« PreviousContinue »
Our Country's Good.
With a deep concern for the welfare of our country, and a thorough conviction that its interests require a change in the policy of our government, the writer has penned the following pages :
There are few men whose actual experience ought to have enabled them to form a more correct judgment. How far those opportunities have been profitably used, he is of course not a proper judge.—With the same, no doubt, any ordinarily intelligent mind, would have made out a better case. But the evidences presented to the writer by his transactions, his travels and observations, have been such as to cause him most anxiously to wish, that by a sort of Daguerreotype operation, he could transfer to other minds the very views which have been imprinted on his owh. To attempt now to interest the public in a subject, which has become so stale and threadbare, that the very sight of a caption to an essay on the subject of protection is sufficient to prevent its being read, requires some boldness. Disheartening indeed then, is the feeling, with which the writer makes this effort-as he is aware, that nothing short of a treatise of fatiguing length for the ordinary reader can cover the necessary ground to a proper comprehension of the subject. And while every reader will believe, that the subject has been long exhausted--that no new view can be presented, how can it be hoped that he will take hold of such a piece as this. Or rather, the reader thus far will say—how unreasonable is it in any writer now, to suppose that he can hope any further to interest the public mind on the subject. It is almost unreasonable to hope it I admit, and yet, sensible that infinite injury is resulting from the policy now being pursued, the mind so convinced is unhappy, if not permitted to unload itself of the reasons for that conviction, and to give the reasons for believing, that a change would be beneficial; reasons possibly not stronger than have been given ten times over before. But there is one novelty in those reasons—they are founded upon incidents and events in a great measure, of actual occurrence to the personal knowledge of the writer, and having some interest in themselves, independent of the subject, to which they relate.
Te writer knows, that all partizan arguments avail nothing His object is to convince the understanding by a calm, candid and dispassionate view of the subject. Also, he desires so to do it, as to be as little fatiguing as possible to the mind. With this object he has chosen the style of dialogue, the better to have all phases of the subject in its progress thoroughly examined and investigated. He has exerted himself to collect all the strongest arguments which he has ever heard used against protection, and endeavored to answer them calmly, candidly, and dispassionately; and to show the effects of the two systems in contrast. If he has not done justice to the Free Trade side of the question, it has been because he has not heard of stronger arguments to sustain it than he has brought forward. His aim has been just.
OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD.
Dialogue between Free Trader and Protectionist. F. Well, friend P., I see from the last quarter's return of imports collected, that our treasury is in an overflowing conditionnever was it more flourishing. Commerce, and agriculture too, seem to be equally thriving. Labor is bearing a fine price, prcperty rising in value-never have I known our country in a more prosperous condition, and this too 'under our free trade policy, which you protectionists so much condemn.
P. I am glad, friend F., that you seem in a humor for talking on this subject, and as, to you, all signs seem to sustain the policy of free trade, you will no doubt be willing to enter calmly and dispassionately into a consideration of that policy.-I profess to desire that policy which is for our country's good-I believe you do. Suppose now we agree to take up this subject with a view to ascertain the truth, and not with a view to mere controversy; let us endeavor as far as our natures will admit of it, to be candid, magnanimously on each side admit our errors if satisfied of them and give full credit to each others arguments.
F. Agreed! I know the power of party feeling, and how prone we are, in listening to the arguments of opponents, to seek merely to controvert, and not for the truth. But your tone and manner indicate a sincere desire for learning the truth, and I assure you I am in search of it, and although sincerely of opinion, that free trade is the policy of wisdom, and of justice, and that any trammeling of the intercourse between nations by what you call protection, is not only a narrow and unjust policy—but it is in part, taxing one portion of our people, for the benefit of another, an offensive policy which I do not think the enlightened people of the United States ever will sudmit to-& policy which in our age of progress, will soon be looked back upon as monstrous, and the wonder will be that enlightened men ever could have been fourd to favor it. Nevertheless I am disposed to give full credit to your patriotism and sincerity, and I will most willingly hear all you have to say in its favor, and promise to give full credit to any argument you may bring forward. So let us hear what you have
P. To begin, and follow you backwards, I would say—If you are disposed to settle the question by the names of enlightened men who have favored the two policies, I think I can outweigh you.—From Washington down to Andrew Jackson, every President has warmly recommended the protection of home industrythe fostering of domestic manufactures--and if any one of our Presidents has been preeminently marked for emphatically recommending it more than any other, it has been General Jackson.
