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they labor, while carrying on their manufacture in London, the law still prohibits them, while they continue to reside there, from employing any portion of their capital in the same business in any other part of the kingdom, where it might be more beneficially conducted.Now, sir, absurd as these laws must appear to be to every man, the attempt to repeal them did not, as far as I recollect, altogether succeed. The weavers were too numerous, their interests too great, or their prejudices too strong; and this notable instance of protection and monopoly still exists, to be lamented in England with as much sincerity as it seems to be admired here.
In order further to show the prevailing sentiment of the English government, I would refer to a report of a select committee of the House of Commons, at the head of which was the vice president of the board of trade, (Mr. Wallace) in July, 1820. "The time," say that committee," when monopolies could be successfully supported, or would be patiently endured, either in respect to subjects against subjects, or particular countries against the rest of the world, seems to have passed away. Commerce, to continue undisturbed and secure, must be, as it was intended to be, a source of reciprocal amity between nations, and an interchange of productions, to promote the industry, the wealth, and the happiness, of mankind." In moving for the reappointment of the committee, in February, 1823, the same gentleman said; "We must also get rid of that feeling of appropriation, which exhibited itself in a disposition to produce everything necessary for our own consumption, and to render ourselves independent of the world. No notion could be more absurd or mischievous; it led, even in peace, to an animosity and rancor, greater than existed in time of war. Undoubtedly there would be great prejudices to combat, both in this country and elsewhere, in the attempt to remove the difficulties which are most obnoxious. It would be impossible to forget the attention which was in some respects due to the present system of protections; although that attention ought certainly not to be carried beyond the absolute necessity of the case." And in a second report of the committee, drawn by the same gentleman, in that part of it which proposes a diminution of duties on timber from the north of Europe, and the policy of giving a legislative preference to the importation of such timber in the log, and a discouragement of the importation of deals, it is stated that the committee reject this policy, because, among other reasons, "it is founded on a principle of exclusion, which they are most averse to see brought into operation, in any new instance, without the warrant of some evident and great political expediency." And on many subsequent occasions, the same gentleman has taken occasion to observe, that he differed from those who thought that manufactures could not flourish without restrictions on trade; that old prejudices of that sort were dying away, and that more liberal and just sentiments were taking their place. These sentiments appear to have been followed by important legal provisions, calculated to remove restrictions and prohibitions, where they were most severely felt; that is to say, in several branches of navigation and trade.
They have relaxed their colonial system, they have opened the ports of their islands, and have done away the restriction which limi
ted the trade of the colony to the mother country. Colonial products can now be carried directly from the islands to any part of Europe; and it may not be improbable, considering our own high duties on spirits, that that article may be exchanged hereafter by the English West India colonies, directly, for the timber and deals of the Baltic.
It may be added that Mr. Lowe, whom the gentleman has cited, says, that nobody supposes that the three great staples of English manufactures, cotton, woollen, and hardware, are benefited by any existing protecting duties; and that one object of all these protecting laws is usually overlooked, and that is, that they have been intended to reconcile the various interests to taxation: the corn law, for example, being designed as some equivalent to the agricultural interest for the burden of tithes and of poor rates.
In fine, sir, I think it is clear, that, if we now embrace the system of prohibitions and restrictions, we shall show an affection for what others have discarded, and be attempting to ornament ourselves with cast off apparel.*
Sir, I should not have gone into this prolix detail of opinions from any consideration of their special importance on the present occasion; but, having happened to state, that such was the actual opinion of the government of England at the present time, and the accuracy of this representation having been so confidently denied, I have chosen to put the matter beyond doubt or cavil, although at the expense of these tedious citations. I shall have occasion, hereafter, of referring more particularly to sundry recent British enactments, by way of showing the diligence and spirit with which that government strives to sustain its navigating interest, by opening the widest possible range to the enterprise of individual adventurers. I repeat, that I have not alluded to these examples of a foreign state as being fit to control our own policy. In the general principle, I acquiesce. Protection, when carried to the point which is now recommended, that is, to entire prohibition, seems to me destructive of all commercial intercourse between nations. We are urged to adopt the system upon general principles; and what would be the consequence of the universal application of such a general principle, but that nations would abstain entirely from all intercourse with one another? I do not admit the general principle; on the contrary, I think freedom of trade to be the general principle, and restriction the exception. And it is for every state, taking into view its own condition, to judge of the propriety, in any case, of making an exception, constantly preferring, as I think all wise governments will, not to depart without urgent reason from the general rule.
