Page images

the act of 1824, but to conform herself to the will of others. Nothing was left to her, but to consider that the government had fixed and determined its own policy; and that policy was protection.

New England, poor, in some respects, in others, is as wealthy as her neighbours. Her soil would be held in low estimation, by those who are acquainted with the valley of the Mississippi and some of the meadows of the south. But in industry, in habits of labor, skill, and in accumulated capital, the fruit of two centuries of industry, she may be said to be rich. After this final declaration-this solemn promulgation of the policy of the government, I again ask, What was she to do? Was she to deny herself the use of her advantages, natural and acquired? Was she to content herself with useless regrets? Was she longer to resist, what she could no longer prevent? Or, was she, rather, to adapt her acts to her condition; and seeing the policy of the government thus settled and fixed, to accommodate to it, as well as she could, her own pursuits and her own industry? Every man will see that she had no option. Every man will confess that there remained for her but one course. She not only saw this herself, but had, all along, foreseen, that if the system of protecting manufactures should be adopted, she must go largely into them. I believe, sir, almost every man from New England who voted against the law of 1824, declared, that if, notwithstanding his opposition to that law, it should still pass, there would be no alternative but to consider the course and policy of the government as then settled and fixed, and to act accordingly. The law did pass; and a vast increase of investment in manufacturing establishments was the consequence. Those who made such investments, probably entertained not the slightest doubt that as much as was promised would be effectually granted; and that if, owing to any unforeseen occurrence, or untoward event, the benefit designed by the law, to any branch of manufactures, should not be realized, it would furnish a fair case for the consideration of government. Certainly, they could not expect, after what had passed, that interests of great magnitude would be left at the mercy of the very first change of circumstances which might occur.

As a general remark, it may be said, that the interests concerned in the act of 1824, did not complain of their condition under it, excepting only those connected with the woollen manufactures. These did complain; not so much of the act itself, as of a new state of circumstances, unforeseen when the law passed, but which had now arisen to thwart its beneficial operations, as to them; although in one respect, perhaps, the law itself was thought to be unwisely framed. Three causes have been generally stated, as having produced the disappointment experienced by the manufacturers of wool, under the law of 1824.

First, it is alleged, that the price of the raw material had been raised too high, by the act itself. This point had been discussed at the time, and although opinions varied, the result, so far as it depended on this part of the case, though it may be said to have been unexpected, was certainly not entirely unforeseen.*

* Extract from Mr. Webster's Speech, on the Tariff of 1824.-" This bill proposes, also, a very high duty upon imported wool; and as far as I can learn, a majority of the manufac

But, secondly, the manufacturers imputed their disappointment to a reduction of the price of wool in England, which took place just about the date of the law of 1824. This reduction was produced by lowering the duty on imported wool from sixpence sterling to one penny sterling per pound. The effect of this is obvious enough; but in order to see the real extent of the reduction, it may be convenient to state the matter more particularly.

The meaning of our law was doubtless to give the American manufacturer an advantage over his English competitors. Protection must mean this, or it means nothing. The English manufacturer having certain advantages, on his side, such as the lower price of labor, and the lower interest of money; the object of our law was to counteract these advantages, by creating others, in behalf of the American manufacturer. Therefore, to see what was necessary to be done, in order that the American manufacturer might sustain the competition, a relative view of the respective advantages and disadvantages was to be taken. In this view the very first element to be considered was, what is to each party the cost of the raw material. On this, the whole must materially depend. Now when the law of 1824 passed, the English manufacturer paid a duty of sixpence sterling on imported wool. But in a very few days afterwards, this duty was reduced by Parliament, from sixpence to a penny. A reduction of five pence per pound, in the price of wool, was estimated in Parliament to be equal to a reduction of twenty-six per cent., ad valorem, on all imported wool; and this reduction, it is obvious, had its effect on the price of home-produced wool also. Almost, then, at the very moment, that the framers of the act of 1824, were raising the price of the raw material here, as that act did raise it, it was lowered in England, by the very great reduction of twenty-six per cent. Of course, this changed the whole basis of the calculation. It wrought a complete change in the relative advantages and disadvantages of the English and American competitors; and threw the preponderance of advantage, most decidedly, on the side of the English. If the American manufacturer had not vastly too great a preference, before this reduction took place, it is clear he had too little afterwards.

