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of this hemisphere were deemed the property of Europe, and all intercourse and trade among its inhabitants were to be wholly prohibited, or so regulated by her parental legislation, as solely to promote European interests.
Such a prohibition was an arbitrary exercise of power, injurious to the interests and rights, not only of the colonies, but of the United States. It was in contravention of the natural rights of the inhabitants of this hemisphere, and would justify them in resuming those rights by force, whenever their interests would permit recourse to the dernier resort of nations.
The sagacious statesmen of the revolution felt that the contest was not yet at an end. The victory was only partially achieved. The bonds of colonial vassalage had been shaken off; but the broken bars and shackle-bolts still lay scattered around, encumbering the ground, and obstructing our path to prosperity and greatness. A system of policy was to be adopted, which should secure to the country the substantial fruits of independence. Among the first objects which attracted the attention of the federal government, was the shipping interest; and a law was enacted which, by a discriminating tonnage duty, compensated American vessels for the burdens imposed upon them by the British navigation acts, and enabled them to compete upon an equal footing for the carrying trade between the two countries.
Measures were also adopted to open the Mississippi to the trade of the rich territory beyond the Alleghanies, and to enable its productions to reach the ocean by the way of NewOrleans. At the same time, steps were taken to obtain a fair share in the commerce between the United States and the West Indies; or at all events, to put an end to the monopoly of that business, which the British government sought to secure to its own shipping. This was effected, after a long and protracted contest, by the passage of laws prohibiting all trade with British colonies, in which American vessels were not permitted to participate.
Among the chief inconveniences to which the new republic was subjected, was one growing out of the impost systems
adopted by the great European powers. It found on all sides an interdiction, which prevented it from selling in their markets such productions as it found itself best able to raise.
With the view of encouraging their own manufactures and industry, or to raise the means of maintaining the vast expenditure of their governments, they had imposed duties so high upon importations as to almost exclude us from their markets. Against the productions of this country, so lately in the hands of colonial thraldom, and still obnoxious to the European prejudice that America was an inferior portion of the globe, created and cultivated solely for their use, these impost systems bore with peculiar force. The statesmen of the old world could not forget, that, until the Continental Congress of 1776 had broken the thraldom, not a hob-nail, nor a yard of cloth, could be made in America, without the consent of European legislation ; and England, especially, remembered that her laws prohibited any manufacturing in the colonies, which could interfere with her staples, or disturb a policy that doomed the colonists to the cultivation of the soil, with the view of providing a market for her manufactures.
It was in the face of this system—this general enmity—that the commercial and manufacturing interests of the United States were to be built up; and the policy adopted was that of reciprocity. We proclaimed to the world that we sought free trade, but to those that refused it we would extend retaliation, Our statesmen seemed to have been governed by the feeling that dictated the stern and stirring motto of old Massachusetts:
Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem. Discriminating duties were imposed upon importations, having a due regard to the ability of the country to manufacture for itself. Under this system, the great interests of the country have advanced with unexampled rapidity. The navigation of the Mississippi was obtained by a vigorous negotiation, which more than intimated energetic action. The flag that had so Jately appeared among those of independent powers swarmed in every sea; and within the first half century of our national existence, we stand second only to Great Britain in the amount of our commercial marine. Yielding to the necessity of providing for her West India Islands supplies that could only be drawn from the United States, England was obliged to permit our vessels to trade with the colonies upon terms approaching to equality.
The exports of the country, which in 1791 only amounted to $19,000,000, had increased in 1830 to $74,000,000, and in 1840 to $132,000,000. After the modification of the tariff, more particularly with reference to the promotion of manufactures, American fabrics began to make their appearance among our exports, and the United States, which, at the formation of the Union, exported scarcely any thing except agricultural produce, and was dependent upon Europe for nearly all manufactured articles, had so far advanced in that branch of industry, as to export, in 1823, $3,352,000 of domestic manufactures, and in 1840, $10,614,000.
Of these the cotton manufactures, which were not enumerated among our exports until 1826, amounted to $3,550,000, and those of iron, to $1,101,000.
