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first time to receive aid from duties on imports. I can hardly express the surprise I feel that Mr. Speaker should fall into the common mode of expression used elsewhere, and ask if we will give our manufacturers no protection. Sir, look to the history of our laws; look to the present state of our laws. Consider that our whole revenue, with a trilling exception, is collected at the custom-house, and always has been; and then say what propriety there is in calling on the government for protection, as if no protection had heretofore been afforded. The real question before us, in regard to all the important clauses of the bill, is not whether we will lay duties, but whether we will augment duties. The demand is for something more than exists, and yet it is pressed as if nothing existed. It is wholly forgotten that iron and hemp, for example, already pay a very heavy and burdensome duty; and, in short, from the general tenor of Mr. Speaker's observations, one would infer that, hitherto, we had rather taxed our own manufactures than fostered them by taxes on those of other countries. We hear of the fatal policy of the tariff of 1816; and yet the law of 1816 was passed avowedly for the benefit of manufacturers, and, with very few exceptions, imposed on imported articles very great additions of tax; in some important instances, indeed, amounting to a prohibition.
Sir, on this subject, it becomes us at least to understand the real posture of the question. Let us not suppose that we are beginning the protection of manufactures, by duties on imports. What we are asked to do is, to render those duties much higher, and therefore, instead of dealing in general commendations of the benefits of protection, the friends of the bill, I think, are bound to make out a fair case for each of the manufactures which they propose to benefit. The government has already done much for their protection, and it ought to be presumed to have done enough, unless it be shown, by the facts and considerations applicable to each, that there is a necessity for doing more.
On the general question, Sir, allow me to ask if the doctrine of prohibition, as a general doctrine, be not preposterous. Suppose all nations to act upon it; they would be prosperous, then, according to the argument, precisely in the proportion in which they abolished intercourse with one another. The less of mutual commerce the better, upon this hypothesis. Protection and encouragement may be, and doubtless are, sometimes, wise and
beneficial, if kept within proper limits; but when carried to an extravagant height, or the point of prohibition, the absurd character of the system manifests itself. Mr. Speaker has referred to the late Emperor Napoleon, as having attempted to naturalize the manufacture of cotton in France. He did not cite a more extravagant part of the projects of that ruler, that is, his attempt to naturalize the growth of that plant itself, in France; whereas, we have understood that considerable districts in the South of France, and in Italy, of rich and productive lands, were at one time withdrawn from profitable uses, and devoted to raising, at great expense, a little bad cotton. Nor have we been referred to the attempts, under the same system, to make sugar and coffee from common culinary vegetables; attempts which served to fill the print-shops of Europe, and to show us how easy is the transition from what some think sublime to that which all admit to be ridiculous. The folly of some of these projects has not been surpassed, nor hardly equalled, unless it be by the philosopher in one of the satires of Swift, who so long labored to extract sunbeams from cucumbers.
The poverty and unhappiness of Spain have been attributed to the want of protection to her own industry. If by this it be meant that the poverty of Spain is owing to bad government and bad laws, the remark is, in a great measure, just. But these very laws are bad because they are restrictive, partial, and prohibitory. If prohibition were protection, Spain would seem to have had enough of it. Nothing can exceed the barbarous rigidity of her colonial system, or the folly of her early commercial regulations. Unenlightened and bigoted legislation, the multitude of holidays, miserable roads, monopolies on the part of government, restrictive laws, that ought long since to have been abrogated, are generally, and I believe truly, reckoned the principal causes of the bad state of the productive industry of Spain. Any partial improvement in her condition, or increase of her prosperity, has been, in all cases, the result of relaxation, and the abolition of what was intended for favor and protection.
In short, Sir, the general sense of this age sets, with a strong current, in favor of freedom of commercial intercourse, and unrestrained individual action. Men yield up their notions of monopoly and restriction, as they yield up other prejudices, slowly and reluctantly; but they cannot withstand the general tide of opinion.
Let me now ask, Sir, what relief this bill proposes to some of those great and essential interests of the country, the condition of which has been referred to as proof of national distress; and which condition, although I do not think it makes out a case of distress, yet does indicate depression.
