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accumulated was concerned, it could be disposed of only in the usual course of consumption, and production in the meantime necessarily ceased far enough to allow the markets to be cleared. Thus, the distress of the agriculturalists was greatly deepened. Their efforts to extricate themselves from embarrassments, though they brought no complete extrication, had yet occasioned a glut; but now, under the peculiar Americanism of this system, their efforts were to cease, or be greatly diminished, and the embarrassments to go on increasing. Such was the inevitable result, and such the nation found it.
But this was not all. Another view of the system was, to transfer enough of the population from the production of the raw material to the business of manufacturing, to prevent thereafter a like excess of the former commodities. The population thus transferred were composed, in part, of the producers themselves, and partly of their laborers. The former could change their vocation, only after having transformed their old capital into money. This, how ever, could be effected solely by throwing it all into the market, and thus a glut of another kind was occasioned. Farms, and whatever else had been employed in production, were sold at such prices as they would fetch; and the purchasers were enabled to enter into competition with those who had bought earlier and at a heavier cost, with every advantage in their favor. This, therefore, brought upon the old proprietors a new aggravation of their calamities. Distressed already nearly to ruin, they now found themselves amid a new class of neighbors, by whom they were in everything underbid.
But, so far as the new manufacturing community was composed of the laborers formerly employed by the producers, a different evil was occasioned to the latter. Just as the number of laborers diminished, the price of labor Thus production, besides the overwhelming burdens already imposed upon it, was subjected to the additional one of an increased expense.
Nor did the accumulating evils of the system stop here. The great suffering of the times arose from the want of money. The banks were breaking or already broken. Specie had, in the convulsive struggles of
these institutions for life, almost disappeared from circulation. All the other distresses of the time resolved themselves into this one-the dearth of cash. Yet it was a part of this wondrous system to withdraw from circulation enough of the little already circulating, to build up an entire manufacturing interest in the country. Thus, since there will always be a just relation between prices and the amount of circulating medium, and, since the former inevitably fall exactly as the latter is diminished, the producers were subjected to a yet further ruinous depression.
Yet even all this had been more endurable, if the manufactures produced at SO enormous a cost, had been brought into market either as cheaply or of as good quality as those with which foreign countries would have supplied us. But they were neither. The whole system was unnatural and of a hot-bed growth. For, had it been natural, it had sprung up of itself without any of this extraordinary effort to give it what, after all, was only a sickly life. Since this was the beginning of the system, those who had embarked in the business were chiefly experimenters, and, like all others of the class, wrought at a sacrifice. They had neither the perfect theory nor the skilful practice; and the enormity of the wastage could only be supplied by an equal enormity of price. The workmen, too, were raw, learning their art either wholly without teachers, or with teachers ignorant as themselves. Besides this, they began to acquire the mysterious sleights of the loom and shuttle, for the most part, at a period of life when the acquisition of new tricks is proverbially difficult. And the rest of the nation were justly consoled for all the distress and privation they had undergone to establish the system, by the reflection that they were supplied with an article of domestic manufacture, four times as bad as the foreign one which they had been accustomed, at one quarter of the present cost, to buy.
