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The point which we desire to fix here, is the position and interest of merchants engaged in foreign commerce:-their position is between home and the parts with which they trade; and their interest is, to make all the money they can out of both. Hence, generally, they are opposed to restrictions, which are liable to come in the way of their interest. If they were to be personally engaged in this business for an age or a century, their interest and that of the country would be identical; but as they wish to make their fortunes in a brief period, and retire, they do not like any law which may happen, at the present moment, to stand in the way of their greatest profits.
The principle laid down by Ricardo, that "every transaction in commerce is an independent transaction," is peculiarly and forcibly applicable here. The merchant, as such, is not a patriot, but a sharper. He does not trade for the good of his country, but for his own interest; and his object, in every transaction, is to augment his own fortune. He does not need to be told that it is better for him personally to profit at the expense of the public, than for the public to profit at his expense; and he will suffer no compunctions for an injury done to the country, which brings a benefit to himself. His reasoning is that he and all his are but as a drop in the bucket, or as a bucket-full out of the ocean. But the aggregate of all foreign commercial transactions, is made up exactly in this way: Every one of them "is an independent transaction," negotiated for a private and selfish end; and nothing but protective regulations of the government, having regard to the interests of the public, can secure those interests.
PROTECTIVE DUTIES NOT TAXES.
The Gain of Assumptions, without Proof, to one Party, and the Loss to the other by conceding them.-The whole Controversy turns on the Proposition of this Chapter-Popu lar Instincts on this Subject-Duties not the Cause or Measure of a Change in Prices -The vast and comprehen-ive Spheres of Influence which bear on this Quest on --How they all tend to prove that Protective Duties are not Taxes.-The Causes Abroad and at Home, which produce the Effect -A Protective System adequate for al Purposes of Public Revenue in the United States.--The Commercial Position of the United States will, for an indefinite Period, require Protection-An Array of Facts to establish the Proposition of this Chapter. with Comments.-Reasons of the Facts-The great Mi-fortune of conceding, in the technical Use of Language, that Protective Duties are Taxes.
In the same manner as Free-Trade economists have always assumed, that their theory is a science, they have also assumed, that protective duties are taxes; and in the same manner as the first bas generally been conceded to them, so has the latter. It may also be remarked, that, in the same manner as they necessarily fall, by a discovery of the absence of their foundation-stone of science, so also the first, sole, and last objection that has been or can be made to a protective system, is undermined by a proof of the fact, that protective duties are NOT taxes. It is remarkable, too, that the affirmative of this proposition should have been so long conceded, without scrutiny, in the same manner as has been the case with the claim set up for the theory of Free Trade as a science.
On this point, viz., whether protective duties be taxes, or not, hinges the whole controversy. Indeed, there never would have been any, except as it has generally been supposed, that all duties are taxes, measured by their amount. Whether the proposition at the head of this chapter, is equally true in all countries, we do not pretend to say. It will have been seen, by the ground already gone over, that a system of public economy can not be devised, that is equally applicable to all nations, nor to any two nations; that, from the peculiar social organization of the United States, they occupy a peculiar position on this subject, as well as on others. in relation to other nations, but especially so on this; that the government of the United States was made for the people, and designed for their benefit; whereas, the governments of most, if not of all, of the countries with which we have commercial inter
course, are designed for the benefit of the governing and superior classes; and that labor, in those countries, by reason of such a design and operation of government, is deprived of a fair reward, depressed, degraded, enslaved.
But the proposition, that protective duties are not taxes, may be equally true in other countries as in this, though not, perhaps, in an equal degree. The principle that makes it true here, will, in like circumstances, make it true everywhere, other things being equal. To the people of the United States, this proposition has become one of the greatest, one of momentous importance; first, because it is generally believed and taken for granted, that all duties are taxes; next, because this false assumption is the only objection to protective duties; and lastly, because, if protective duties, in the United States, are not only not taxes, but a rescue from taxation, and, as will be found, from an enormous system of foreign taxation, the argument for protection becomes one of great interest and of supreme force, as a duty of patriotism.
Without attempting to philosophize here on the subject of instinct in man, it may be remarked, that the experience of the people of the United States, bas awakened what we are disposed to call an instinctive apprehension in their minds, of an hostility between their labor and foreign labor, in the market of the world; more especially when the products of foreign labor are brought into our own market to compete with home products. They feel that they want protection against it, and that protection will not be a tax, but a benefit. What they feel is true, and they are prepared to entertain the proposition above announced, before they hear the reasons, because it agrees with their experience. They who reason on this subject independent of experience and fact, and against both, may feel little respect for such deductions of the common mind. But there is argument in them notwithstanding. There is no American of experience and observation in these matters, and uninfected with the borrowed theory of Free Trade, who is not prepared to find the proposition of this chapter sustained by facts. He anticipates it. It may perhaps be called the instinct of experience, or of nature prompted by experience and observation. It is a feeling created, not without cause, before the reason of it is clearly understood. We prefer to call it popular instinct-the instinct of a party which feels that its interests are exposed to invasion and injury, and that they need protection.
The theory of Free Trade is, that duties not only increase
prices, but that they are the measure of the increase. It is not denied that duties on unprotected articles will enhance prices, and that for this reason they are taxes, as duties on tea, coffee, spices, and various other articles which can not be produced at home. But it is found by experience that they are never an exact measure. Sometimes the increase of price on such articles is greater than the duties, and sometimes it is less-ordinarily less. Whether it shall be greater or less, depends entirely upon supply relative to demanda rule which governs prices in all things. The increase of prices of unprotected articles, subject to duties, is ordinarily less than the amount of duties: first, because the producers, always aware of the duties in the market to which they send, are anxious to retain the market, and will therefore accept of less profit; next, because they can generally afford it; and thirdly, because, in regard to all such articles, there is always more or less of competition in the places of their production. Except in cases of defect of supply, the prices will rarely rise by the measure of the duties. They generally fall short, by a moiety, more or less. This fact is a complete disturbance of the theory of Free Trade, and breaks it up entirely, inasmuch as the theory supposes that the prices are raised by the measure of the duties, which, if it ever happens, is merely an accident, and never the effect of the rule which Free Trade lays down. That duties on unprotected articles are generally taxes, is true; but it is not true that the duties are the measure of the taxes.
It will be found, that protected articles fall into a very different position under duties, and that they are subject to a very different set of influences, as to the effect of the duties on the prices, when compared with the effects of duties on the prices of unprotected articles. Duties on the latter affect only two parties, viz., the foreign producer and the home consumer, both of which will naturally be sensitive on the subject. The producers will be anxious to retain the market, and if they think they can sell as much as before the duties by not raising the prices-which is presumable-and if they find by calculation, that they can make more aggregate profit in this way, than by raising prices and selling less, they will most assuredly follow this course; and the articles will come into market as cheap as before the duties were imposed, except, perhaps, the domestic jobbers and retailers will find an apology for the increase of prices and their own profits, by pointing to the duties. There may also be a foreign competition, when articles, such as
coffee and many other things, are supplied from different foreign countries, which also tends to keep down prices. These obvious influences, except as they are overcome by defect of supply in the market, will naturally prevent prices from rising by the measure of the duties, according to the rule laid down above. All practical merchants will certify to the correctness of this view. They find that prices, in some cases, and for a while, are scarcely affected by the duties on unprotected articles, except as advantage is taken of the fact of the duties in the home market; and even then they rarely come up to the measure of the duties, which, as before remarked, breaks up the Free-Trade theory on its strongest ground. For, if prices are raised by the measure of duties, as that theory alleges, it would most certainly occur in the case of unprotected articles, where there is no home competition brought into the field against foreign.
But the case is widely different, when American arts, industry, and labor, come into competition, under a system of protection, against foreign arts and labor. The most vulnerable point of those systems of foreign despotism, which, for centuries, it may be said for ever, have held labor in the most abject condition, is assailed by an American protective system-and assailed to their great alarm and consternation. It is assailed by a young giant, conscious, or who ought to be conscious, of the strength of his position, and of the weakness of his adversaries. And why are those systems of despotism alarmed, when they behold young America, not only rising and spreading herself in strength, but learning and practising those arts which hitherto have given Europe her ascendency over the rest of the world, and made all nations, the United States among the rest, tributaries to her greatness, her power, her thrones, her princes, her aristocracies, her towering pride, her pomp, her overgrown institutions, her vast wealth, and all those elements of earthly grandeur, which constitute her supremacy and her political sway? Why is Great Britain alarmed at this spectacle?-Because it is the starting up of a rival which she fearsand fears more than any other. And what is the specific ground of her fear?-Simply and only because she can not but foresee in this rivalship the cheapening of the products of her own arts and labor, in the United States, and all the world over-in the United States, her best market, and in the market of the world, which
The following facts will show the relative importance of the United States, as a market for British manufactures. By a recent report of a committee of the