Imagens das páginas

prehensively represented, which led to the independence of these United States, that they were all of a commercial character, and had respect to the rights of property which every man has in himself, and to the avails of his own exertions in a state of freedom, bating only his fair tax to the public, in which, also, he is entitled to a voice. It is not pretended that there are no other rights; but that all others follow. The security of all commercial rights, is a security of all others, which men, in their relations to each other, on the platform of a free commonwealth, are likely to claim.

It should not be forgotten, then, as it is an important point, that the rights which the American fathers asserted in opposition to tyranny, and which they vindicated with their fortunes and their blood, were of a commercial nature. As elements of a civil polity, they are also political rights. And this, too, is an important consideration. Labor was the vital ingredient; and the shield thrown over it by the success of the revolution, rescued it from its former exposed condition. It was a political instrument, a structure, an edifice, that rose out of that struggle, to secure, what strife and blood had vindicated, viz., the rights of labor, which thus became -or rather were thus demonstrated to be-political rights; and which were thus reinstated in their true position. The aim of the British crown was to draw to itself the fruits of American labor; it wanted nothing else. The aim of the American fathers was to retain those fruits in their own possession, as their own right; and this was the occasion of the struggle.

It is manifest enough, now that these rights are seen to be of a commercial nature, that they fall within the range of public economy. And they are not only of a commercial nature, as well as social and political, but it will be seen, that they are radical sources and fundamental causes of commercial prosperity. These rights have been entirely overlooked by European economists, and others on this side of the Atlantic, who have been servile and weak enough to borrow their opinions, and to adopt systems made to their hands. In overlooking this element, it was impossible to build up a system of public economy, that would not be erroneous. This element, in such a system, would necessarily be wanting as an anchor to the ship, while at rest; and it would be wanting also, when most needed, as a compass, and as a fixed celestial sign, while on a voyage over the trackless deep of inquiry on the subject. All human society, as shown in another chapter, is built up by labor, and moored to its hand. The better, therefore, the condition, and

the more healthful the cause, so much better and more vigorous the product.

But, from a sickly parent, a promising offspring has been pledged; from a degraded and servile operator, the finest specimens of human ingenuity and art, are alleged to come; and from an oppressed and manacled agent, it is proposed to erect the most worthy monuments of human greatness! Such as these are the fundamental elements of the systems of the leading Free-Trade economists. They have rejected the sound, and adopted and cherished the rotten.

As the rights of labor ever have been, so will they ever remain, in accordance with the beneficent orders of the Creator, the truest sources, and the most exact exponents of public and private wealth. There may doubtless be unnatural accumulations of wealth, by the suppression of these rights; but it can not be so great in the aggregate; and the misfortune of beginning wrong, is always to end wrong, as well as to be in peril on the way. Everything built on the sacrifice of these rights, topples on its foundation, and will fall at last. There is no true economy in such a policy, either at the beginning, or at any stage thereof, or at the end; nor can any human ingenuity make an argument on that side, that will bear scrutiny. It is, perhaps, because of this radical, fundamental defect, that we find so many contradictions and absurdities in the European economists we mean those of the Free-Trade school. Each of them, especially Adam Smith, has abstract propositions enough to build up any system; plenty for an American system, and all right; but when he comes to put the parts of his system. together, the faults of the whole are apparent. It was necessary in their case, having a vicious state of society for a foundation, to justify the greatest wrongs done to man, and to show how profit to the race, to nations, could come out of such treatment.

[ocr errors]

American independence established an American system of public economy. If it did not, independence must necessarily have been a total failure. The declaration was based on the principle, "To THE RESCUE." Rescue from what? From injustice, oppression, tyranny. And in what did the injustice, the oppression, the tyranny, complained of, consist? The British crown, as shown above, undertook to draw all the fruits or profit of American labor to itself, in the same manner as European governments, for the most part, still absorb the profits of European labor. The wrong was not only political, social, and moral, but commercial


