Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

to increasing the internal prosperity of their states, and awakening those sentiments of religion and morality, the influence of which has been weakened but too much by the misery of the times." Let them do this in spirit and in truth, and they will discover that the security of rulers will be proportioned to their zealous efforts to protect the rights and advance the happiness of their subjects; that the real sources of the strength and stability of empires are to be found in the intelligence and virtue of the people; whose loyalty will be strengthened by those ties of reciprocal interest, which spring from a sense of mutual obligation, due alike from the government and the governed : and they will find that their best defence against danger from without, and their surest safeguard against licentiousness and faction from within, will be found in that confidence, to which their own conduct shall have given them a well founded claim, in the affections of a grateful people.

An Examination of the new Tariff proposed by the Hon. Henry

Baldwin, a representative in Congress. By ONE OF THE PEOPLE. Svo. pp. 268. Gould and Banks. New-York.

We have in this country a sect of political economists, who confidently assert that the importation of foreign goods is rapidly bringing the country to ruin, and that nothing can arrest our fatal progress but legislative interference. The arguments by which this opinion is supported are, that European ports are closed to our exports, while our importations from that quarter are extensive. The balance of trade is consequently against us, and the foreign debt must be paid in specie, or be met in beggary. The only possible way in which this impending evil can be averted is, we are told, to lay such duties on foreign manufactures as shall enable those of our own country to drive them out of the home market: This measure will give excitement and activity to labour-raise the value of manufacturing capital—improve the price of agricultural products--offer a new and profitable field for internal commerce—and make us independent of Europe. Influenced by the laudable object of securing to the nation benefits so extensive, Mr. Baldwin, a member of congress from the state of Pennsylvania, was induced, last winter, to lay before the house of representatives the plan of a tariff founded on these principles.

The book before us is a very sensible examination of the soundness of this policy, and of the truth of the facts by which it is supported; and, although the measure was not adopted at the session of congress at which it was proposed, still this work will be valuable, so long as the subject it discusses is open to inquiry. The general sentiments of the writer, on the subject of manufactures, assimilate so entirely with our own, that we cannot avoid quoting them with unqualified approbation. . There, perhaps, never was a nation so admirably formed by nature for the encouragement of manufactures, or assisted by so many powerful circumstances. The United States of America are rich in the raw materials required for all manufactures necessary to a people : they are separated by an ocean of three thousand miles from every manufacturing country : the articles of necessity reach them with a heavy addition of charges upon the price of the manufacture: they enjoy in the highest degree, the blessings of a free government, furnishing to the nations of the earth the best inducement to abandon the home of their ancestors and settle among them ; their citizens sprang from, and speak the language of a nation unrivalled in manufactures : they annually receive from that nation and the other manufacturing countries of Europe a supply of artisans skilled in every manufacture : these people follow the business which they have learned at home and understand ; and generally find here capital and enterprise to set them at work : and the population of the United States is increasing astonishingly, thereby annually adding to the number of customers for the manufactures. · The preliminary fact to be ascertained in the opening of this question is, whether we are regularly importing and exporting to a loss ?-whether the whole amount of our foreign investments is not sufficient to liquidate our foreign debts? In other words, whether we, as a nation, have the same relative situation to Europe, that a farmer bears to a merchant, when the whole crop of the former, comprising all his annual income, is sold to the latter for five hundred dollars, while he purchases yearly a thousand dollars in goods? If this question be answered in the affirmative, there is an end to the argument on both sides. · On the one hand, no one can contend that commerce ought to be pursued on terms so disadvantageous; and, on the other hand, it is idle to suppose that legislative interference is required to put a stop to it. If the merchant had pursued this mode of doing business for two or three years, neither he nor the farmer would require an act of congress to compel him to discontinue it. In the familiar illustration we have given, there is one consideration that can never apply to national traffic. The merchant may continue to trust on the credit of the farm, and if he is not prevented by fraud or preference, he may in the end sell the farm and turn the tenant out of doors. It is different with foreign traders : they have long since discovered, that when an American debtor cannot, or will not, place property in their hands to the amount of their claims, little benefit results from attempting coercion. It is a fact, that among extensive commercial failures, nine out of ten

have taken from foreigners a vast amount of capital, that has been consumed in this country. The admission may be mortifying, but it is nevertheless true, that the state of our insolvent laws, and the want of a national bankrupt act, have effectually destroyed any belief among foreigners that we may be compelled to discharge our engagements. There is little danger that Europeans will suffer us to run in debt to a ruinous extent, or that we will be so conscientious as to beggar ourselves in paying them.

It is true our commerce is not entirely carried on in cash, or immediate exchanges; but when we cease to have investments placed abroad to meet the claims against us, European prudence will anticipate any law of ours to stop the intercourse. When sandal wood is no longer sought for in the Fegee Islands, the monarch of that territory need not prohibit the admission of iron hoops and glass beads. We are told, however, that so strong is commercial cupidity and the spirit of speculation, that we do persist in buying, and that foreigners do persist in selling to us, more than our exports can pay for—that this fact appears from the debts our citizens labour under, from the balance of trade being against us, and from the amount of the national debt and United States bank shares daily sold to foreigners. As to the sales of our stock abroad, we think the less said about that the better. We hope, however, that every sale, quoted from English papers in ours, may have been a bona fide transfer, and show the actual value of our stock in that country.

