« AnteriorContinuar »
Even under the same jurisdiction, with a system of domestic regulations intended to guard the rights of citizens in their relations to each other, every person, as above shown, is exposed to the invasions and depredations of the principle of Free Trade; and notwithstanding all the privileges and guaranties of law, and all the vigilance of public justice, and all the power of the arm of public authority, he is a fortunate man, who gets through life, without experiencing the ills of Free Trade. For, be it understood, Free Trade, in its practical operations, does not consist, as is commonly supposed, in buying where one can the cheapest, and selling where one can the dearest ; but in taking advantage of the non-existence of law, to encroach upon the rights of others, and rob them. It is, at bottom, a system of roguery, of depredation, either in a field where there is no law, or by the evasion of law where it exists. In this, we mean only to characterize the principle, and not to represent the character of all commercial transactions founded upon it.
And will it be said, that Free Trade is equally fair for both sides? And can not those who say this, see that the principle leads directly to the dissolution of all society, and gives the field to him who has the most advantageous position, the most wit, the strongest arm? Such, undoubtedly, are the results of Free Trade. There is no principle of the social state, on which it can be founded. It is virtually an unrestrained license for depredation. But, let us see, if Free Trade is equally fair for both sides. There can not be found two nations equally advanced in the arts and in the facilities of producing those things which men want or desire, and consequently must have; nor any two in which the cost of production is the same. The difference, in these particulars, between some nations, is very great.
The question involved is simply, whether the comparatively unskilful and weak can cope with parties more skilful and stronger, without some adventitious aid—a question, the very statement of which, one would think, ought to settle itself. Can any argument prove, that two things given us unequal, are equal? How is the unpractised and comparatively weak pugilist or wrestler to encounter, with hope of victory, his skilled and athletic opponent? How can a Mexican army beat an American army of equal numbers? This is the question. Great Britain by a protective system, commenced about two centuries ago, and continued down to this time-a system not yet abandoned, notwithstanding all her pretensions to the contrary, and never designed to be abandoned,
except as she succeeds in drawing the rest of the world into the trap, where, though caught with the rest, it is an instrument of her own contrivance, in which she, the cat, will be able to swallow all the birds at a mouthful. Great Britain, we say, has, by her protective system, risen to be the richest and most powerful nation on the globe. The abolition of the corn laws excepted, the only points on which she has granted Free Trade, are those in which she is skilled and strong, and can bid defiance to all the world; and this she has never done without the formal consent of the parties concerned, made to the board of trade, which presides over all such questions, the government giving to those parties, at the same time, a boon, in the abolition of duties on their raw materials imported for manufacture; so that, these very acts were in fact measures of protection, and operated as such, while they were vaunted forth to the world, under the name of Free Trade. Even the abolition of the corn laws was a grand measure of protection to the empire, that the only remaining obstacle, to wit, dearness of food, to the triumph of her manufacturing system over all the world, might be removed. Thus, every step of advance, on the part of Great Britain, in the march of Free Trade, so called, has been to her, and to the parties concerned, a measure of protection. It was to strengthen yet more, and fortify her own position as the great workshop of the world. She has never abandoned, and never will abandon, her system of protection, though she is the only nation that can afford it. It is absurd to call that Free Trade, every stage of which, in the effect of the abatement of British duties, operates on the parties concerned, as a measure of protection. The Hon. G. Smythe, associated with Sir Robert Peel in the government of Great Britain, and who went with Sir Robert in all his measures, called Free Trade, candidly said, in a speech at Canterbury, on the state of the nation, in the summer of 1847: "I can not quit this subject of Free Trade, without expressing my opinion on its abstract principle. I by no means hold that the principle of Free Trade is absolutely true, or that it is of universal application. If I were an American, the citizen of a young country, I should be a protectionist. If I were a Frenchman, the citizen of an old country, with its industry undeveloped, I should equally be a protectionist." So here we have the truth from one who knows, and who could say, of all the self-styled Free-Trade movements of Great Britain, magna pars fui. Yet he confesses, that there is nothing in the principle of Free Trade of general applica
He would be a protec
tion, and that the doctrine is a false one. tionist in America, in France, and doubtless in any other country, not excepting even that of Great Britain, where he advocated the ⚫ abolition of protection only over certain parties who were prepared for it in the strength of their position. This represents the true state of the question, as being entirely one of expediency, contingent on circumstances, and not one of fixed and determinate principles, for general application. It is solely a question of comparative strength of position, all things considered, and not a doctrine that can be relied upon in all or in any cases. If beneficial to one party, it might for that very reason be injurious to all others, and to some very disastrous.
The leaving of this important field, unprotected by legislation, is the same as surrendering it to lawless rovers and commercial bandits. It invites them in, and creates their characters as depredators on the rights of American citizens. They are received and hospitably entertained, while they prey on the vitals of the community whose guests they are. There is no law prescribing terms of their entrance; for it is the condition of Free Trade, that there shall be none; and being here, with all the advantages of the places. whence they come, they cripple the citizen and tie up his hands; take from him his living and his bread, while the citizen pays all the taxes of that state of society which secures to the foreigner these advantages over himself.
