Page images

the representatives of the people, to permit him to charge two hundred and fifty of his fellow citizens half a dollar a yard more for his broad cloth than they pay at present, in order to encourage this one man's manufacture of broad cloth. Truly this is a very modest request! it puts me in mind of a noted passage, containing a petition equally reasonable in one of Dryden's plays,

Ye Gods! annihilate but space and time,

And make two lovers happy! Again, I should be glad to know whether congress meeting for the good of the nation, and having no power to lay unequal burthens on the people, have a right, thus to foster the projects of one man at the expense of two hundred and fifty?

But it is not one man who is concerned in this attempt to tax two hundred and fifty of his fellow citizens: it is not the manufacturer of broad cloth alone: the cotton spinner, the muslin manufacturer, the fabricator of jeans, jeanets, velvets, velveteens, kerseys, kerseynets, calicoes, shirtings, nankeens, &c. &c. &c. apply for the same privilege. They are followed by the dyer, the bleacher, the calicoe printer, the iron founder, the copper smelter, the brass manufacturer, the tin plate maker, and a hundred others whose names I cannot recollect or enumerate, all of whom look upon the unfortunate two hundred and fifty agriculturists and persons living on salaries, as their proper prey; just as a flock of geese is eyed by a fox, so that the asked for tariff of prohibition, operates as a tax on the two hundred and fifty planters, not in one way, but a hundred ways. Have not the two hundred and fifty farmers a right to say to their representatives in congress, gentlemen, if you compel us to buy our clothing of Mr. A. at a higher rate than we now give for it, you tax us, not for a national benefit, but for his benefit.

Again. I presume the persons concerned in commerce, have as much claim to be protected as the manufacturers; and to do them justice they are not a whit behind hand with their rivals, in clamours for protection, I run no hazard in asserting, that

every war this nation has actually been engaged in, has been incited by the mercantile interest, and every war she is likely to be engaged in for the future, will probably be excited by the clamours of the mer. chants, or the clamours of the manufacturers. Both the one class and the other consist of an organized restless, noisy, complaining, remonstrating, begging, petitioning, demanding, ever-craving set of men, who from their gregarious and associating habits have a decided advantage over the quiet, and scattered population of plant.

With the merchant and the manufacturer, the interest of the body, is always paramount to the interest of the nation: the merchants however are satified if you create a navy and enter into wars for their protection: the manufactures call for a code of taxa. tion and penal laws. Those who will not consult, or will not credit experience on this point, may credit Puffendorf if they will, who has said it before me. Or they may look at the wars in Europe for




the last century. Even the wars of Great Britain with Bonaparte, consisted chiefly in a struggle, on one side for the maintenance, on another for the suppression of a commercial and manufacturing monopoly.

However, be this as it may, the merchants have as strong a right to demand that their interests should be protected, as the manufacturers. Especially, as the amount of property and population engaged ‘at present in commerce, is at least tenfold in our country to that employed in manufacture. But if a system of home manufacture is to be established, imports and exports, that is COMMERCE, must be diminished in proportion. Is it reasonable for the manufacturers to demand, that the mercantile interest shall be sacrificed to theirs? Employ your capital as you think best, says the merchant; but do not make a losing concern, a profitable one, by taxing the community and depressing us.

I do not dwell on the entire change, on the tenfold strictness, on the very great difficulties, such an alteration would introduce into the whole of our system of taxation and finance and into our system of custom-house regulations nor on the army of officers that will be required-or the navy of custom-house schooners, and swift sailing vessels of all descriptions that must be commissioned on the utter impossibility after all endeavours of preventing smuggling, from the eastern shore of Vermont to the western shore of lake Erie, and from St. Mrry's to the district of Mainenor on the hazard, that the necessities of government from diminish

ed duties on imports, may gradually point at the introduction of di- rect taxes and ultimately of excise. It is sufficient to suggest these

circumstances to the intelligent reader; they are difficulties of fearful magnitude, and will be felt by reflecting men.