In a paper which has been presented to the Senate, and often referred to; a paper distinguished for the ability and clearness with which it enforces general principles-the Boston Report,-it is clearly proved, (what indeed is sufficiently obvious from the mere comparison of dates) that the British government did not reduce its duty on wool because of our act of 1824. Certainly this is true; but the effect of that reduction, on our manufactures, was the same precisely as if the British act had been designed to operate against them, and for no other purpose. I think it cannot be doubted that our law of 1824, and the reduction of the wool duty in England, taken together, left our manufactures in a worse condition than they were before. If there was any reasonable ground, therefore, for passing the law of 1824, there is now the same ground for some other measure; and this ground too, is reenforced by the consideraturers are at least extremely doubtful whether, taking these two provisions together, the state of the law is not better for them now than it would be if this should pass."

tion of the hopes excited, the enterprises undertaken, and the capital invested, in consequence of that law.

So much, sir, for this cause of disappointment.

In the last place, it was alleged by the manufacturers, that they suffered from the mode of collecting the duties on woollen fabrics at the custom-houses. These duties are ad valorem duties. Such duties, from the commencement of the government, have been estimated by reference to the invoice, as fixing the value at the place whence imported. When not suspected to be false or fraudulent, the invoice is the regular proof of value. Originally this was a tolerably safe mode of proceeding. While the importation was mainly in the hands of American merchants, the invoice would of course, if not false or fraudulent, express the terms and the price of an actual purchase and sale. But an invoice is not, necessarily, an instrument expressing the sale of goods and their prices. If there be but a list, or catalogue, with prices stated by way of estimate, it is still an invoice, and within the law. Now the suggestion is, that the English manufacturer, in making out an invoice, in which prices are thus stated by himself, in the way of estimate merely, is able to obtain an important advantage over the American merchant who purchases in the same market, and whose invoice states, consequently, the actual prices, on the sale. And in proof of this suggestion it is alleged, that in the largest importing city in the union, a very great proportion, some say nearly all, of the woollen fabrics are imported on foreign account. The various papers which have come before us, praying for a tax on auction sales, aver that the invoice of the foreign importer is generally decidedly lower than that of the American importer; and that, in consequence of this and of the practice of sales at auction, the American merchant must be driven out of the trade. I cannot answer for the entire accuracy of these statements, but I have no doubt there is something of truth in them. The main facts have been often stated, and I have neither seen nor heard a denial of them.

Is it true, then, that nearly the whole importation of woollens is, in the largest importing city, in the hands of foreigners? Is it true, as stated, that the invoices of such foreign importers are, generally, found to be lower than those of the American importer? If these things be so, it will be admitted that there is reason to believe that undervaluations do take place; and that some corrective for the evil should be administered. I am glad to see that the American merchants themselves, begin to bestow attention to a subject, as interesting to them as it is to the manufacturers.

Under this state of things, sir, the law of the last session was proposed. It was confined, as I thought properly, to wool and woollens. It took up the great and leading subject of complaint, and nothing else. It was urged indeed, against that bill, that although much had been said of frauds at the custom-house, no provision was made in it for the prevention of such frauds. That is a mistake. The general frame of the bill was such, that, if skilfully drawn and adapted to its purpose, its tendency to prevent such frauds would be manifest. By the fixing of prices at successive points of graduation, or minimums, as they are called, the power of evading duties by

undervaluations would be most materially restrained. If these points, indeed, were sufficiently distant, it is obvious the duty would assume something of the certainty and precision of a specific duty. But this bill failed, and Congress adjourned, in March last year, leaving the subject where it had found it.

