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THE subject of this work is a matter of controversy, and the object is to convince the popular mind; hence, the usual form of history—that is to say, simple narrative—is obviously unsuited to the purpose now in view. I have chosen, therefore, the form of a trial before the High Court of Public Opinion, of which Truth is Chief Justice, and Reason and Common Sense are the Associate Justices—a case in which Protection appears as plaintiff, and Anti-protection, alias Free Trade, as defendant; and in which the principal witnesses examined are the children of Experience, while the author acts as counsel for the plaintiff. The American people constitute the jury, and will determine their verdict by ballot.
This, the first part of the work, embraces the most important period in our tariff history, because it was then that the United States, for the first and only time, made a practical trial of free trade—of a free trade with foreign nations so nearly absolute as to make the existing custom house policy of England seem, by contrast, the very soul of restriction. The disastrous outcome of that experiment is set up in these pages as a solemn warning to the present and to the future.
In addition, copious proofs are offered to show that the Federal Convention, in framing the Constitution, granted to Congress both the revenue power and the protecting power; and that the purpose of revenue was
alien to the latter power, as then understood, practiced and conferred; so much so, indeed, that “a tariff for revenue only” would be a defeat of the meaning and intent of that power.
I have undertaken this history after wide, tedious, painstaking research, extended through as many years as there were colonies joined in the revolutionary war; and I have written this part of the work with conscientious and vigilant regard for the exact truth. So far as I am aware, not a fact has been overstated, not a consequence has been exaggerated. Instead, I think I can justly claim, metaphorically, to have dug down to the original protecting power through nearly a century of eruptive overflow from the volcanic discussions of the tariff question; and to have laid bare the distinct outlines of that buried and forgotten Herculaneum of the Constitution, which was as familiar as their own doorsteps to the first generation of American statesmen.
But entire unanimity of views is not to be realized on any subject whatever. I expect to find readers who will continue unconvinced, despite the heavy array of proofs; yet I shall be much gratified to have such persons, each and all, communicate to me direct the ground of objection; also, to have all printed criticisms mailed to my address given below. No one can be more anxious than myself to be convicted of error, if error can be pointed out; for I have been at the utmost pains to avoid error:
DAVID H. MASON,
460 West Randolph St., Chicago, Illinois.
A Short Tariff History of the United States from the Earliest to the PrêSEmi Time,
This history, of which the following chapters constitute the first part, is intended to prove conclusively the following propositions, which the reader is urged to keep constantly in mind, as the central object of the whole record:
All the prosperity enjoyed by the American people— absolutely all the prosperity, without any reservation whatever—from the foundation of the United States government down to the present time, has been under the reign of protective principles; and all the hard, times suffered by the American people, in the same period, has been preceded either by a heavy reduction of duties on imports, or by insufficient protection, thus refuting all free-trade theories on the subject.
The alienation of the American colonies from the
mother country was very largely due to her tyrannical
policy of refusing to them permission to manufacture
their own raw materials for their own uses. She passed
restrictive laws of the most sweeping kind, enforced by
severe penalties, with the avowed design to reduce the colonists to abject dependence on the parent state for their necessary supplies of manufactured articles, and with the result of subjecting the victimized people to industrial bondage. The inevitable tendency of this system was to constitute Great Britain the almost sole buyer of America's raw produce, and the almost sole seller of the fabrics to be given in exchange for it, with increasing power to fix the prices of both. A thorough understanding of this self-aggrandizing scheme is essential to a thorough understanding of the American system of legislative protection to home industry—its aim, its mode of operation, its present attitude. Without such comprehension it is impossible to find the key which will unlock all the meaning of the tariff problem. Marked prominence is therefore given to an exhibit of the animus which actuated the colonial policy of the British government—its tremendous self-seeking, its .vile disregard of the commonest principles of equity, its trampling under foot of the rights of labor; all to feed fat an unscrupulous greed for gain, and gluttonously to satisfy a voracious appetite for power and dominion. Henry C. Carey (in his work, “The Slave Trade, Domestic and Foreign,” page 95) has condensed into a single paragraph the main points of the principal measures to subordinate the interests of the colonies on this continent and elsewhere to the interests of the mother country. He says:
The first attempt at manufacturing any species of cloth in the North American provinces produced a resolution on the part of the House of Commons (1710) that the erecting of manufactories in the colonies had a tendency to lessen their dependence on Great Britain. Soon afterward complaints were made to Parliament that the colonists were establishing manufactories for themselves, and the House of Commons ordered the Board of Trade to report on the subject, which was done at great length. In 1782 the exportation of hats from province to province was prohibited, and the number of apprentices to be taken by hatters was limited. In 1750 the erection of any mill or other engine for splitting or rolling iron was prohibited; but pig iron was allowed to be imported into England duty free, that it might be there manufactured and sent back again. At a later period Lord Chatham declared that he would not permit the colonists to make even a hobnail for themselves; and his views were then and subsequently carried into effect by the absolute prohibition, in 1765, of the export of artisans; in 1781 of woolen machinery; in 1782 of cotton machinery and artificers in cotton; in 1785 of iron and steel making machinery and workmen in those departments of trade; and in 1799 by the prohibition of the export of colliers, lest other countries should acquire the art of mining coal.
Thomas Jefferson, commenting on the parliamentary legislation repressive of colonial industry, and intended to aggrandize Great Britain at the expense of her dependencies, expressed himself boldly and emphatically thus:
That to heighten still the idea of parliamentary justice, and to show with what moderation they are likely to exercise power where themselves are to feel no part of its weight, we take leave to mention to his Majesty certain other acts of the British Parliament, by which we were prohibited from manufacturing for our own use the articles we raise on our own lands with our own labor. By an act passed in the fifth year of the reign of his late Majesty, King George II., an American subject is forbidden to make a hat for himself of the fur which he has taken, perhaps, on his own Soil—an instance of despotism to which no parallel can be produced in the most arbitrary ages of British history.
By one other act, passed in the twenty-third year of the same reign, the iron which we make we are forbidden to manufacture; and heavy as that article is, and necessary in every branch of hus