And first, Sir, as to our foreign trade. Mr. Speaker has stated that there has been a considerable falling off in the tonnage employed in that trade. This is true, lamentably true. In my opinion, it is one of those occurrences which ought to arrest our immediate, our deep, our most earnest attention. What does this bill propose for its relief? It proposes nothing but new burdens. It proposes to diminish its employment, and it proposes, at the same time, to augment its expense, by subjecting it to heavier taxation. Sir, there is no interest, in regard to which a stronger case for protection can be made out, than the navigating interest. Whether we look at its present condition, which is admitted to be depressed, the number of persons connected with it, and dependent upon it for their daily bread, or its importance to the country in a political point of view, it has claims upon our attention which cannot be surpassed. But what do we propose to do for it? I repeat, Sir, simply to burden and to tax it. By a statement which I have already submitted to the committee, it appears that the shipping interest pays, annually, more than half a million of dollars in duties on articles used in the construction of ships. We propose to add nearly, or quite, fifty per cent. to this amount, at the very moment that we appeal to the languishing state of this interest as a proof of national distress. Let it be remembered that our shipping employed in foreign commerce has, at this moment, not the shadow of government protection. It goes abroad upon the wide sea to make its own way, and earn its own bread, in a professed competition with the whole world. Its resources are its own frugality, its own skill, its own enterprise. It hopes to succeed, if it shall succeed at all, not by extraordinary aid of government, but by patience, vigilance, and toil. This right arm of the nation's safety strengthens its own muscle by its own efforts, and by unwearied exertion in its own defence becomes strong for the defence of the country.
No one acquainted with this interest can deny that its situation, at this moment, is extremely critical. We have left it VOL. III.
hitherto to maintain itself or perish; to swim if it can, and to sink if it must. But at this moment of its apparent struggle, can we as men, can we as patriots, add another stone to the weight that threatens to carry it down? Sir, there is a limit to human power, and to human effort. I know the commercial marine of this country can do almost every thing, and bear almost every thing. Yet some things are impossible to be done, and some burdens may be impossible to be borne; and as it was the last ounce that broke the back of the camel, so the iast element, although it were even a small one, may be decisive as to the power of our marine to sustain the conflict in which it is now engaged with all the commercial nations on the globe.
Again, Mr. Chairman, the failures and the bankruptcies which have taken place in our large cities have been mentioned as proving the little success attending commerce, and its general decline. But this bill has no balm for those wounds. It is very remarkable, that when the losses and disasters of certain manu. facturers, those of iron, for instance, are mentioned, it is done for the purpose of invoking aid for the distressed. Not so with the losses and disasters of commerce; these last are narrated, and not unfrequently much exaggerated, to prove the ruinous nature of the employment, and to show that it ought to be abandoned, and the capital engaged in it turned to other objects.
It has been often said, Sir, that our manufacturers have to contend, not only against the natural advantages of those who produce similar articles in foreign countries, but also against the action of foreign governments, who have great political interest in aiding their own manufactures to suppress ours. But have not these governments as great an interest to cripple our marine, by preventing the growth of our commerce and navigation ? What is it that makes us the object of the highest respect, or the most suspicious jealousy, to foreign states? What is it that most enables us to take high relative rank among the nations? I need not say that this results, more than from any thing else, from that quantity of military power which we can cause to be water-borne, and from that extent of commerce which we are able to maintain throughout the world.
Mr. Chairman, I am conscious of having detained the committee much too long with these observations. My apology for now proceeding to some remarks upon the particular clauses of the bill is, that, representing a district at once commercial and highly manufacturing, and being called upon to vote upon a bill containing provisions so numerous and so various, I am naturally desirous to state as well what I approve, as what I would reject.
The first section proposes an augmented duty upon woollen manufactures. This, if it were unqualified, would no doubt be desirable to those who are engaged in that business. I have myself presented a petition from the woollen manufacturers of Massachusetts, praying an augmented ad valorem duty upon imported woollen cloths; and I am prepared to accede to that proposition, to a reasonable extent. But then this bill proposes, also, a very high duty upon imported wool; and, as far as I can learn, a majority of the manufacturers are at least extremely doubtful whether, taking these two provisions together, the state of the law is not better for them now than it would be if this bill should pass. It is said, this tax on raw wool will benefit the agriculturist; but I know it to be the opinion of some of the best informed of that class, that it will do them more hurt than good. They fear it will check the manufacturer, and consequently check his demand for their article. The argument is, that a certain quantity of coarse wool, cheaper than we can possibly furnish, is necessary to enable the manufacturer to carry on the general business, and that if this cannot be had, the consequence will be, not a greater, but a less, manufacture of our own wool. I am aware that very intelligent persons differ upon this point; but if we may safely infer from that difference of opinion, that the proposed benefit is at least doubtful, it would be prudent perhaps to abstain from the experiment. Certain it is, that the same reasoning has been employed, as I have before stated, on the same subject, when a renewed application was made to the English Parliament to repeal the duty on imported wool, I believe scarcely two months ago; those who supported the application pressing urgently the necessity of an unrestricted use of the cheap, imported raw material, with a view to supply with coarse cloths the markets of warm climates, such as those of Egypt and Turkey, and especially a vast newly created demand in the South American states.
As to the manufactures of cotton, it is agreed, I believe, that