But of the men now on the political theatre, Clay, Webster, Fillmore, Corwin, Clayton, &c., where do you find their equals on your side who sustain free trade against protection. And sir, take any state in the Union, except South Carolina, and I think if you will be candid, you will allow, the weight of talent is against you. But this is not argument-I only say so much, in reply to your remark about the opinions of enlightened men. I will now return, and follow you from the beginning through. The present condition of our country furnishes, I admit, an argument apparently in your favor, because it is by the fruit that we should judge the tree, and there certainly is at this time a great appearance of prosperity, and I am willing to give the credit to free trade, unless I can show that it belongs to other causes. In 1847-8 the famine in Ireland and short crop in England-there being no redundancy in Europe, gave an immense demand for our bread stuffs, and caused a great influx of capital upon us. This raised the price of all agricultural products, and so completely drained us, that the succeeding crops have not yet brought down the prices again to their usual mark. This is too, in some degree owing to the settlement of California, which has aided in giving a market for our bread stuffs.—Another reason is, that the temporary prosperity caused by the events named, has given a renewed impulse to rail road improvements, drawing off hands from being producers of bread stuffs—and by their consumption furnishing a market. Another cause, the high price of breadstuffs, drew off labor from the culture of tobacco, and by causing a short crop, produced a high price in that article, which in turn causd a withdrawal of labor from breadstuffs, and tended to keep them up. These are the causes, which give us an apparent temporary prosperity, indeed a real prosperity, except so far as it is being marred by the effects of free trade.
But that the free trade system has no agency in producing it, I can plainly show. If the free trade system has had any agency in producing it, it must be, because that system has so far extended our foreign demand for the products of our country, as to have given increased demand for home labor, and have returned a corresponding reward in money. Now is such the fact? So far from it, that although England during the last
year has imported of grain of all kinds about seventy two millions of bushels, only about six and a half millions went from the United States, being not half a bushel each for every farmer in our country. Is a market for half a bushel each, to our farmers a sufficient boon for destroying our own manufactories ? Let us see what is the actual gain. Suppose the grain brought 20 cents per bushel more which was exported, than that which was not; after deducting all charges—this would be a gain of ten cents to every farmer, as compensation to him for breaking down his manufactories at home. Would you call this an equivalent for throwing hundreds of thousands of men and women out of employment, and for giving up our market for manufactures to England, to which our own manufacturers ought to be entitled?
F. But you take our export of breadstuffs only—there is our cotton, tobacco, and other products, altogether reaching perhaps to one hundred and fifty millions of dollars.
P. I take bread stuffs only, because that class of exports and provision are alone affected by the free trade system—all other demands were the same heretofore as now, and are taxed in the same way, I mean essentially-Tobacco is taxed about seventy two cents per pound now, and was taxed no more heretofore. Cotton is not taxed, and has not been for a long time—not since the competition of our own manufacturers, produced by home protection, became so close, that the English government saw that every weight carried by their manufacturing interest must be thrown off to give their manufacturers an advantage over oursTo this protection, is the cotton planter indebted, for the repeal of the tax on cotton in England—and to the same protection continued to 1846 are our agriculturists indebted for the repeal of the Corn and Navigation Laws-because every year our manufacturers were trenching upon the custom of theirs.
F. Do I understand you then to say, that the heavier we tax England, the more we incline her to take the tax from us?
P. Not the more we incline her—but the more we force her. As to any inclination of England to favor us, or to do any thing except for her own interest, in her intercourse with us, he must be green indeed who can believe it. The United States furnish a better market for England than any other country on earth-almost equal to all her other markets. And she would make us believe that of late she has imbibed a great love for us—but it is the
love which the wolf has for the lamb. It is mathematically demonstrable, that the repeal of the tax on cotton, as well as of the corn and navigation laws, has been forced on England, by the protection which we gave to our own manufacturers. Let her, England, sufficiently prostrate them, and she can then reinstate her corn laws and cotton tax.
F. You tell me, we only exported last year to England six and a half millions of bushels of grain. Why, are you not mistaken, when you say she imported seventy two millions. P. I have not seen an official report on the subject, and
I venture the statement upon the authority of the newspapers, but I presume it to be correct, as I know France, the countries on the Baltic, the Mediterranian and the Black Sea, can undersell us, and unless in case of short crops in Europe, we can have no reliance on supplying England with bread stuffs. And in fact of averge years, England can nearly supply herself, and wants very little from abroad.
F. According to your view then, the repeal of the corn laws of England was of no advantage to us.
P. About the same advantage which a man's corn crib is to his hogs, where he can afford but a nubbin a day to each, barely enough to keep life in them, but enough to keep them always squealing about the pen; whereas if they had not this nubbin to hope for, they would go into the woods, rely on themselves, and get fat
upon roots and the mast. In a word, the repeal of the English corn laws has held out a false hope to us, which never has, and never can be realized, because, if there is any demand to supply, the inhabitants of the Baltic, Mediterranean and Black Sea countries are nearer than we are, can sooner meet the demand, and can do it cheaper. The repeal of the corn laws is of no value to us whatever. "If I could have my way, I would prefer that they should be reenacted to-morrow, as then we would not be deceived by a shadow as now—where there is no good really resulting.
F. But are you not mistaken about those people being able to undersell us in England, we having so boundless an extent of fertile country, and land so cheap-Whereas their country is represented to be very poor, and the land very high. Labor is cheap to be sure, but does that balance our greater fertility of soil, and cheapness of land ?
P. There is no arguing against facts.--You may find reasons why it ought not to be so, but they fail against facts—it is so beyond all doubt. In 1849 I crossed the German Ocean, from Edinburgh to Hamburg with a Scotch merchant, going there to buy wheat. On the day after his arrival he informed me he had purchased a cargo, of first quality, to be shipped from Bremen to Glasgow at a cost of twenty nine shillings sterling per quarter of