Such was the transition state towards the American system. In a time of the highest prosperity, a change like this could not have happened, without giving a fearful shock to every interest in the country. But here the wisdom of the time equalled
the wisdom of the plan. When every interest was already staggered almost to its fall, an additional and more vio lent blow was given, in order to place it, of course, once more erect, just as drunken men are sometimes made to stand up, simply by knocking them down. Nevertheless, these evils of the transition might have been better endured, if the system itself, the transition once passed, could in its nature be of general benefit. But it cannot. The domestic article cannot be furnished at the same price as the foreign, else no tariff would be necessary. And the difference is the tribute which the consumer pays to the system. This tribute is a positive evil, and unless there be a full compensation for it, furnished either to the consumer, or to some other part, or to the whole of the nation, the system is of course bad, and should be swept away. But it does not compensate the consumer, for he obtains either a worse article at the same, or an equal article at a greater cost. Either way, therefore, he is a loser. And even if it benefited the manufacturer, to the same extent as it harmed the consumer, still it would belong to that kind of national acts, by which one class is extorted from, for the unearned advantage of another; and would, therefore, be unequal as partiality, and unjust as robbery. But it does not thus benefit even him. For the consumers, by the instinct of selfinterest, and sometimes by a nobler motive, are impelled to resistance. This is accomplished in various ways. Some who would otherwise be consumers, are unable to buy at the enhanced price. Others buy less; others smuggle, and all charge up the price of what they have to sell, whether of labor or other commodities. And in the end, by the diminished market and the increased cost, the manufacturer finds himself driven to implore the legislature for further protection, an increased tariff, and heavier penalties on the evasions of the customs. He succeeds in all, suppose. For a time, he drives once more a profitable business; but soon the class from whom his plunder is to come, have by the same process adjusted matters again, and brought him to his knees for yet further protection. In 1816, the first protective tariff was enacted. Those who were already, and those who
thought of becoming manufacturers, were satisfied. But in 1820, more protection was needed. The bill giving it, passed the House, but failed in the Senate, by a single vote. The manufacturers paused for a time, disheart ened, took breath, looked about, saw the country just on the verge of ruin, made a fresh effort, and the tariff of 1824 became a law. Again they prospered, again ceased to prosper, again began to decline, again saw the country in greater peril than ever, again assaulted Congress, and in 1828 the Bill of Abominations was the result. In England and America, the average exacerbations of the fever for protection have been once in four years. Thus, to the manufacturer himself, protection gives no compensation for the ills it inflicts upon the rest of society.
If then, neither the consumer, nor yet the manufacturer, is profited by these restrictive measures, the question may well be asked, who is? Yet like all oppressions, when the elements of society remain in order,-where courts mete out to all, impartially, such justice as the laws afford, and physical violence and rapine are promptly repressed,-there, imposts, taxation, and all permanent commercial restrictions, do undoubtedly give a kind of stimulus to labor, and tend to increase the amount of production, though they impair the profits and enjoyments of the producers. The prin ciple is this. In Turkey, where there is little law, and where rapine is frequent, and labor has no certainty of its reward, there is little motive for exertion, because no one can tell whether the strong arm of some marauder may not in a moment wrest away all which that exertion may have produced. But in England, where the machinery for the distribution of law operates equally on all classes, where general plunder is arrested, and where her oppressive imposts for revenue, or protection, or whatever other object, act with regu larity, can be foreseen, and calculated upon and provided for, there every man may rely, with all human certainty, upon the probability, that, after paying the taxes, in whatever shape they may come, he may enjoy the surplus in peace. It is true, that to the extent of these taxes, whether they go directly to the Government, or to the landlord, or to the protected classes, the toil and
labor are, as to the payer, all for naught. Yet the surplus, if any can be acquired, is sure; but acquired it must be, or starvation will ensue, at least to the manual laborer. If, therefore, eight hours a day of hard toil will not furnish him oatmeal, with salt and water, enough to keep soul and body in the same immediate neighborhood, he will toil yet harder eighteen hours. And, if even this will not suffice, then his wife, and infant girls and boys, must toil and delve along with him. Live he must; and the enormous increase which labor, thus protracted and goaded on, can give to production, is easily seen. And paradoxical as the assertion may appear, yet there can be little question but that Great Britain is thus indebted for a great, perhaps the greatest part of her manufacturing, agricultural, and commercial productiveness, to her tariff, her enormous debt, her wasteful aristocracy, and the heavy imposts rendered necessary for the support, not only of her naval and military establishment, but of her throne. For, the same spur of necessity which goads on the laborer, urges also those who are ambitious not merely to live, but to accumulate. Industry that never tires, economy that allows not the waste of a groat, enterprise that leaves no opportunity