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THE INFANCY OF AMERICAN MANUFACTURES :
A BRIEF CHAPTER FROM OUR NATIONAL HISTORY,
The struggle for the general encour mons, in 1731, directed the Board of agement and promotion of American in- Trade to inquire and report“ with respect dustry, by the establishment and support to laws made, manufactures set up, or trade among us of new departments of produc- carried on detrimental to the trade, navtive labor, is of far earlier date and longer igation, or manufactures of Great Britcontinuance than is commonly supposed. ain." The Board of Trade reported in It has now been prosecuted for more than February, 1742, and their report gives a century. While this country remained the best account now extant of the conin a relation of colonial dependence on dition of our infant manufactures at Great Britain, the American side of it that time. It informs Parliament that was maintained at great disadvantage, the government of Massachusetts Bay but with indomitable spirit. It was a had lately passed an act to encourage the leading and then openly avowed object manufacture of paper, “which law interof British policy, to confine our people, so feres with the profit made by the British far as possible, to the production of colo- merchant on foreign paper sent thither. nial staples—to the cutting of timber, They also reported that in all the coldigging of ore, raising of grain, curing onies north of Delaware, and in Somerof pork, beef, &c., for the markets of the set county, Maryland, the people had acmother country, procuring thence our quired the habit of making coarse woollen supplies of all descriptions of manufac. and linen fabrics in their several famitures. Even Lord Chatham, our friend lies for family use. This, it was sugin the great struggle against arbitrary gested, could not well be prohibited, as power, declared that Americans should the people devoted to this manufacture be allowed to manufacture not even a that portion of time (the winter) when hob-nail. Accordingly, acts of Parlia- they could do nothing else. It was furment were passed from time to time, ther stated, that the higher price of labor from the moment a disposition to minister in the colonies than in England made the to their own wants was manifested by cost of producing cloth fifty per cent. our people, discouraging and thwarting greater in the colonies, and would prethat disposition. Thus, so early as 1699, vent any serious rivalry with the manuonly seventy-nine years after the landing factures of England. Still, the Board of the Pilgrims on Plymouth Rock- urged that something should be done to years in great part devoted to desperate divert the attention and enterprise of the conflicts with savage nature, more sav colonists from manufactures, otherwise age men, and the wily and powerful civ- they might in time become formidable. ilized foemen on our northern frontier- To this end, they urged that new enthe jealousy of England had been awak- couragement be held out to the producened by the progress of our household tion of naval stores. However, we find manufactures, and Parliament enacted (says the Board) that certain trades are " that no wool, yarn, or woollen manufac- carried on, and manufactures set up, tures of their American plantations, shall which are detrimental to the trade, navbe shipped thence, or even laden in or- igation, and manufactures of Great Britder to be transported, on any pretence ain.” Answers from the Royal Governwhatever.”
ors of the several colonies to queries proIn 1719 the House of Commons de- pounded to them by the Board, were clared "that the erecting of manufacto next requested. They generally reportries in the colonies tends to lessen their ed that few or no manufactures were dependence upon Great Britain." carried on within their several jurisdic
Complaints continued to be made to tions, and these few were of a rude, Parliament of the setting up of new coarse kind. In New England, howevtrades and manufactures in the colonies, er, leather was made, a little poor iron, to the detriment of the trade of the mother and a considerable aggregate of cloths for country. Thereupon the House of Com- domestic use; but the great part of the VOL, 1.-NO. I.
clothing of the people was imported from tilt-hammer, or any furnace for making Great Britain. The hatters of London steel in the colonies, under the penalty complained that a good many hats were of two hundred pounds. And every such made, especially in New York. In con- mill, engine, forge, or furnace was declusion, the Board sums up:
clared a common nuisance, and the gov“ From the foregoing statement, it is ernor of the colony, on the information observable that there are more trades car of two witnesses on oath, was ordered to ried on, and manufactures set up in the cause the same to be abated within thirty provinces on the continent of America to days, or to forfeit the sum of five hundred ihe northward of Virginia, prejudicial to pounds. Such was the spirit, such were the trade and manufactures of Great the exactions of British legislation while Britain, particularly in New England, our fathers remained subject to the mother than in any other of the British colonies; country. (See the foregoing facts more which is not to be wondered at, for their fully cited from the original records in soil, climate, and produce being pretty Pitkin's Statistics, edition of 1835, pp. nearly the same with ours, they have no 461-66.) staple commodities of their own growth The consequences of this state of ento exchange for our manufactures, which forced and abject dependence on Great puts them under greater necessity, as Britain for the great mass of our fabrics well as under greater temptations for are such as have been a thousand times providing for themselves at home; to realized in the history of the world. Alwhich may be added, in the charter gov- though allowed a nearer approach to fair ernments, the little dependence they have trade with the mother country than she on the mother country, and consequently has ever vouchsafed us since our indethe small restraint they are under in any pendence, the colonies were never able matters detrimental to her interests." to sell enough raw produce to England They closed by repeating the recom to pay for the manufactures with which mendation that measures be taken to turn she was constantly flooding us. Our the industry of the colonies into new people had cleared much land, built channels serviceable to Great Britain, houses, and provided every thing essenparticularly the production of naval tial to physical comfort, but the course stores.
of buying more than their exports would Parliament proceeded to act on these pay for could not be evaded. In the suggestions. That year (1732) an act midst of mutward prosperity, the colowas passed to prevent the exportation nies groaned under an increasing load of hats out of any of His Majesty's col- of debts, which were constantly effecting onies or plantations in America, and to the transfer of property here to owners restrain the number of apprentices taken in Great Britain. It was a standing by the hat-makers in the said colonies, reproach against our Revolutionary faand for the better encouraging the mak. thers that they flew to arms to evade the ing of hats in Great Britain. By this payment of their mercantile debts and act not only was the exportation of colo- the importunities of their creditors. And nial hats to a foreign port prohibited, but the Congress which assembled in 1765 their transportation from one British plan- tv remonstrate against the Stamp Act, tation to another was also prohibited un drew a graphic though sad picture of the der severe penalties, and no person was calamities which had befallen the peoallowed to make hats who had not served ple--the multiplication of debts, the disan apprenticeship for seven years ; nor appearance of money, the impossibility could any hatter in the colonies have of payment, the stagnation of industry more than two apprentices at any one and business, through the excessive intime ; and no black or negro was per- flux of foreign fabrics. mitted to work at the business of making The war of the Revolution corrected hats.
this tendency, cutting off importation, The manufactures of iron next came and largely increasing our own housein for a share in the paternal regard of hold manufactures. But peace, in the Parliament. In 1750 Parliament per utter absence of all protective legismitted pigs and bars of iron to be import- lation on our part, revived the mischief ed into England from the colonies duty which had been trampled beneath the free; but prohibited the erection of any iron heel of war. The struggle for inmill or other engine for slitting or rolling dependence had left all the States emiron, or any plating forge to work with a barrassed, trade completely disordered
and the whole country overwhelmed with national industry, they had fallen far worthless paper money ; and the un- short of this. The few articles of manuchecked importing of foreign fabrics still facture already produced in the country farther multiplied and magnified debts, to a considerable extent, were, in generdeprived us of our specie, broke down al, efficiently protected ; but the greater the prices of our products, and created portion of the manufactures essential to general stagnation and distress. From our complete emancipation from colonial the state of desperation thus engendered, dependence were left unprotected by duarose the disgraceful outbreak of insur- ties of five to fifteen per cent. Years of rection in Massachusetts known as hard experience and of frequent suffer"Shay's Rebellion.' This was but one ing were required to teach the mass of symptom of a general disease.
our statesmen the advantage and benefi. Repeated attempts were made to put cence of extending protection also to an end to this state of things, by impos- those articles which had not been, but ing duties on imports. But the Congress might easily and profitably be, produced of the old confederation had no power to in our own country, if the producers were do this, except with the concurrence of shielded from the destructive rivalry aleach of the state governments. It was ways brought to bear upon a new branch attempted, but failed. Rhode Island, of industry by the jealous and powerful then almost wholly a commercial state, foreign interests which it threatens to objected, though the duty proposed was deprive of a lucrative market. We had but five per cent. and the object the pay- but begun to learn the truths which form ing off the debts of the Revolution. the basis of a wise and beneficent nationHere was presented that stringent neces al economy, when the breaking out of sity which alone could have overcome the great wars in Europe opened to us the prevailing jealousies of, and aversion large and lucrative foreign markets for to, a stronger and more national govern our raw staples, and the heads of our ment. A Convention was called, a Con- most sedate thinkers were nearly turned stitution framed and adopted; and the by the tempting prizes proffered to mersecond act of the new Congress stands cantile enterprise by the convulsions of on the records entitled : “ An Act to the old world. It seemed as though we make provision for the necessities of had but to produce whatever was easiest government, the payment of the national and most natural to us, and Europe would debt, and the protection of American take it at our own price, and pay us manufactures."" This act passed both bountifully for carrying it where she houses of Congress by a substantially wanted it. This was a pleasant dream unanimous vote.