There is another point in the existing policy of England, to which I would most earnestly invite the attention of the Committee; I mean the warehouse system, or what we usually call the system of drawback. Very great prejudices appear to me to exist with us on that subject. We seem averse to the extension of the principle. The English government, on the contrary, appear to have carried it to the extreme of liberality. They have arrived, however, at their present opinions, and present practice, by slow degrees. The transit system was commenced about the year 1803, but the first law was par
* Vide Note, page 260.
tial and limited. It admitted the importation of raw materials for exportation, but it excluded almost every sort of manufactured goods. This was done for the same reason that we propose to prevent the transit of Canadian wheat through the United States-the fear of aiding the competition of the foreign article with our own, in foreign markets. Better reflection, or more experience, has induced them to abandon that mode of reasoning, and to consider all such means of influencing foreign markets as nugatory: since, in the present active and enlightened state of the world, nations will supply themselves from the best sources, and the true policy of all producers, whether of raw materials, or of manufactured articles, is, not vainly to endeavour to keep other venders out of the market, but to conquer them in it, by the quality and the cheapness of their articles. The present policy of England, therefore, is, to allure the importation of commodities into England, there to be deposited in English warehouses, thence to be exported in assorted cargoes, and thus enabling her to carry on a general export trade to all quarters of the globe. Articles of all kinds, with the single exception of tea, may be brought into England, from any part of the world, in foreign as well as British ships, there warehoused, and again exported, at the pleasure of the owner, without the payment of any duty, or government charge whatever.
While I am upon this subject, I would take notice also of the recent proposition in the English Parliament to abolish the tax on imported wool; and it is observable, that those who support this proposition, give the same reasons as have been offered here, within the last week, against the duty which we propose on the same article. They say, that their manufacturers require a cheap and coarse wool, for the supply of the Mediterranean and Levant trade, and that, without a more free admission of the wool of the continent, that trade will all fall into the hands of the Germans and Italians, who will carry it on through Leghorn and Trieste. While there is this duty on foreign wool to protect the wool growers of England, there is on the other hand a prohibition on the exportation of the native article, in aid of the manufacturers. The opinion seems to be gaining strength, that the true policy is to abolish both.
Laws have long existed in England, preventing the emigration of artisans, and the exportation of machinery; but the policy of these, also, has become doubted, and an inquiry has been instituted in Parliament into the expediency of repealing them. As to the emigration of artisans, say those who disapprove the laws, if that were desirable, no law could effect it; and as to the exportation of machinery, let us fabricate and export it, as we would any other commodity. If France is determined to spin and weave her own cotton, let us, if we may, still have the benefit of furnishing the machinery.
I have stated these things, sir, to show what seems to be the general tone of thinking and reasoning on these subjects in that country, the example of which has been so much pressed upon us. Whether the present policy of England be right or wrong, wise or unwise, it cannot, as it seems clearly to me, be quoted as an authority for carrying further the restrictive and exclusive system, either in regard to manufactures or trade. To reestablish a sound currency, to meet
at once the shock, tremendous as it was, of the fall of prices, to enlarge her capacity for foreign trade, to open wide the field of individual enterprise and competition, and to say, plainly and distinctly, that the country must relieve itself from the embarrassments which it felt, by economy, frugality, and renewed efforts of enterprise; these appear to be the general outline of the policy which England has pursued.
Mr. Chairman: I will now proceed to say a few words upon a topic, but, for the introduction of which, into this debate, I should not have given the Committee, on this accasion, the trouble of hearing me. Some days ago, I believe it was when we were settling the controversy between the oil merchants and the tallowchandlers, the Balance of Trade made its appearance in debate, and I must confess, sir, that I spoke of it, or rather spoke to it, somewhat freely and irreverently. I believe I used the hard names which have been imputed to me; and I did it simply for the purpose of laying the spectre, and driving it back to its tomb. Certainly, sir, when I called the old notion on this subject nonsense, I did not suppose that I should offend any one, unless the dead should happen to hear me. All the living generation, I took it for granted, would think the term very properly applied. In this, however, I was mistaken. The dead and the living rise up together to call me to account, and I must defend myself as well as I am able.