of gain unimproved, no possible lurking-place of wealth unexplored, infuse themselves into every department of production. The heath grows fertile, the fen becomes dry, factories multiply, mines open, and the hidden recesses beneath are ransacked, while ships are careering to and fro, everywhere, on the ocean and round the globe, hurrying away with the surplus created at home, or hurrying back with the stores which other surplus may have bought. And every additional million of impost, to a limit, infuses yet newer vigor into all this overwrought activity. And the poor laborer at the bottom, by whom the whole system is kept in motion, as those above him guide, adds fresh force to his failing nerves, and fresh speed to his faltering motions, drops the salt from his oatmeal and water, changes his eighteen hours of toil to twenty, and his wife, and girls, and boys, along with him, compelled to this, either die off, or 'fly to the poorrates, more galling than death,
In this sense, and in this alone, and that only to a limited extent, increase of burden bestows increase of strength. In this way, and in this alone, tariffs, and national debts, and extravagant expenditures, and a spendthrift aristocracy, stimulate national exertion. Great Britain, by the hundreds and hundreds of millions on all these objects annually squandered, wrings from the brows of her subjects round the globe sweat otherwise unshed, enough to float half her navies. Yet, if these hundreds and hundreds of millions were left where they were earned, and enjoyed by those from whose labors they sprung; were the laborers allowed time to straighten up occasionally amid their toil; and needful rest suffered to go round among them; and comfort to meet them on terms of good acquaintanceship, and life to become an enjoyment, when it has served no end but wretchedness,-then, undoubtedly, production would fall away; not indeed to the extent of the burdens removed, but to an extent sufficient to give the producers such rest, and comfort, and pleasures, as well consist with health, economy, and thrift. Still, although increase of burden may in this way bring increase of production, yet, until it bring also increase of happiness, nations will, if they know their interests, be shy of that kind of blessing. For, although production may increase, still it becomes less profitable, and at length altogether unprofitable to the producers. Because, if a thousand millions be the annual production of a state, and if for any causes an annual tax of fifty millions be imposed, then, though the products of the ensu ing year would undoubtedly exceed the first amount, they would greatly fall short of both. And the tax would be paid, by making up the deficiency out of what would have been enjoyed or accumulated from the average production. And the quantity thus subtracted would grow larger, just as the impost should be increased; and the enjoyment, and happiness, and the average accumulation by the people grow less. Make the impost heavier and still heavier, and exertion will continue to increase, and enjoyment to diminish. And though that people may practise all arts, and bring to perfection all manufactures, and range round the world and carry on all com
merce, in order to pay off its taxes and bear its burdens, yet it cannot be happy. Its mighty trade, and teeming factories, and busy population, and enormous revenues, form the proof, not of prosperity, but oppression. Meanwhile, every fresh imposition gives it a fresh acceleration to the fearful verge of human endurance, where discontent, and jealousy, and impatience of misrule, and, at length, open revolt, and finally, revolution itself, will perform their appropriate functions. It is on that verge, and from these causes, that Great Britain stands now. who rule her see the peril. Others foresaw it twenty-five years ago, and prescribed a remedy. That remedy was to cast off her burdens, to diminish her naval, military, and regal establishments, to contract the enormous extravagance of her expenditures, to throw open her harbors, to let in the bread of the world to her starving population, and thus to leave her laboring people some share of the mighty wealth they were creating. With an unsteady and reluctant hand, this remedy has been in some small degree applied. But the appalling danger has not yet vanished, nor vanish will it ever, until she lifts up the downtrodden, gives opportunity of rest to the overtasked frames of her laboring millions, and leaves it to themselves, whether the fruit of their own toil, or some share of it, shall not minister to their own comforts, and accumulate for the wants of their age, and give chance of education to their children, now as little cared for, and no thanks to Government if not as soulless,-as the machines they tend. And those who copy her example, may as well take warning from her danger, and be on the look-out for her doom; unless, indeed, that doom be averted by retracing her steps, and undoing for herself all which that example may prescribe to others.
This protective system of ours, therefore, was not only fraught with ruin, in consequence of the time as well as the nature of the transition, but the transition itself once passed, is, in its very nature, productive of nothing but evil, and that continually.
This measure, as we have already
suggested, had its origin in a desire to escape from the inconveniences, temporary, of course, in their nature, which followed the restoration of peace to the world in 1815. Any experiment was willingly tried which would only make promises of success. The restrictive system had at an early day, almost at the revival of business in the dark ages, been adopted in Europe. And either in consequence or in spite of those restrictions, whatever trade, agriculture and manufactures, that continent or any of its nations enjoyed, had been produced. At all events, the prosperity was in point of time subsequent to the imposition of shackles on trade; and with many the argument, postea ergo propter, is invincible.
