William Henry Seward.

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having spent the secular part of the week in making calicoes for the
use of her unsophisticated countrywomen, disdainfully arrays herself
on Sundays exclusively in the tints of European dyes ; and yet, we
are indifferent to the f:ict that besides a universal consumption of
foreign silks, excluding the sillcworm from our country, we purchase,
in England alone, one hundred and fifty millions of yards of the
same stained muslins. We sustain, here and there, a rickety, or at
best a contracted iron manufactory ; while we import iron to make
railroads over our own endless ore fields, and we carry our prejudices
against our struggling manufacturers and mechanics so far as to
fastidiously avoid wearing on our persons, or using on our tables, or
displaying in our drawing-rooms, any fabric, of whatsoever material,
texture or color, that, in the course of its manufacture, has, to our
best knowledge and belief, ever come in contact with the honest hand
of an American citizen. In all this, we are less independent than
the Englishman, the Frenchman, or even the Siberian.

It is painful to confess the same infirmity in regard to intellectual
productions. We despise, deeply and universally, the spoiled child
of pretension, who, going abroad for education or observation, with
a mind destitute of the philosophy of travel, returns to us with an
affected tone and gait, sure indications of a craven spirit and a dis-
loyal heart; And yet how intently do we not watch to see whether
one of our countrymen obtains in Europe the honor of an aristo-
cratic dinner, or of a presentation, in a grotesque costume, at court 1


How do we not sixspend our judgment on the merits of the native
artist, be he dancer, singer, actor, limner, or sculptor, and even of
the native author, inventor, orator, bishop or statesman, until by,
flattering those who habitually depreciate his country, he passes
safely the ordeal of foreign criticism, and so commends himself to
our own most cautious approbation. How do we not consult foreign
mirrors, for our very virtues and vices, not less than for our fashions,
and think ignorance, bribery, and slavery, quite justified at home,
if they can be matched against oppression, pauperism and crime in
other countries !

On occasions too, we are bold in applauding heroic struggling for
freedom abroad ; and we certainly have hailed with enthusiasm every
republican revolution in South America, in France, in Poland, in
Germany and in Hungary. And yet how does not our sympathy
rise and fall, with every change of the political temperature in
Europe? In just this extent, we are not only not independent, but
we are actually governed by the monarchies and aristocracies of the
Old World.

You may ask impatiently, if I require the American citizen to
throw off all submission to law, all deference to authority, and all
respect to the opinions of mankind, and that the American Eepublic
shall constantly wage an aggressive war against all foreign systems ?
I answer, no. There is here, as everywhere, a middle and a safe
way. I would have the American citizen yield always a cheerful
acquiescence, and never a servile adherence, to the opinions of the
majority of his countrymen and of mankind, whether they be en-
grossed in the forms of law or not, on all questions involving no
moral principle ; and even in regard to such as do affect the con-
science, I would have him avoid not only faction, but even the ap-
pearance of it. But I demand, at the same time, that he shall have
his own matured and independent convictions, the result not of any
authority, domestic or foreign, on every measure of public policy,
and so, that while always temperate and courteous, he shall always
be a free and outspeaking censor, upon not only opinions, customs
and administration, but even upon laws and constitutions themselves.
What I thus require of the citizen, I insist, also, that he shall allow
to every one of his fellow-citizens. I would have the nation also,
though moderate and pacific, yet always frank, decided and firm, in
bearing its testimony against error and oppression ; and while ab-


staining from forcible intervention in foreign disputes, yet always
fearlessly rendering to the cause of republicanism everywhere, by
influence and example, all the aid that the laws of nations do not
peremptorily, or, in their true spirit, forbid.

