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bituminous coal, have all fallen considerably in price since 1824; and the last article has fallen in the face of an advance in England. Indeed, it does not require much sagacity to foresee, that the production of an article here, must operate against the foreign manufacturer; nor to infer, that if the United States had imported from Europe all the articles that the protective system has induced us to produce at home, they would have been compelled to buy them at greatly enhanced prices, and that our indebtedness abroad and commercial distress would have been much increased. In fact, it may be advanced as an axiom in political economy, that no great and populous country can be dependent on foreign countries for either of the great articles of national consumption-food, clothing, or fuel. They may import a portion of any, or all of them ; but a reliance on
; foreign industry for the greater part of these chief necessaries for man, imposes a restraint on the growth of a country, which must for ever prevent it from taking rank in the first class of nations. Since the United States have approximated to that rank, their ability to supply themselves with those articles, has greatly increased under the encouragement and protection of our national policy, and they have been thus enabled to sustain themselves in their onward career.
For instance, the domestic trade in anthracite coal commenced in 1825, and it has now grown to the enormous amount of one million of tons annually ; sufficient to employ double the tonnage employed in the trade between this country and Great Britain, in transporting it to the United States; and it is scarcely necessary to observe, that such a demand must have made a serious impression on the coal market in England. Our dependence on foreign manufactories for woollen and cotton cloths, has also been diminished. In 1830, just before adequate protection was given to the woollen manufacture, Great Britain exported 101,294 pieces of woollen cloths to the United States, and in 1840, this exportation had fallen off to 46,945 pieces.
In the article of cottons, the triumph of the American manufacturer is still more complete. In 1825, the year when a similar degree of protection was given to that branch of industry, so
much of the domestic consumption was supplied from abroad, that the importation of white cottons amounted to $3,326,000, and the printed cottons to $7,710,000. Since then, there has been a gradual reduction, and last year the importation of white cottons amounted to but $917,000, and those printed to 83,894,000. We have, too, become competitors in this article for the foreign market. Our exportations of cotton cloths of American manufacture, which did not then appear in our list of exportations, now almost equals the importation,-amounting last year to $3,550,000.
Are we to pause in this career? Are we to recede from this position? Is the policy which has produced such results, filled our land with manufacturing villages and towns, and brought about a state of prosperity and happiness rarely equalled among nations, to be totally abandoned ?
An abandonment of the policy would bring the labour of Europe into direct competition with our own, and expose us to all the fluctuation and occasional distress to which the manufacturing population of the old world is subjected. The first result would be, to compel the American operative to work for the same wages with the under-fed and over-worked labourer of Europe,-remunerated for his unremitting toil at a rate hardly. sufficient for a scanty support, and sustained in adverse seasons by a pauper allowance from the parish. Such is the natural and inevitable effect of unrestrained competition. This he must do, or abandon his business. But to what employment would he resort? The same competition and the same fate would attend him in the shop of the mechanic; and the mechanics, as well as the manufacturers, must expect to be brought down to the same wages as those of Europe, or to adopt some pursuit where they will not be exposed to European competition. If they devote themselves to agriculture, it is possible that the fertility of the soil and the low price of land might enable them to compete with the European cultivator; but such an increase of agricultural produce in our market, must inevitably reduce the price at home, until they shall be driven back to the workshop with depressed spirits, and at such a rate of wages as will enable the American manufacturers to compete with the European.
It is no answer to this, to say, that our agricultural produce can be sent to a foreign market. This cannot take place, until its price is so low, that it becomes profitable to sell it abroad in the face of an onerous duty, intended to be prohibitory. That is, until the American farmer is willing to pay three or four dollars per barrel on flour, towards the support of a foreign government, in order to have the privilege of selling it at the current price.
The policy of free trade, as advocated by these new teachers, aims at a reduction of wages in the United States; or, in other words, to place the American and the European labourer upon the footing of free competition. Such is the proposition, and no reasoning can avoid the conclusion, that an abandonment of the protective tariff would produce a general reduction of wages in the United States.