Accordingly, no sooner had the overaction, the lavish expenditures and high prices of the war, been followed by a corresponding languor, than many forgot their jealousy of foreigners, and began to desire that the European restrictive system should be naturalized among us. The interest of these was early espoused by Mr. Clay; and, as he happened to be their ablest champion, so they have gratefully termed him the Father of the system. But when it is recollected that this system was introduced into England as early as the year 1261,* no one will longer doubt the fact heretofore deemed incredible, that a parent may be some centuries younger than his child. And when it is remembered that the sole, or at least the chief argument for the adoption of the measure here, was, that Europe had adopted it before; and when we call to mind that Mr. Clay in his two speeches on the subject, more than twenty times appealed to the example of England alone, to say nothing of France, Spain, Russia or any other country, it may be difficult to trace the process of thought by which the conclusion was arrived at, that this imported system was purely American, and its friends, the friends of the American system, and its opponents the advocates of a foreign policy. Certain it is, that this singular distribution of terms sadly puzzled Mr. Webster; and it was in such words as these, that he showed how severely it tasked his understanding. "Indeed, it is a little astonish
Hallam's Middle Ages.
ing, if it seemed convenient to Mr. Speaker, for the purposes of distinction, to make use of the terms 'American Policy' and Foreign Policy,' that he should not, in fact, have applied them in a manner precisely the reverse of that in which he has in fact used them. If names are thought necessary, it would be well, one would think, that the name should be in some degree descriptive of the thing; and since he denominates the policy he recommends 'a new policy in this country,' since he speaks of the present measure as a new era in our legislation, since he invites us to depart from our accustomed course, to instruct ourselves by the wisdom of others, and to adopt the policy of the most distinguished foreign states, one is a little curious to know with what propriety of speech this imitation of other nations is denominated an 'American policy,' while on the contrary, a preference of our established system, as it now actually exists, and always has existed, is called a 'foreign policy.' This favorite 'American policy,' is what America has never tried, and this odious foreign policy' is what, we are told, foreign states have never pursued."+
Yet, undoubtedly, there are at this day thousands of gentlemen, quite intelligent in their own estimation, who really believe that a system like this could have lived nowhere but in the free air of America; nay, who are ready to swear it, that this same system, a very Minerva, came forth, full sized, and full armed, from the teeming brain of the Western Jupiter; and all this without giving the slightest head-ache.
But this imitation of Europe was purely remedial. Indeed, it was upon this very ground that Mr. Clay himself advocated it. Both speeches magnify the distress. The first, delivered in 1820, dwells less, however, upon it, because, though it had even then in some degree subsided, yet what remain ed was real, was seen and felt by all, and needed little painting or rhetoric to make it fully applicable. But when the second was spoken, four years later, it had nearly or altogether disappeared,
and therefore required more effort to call it up to the memory with sufficient vividness. But to this effort Mr. Clay was equal. Indeed, the paragraphs devoted to distress, in this speech, are more likely than any others he ever uttered, to give those who shall deeply ponder them a generation or two hence, any adequate conception of the Orator's power. In fact, it is well remembered still, how hundreds, not of members merely, but of those who on that occasion crowded the lobby, were agonized at their own and the country's distress, themselves having for a good two or three years forgotten it till then. For ourselves, we can well imagine the surpassing tenderness of that scene, the plaintive tone, and subdued manner, and pallid brow, and suffused eye, and gentle tear, and overwhelming pathos with which that tear was wiped away. It was this which drew from Mr. Webster the merited tribute already quoted, to Mr. Clay's unrivalled powers of tragedy.
Such was the national suffering, real and imaginary, which the measure was to cure, then existing, and to prevent in future. Yet it had, at least, been natural to inquire whether the medicine which was to do such wonderful cures, and which, we have seen, did, in fact, physic us so awfully, had been of power to cure or prevent the like maladies in the countries whence we were about to import it. For, though the system of commercial restrictions had there been for centuries in force, if, nevertheless, Europe, on every transition from war to peace, suffered the same revulsions which we were suffering, it would seem to follow, that these restrictions, whatever else they might do, did not in fact prevent those revulsions. If so, then the remedy we were to apply had neither prevented nor cured the same disease in anybody else; and the only reason we had for trying it, had been that others had tried it in vain.
To this test, then, we appeal. And how much of European history has he learned, who does not know, that without one single exception, the like results, varying only in degree, as the
Mr. Clay was then, 1824, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
† Speech upon the Tariff, 1824.
See pages 221, 222, and 223.