That we are in debt among ourselves cannot be denied ; at the same time, it would be more correct and fair for an English politician to attribute the debts the subjects of that country owe to each other, to the balance of trade being against them, than for us to attribute a similar fact to the balance of trade being against us. This is a subject of serious and painful examination. The following are the judicious remarks of our author upon it.

• After the storins of thirty years, which bave shaken the very foundations of industry, trade and morals, througbout the world, mankind have a moment's pause ; and seem much astonished at the consequences of a sudden relief from the horrors and uncertainties of war.

We are in a general calm, but the delirium of the fever which is just leaving us, still disturbs our fancy with strange dreams ; each man undertakes to account for the general distress, and each one seizes on the circumstances around him, and ascribes all bis misfortunes to them ; one attributes all to Banks ; another to want of specie capital ; a third to cash duties and lending the government's money to Englishmen ; and a fourth ascribes all to a ruinous system of revenue, which must be “ radically changed.” What will all these

Capital, the

may be a

om E wave efter v be coug angert

extent a ses in

croakers say, when they look around the world and find all mankind involved in the same general ruin ? they are driven to the conclusion, either that they have not discovered the cause, or that every nation is afflicted with similar evils in government. In answer to those who ascribe our distress to a want of protection to our domestic industry, we may say, that no nation on earth complains more bitterly and loudly than England, in the full enjoyment of all the blessings of a system, protecting industry with bounties and monopo.

lies.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

The causes of general distress throughout the world are, however, paramount to all legislation. They are such as ever have, and ever will agitate and control the industry of man ; and, at times, sweep over nations with the shock of a whirlwind.

Let us look at the condition of the world in 1815. Europe had just rested from a war of twenty-five years ; the United States had passed through eight years of embargo, restrictions, and war. During these periods, the industry of nations had been disturbed and shackled ; the capital of mankind waited an opportunity, when it might be set in motion with security. Europe, by the restrictions and uncertainty of commerce, had been deprived in a measure, of the productions of Asia and the Americas; and, on the other hand, these countries had, for the same reasons, but a small supply of the manufactures and produce of Europe. The productions of every nation were consequently in great abundance and low, in that country where they were cultivated or manufactured ; and all foreign merchandise was scarce and high...

This was the condition of things in 1815, when the capital and enterprise of the world were let loose by a general peace : this circumstance was sufficient of itself; but other causes, almost as powerful, assisted in giving impetuosity to the tide of commerce. Men who had been almost for a generation idle, or occupied in the va rious employments of war, suddenly, and without experience, entered into a new business ; the merchants of the world had become little better than speculators, amidst the risks, great profits and heavy losses of war. He, who duly reflects on the importance of all these causes, will be prepared to expect the consequences which followed. The years 1815 and 1816 yielded large profits , we were all buyers, and the productions of one country were hurried to another; this general exchange was profitably continued during these years ; confidence, enterprise and capital, real and fictitious, contributing to augment the business of the world, and producing, at length, the melancholy reverse of the summer of 1815. The markets of every nation were crowded with the productions of other countries, and foreign merchandise was at a lower price than it would have commanded at home. Confidence was suddenly destroyed, fictitious capital lost its powers, enterprise was broken in spirit, the world was in debt, and ruin was inevitable.

In 1817 and 1818, we were all sellers, and prices fell. Still the debts of the world were to be paid, and property of every descrip

VOL. II.

42

tion, real estate, ships, manufactures and produce, were sacrificed for the payment of these debts ; this sacrifice and this fall were simultaneous throughout the world, as well as the bankruptcies of 1818 and 1819 ; which together, relieved mankind from that mass of debt, which they had been tempted to contract by the great profits on trade in 1815 and 1816.

The year 1820 has brought us some relief; we may congratulate ourselves, that the storm is over, and we may once more venture abroad. We are no longer alarmed with the fear of bankrupt. cies ; confidence has returned to give an impulse to trade, and will, through that, operate on industry of every kind in the country.'

There is, however, another consideration intimately connected with the state of the times in this country, and to which much of our present distress is attributable. We had thriven and grown to manhood during the long wars which followed the French revolution. All our exports were sold at war prices—all our commerce was carried on at war profits. The regularly sustained value of our productions, and of our foreign trade, made land and property of every description extravagantly high. The continuance of this demand was so protracted as to make it the basis of all our calculations of wealth and gain. It furnished the standard of estimating professional labour and domestic drudgery-of fixing the value of the warehouses of the city and the waste lands of the forest. It was the calculation by which family expenses were to be paid, and by which the debts we contracted with each other were to be discharged. While our circumstances were thus flourishing, credit was easily obtained, for nine profitable speculations would more than pay the tenth bad debt. If a man could get credit for a hundred acres of land, or for a warehouse of goods, he felt secure that his industry would enable him to redeem his engagement. This facility in obtaining credit naturally led to multiplicity of debts, which were readily discharged, and new ones incurred. We were probably, to a greater degree than any people on the globe, a nation of debtors and creditors. Even when our commerce was subjected to belligerant spoliation, the loss of one million of capital did not impair the value or the profits of that which remained. The risk and insurance were increased, and so were the gains of those who escaped. The very decrees and orders in council of Europe were soon ingeniously evaded, and by increasing the demand in the foreign market, made the reward of the successful adventurer more tempting.

This state of things continued till our own restrictions commenced, and were followed by war, and then capital invested in foreign manufactures, of which the amount was immense, became more valuable than ever. At the termination of our war, all

« AnteriorContinua »