and it was all three of the former only as and because it was especially the latter. All the substance of the wrong was of a commercial nature. It receives these other denominations or epithets, merely to describe its character in a social point of view. They are no description of the substance. The point and essence of the wrong consisted in the fact, that one party took away the property of other parties, which was the right of the latter, because they had created it by their own exertions, and because it was necessary to their comfort and happiness. And it was a wrong, which not only made the suffering parties poor, but which took away their chances of growing rich-even of bettering their condition. It was a system of economy well enough calculated to promote the wealth and augment the power of Great Britain at home; but it was the ruin of the American colonies. At best, it was a vast injury to them, and an insuperable obstacle to their greatest possible prosperity. The object of the revolution was to change the system-to change it entirely, fundamentally-to secure to the people the benefits of the right of property in themselves. When a man is forced to work for the benefit of others, it is a mockery to say he is his own Such was the condition of the colonists before the revolution. They were forced to work for the benefit of foreigners. As Joshua Gee says, in the extract above made, "if we examine into the circumstances of the inhabitants of our plantations, and our own, it will appear, that not one fourth part of their own products redounds to their own profit;" and the professed object of his plan, which was adopted and acted upon, by the British government, was to perpetuate this system. The American fathers went into the struggle against the British crown, to break it up. They went for a rescue, and to establish an order of things that should secure to them their own commercial rights, and retain among themselves the fruits of their own industry and enterprise. They went for a system to encourage home manufactures, which had been forbidden; to leave every man free to follow his own chosen pursuit, make hats or anything else, and to secure to him the enjoyment of his own earnings of that cumulative wealth which always results from systematic industry, when not absorbed by oppressors. The change which they sought for and effected, was a revolution in public economy, and these two words comprehend the whole. The nominal change from the relations of a colony, to the position of an independent state, was of no consequence without this; and if the British crown had granted this, or never taken it away, the

[ocr errors]

American fathers would never have desired a separation. There would have been no motive-no object. It was purely and exclusively to establish a new and American system of public


Most people are accustomed to think, that all rights passing under the denomination of political, are certain abstractions supposed to be of importance, though perhaps undefinable. They may be tried by following out the inquiry carefully-in what does their importance consist? Take for example, the rights claimed of the British crown by the American fathers, and the correlative wrongs. It will be found that every one of them was of a commercial character, and exclusively so. When scrutinized, they resolve themselves into meum-et-txum, mine-and-thine questions, involving valuable commercial considerations. Nor can it be alleged, that they are, on that account, more sordid, or less worthy of respect, than has commonly been supposed. For after all, the principle of mine and thine is the nicest and the most important rule of society; it is the ground of all controversy; the end of all debate; the cause of all wars; and the authority that establishes peace and quietness. It may excite to action the purest and most ennobling virtues; or it may rouse the fiercest and most destructive passions. Armies and navies may rush to combat by its instigations; thrones may be shaken and nations revolutionized by its power. It is not, therefore, of course and in itself, a mean consideration, though in the controversy between the American fathers and the British crown, it was purely a commercial one. It was important to have this point distinctly settled and properly elucidated, that every one may see clearly, and feel forcibly, that an American system of public economy must necessarily grow out of it.

The history of the protective policy in the United States, will be found, as we think, to comprise the essence of all that is peculiar and distinctive in the political history of this country, from its foundation to the present time, running back through our colonial history-not, indeed, as a thing that was through all this period, but as an object for ever aimed at and contended for, as vital to all the great and minor interests of the country and of the people. It may be said to have been the grand object of the pouring forth of European emigrants on these western shores, since Columbus announced their existence to the world. It was a sense of oppression, of grievances, of a deprivation of rights, which produced that inqui

etude in Europe, creating a wide-spread willingness and desire to sacrifice native-born comforts and innumerable precious ties, for "a lodge in some vast wilderness," remote though it were, but beaming with the charms of distance as the abode of freedom. Though political designs, commercial enterprise, and speculation, had their share of influence in the settlement of this continent, it is unnecessary to say, that the ruling passion of European emigration this way, for ages, was an indomitable aspiration after freedom-a freedom which could not be enjoyed in the old world; and it is equally true, as all know, that the same feelings still continue to prompt this great movement from East to West. Westward the star of empire moves; but it is all for freedom. It is to purchase, to secure, and to protect the rights of man-the very rights which have been under consideration in the preceding chapter. It is to be relieved from that incubus of European despotism, which robs man of the reward of his exertions, and to enjoy that reward.

But unfortunately for freedom, that same watchful power, the cruelties of which had forced this great movement, guided and prompted by the instincts of its own voracious and insatiable appetite for oppression and wrong, followed its victims in the pathway of their escape, and spread, and continued to hold, over them, the claims of its unjust pretensions. It is enough for our purpose here, to abridge this great chapter of American history, and point only to that of the North American colonies, till it ended in the establishment of American independence. The whole of that history was a struggle for freedom, without gaining it; for it will be found, that the commercial troubles of the confederated states, till the adoption of the constitution in 1789, were greater than they had ever been, and that the independence acquired was merely nominal-all and solely for want of a protective system, which, under such a rope of sand as the articles of confederation, could not be put in force. The evils of this specific character-there were no other-were seen, felt, and deplored; the states, in their isolated positions, tried to protect themselves, and only made the matter worse, aggravated the difficulties, by interferences; till at last, the states being on the verge of dissolution, as an independent nation, on account of this great defect, the federal constitution was adopted as a remedy. The history of those times shows, that the grand object, the impelling necessity, of the formation of the federal government, in 1789, was to obtain a power for the protection of the commercial rights of the nation and of the people; and in accordance with this de

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »