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ports of bread-stuffs from the United States in 1839, scarcely paid for one third of the silks imported ; while the exported whalebone and oil, the produce of the labour of our hardy mariners who are engaged in the whale fisheries, did not pay for the cigars which were imported into the United States the same year.* A policy which produces such results, can scarcely fail to end in general distress and national bankruptcy.
Our importers and shipping merchants, also, complain of the disregard of their interests. The vessels of other powers are supplanting ours in the trade between this and the South American states, and four fifths of the importations of foreign goods in this city, have fallen into the hands of French and British agents.
Had this occurred in a competition where both parties stood upon the same footing, the same cause of complaint would not have existed. But such is not the case. The terms of the contest are unequal. On one side there is freedom, on the other restriction. Our ports and markets are open to other nations, while theirs are hermetically sealed to all articles, which may come into competition with any branch of native industry. This state of things ought not to be tolerated by any independent government; least of all by one whose very existence grew out of successful opposition to the same system of commercial monopoly. Our interests, as well as our honour, require that our intercourse with foreign nations should be placed upon terms of equality and reciprocity ; that it should not be regulated and controlled solely by foreign legislation. This was the commercial freedom aimed at by our revolutionary ancestors, and we, their children, ought not to be satisfied with less.
In applying a remedy, practical statesmen will look at the actual state of trade between this country and foreign nations.
For instance, in its intercourse with England, a power enjoying one half of our whole foreign commerce, it meets with two inconveniences, resulting entirely from the commercial legislation of that government. The first is its colonial policy, by which the carrying trade between the United States and the colonies is practically confined to British vessels. To these pretensions this country should offer a constant resistance. All the territories and islands owning a common head, or controlled by one government, other nations can only regard as one country or empire. Such is the character of the various states and territories represented by the federal government at Washington ; and such too we ought to consider the various islands, provinces and colonies, controlled by the imperial government at London. While we admit the right of all nations to designate the ports which foreign vessels are permitted to enter; we must also regard as unfriendly the exercise of that right in a manner plainly intended to secure the greater part of the carrying trade to that party.
The mode of retaliation, and the time when it is to be enforced, may depend upon many other considerations; but set-.. ting those aside, and none can doubt, who is jealous of his country's rights, that the grasping and monopolizing character of the laws of England, regulating our intercourse with her colonies, would justify us in confining the admission of her vessels to the ports of the Chesapeake, or any other part of the Union, which should have the effect of diminishing her share of the carrying trade.
The second, and indeed chief inconvenience, to which American commerce is subjected by her laws, grows out of the general principle pervading her commercial system, by which she seeks to secure the supply of her own consumption to her own subjects. Her revenue laws all aim to secure her home market to herself. The importation of everything that can be advantageously produced by British capital, or British industry, is either prohibited, or subjected to heavy duties, which operate as a bounty to the British producer.
Practically, these laws exclude the agricultural productions
of the whole northern and western states from the British mar. ket, or compel them to seek admission under the guise of colonial produce, and with the view of fostering the growth of her commercial marine.
This policy of excluding bread-stuffs from the British market is the more objectionable, as it was adopted at a time which would warrant the conclusion, that it was specially intended to operate against the United States. Before their separation from England, the duty on wheat imported into that island was merely nominal. But directly after the formation of the federal government, a new policy was adopted towards this country. The first step was to exclude American vessels from the colo. nial trade. The second, to impose a high duty on the importation of bread-stuffs. This was done in 1791 ; and it may be safely asserted, that the Corn Laws of England, which form so great an obstacle to free trade between the two nations, have originated as much out of jealousy of this country, as out of a regard for her landed interests. Their effect certainly is to prevent those states, which depend chiefly upon agriculture, from paying for their importations in the productions which they can most readily raise ; and to compel them, either to devote their industry to other employments less suitable to their condition, or so to reduce the price of their produce as to force an admission into the foreign market in spite of the duty. The operation is injurious to the grain growing states; and any injury to so great and important a portion of the Union, cannot be too carefully looked into, nor too speedily redressed.
The practical remedy adopted at an early period of our history, was, by discriminating duties, to encourage all manufactures essential to our national independence, and to compensate for the loss of a market abroad, by promoting a variety of employments in the country, and thus creating a market at home.
The results of this policy are manifest to all. Indeed, it would be difficult to find a more forcible illustration of the ad. vantages of this policy, than is afforded by the contrast between those states whose citizens have adopted a variety of employments, and those that have devoted themselves to agricultural pursuits, during the late convulsions of the commercial world. While the planting and agricultural states have been (and are still) in the greatest distress from the low price of their staples, which they are obliged to sacrifice to pay for their foreign importations; the manufacturing states, more independent of supplies from abroad, experience but little difficulty, and no actual distress.
The question now to be decided by the American people is, whether this policy shall be given up, and the commerce and manufactures of this country abandoned by a government, which was established chiefly for their protection, to the care and guardianship of foreign legislation.
The argument used in favour of the abandonment of this policy is, that it conflicts with the principles of free trade. If these advocates of free trade could show, that those powers with whom we had commercial relations, practiced upon that theory in their intercourse with the United States, there might be some ground for urging upon this country an adherence to its maxims. But such is not the fact. The great maritime powers of the world have surrounded themselves with a commercial quarantine.
England takes nothing from the United States that she can produce at home ; and France is equally careful to protect her own subjects from American competition. Our trade now chiefly consists in purchasing from them freely all that we require ; and then the productions of our industry are forced off in all markets to which they are admitted, in order to provide the means of discharging the debts incurred to those countries. In such a state of commercial intercourse, our conformity to the theory of free trade is bụt exposing our interests, without defence, to the systematic assault of open enemies. It is relying upon the pacific principle of non-resistance, as a sure protection against a world in arms. Under such a policy, our citizens are influenced or controlled in the direction of their industry, not by the force of natural causes, but by legislation, alien in its character, and hostile in its views. So far as the hope of a
foreign market is to influence them in the choice of employments, they are compelled to devote themselves to the production of such articles as can find admission in that market.
So far as these laws now operate upon the United States, they confine their citizens to the cultivation of the soil, and even such productions are received only in a raw or unmanufactured state. Nor is this the worst view of the question. The grain growing states, whose agricultural productions amount to nearly twice as much as those of the planting states, are interdicted from sending any portion of the results of their industry to pay for their consumption of foreign goods. The consequence is, a forced and unnatural course of trade, deeply injurious to more than three fifths of the Union, in point of numbers, and a much greater proportion, when wealth and resources are taken into consideration.
To compensate them for the loss of a foreign market, the revenue laws have co-operated with the laws of political economy, in creating a domestic market.
Our fellow citizens have been induced, by discriminating duties, to adopt other employments; and those who are thus drawn from the cultivation of the soil, become consumers of the productions of those who remain.
Since the adoption of this policy, a large portion of the community have become manufacturers and mechanics ; and agricultural produce, which before that event was too low to compensate the farmer, has found a market at home at good prices.
Nor has this advantage been counterbalanced by a corresponding advance in the imported articles, to the manufacture of which our countrymen have been induced to apply themselves. Whether it has been owing to domestic competition, as asserted by the friends of domestic industry, or to other causes, as has been maintained by their opponents; it is certainly true that the chief articles, whose production in this country has been encouraged by discriminating or protecting duties, have been lower in the United States since the adoption of the protective tariff. For instance, cotton and woollen cloths,