while it lasted, but a brief one. We were Great Britain now became alarmed for awakened from it by seizures, confiscathe stability of her market for manufac- tions, embargoes, and at last war, which tures in America. Her Board of Trade imposed on us the necessity of commenmade a report on the subject in 1794, cing nearly every branch of manufacture urging the negotiation of a commercial under the most unfavorable auspices, and treaty with the United States, based on of course at a ruinous cost. The war two propositions; the first being, " that with Great Britain was, in this respect, the duties on British manufactures im- a substantial benefit to the country. The ported into the United States shall not be Congress of 1816 failed to impose a raised above what they are at present.” tariff at all adequate (save on a few arThe other proposed that the productions ticles) to the real wants of the country, of other nations should be admitted into but the germ of industrial independence our ports in British vessels, the same as had been planted in a soil fertilized by if imported in our own. But the gov- blood, and the plant was destined to live ernment did not venture to press these and flourish, though exposed to rude propositions.
blasts and chilling frosts in its springIt was plainly discerned by the British time. From 1816 to 1824, it might well economists of that day, that, while our have seemed doubtful whether the coun• Congress had explicitly asserted the try would not discard all the dear-bought
principle of protection, and had intended experience of the past, and blast all the to act consistently with that principle, well-grounded hopes for the future, in a yet, from inexperience and a natural he- heedless pursuit of what seemed (deceitsitation to change abruptly the direction ful seeming !) to be the sordid interest which circumstances had given to our of the present. But hetter counsels ul
timately prevailed, and the passage of thing from that quarter we shall be much the tariff of 1824 may be regarded as the mistaken in our anticipations. That reresting of the ark of national indepen- port was grown and manufactured for dence on the dry and solid ground of ef the American market, and was not deficient and positive protection to home signed for any real effect upon the proindustry. From that hour until the du- ceedings of the British House of Comties were sensibly reduced under the mons. It was intended to convince the operation of the Compromise Act, the American Congress and the American course of the country was due onward people that Great Britain was almost to more and more decided prosperity. ruined by her protective system, (a sys.
Experience and observation are of lit- tem of ruin which she adheres to with tle use if we fail to regulate our conduct astonishing pertinacity up to the present by them. The same policy which the moment,) that our protective tariff would British Government pursued towards this in like manner be ruinous to us, and that country whilst in its dependent colonial our only salvation was in adopting at state, still forms the favorite measures of once the principles of free-trade-openthat government towards the United ing our ports to all British manufactures, States. It would be no difficult matter and becoming, in fact, merely a market to show that upon every agitation of the for British labor. Whether, following a question of protection in Congress, the change on our side of the policy, they British Parliament have introduced some would admit our agricultural products proceedings in order to distract, if pos- freely, or how our own mechanics should sible, the attention of our statesmen, and find employment to keep them from to induce among us an opposition to any starving, they would leave to be aftermeasures which should establish protec- wards discovered. tion to our own industry, as the settled Finding that their recommendation to policy of the nation. The Parliament us had no effect upon the measures of our even carried the farce so far, that in government, they cease to be careful of May, 1840, a time when the whole peo- the principles they put forth to the world, ple of this country were thoroughly wak- and seeing no onger any good reason ing up to the importance of the home for disguise, the leading men in both system, they raised a select committee in houses of Parliament afford us a fine the House of Commons, to inquire commentary upon the text of that report whether the duties levied by the British of the select committee. The Duke of tariff " are for protection to similar ar- Wellington very recently, with the frankticles” manufactured in that country, or ness of his known character, stated in “ for the purposes of revenue alone." the House of Peers, the true and perThis select committee, in their report of manent policy of Great Britain, in obAugust 6, 1840, appear to have lost sight serving that " when free-trade was talkof the principal object apparent on the ed of as existing in England, it was an face of the resolution authorizing their absurdity. There was no such thing, examination and report, and content and there could be no such thing as freethemselves with observing that the Eng- trade in that country. We proceed (says lish tariff “ often aims at incompatible he) on the system of protecting our own ends; the duties are sometimes meant to manufactures and our own produce-the be both productive of revenue and for produce of our labor and our soil ; of proprotective objects.” But they state that tecting them for exportation, and protectthey had discovered “ a growing convic- ing them for home consumption; and on tion, that the protective system is not, on that universal system of protection it is the whole, beneficial to the protected ma absurd to talk of free-trade." nufactures themselves.”