Again. All commerce is essentially founded on reciprocity, or supposed reciprocity of advantage. To encourage our home manufacture, it is proposed to tax high the manufactures of Europe. In return, or in revenge if you please, they throw discouragements on our raw materials of cotton, rice, tobacco. What right has congress then to tax indirectly the staples of the southern states, for the sake of a handful of manufacturing speculators? For it is exactly the same whether we tax the export, or Great Britain taxes the import.

I say then, that to increase the amount of the present tariff of duties, would operate as a multifold tax on a prodigious majority of our fellow citizens, in favour of a small body of men comparatively, who may and can employ their time and their money beneficially in other pursuits: and that congress ought not to be cajoled into this unfair proceeding, on the authority of any autocrat of Russia, or king of Portugal, past, present, or to come. The measure would in the present circumstances of the country, be unjust.

But setting aside the justice or injustice of the measure, let us inquire, whether it would be expedient at this time.

Gentlemen manufacturers, can you supply the United States with the innumerable articles of manufacture they require, if all importation of manufactured articles were prohibited? Take the favourite articles of woollen and cotton. Is it in your power for these ten years to come, to supply at any price, the demand for the necessary articles of woollen and cotton clothing? Or are we, in order to foster your schemes of manufacturing monopoly, to go half naked, till you are pleased to furnish us with the coverings that climate and decency require! You know you cannot supply the demand. You are not prepared for it. Until you can, we must of necessity be supplied from other quarters. Manufactures must be introduced moderately and gradually in order to be permanent: their proper foundation, is excess of population and inability to dispose abroad of raw material. These two circumstances have not yet visited us: nor will manufactures be necessary to the cotton planter till the price of the raw material arrives at the eighth of a dollar per lb.; and it is even doubted if that price will not afford a reasonable profit to the cotton planter. It is not so reduced as yet.

Again, on the score of expedience. Although our sea port towns teem with idlers who want not merely employment but inclination to be employed, no man in his senses can pretend that this is the case in the country, where the great obstacle to cultivation is the high price of labour, and the great difficulty of procuring it at any price. Indeed, with all the outcry about people who want work in our sea ports, the evil really consists in this, that they who seek for work will not work at a reasonable price. Is there a coloured man in the streets of Philadelphia, who will hire himself under a dollar a day? Is there not a superabundance of employment for decent and industrious white women at high wages, who will condescend to be cooks, chamber-maids, or nursery-maids? It is a farce to talk about want of employment for the poor here: the fact is not so, and my readers know it. It is want of will to work, not want of work to do. Do you not (the Philadelphians) at present pay 150,000 dollars annually, under that absurd and demoralizing system called the Poor laws, to maintain the alms-house full of idlers, who ought to starve or to work?

But your sea-port towns do not constitute more than a make weight, in the scale of argument. Is there a redundant population starving for want of employment in any part of the country from Maine to the Arkansas? Is not the outcry every where, labourers are not to be procured; and if procured, the price of their labour eats up the profits of the farmer?

A system of manufactures then, will greatly increase an evil of prodigious magnitude among us. It will increase the difficulty of procuring farming servants in the country, and domestic servants: in our sea-port towns: for it must draw its labourers from situations, where labourers are actually wanted at the present moment.

That high wages given to manufacturers, will probably procure manufacturing labour, and tempt others to work who would probably live idle, I can readily allow; but the great supply must be drawn by means of high wages, from places and sources that can ill

spare the labour wanted: and upon the whole it is likely as yet to operate as a national evil in this respect rather than a benefit. Manufactures would be useful if we were over populated, but who can say that the United States are so now?