But how do foreigners commit these depredations on the rights of the people, under a system of Free Trade? In what manner does it operate? In the first place, it forces the people to pay more for what they buy of foreigners, when it supersedes a domestic product, notwithstanding that Free Trade alleges that they pay less. Facts prove, that Protection wields a comprehensive and sweeping influence of this kind, which, in a course of years, after domestic competition has had time to operate, produces a very sensible and a very material change; and it is rarely true, that the prices of such articles are raised, even at the beginning of a system of protection. For it is found, by experience, that although the prices of some of the articles in question, are sometimes transiently cheapened by the removal of Protection, they are scarcely ever, if in any case, enhanced by the establishment of a protective system. The cheapening, in the first place, is the result of a competition, in an unsettled state of things, which can ordinarily be but of short duration; and the continuance of prices on the same level, and some
times the reduction of them, in the latter case, results, first, from the competition between the domestic and the foreign producer, the latter of whom will still try to hold on to the market; and next, by a domestic competition, when the home production is well established. This is acknowledged by both Say and Ricardo.
The doctrine of Free Trade, on this point, is thoroughly falsified by facts, and the war is turned back on Africa. It is a just and grievous complaint, that Free Trade costs more than Protection, in the very articles which it claims to cheapen, and the alleged cheapening of which constitutes its only plea. Free Trade not only imposes an additional burden, where it promises to remove one; but it prevents the establishment of a system which would make that burden less than it was before, being thus aggravated by Free Trade. Instead of rescuing us from foreigners, it puts us back into their power; instead of giving us a chance of getting things which we want at a fair price, it forces us to pay the expenses of European thrones and institutions, usurped from the rights of labor; and thus a positive tax is imposed upon the country, by Free Trade, instead of relieving it from one. It may easily be seen, that an American system of adequate protection, ought to give us articles of manufacture cheaper than Europe would do, with her onerous institutions, so long as she might have control of our market. In that case, she is sure to make us pay her taxes, as we always do, under a system of Free Trade. Here is the cause which accounts for the fact, that whenever the protective policy has prevailed in the United States, our manufactures, before obtained from abroad, have been cheapened, and continued to cheapen, as long as that system was sustained. The prices current of the same articles, at any given time, in Europe and America, under an American protective system, can not fairly be brought to bear upon this question. The differences prove nothing, except the natural effects of a limited market for European products, and that, if we would give them our market, they would immediately raise their prices; nor, as before remarked, do the transient effects of disturbing our system, by abolishing Protection, prove anything reliable on this point. It is only the high, comprehensive, permanent, and controlling influences of a system, which are to be regarded in such a case, and which claim the attention of a statesman, to guide him in a safe path for the service of his country. By this rule, the facts arrayed in other parts of this work, prove conclusively, that an American Protective system rescues the country
from the immense and onerous system of European taxation, in the prices of the very articles which Free Trade falsely claims to cheapen. Nor is there any exception to this rule, injurious to any parties in the country whatever, rich or poor, individual or associate, or sectional; because, as elsewhere shown, the general and comprehensive benefit of a Protective system, operating upon all, more than indemnifies for any transient and inconsiderable burden, which such a system may here and there impose, not permanently, but as the mere accident of fugitive events.
Here, then, under a system of Free Trade, is opened a field on which whole nations, all Europe, the entire foreign world, with their systems of commercial policy, and all the parts of those systems, in which individual and associated enterprise operates, with all the power of their cheap labor and more perfect arts, descend upon us, without let or hinderance; enter our jurisdiction without tax and without condition, freighted with their wares and merchandise; avail themselves of all our public works and facilities of transportation, created by our labor and at our cost, to penetrate every corner of the land, entering every cabin in the remotest parts of the western wilderness; for what? and to what end? To sell to our farmers, throughout the length and breadth of the land, corn, wheat, rye, barley, beans, and every species of breadstuffs that can be named as the product of our soil; to sell us beef, pork, mutton, butter, cheese, lard, chickens, and every species of meat that we produce; to sell us cattle, horses, mules, and every beast of draught and burden; hay, oats, provender, and everything that constitutes the sustenance of these animals; to sell our planters rice and cotton; in a word, to sell us, Americans, the products of forests, the fowls of heaven, and the fish of the sea; to sell us everything that land and water produce by the sweat of those who toil on them; for, we have proved elsewhere, that all these things enter in disguise into the products of manufacture, and that the former compose the greatest portion of the latter; of the truth of which, no man that reflects, can for a moment doubt. It is a great and comprehensive fact. And they not only sell, but they force us to buy. We can not help it, under a system of Free Trade. They are here, in our market, with their wares, composed in the manner above described, of the very things which we produce, in abundance, and with surplus; but for want of the encouragement of Protection, we can not put them in these necessary and convenient forms. We must have hem, though the very materials of which they are made, perish on