, we shall, by the action of all nations, obtain
the desired happiness of the whole world, and this with
rapidity, from the reason that every country understands
its own interests better than it does those of its neighbor.
As a rule, the colonists hold that they should not protect
themselves against the sister colonies, but only against the
outer world ; and while I was in Melbourne an arrangement
was made with respect to the border trade between Victoria
and New South Wales; but this is at present (1868) the
only step that has been taken toward inter-colonial Free

The British Government cannot, without our consent, main
tain its present revenue system for five years more. But we
may enable it to postpone the change a few years longer,
inasmuch as by maintaining our workshops in England
rather than in the United States, we can soothe popular
discontent by giving employment to her hundreds of thou
sands of unemployed workers. This would also not only
increase her foreign trade, but by enabling those who are
now idle and requiring support to earn wages and purchase
supplies, would, till we should again reach bankruptcy, re
vive her home market.* To repeal or reduce our protective
duties, while our people are burdened by the annual levy of
more than $100,000,000 of internal taxes, is the only method
by which the languishing trade and industry of England
can be materially invigorated under her present free trade
revenue sj^stem.f Should the American people conclude that
cheap goods for cash constitute the chief end of men and na
tions, and that their interests will be best served by having

* See extract from Ryland s Iron Trade Circular, in note, page 405.
f See extract from Our National Rcsour-+, and how they are Wasted, by
Wm. Hoyle, page 103.


their ores smelted, and their pig-iron, railroad bars, Besse
mer and cast-steel, chemicals, cotton and woolen goods, and
other wares and fabrics, made in foreign lands by people whose
food is raised by the ill-fed peasants of Russia, Prussia, Aus
tria, and Turkey, the discontented artisans of England will
probably be pacified, and the emigration of her skilled work
men to this country be arrested for a decade. What the
farmers of the Mississippi Valley would do with their crops
meanwhile, is a question worthy of their consideration.

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Online LibraryWilliam D. (William Darrah) KelleyReasons for abandoning the theory of free trade and adopting the principle of protection to American industry → online text (page 2 of 4)