These indications of increased skill, which now appeared in the exports, were but faint evidences of the great benefits conferred upon the country by the establishment of manufactures at home. The supply of the domestic consumption vastly exceeded in importance the amount contributed to its foreign commerce; and the creation of a home market for its produce, gave a new impulse to the settlement and improvement of the country. The rural districts were enriched and enlivened by the establishment of single factories on the streams that had, till then, flowed in solitude to the sea; while the manufacturing towns in other districts, sprung up with a vigour and strength, that, in fifteen years, have made them worthy rivals of the great manufacturing towns of the old world. It seemed, however, that the prosperity of those portions of the Union, which devoted themselves to commercial and manufacturing pursuits, excited dissatisfaction and jealousy among the planting interests. An opinion began to prevail, that by obtaining our supplies from domestic industry, the American market for foreign fabrics would be curtailed, and that there would be a less demand for their peculiar productions abroad. Influenced by this sectional feeling, an opposition was set on foot against the established policy of the country, and after a vehement contest, in which other considerations, which it is unnecessary here to recapitulate, besides those of public policy were mingled, the opposition so far prevailed as to materially modify the commercial system, adopted at the formation of the Union.
The effort to regulate the trade between the United States and the British West Indies was relinquished on the part of this government, and is now carried on under the sole regulation of British legislation.
How far this has promoted the navigating interest of this country may be inferred from the fact, that while both governments exercised a joint control over the trade, nine-tenths of the commerce was carried on in American vessels ; and that since the acts of Congress regulating the intercourse were re. pealed in 1830, by the proclamation of the President, the British navigator has so far gained upon the American, as to divide the trade equally with him.* In fact, the intercourse between the colonial possessions of England and the United States, is regulated solely with the view of furnishing employment to British tonnage; and the convenience and interests of these great portions of the western hemisphere, which would be so much promoted by unrestrained commerce, are set aside and disregarded, in order to augment the maritime strength of Great Britain. The trade with the West Indies is coerced by burdening the direct trade with heavy duties, into an indirect trade through New-Brunswick and Nova Scotia, in which the long voyage, or that between those Provinces and the Islands, is exclusively confined to British vessels.
* Tonnage employed in the trade between the United States and the British Colonies : American tonnage.
West Indies. British Colonies. 1825, 102,000 tons. 60,000
7,000 6,000 1826, 97,000 75,000
8,000 9,000 1839,
384,000 of this were 24,000 322,000 1840, 55,000 373,000 / on Lakes Erie 29,000 388,000
In like manner, the grain trade between the Western States and England is monopolized by British navigation. The wheat that in the ordinary course of business would come down the Erie Canal, giving employment to American millers, forwarders, merchants, and mariners, is forced, by heavy discriminating duties imposed upon the direct importation, into the route of the St. Lawrence, to build up Kingston, Montreal, and Quebec, and to increase the overgrown marine of the mistress of the
The commerce on the Lakes has been increased from almost nothing, to a tonnage of half a million annually entering the ports of the United States from Canada; but the whole transportation across the Atlantic is monopolized by British vessels.
The same opposition was made to the policy of fostering domestic manufactures by discriminating duties, and with like
After a contest, in which the opposition was carried to a point inconsistent with their obligations to the Union, its opponents succeeded in obtaining from Congress an act providing for a gradual reduction of duties until 1842, when they are to be brought down to 20 per cent. on all articles, without reference to any of those views and principles which have influenced statesmen in imposing discriminating duties. From the gradual reduction that has hitherto taken place, our mechanics and manufacturers have been as yet prevented from feeling the full effects of unrestrained competition with European labour. The great barrier has not yet been thrown down; still our merchants and mechanics have already felt the evil consequences of government's withdrawing its parental care. The reduction of duties has encouraged excessive importations of foreign manufactures, and increased the disorders of our currency. Extravagance in the consumption of foreign luxuries has been encouraged in the same degree, that domestic manufactures have been repressed. Importations have been increased, and the country has grown poorer. The whole ex