Do I propose in this a heretical, or even a new standard of public
or private duty ? All agree that the customary, and even the legal
standards in other countries are too low. Must we then abide by
them now and forever ? That would be to yield our independence,
and to be false towards mankind. Who will maintain that the
standard established at any one time by a majority in our country is
infallible, and therefore final ? If it be so, why have we reserved,
by our constitution, freedom of speech, of the press, and of suffrage,
to reverse it ? No, we may change everything, first complying, how-
ever, with constitutional conditions. Storms and commotions must
indeed be avoided, but the political waters must nevertheless be agi-
tated always, or they will stagnate. Let no one suppose that the
human mind will consent to rest in error. It vibrates, however, only
that it may settle at last in immutable truth and justice. Nor need
we fear that we shall be too bold. Conformity is always easier than
contention ; and imitation is always easier than innovation. There
are many who delight in ease, where there is one who chooses, and
fearlessly pursues, the path of heroic duty.

Moreover, while we are expecting hopefully to see foreign customs
and institutions brought, by the influence of commerce, into confor-
mity with our own, it is quite manifest that commerce has recipro-
cating influences, tending to demoralize ourselves, and so to assimilate
our opinions, manners and customs, ultimately to those of aristocracy
and despotisni. We cannot afford to err at all on that side. We
exist as a free people only by force of our very peculiarities. They
are the legitimate peculiarities of republicanism, and, as such, are
the test -of nationality.

NatiSnality ! It is as just as it is popular. Whatever policy, in-
terest or institution is local, sectional, or foreign, must be zealously
watched and counteracted ; for it tends directly to social derange-
ment, and so to the subversion of our democratic constitution.

But it is seen at once that this nationality is identical with that
very political independence which results from a high tone of indi-
viduality on the part of the citizen. Let it have free play, then, and
so let every citizen value himself at his just worth, in body and soul ;

Vol. IV. 20


namely, not as a serf or a subject of any human authority, or the
inferior of any class, however great or wise, but as a freeman, who
is so because " Truth has made him free ; " who not only, equally
with all others, rules in the republic, but is also bound, equally with
any other, to exercise designing wisdom and executive vigor and
efficiency in the eternal duty of saving and perfecting the state.
When this nationality shall prevail, we shall no more see fashion,
wealth, social rank, political combination, or even official proscrip-
tion, effective in suppressing the utterance of mature opinions and
true convictions ; and so enforcing for brief periods, with long reac -
tions, political conformity, at the hazard of the public welfare, and
at the cost of the public virtue.

Let this nationality prevail, and .then, instead of keenly watching,
not without sinister wishes, for war or famine, the fitful skies, or the
evermore capricious diplomacy of Europe; and instead of being
hurried into unwise commercial expansion by the rise of credit there,
and then back again into exhausting convulsions and bankruptcy by
its fall, we shall have a steady and a prosperous, because it will be
an independent, internal commerce.

Let this nationality prevail, and then we shall cease to undervalue
our own farmers, mechanics, and manufacturers, and their produc-
tions ; our own science, and literature, and inventions ; our own ora-
tors and st£itesmen ; in short, our own infinite resources and all-com-
petent skill, our own virtue, and our own peculiar and justly envied

Then, I am sure that, instead of perpetually levying large and
exhausting armies, like Eussia, and without wasting wealth in emu-
lating the naval power of England, and without practising a servile
conformity to the diplomacy of courts, and without captiously seeking
frivolous occasions for making the world sensible of our importance,
we shall, by the force of our own genius and virtue, and the dignity
of freedom, take, ■with the free consent of mankind, the first place in
the great family of nations.

Grentlemen of the Institute : From the earnestness with which the
theory of free trade is perpetually urged in some quarters, one might
suppose that it was thought that the cardinal interest of the country
lay in mere exchanging of merchandise. On the contrary, of the
three great wheels of national prosperity, agriculture is the main one,
manufiicture second, and trade is the last. The cardinal interest of


this and every country is, and always must be, production. It is not
traffic, but labor alone, that converts the resources of the country into
wealth. The world has yet to see any state become great by mere
trade. It has seen many become so by the exercise of industry.

"Where there are diversified resources, and industry is applied to
only a few staples, three great interest are neglected, viz. : natural
resources, which are left unimproved ; labor, that is left unemployed ;
and internal exchanges, which a diversity of industry would render
necessary. The foreign commerce, which is based .on such a narrow
system of production, obliges the nation to sell its staples at prices
reduced by competition in foreign markets ; and to buy fabrics at
prices established by monopoly in the same markets.

This false economy crowds the culture of the few staples with ex-
cessive industry; thus rendering' labor dependent at home, while it
brings the whole nation tributary to the monopolizing manufacturer
abroad. When all, or any of the nations of Europe shall, as well as
ourselves, be found succeSsfiilly competing with England in -manu-
factures, then, and not till then, will the free trade she recommends,
be as wise for others, as she now insists. But, when that time shall
come, I venture to predict that England will cease to inculcate that

The importance of maintaining such a policy as will result in a
diversified application of industry, seems to rest on these impregnable
grounds, viz. : 1st. That the use of indigenous materials does not
diminish, but on the contrary, increases the public wealth. 2d. That
society is constituted so, that individuals voluntarily classify them-
selves in all, and not in a few, departments of industry, by reason
of a distributive congeniality of tastes and adaptation of powers ; and
that while labor so distributed is more profitable, the general content-
ment and independence of the people is secured and preserved, and-
their enterprise is stimulated and sustained.

I think it must be confessed now, by all candid observers within
our country, that manufactures have become in a degree the exclu-
sive employment of the. citizens of the Eastern States ; and yet they
are precarious, and comparatively unprofitable, because our own
patronage, so generously discriminating in favor of European manu-
factures, enables them to make the desired fabrics sometimes at less
cost : that the citizens of the Middle and Western States, are con-
fined chiefly to the raising of staple breadstuff's, for which, while


they have a great excess above the home consumption, resulting
from the neglect of domestic manufactures, they find a market almost
overstocked with similar productions, raised in countries as peculiarly
agricultural as out own ; and that the citizens of the Southern States
restrict themselves chiefly to the culture of cotton, of which, practi-
cally, they have the monopoly ; that the annual enlargement of the
cotton culture tends to depress its price, and that they pay more
dearly for the fabrics which they use, than would be necessary if our
own manufactures could better maintain a competition with those of

These inconveniences would indeed become intolerable evils, if
they were not compensated in some measure by the great increase of
wealth resulting from the immigration of foreign labor ; and by the
establishment of a new and prosperous gold trade between the Atlan-
tic States and California.

Why should these inconveniences be endured ? Certainly not be-
cause we do not know that they are unnecessary. "We jealously
guard our culture of breadstuffs and sugar against the competition
of the foreign farmer and planter in our own markets. Practically,
our gold mining is equally protected. We also give an exclusive
preference in our internal commerce to our own shipping. No
one questions the advantages derived from these great departments
of production. But it is not easy to see how the equally success-
ful opening of other domestic resources should not be equally bene-
ficial. •

Why should it be less profitable to supply ourselves with copper,
iron, glass and paper from our own resources, and by our own in-
dustry, than it is to supply ourselves in the same way with flour,
sugar and gold? Why should it not be as economical to manufac-
■ture our own cotton, wool, iron and gold, as it is to manufacture our
own furniture, wooden clocks and ships ? If mining and manufac-
tures generally were not profitable in England, they would not be
prosecuted there. If they are profitable there, they would be profit-
able here.' You reply that manufacturing labor is cheaper there.
Yes, because you leave it there. If you offer inducements, it wUl
come here just as freely as agricultural labor now comes. The ocean
is reduced to a ferry. If you must depend on foreign skill for fab-
rics, I pray you bring that skill here, where you can sustain it with
greater economy.


The advocates of dependence on foreign manufactures tell us that it
is as well to sell gold and buy iron, as it would be to sell iron to buy
gold. I reply, 1st. That, to the extent of our necessary consumption,
having exhaustless resources and adequate industry or ability to
procure both, we ought to buy neither. 2d. When Boulton, the
associate of the great Watt, showed his iron manufactory, he said,
" I sell here what all men are anxious to buy, Power." It has been
proved that a nation may sell gold for iron without gaining power,
as many a nation has bought iron without securing it. But it is
clear, that the nation that makes its own iron creates its own power.

