« ZurückWeiter »
companied, or immediately followed, the change from the Confederation to the new Union, urgently reinforce the statement, that the people of this country demanded a Union stronger than the Confederation, for the very purpose of shielding home industry from the prostrating assaults of foreign competition, through the regulation of commerce with other nations, so as to check or to prohibit the importation of commodities interfering with the growth and prosperity of domestic manufactures, and so as to give native production an impetus which would develop all the resources inherent within the boundaries of the nationality, essential for the supply and consumption of the population, whether in times of peace or war.
Gibralter's rock is not more securely established than this fact.
FIRST EFFECTS OF THE NEW PLAN OF GOVERNMENT.
The proposed Constitution of the United States, perfected and signed by the Federal Convention, September 17, 1787, was submitted to the consideration of the several States by the act of September 28, in the same year, passed by the Congress of the Confederation. As State after State ratified the new organic law, the event was greeted with public rejoicings and enthusiastic parades in many of the towns and cities. At length the present Union was completed, and made an operative existence, by the assent of New Hampshire, June 21, 1788—the ninth in order of sequence, and fulfilling the conditions of the instrument. Everywhere the popular mind turned to the new government with ardent expectation that it would supply the long-felt need of protection to home industry; and the chronicles of the time abound with evidences that such a realization was almost universally regarded as one of the most important and beneficial of the consequences to follow the change of political structure—as the very keystone of the arch. No wonder Mathew Carey was able to say, in “The New Olive Branch,” page 47:
The adoption of the Federal Constitution operated like magic; produced a total change in the state of affairs; and actually removed no small portion of the public sufferings, by the confidence it inspired, even before the measures of government could be carried into effect.
On the same subject Bishop says, in his “History of American Manufactures,” second volume, beginning on page 14:
Hence the general enthusiasm with which the adoption of the new Constitution was hailed in the principal centers of mechanical industry and trade as the palladium of the future industrial interests of the nation. The new form of government organized under it was regarded by the agricultural, manufacturing, and commercial classes, with no vain confidence, as securing to their investments and labors those immunities and rewards which they had sought in vain under the old Confederation. A more efficient administration of affairs now took the place of the wretched system of distrust, jealousy, and weakness which had paralyzed all enterprise; and new energy was infused into all departments of business. Agriculture improved rapidly; commerce expanded; and manufactures, which were still subordinate in importance to the former, put forth bolder efforts. American labor began steadily to change its form from a general system of isolated and fireside manual operations—though these continued for some time longer its chief characteristic—to the more organized efforts of regular establishments with associated capital and corporate privileges, employing more or less of the new machinery which was then coming into use in Europe. * That the productive classes regarded the Constitution of 1787 as con ing the power and right of protection to the infant manufactures of the country, and thus of seconding the general zeal for their increase, is manifest from the jubilant feeling excited in various quarters upon the public ratification of that instrument. Their confidence in the ability and disposition of the new government formed under it to aid them, as well as the extreme peril in which their interests were then placed, are also apparent from the fact that the first petition presented to Congress, after its first assembling in March, 1789, emanated from upward of seven hundred of the mechanics, tradesmen, and others of the town of Baltimore, lamenting the decline of manufactures and trade since the Revolution, and praying that the efficient government with which they were then blessed, for the first time, would render the country “independent in fact as well as in name,” by an early attention to the encouragement and protection of American manufactures, by imposing on
“all foreign articles which could be made in America such duties as would give a decided preference to their labors.”
Evidence exists in overflowing abundance to show that the great body of the people burned with intense anxiety, and with hot impatience, to be rid of indus. trial dependence upon foreign countries, particularly upon Great Britain; and that the prospect of deliverance centered in the recently-adopted Constitution, and in the strong government to which it gave existence. Tucker, in his “History of the United States," first volume, beginning on page 384, adds his testimony thus:
The country, now buoyant with hopes, in proportion to the dangers it had recently escaped, and the evils it even then encountered, looked forward with impatience to the meeting of the first Congress under the new Constitution. The officers of the army, who had not made sale of their unsatisfied claims, saw in the new government, provided as it was with unlimited powers of taxation, the prospect of justice from their country. The other public creditors, who were generally people of property and influence, looked forward to have their claims doubled or even quadrupled in value. The merchant and ship-owner confidently expected protection from the discriminating duties and navigation laws of other countries; and even the small manufacturing class hoped for the encouragement of a protective impost. The agricultural class, without looking for any immediate benefit from legislation, expected to share in the general prosperity, and to profit by an improvement of the markets, both foreign and domestic. In the cities, especially, where these benefits were more fully appreciated, there were pompous and costly demonstrations of the general joy.
Before the new order of things could go into operation, means of partial relief had been sought in voluntary associations, and in an appeal to the patriotism of their fellow-citizens Such a society was formed in Boston in 1787 or 1788, and a circular letter was addressed by its membership to their brethren throughout the Union. The following address from the “Tradesmen and Manufacturers of New York,” dated November 17, 1788, in answer to that circular, expresses the feelings and hopes with which the laboring classes of the country, particularly those engaged in the various branches of mechanical industry, looked forward to legislation under the new Constitution for full and permanent relief:
GENTLEMEN:—The mechanics and manufacturers of the city of New York have long contemplated and lamented the evils which a pernicious system of commerce has introduced into this country, and the obstacles with which it has opposed the extension and improvement of American manufactures; and having taken into consideration your circular letter, wherein those evils and their remedies are pointed out, in a just and striking manner, have authorized us to communicate to you, in answer to your address, their sentiments on the interesting subject.
It is with the highest pleasure that we embrace this opportunity to express to you their approbation of the liberal and patriotic attempt of the tradesmen and manufacturers of your respectable town.
Every zealous and enlightened friend to the prosperity of this country must view, with peculiar regret, the impediments with which foreign importations have embarrassed the infant arts in America. We are sensible that they are not only highly unfavorable to every mechanical improvement, but that they nourish a spirit of dependence, which tends in some degree to defeat the purposes of our late Revolution, and tarnish the luster of our character. We are sensible that long habit has fixed, in the minds of the people, an unjust predilection for foreign productions, and has rendered them too regardless of the arguments and complaints with which the patriotic and discerning have addressed them from every quarter. The prejudices have become confirmed and radical; and we are convinced that a strong and united effort is necessary to expel them. We are happy that the tradesmen of Boston have led the way to a general and efficient exertion in this important