It is unimportant whether this results from immediate competition in branches of manufactures that continue to be carried on, or from a relinquishment of many now prosecuted, and the devotion of the labour and capital thus released, to the prosecution of those which would be still kept up, except that the latter mode would cause greater confusion and distress. It is undeniable that such a result must follow an abandonment of our long established national policy; and the immediate consequence of any great prostration of our mechanical pursuits, resulting from such a change, would be to render the country dependent on other nations for essential supplies, without any diminution of price, except for the short period required for the overthrow of our own manufactures. By this implicit adherence to the theory of free trade on our part, without requiring it from others, it is not pretended that any reduction in prices is to be effected except by a reduction of wages. A reduction in wages is the ultimate end to be accomplished. This is the great object, for the achievement of which, our factories are to be prostrated, and our workshops shut up.
Are the people of the United States desirous of such a result?
Upon the existing rate of wages in this country depends much of the peculiar structure of society. It is owing to the higher compensation of labour, that the mass of our labouring population are enabled to educate themselves, and to maintain their families in a state of comfort and happiness unknown to the operatives of other nations. This makes them a free and independent nation—not merely independent of foreign control, but in their individual feelings and habits of thinking and acting. To this they owe that state of contentment and tranquillity, which has preserved the country from domestic commotions, rebellions, and civil wars—that conservative spirit and respect for the law, which has proved a more efficient guardian of the public peace than standing armies, or legions of military police. To this they owe the enlightened spirit which, in spite of occasional outbreaks of party feeling, has predominated in our public councils, and guided us to a position among the powers
of the earth, that make us alike an object of jealousy and dread to despotic governments, and a beacon of hope to the friends of liberal institutions. Labour here is honourable ; and the chief men in our republic are all indebted for their rank, and the respect paid them by their countrymen, to the unremitting industry by which their fortunes have been built up.
The higher rate of compensation given in the United States to labour, is the chief cause of attraction to the enterprising and industrious of older nations; and it has made this country the asylum, not merely of those oppressed by political or religious intolerance, but of that more numerous class, who, by adverse circumstances and the iron grasp of poverty, are prevented from obtaining an honest maintenance in their native land. In truth, it is to this very cause that we owe nearly all that distinguishes us from other countries; and far, far distant be the day which diminishes the compensation of labour, so as to reduce the free American labourer to the same dependent and wretched condition, in which aristocratic institutions and unjust laws have placed the operatives of Europe.
All that is paid by the property of the country for the protection of domestic industry, and the reward of American la. bour, is not a useless expenditure. It is a contribution for the maintenance of our republican institutions; an expense incurred to increase the mechanical and manufacturing skill of the country; a tax paid for the support and education of that class, which, like a broad foundation, sustains the superstructure of the state ; and he cannot be regarded as a friend of the republic, who advocates a policy that will curtail the wages of the free American labourer, and bring him down to a level with the over-worked and degraded operative of the old world.
On this point we take issue with our opponents, and we call upon all Americans who are zealous for the independence and prosperity of their country, to aid us in our efforts: to collect and circulate information upon those important subjects, until public opinion shall exhibit itself in a fixed resolve to protect and cherish American interests. Let the popular will show itself determined to promote those views, which were deliberately adopted at the formation of our government, by Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, and the other patriots, who then met in this city, to put in operation the free institutions which their wisdom had contrived, and their valour had established. To the people, and them firstly and lastly, we appeal, to carry out this policy, and by their enlightened and deliberate determination to vindicate, through their chosen agents, their commercial independence, and the rights of American industry, against the insidious and hostile legislation of foreign governments. To promote domestic interests, the Home League was established, without reference to former party distinctions; and to impress upon our public representatives the propriety of guarding and promoting those interests, our efforts will be directed. The occasion is propitious, and the necessity urgent, and we call upon all who love their own country above all others--who prefer domestic to foreign interests, to unite their exertions to ours, until the concentrated efforts of the advocates and friends of American interests shall be crowned with complete success, and a policy truly American and national be found to prevail in every department of our government.