It seems to be understood by the advocates of foreign manufac-
tures here, that only those branches languish which have not suffi-
cient vigor to be brought to maturity, by never so much protection.
This is opposed to the experience of all mankind. There is not, in
France or in England, a successful culture or manufacture that has
not been made so by the application of national protection and
pdltronage. The manufacturers of England are sustained, even now,
by the sacrifice of agricultural labor there. The dechne of agricul-
ture is proved by a rapidly increasing emigration from the British
islands. What England calls free trade is, indeed, a new form of
protection, but it is protection, nevertheless. She finds it equally
efiE'ective and expensive. British commerce and British manufactures
do indeed flourish, but British empire declines. The decline is seen !
in the tameness of England, .now, toward Russia, France, and our
own country, compared with the different attitude she maintained
against all offending powers in the age of the elder Pitt and the
younger Pitt.

It is insisted, however, that encouragement yielded to the industry
of one class of citizens is partial and injurious to that of others.
This cannot be in any just sense true, since the prosperity and vigor
of each class depend in a great degree on the prosperity and vigor
of all the industrial classes. But all experience shows, that if govern-
ment do not favor domestic enterprise, its negative policy will benefit
some foreign monopoly, which, of all class legislation, is most inju-
rious and least excusable.

Once more, it is said that the present system must be right, because
predictions of disasters that should result from it have been falsified,
I do not dwell on the signs whic& seem now to portend a fearful
fulfillment, nevertheless, of those predictions. Let it suffice to say,


tliat it is as common an error to look prematurely for the blights
which must follow erroneous culture, as it is to expect propitious
fruits from that which is judicious. This nation is youthful and
vigorous. It cannot now suffer long and deeply from any cause, for
it has great recuperative energies. It is not destined to an immedi-
ate fall, or even to early decline. It is the part of wisdom, never-
theless, not to try how much of erroneous administration it can bear,
but to adapt our policy always so as to favor the most complete and
lasting success of the republic.

Gentlemen of the Institute: I refrain from discussing the details
of a protective policy. Circumstances are hastening a necessity for
an exajnination of them, in another place, where action follows de-
bate, and is effective. I shall not be absent nor idle there. But
I will not attempt to delude either myself or you into the belief that
the opinions I have expressed, which, I trust, in some degree corres-
pond with your own, will soon "become fully engrafted into the
policy of the government. I shall perform my duty better by show-
ing you that it is not wise to expect, nor even absolutely necessary
to depend on, the exercise of a just patronage of our industry by
the government.

This republic, although constituting one nation, partakes of the
form of a confederation of many states, and, for the purpose of secu-
ring acquiescence, allows great power to minorities. Although there
is no real antagonism of interests, there is, nevertheless, a wide diverg-
ence of opinion concerning those interests, resulting from the differ-
ent degrees of maturity and development reached in the several
states. Massachusetts and Yirginia, New York and South Carolina,
scarcely differ in their ages ; but, nevertheless, they differ in their
industrial systems as widely as Pennsylvania and Arkansas. The
old free states have passed throiigh the stages at which the merely
agricultural and planting states have only arrived. It would practi-
cally be as impossible to bring these latter, states immediately up
to our proper policy, as it would be to carry us backward to the
system whioh they are pursuing. They will resist all such efforts,
earnestly and perseveringly, so long as they shall feel that they are
unable, like us, to distribute their industry, and so to share in the
benefits of that policy.. All that we can expect, under such circum-
stances, from the government, is some occasional and partial modifi-
cation of its financial policy, so as to favor the success of the efforts