Hence it appears to me inexpedient in a high degree, to raise the price of labour upon the farming interest, by raising up the competition of manufactures: this will tend to discourage agriculture; to enhance the price of all the products of agriculture; and tax every member of the community, for the wise purpose of enabling him to buy home manufactured articles, ten per cent worse in quality, and fifty per cent higher in price, than they now are. For that this will be the case in general, I can appeal to past experience,

Again. The price of agricultural products is already too high, owing to the great deficiency of capital employed on farms. For want of capital, our farms are ill cleared, ill fenced, half tilled, and not half manured. No man can farm to reasonable profit, or even tolerably well, who does not appropriate a capital of at least five and twenty dollars an acre to the cultivation of his cleared land: and those who live near Philadelphia well know, that the most wealthy farmers, farm to the most profit. Is it expedient then, to divert or withdraw from agriculture into manufactures, the so much needed capital?

But the manufacturers say, we will furnish you with a market at your own doors, without seeking a foreign market or sending your grain and flour abroad.' This is an argument of little weight; for at present, we do not export as much grain and flour altogether from the United States as would feed Great Britain for a fortnight: and that quantity is not increasing, for unluckily, consumers increase faster than producers.

Until, therefore, the redundant population, and redundant capital of our country shall call for additional means of absorbing and employing it, manufactures cannot be expedient, and still less can they be necessary to us. When that time shall come, they will establish themselves of course, and grow with the growth of the causes that established them. But if they are to depend on a system of taxation laid for their support, this may fail them; owing to the conduct that may be adopted by foreign powers—to the changing views of the subject taken at home, and to the misconduct of the manufacturers themselves.

We can only reason from past experience. During the late war many manufactures were set up: and they were couducted with so much imprudence, and involved in their establishment so many certain causes of failure, that it is no wonder they almost all failed.

I. The undertakers merged usually the greatest proportion of their capital in buildings needlessly expensive.

II. They were set on foot and managed by joint-stock companies, a sure prognostic of ill success.

III. They were too often committed to the care of pretenders, who imposed on their ignorant employers, the capitalists,

IV. The wanton, careless, extravagant waste in many of them, amounted to inore than a reasonable profit.

V. Every master manufacturer expected to live in opulence, upon the high profits of a small capital: while his competitor in Europe, lived frugally on small profits from a large capital.

VI. The high prices demanded, affording an enormous profit, disgusted with great reason the consumers. I believe when congress about two sessions ago, laid a duty on imported iron, the iron masters took the opportunity of laying an additional price on their article about equal to the amount of the tax.

It may be taken for a sure and certain event, that whenever the laws put the public in the power of the manufacturer, by creating

monopoly in his favour, he will lay additions on the price of the article to the utmost extent that the patience of the public will bear. It has been so in time past, and will ever be so in time to come. Reasonable prices and good work can only be insured by constant competition; but the aim of all manufacturers is to exclude competitors, and ensure monopoly.

VII. A great source of inferiority among our manufacturers here, is, the neglecting and despising European improvements. Thus, the English can export bar-iron to Philadelphia or Baltimore, at about half the price, which the American iron masters charge for the same article delivered at the same places. I mean, independent of duty on importations here. Now, why we should be compelled to pay 100 per cent as a premium to the ignorance or the obstina

of our irun masters at home, I know not. The great expense of making iron consists in the capital employed in woodland, and the high cost of wood-charcoal. The English undersell us at this enormous rate, in consequence of using the charcoal of stone-coal; which being a cheaper fuel, and requiring no capital, diffuses the manufacture among small capitalists. I fear it may generally be said of our manufacturers of domestic articles, that they are too negligent to acquire or to employ the necessary kind and degree of knowledge to enable them to compete with those, who are compelled from home competition themselves, to spare no pains in acquiring all the knowledge connected with their business.

VIII. The high price of labour, will for a long time form a great barrier against the success of our home manufactures; and this obstacle will be greatly increased by the establishment of a general system of manufactures among us, creating a new demand for labour, so extensive, as greatly to increase an evil already complained of.

IX. Manufactures to succeed require the steady employment of large capitals. But from the habit of associations among our workmen to enhance the price of labour, and the temptation our wild


« PreviousContinue »