Let us inquire, then, sir, what is meant by an unfavorable balance of trade, and what the argument is, drawn from that source. By an unfavorable balance of trade, I understand, is meant that state of things in which importation exceeds exportation. To apply it to our own case, if the value of goods imported, exceed the value of those exported, then the balance of trade is said to be against us, inasmuch as we have run in debt to the amount of this difference. Therefore, it is said, that, if a nation continue long in a commerce like this, it must be rendered absolutely bankrupt. It is in the condition of a man that buys more than he sells; and how can such a traffic be maintained without ruin? Now, sir, the whole fallacy of this argument consists in supposing that, whenever the value of imports exceeds that of exports, a debt is necessarily created to the extent of the difference: whereas, ordinarily, the import is no more than the result of the export, augmented in value by the labor of transportation. The excess of imports over exports, in truth, usually shows the gains, not the losses, of trade; or, in a country that not only buys and sells goods, but employs ships in carrying goods also, it shows the profits of commerce, and the earnings of navigation. Nothing is more certain than that in the usual course of things, and taking a series of years together, the value of our imports is the aggregate of our exports and our freights. If the value of commodities, imported in a given case, did not exceed the value of the outward cargo, with which they were purchased, then it would be clear to every man's common sense, that the voyage had not been profitable. If such commodities fell far short in value of the cost of the outward cargo, then the voyage would be a very losing one; and yet it would present exactly that state of things, which, according to the notion of a balance of trade, can alone indicate a prosperous commerce. On the other hand. if the return
cargo were found to be worth much more than the outward cargo, while the merchant, having paid for the goods exported, and all the expenses of the voyage, finds a handsome sum yet in his hands, which he calls profits, the balance of trade is still against him, and whatever he may think of it, he is in a very bad way. Although one individual, or all individuals gain, the nation loses; while all its citizens grow rich, the country grows poor. This is the doctrine of the balance of trade. Allow me, sir, to give an instance tending to show how unaccountably individuals deceive themselves, and imagine themselves to be somewhat rapidly mending their condition, while they ought to be persuaded that, by that infallible standard, the balance of trade, they are on the high road to ruin. Some years ago, in better times than the present, a ship left one of the towns of New England with 70,000 specie dollars. She proceeded to Mocha, on the Red Sea, and there laid out these dollars in coffee, drugs, spices, &c. With this new cargo she proceeded to Europe; twothirds of it were sold in Holland for $130,000, which the ship brought back, and placed in the same Bank, from the vaults of which she had taken her original outfit. The other third was sent to the ports of the Mediterranean, and produced a return of 25,000 dollars in specie, and 15,000 dollars in Italian merchandise. These sums together make 170,000 dollars imported, which is 100,000 dollars more than was exported, and is therefore proof of an unfavorable balance of trade, to that amount, in this adventure. We should find no great difficulty, sir, in paying off our balances if this were the nature of them all.
The truth is, Mr. Chairman, that all these obsolete and exploded notions had their origin in very mistaken ideas of the true nature of commerce. Commerce is not a gambling among nations for a stake, to be won by some and lost by others. It has not the tendency necessarily to impoverish one of the parties to it, while it enriches the other; all parties gain, all parties make profits, all parties grow rich, by the operations of just and liberal commerce. If the world had but one clime, and but one soil; if all men had the same wants and the same means, on the spot of their existence, to gratify those wants; then, indeed, what one obtained from the other by exchange, would injure one party in the same degree that it benefited the other; then, indeed, there would be some foundation for the balance of trade. But Providence has disposed our lot much more kindly. We inhabit a various earth. We have reciprocal wants, and reciprocal means for gratifying one another's wants. This is the true origin of commerce, which is nothing more than an exchange of equivalents, and from the rude barter of its primitive state, to the refined and complex condition in which we see it, its principle is uniformly the same; its only object being, in every stage, to produce that exchange of commodities between individuals and between nations, which shall conduce to the advantage and to the happiness of both. Commerce between nations has the same essential character, as commerce between individuals, or between parts of the same nation. Cannot two individuals make an interchange of commodities which shall prove beneficial to both, or in which the balance of trade shall be in favor of both? If not, the tailor and the shoemaker, the