of the friends of home industry in establishing it on a safe basis,
without the immediate and direct aid of congress. And this will be
sufficient. It is not yet forty years since New York applied in vain
to the United States to construct the Erie canal, which was acknow-
ledged to be the incipient measure in a system of internal improve-
ments to be coextensive with the republic. Now, not only that canal
has been built, but the whole system is in a train of accomplishment,
although congress has not only never adopted, but has almost con-
stantly repudiated it. Private and corporate enterprise, sustained by
the states, has worked out what the federal government has refused
to undertake. The same agencies will establish the American sys-
tem. Capital, labor, science, skill, are augmenting here. Power is
daily becoming cheaper, and consumption more extensive. New
Hampshire, Massachusetts, Khode Island, Connecticut, Vermont,
New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and
Ohio, have become manufacturing states. The advantages resulting
from the policy are indicated, not more by the universal improve-
ment of the agricultural districts in these states, than by the pros-
perity and growth of their towns and cities. Here are Boston,
Lowell, Lawrence, Springfield, Providence, New Haven, Rutland,
Bennington, New York, Albany, Troj, Rochester and Buffalo, Phila-
delphia and Pittsburgh, Newark and Paterson, Wilmington and Bal-
timore, Cincinnati and Cleveland ; contrast with them the towns and
cities of those states which practically adhere to the policy of em-
ploying foreign industry, and you see plainly the results of that
error. This contrast excites inquiry, and inquiry will go on, until
it shall correct the great mistake, and introduce universal emulation.
Persevere, then, Gentlemen of the Institute ; for, while you are
represented as hindering the prosperity of the country, you, and
none so much as you,- are securing it, and rendering it universal.
While you are regarded as favoring privileges and monopolies, you,
and none so much as you, are counteracting pauperism and class
legislation. While you are censured for opposing the interests of
commerce, you, and none so much as you, are laying sure founda-
tions for a commerce that shall be broad as the limits of the earth,
and lasting as the necessities and the enterprise of mankind. While
you are represented as checking the rising greatness of the nation,
you, and only you, by lifting labor to its rightful rank, are elevating
the republic to true and lasting independence.


A POLITICAL discourse may seem out of time and out of place at
a classic festival and in academic groves. Nevertheless, the office
of instructor to a prince brought something more of dignity even to
the learning and piety of Fenelon. To study the forces and ten-
dency of a republic which is not obscure, cannot, therefore, at any
time or in any place, be unbecoming an association which regards
universal philosophy as the proper guide of human life.

Nations are intelligent, moral persons, existing for the ends of their
own happiness and the improvement of mankind. They grow,
mature, and decline. Their physical development, being most obvi-
ous, always attracts our attention first. Certainly we cannot too well
understand the material condition of our own country. " I think,"
said Burke, sadly, addressing the British house of commons, just
after the American war, " I think I can trace all the calamities of
this country to the single source of not having had steadily before
our eyes a general, comprehensive, well connected, and well propor-
tioned view of the whole of our dominions, and a just sense of their
bearings and relations."

Trace on a map the early boundaries of the United States, as they
were defined by the treaty of Versailles, in 1783. See with what
jealousy Great Britain abridged their enjoyment of the fisheries on
the northeast coast, and how tenaciously she locked up against them
the St. Lawrence, the only possible channel between their inland
regions and the Atlantic ocean. Observe how Spain, while retaining
the vast and varied solitudes which spread out westward from the
Mississippi river to the Pacific ocean, at the same time assigned the
thirty-first parallel of north latitude as the southern boundary of
the United States, and thus shut them out from access by that river
or otherwise to the gulf of Mexico. See now how the massive and

' An AddreBB before the PM Beta Kappa Society of Tale College : New Haven, July 26, 1854.


anpassable Alleghany mountains traversed the new republic from
north to south, dividing it into two regions — the inner one rich in
agricultural resources, but without markets ; and the outer one
adapted to defense and markets, but wanting the materials for com-
merce. Were not the Europeans astute in thus confining the United

Online LibraryWilliam Henry SewardThe works of William H. Seward → online text (page 17 of 74)