The necessity of a modification in our After such a discovery, and its solemn duties upon imports, which became apannouncement by a select committee of parent early in 1842, afforded a further the House of Commons, it would reason- insight into the course of British policy ably be imagined that some steps would towards this country. So soon as the be taken towards rectifying that “incom- cry for protection to American industry patibility” in the British policy, and in became so loud and long as to require an abandoning that system which they rep answer to its demand from the supreme resent as having been found not to be legislative authority, we
told beneficial to their protected manufac- throughout the whole length and breadth tures. If, however, we expect any such of our land, the information originating in
England for our benefit, that Great Bri- looking into the history of the world tain was willing to take our surplus about us, it is beyond measure strange bread-stuff in exchange for her manu that there should be a difference of opinfactures; and that there was therefore ion amongst our citizens on the subject. no necessity of changing our tariff policy The new school of political economists, in order to build up a home market for our disciples of Adam Smith, have set up grain-growers in the Western and Middle for their chief maxim, that nations should states, as well as our cotton-planters in buy where they can buy cheapest. This the South. This would have been the may at any time be a sufficient rule for tale to this day if we had not settled our the present by itself; but they seem protective system. It continued to be never to have reflected that with nations used as long as it could be with any ef as much as with individuals, a smaller fect; and when it became apparent to present good is often to be foregone for the British administration that the peo a greater good in the future. Great ple of the United States could be no Britain was once dependent on Flanders longer deluded by their interested and for her woollen goods, on the East Inmystified views state policy, volun- dies for her cottons, on ance for her teered for our service, they at once paper, glass, and various articles. Had changed their note, as will be seen on she continued to act on the present-adreference to the speech of Sir Robert vantage system, she would have been so Peel in the House of Commons, in May, dependent to this hour. She now makes 1813, upon the motion of Mr. Villiers for them all for herself, besides gathering in a repeal of the English corn-laws. Sir half the wealth of the world by selling the Robert sustains and advocates the Brit- surplus. It is the same policy which alone ish systen, and that motion was rejected can raise us to any permanent height of by a majority of one hundred and ninety- strength and prosperity, or even keep us six votes! Those who had previously from sinking into a second state of coflattered themselves that the British min- lonial dependence. The advantages and istry were prepared to go, in some modi- blessings which have followed the adopfied form, for free-trade, will do well to tion of the present tariff, the act of 1842, notice the horror expressed by Sir Rob- should open the eyes of all who are not ert Peel of the consequences of abandon- intentionally blind. Just before the pasing “the principle of protection ;” and sage of the present tariff in August, 1842, they will see by that most decisive vote there were forty thousand unemployed that the House of Commons agree with persons in the state of Pennsylvania him in sentiment. As to the judgment alone ; and at the same time full ten of the House of Peers on the subject, thousand of the industrious classes in the there cannot be a question that they are city of Philadelphia were vainly endeavmore thoroughly opposed, from interest, oring to earn the means by which to buy to any kind of free-trade, than even the bread to feed themselves and their famiCommons. The Duke of Wellington in lies. Our tariff has fed the hungry, his speech (to which we have previously found employment for the destitute ; and referred) expressed the sentiments of a the blessing of those who were in want, large majority of that house.
and ready to perish, sanctifies it as one It follows then, that unless we are de- of the most righteous measures of a govtermined to be infatuated, we must see ernment founded for the good of the peothat Great Britain does not intend, under ple. any possible state of circumstances, to
The enemies of the American system abandon the full and entire protection of are accustomed to assail it as unconstiher own agriculturists, and her own tutional. We consider this point to have manufactures. We do not see then why been effectually settled by Mr. Webster's we should for a moment hesitate about late clear and powerful argument at Aleffectually protecting ours. It does not bany. We do not see how any one can become us as a people to suffer ourselves read that argument, or can be in any to be hoodwinked by interested British other way familiar with the history of statesmen,--to have our state policy in- those times, and not be convinced of the dicated to us by British capitalists and existence of such powers in the Constimanufacturers--a policy which they are tution to the full extent claimed by the very careful not to adopt themselves. friends of the tariff. It is known, as
And with the knowledge which our well as any thing can be known, that the people have, or may have by merely exercise of such powers by the new