The complaints, which had given rise to the bill, continued; and in the course of the summer, a meeting of the wool-growers and wool-manufacturers assembled in Pennsylvania, and agreed on a petition to Congress. I do not feel it necessary, on behalf of the citizens of Massachusetts, to disclaim a participation in that meeting. Persons of much worth and respectability, attended it from Massachusetts, and its proceedings and results manifested, I think, a degree of temper and moderation, highly creditable to those who composed it.

But while the bill of last year was confined to that which alone had been a subject of complaint, the bill now before us is of a very different description. It proposes to raise duties on various other articles, besides wool and woollens. It contains some provisions which bear, with unnecessary severity, on the whole community; others which affect, with peculiar hardship, particular interests; while both of them benefit nobody and nothing but the treasury. It contains provisions, which, with whatever motive put into it, it is confessed are now kept in for the very purpose of destroying the bill altogether; or, with the intent to compel those who expect to derive benefit, to feel smart from it also. Probably such a motive of action has not often been avowed.

The wool manufacturers think they have made out a case, for the interposition of Congress. They happen to live, principally, at the north and east; and in a bill, professing to be for their relief, other provisions are found, which are supposed, (and supported, because they are supposed,) to be such as will press, with peculiar hardship, on that quarter of the country. Sir, what can be expected, but evil, when a temper like this prevails? How can such a hostile, retaliatory legislation be reconciled to common justice, or common prudence? Nay, sir, this rule of action seems carried still farther. Not only are clauses found, and continued in the bill, which oppress particular interests, but taxes are laid, also, which will be severely felt by the whole union; and this too with the same design, and for the same end before mentioned, of causing the smart of the bill to be felt. Of this description is the molasses tax; a tax, in my opinion, absurd and preposterous, in relation to any object of protection; needlessly oppressive to the whole community; and benefiting nobody on earth, but the treasury. And yet, here it is, and here it is kept, under an idea, conceived in ignorance, and cherished for a short lived triumph, that New England will be deterred, by this tax, from protecting her extensive woollen manufactures; or, if not, that the authors of this policy may at least have the pleasure, the high pleasure, of perceiving that she feels the effects of this bill.

Sir, let us look, for a moment, at this tax. The molasses imported into the United States amounts to THIRTEEN millions annually. Of this quantity, not more than THREE millions are distilled; the re

maining TEN millions being consumed, as an article of wholesome food. The proposed tax is not to be laid for revenue. That is not pretended. It was not introduced for the benefit of the sugar planters. They are contented with their present condition, and have applied for nothing. What, then, was the object? Sir, the original professed object, was, to increase, by this new duty on molasses, the consumption of spirits distilled from grain. This, I say, was the object originally professed. But in this point of view, the measure appears to me to be preposterous. It is monstrous, and out of all proportion and relation of means to ends. It proposes to double the duty on the TEN millions of gallons of molasses which are consumed for food, in order that it may likewise double the duty on the THREE millions which are distilled into spirits; and all this, for the contingent and doubtful purpose of augmenting the consumption of spirits distilled from grain. I say contingent and doubtful purpose; because I do not believe any such effect will be produced. I do not think a hundred gallons more of spirits distilled from grain will find a market in consequence of this tax on molasses. The debate, here and elsewere, has shown that, I think, clearly. But suppose some slight effect of that kind should be produced; is it so desirable an object, as that it should be sought by such means? Shall we tax food, to encourage intemperance? Shall we raise the price of a wholesome article of sustenance, of daily consumption, especially among the poorer classes, in order that we may enjoy a mere chance of causing these same classes to use more of our homemade ardent spirits?

Sir, the bare statement of this question puts it beyond the reach of all argument. No man will seriously undertake the defence of such a tax. It is better, much more candid certainly, to admit, as has been admitted, that, obnoxious as it is, and abominable as it is, it is kept in the bill with a special view to its effects on New England votes, and New England interests.

The bill also takes away all the drawback, allowed by existing laws, on the exportation of spirits distilled from molasses; and this, it is supposed, and truly supposed, will affect New England. It will considerably affect her; for the exportation of such spirits is a part of her trade, and though not great in amount, it is a part which mingles usefully with the exportation of other articles, assists to make out variety of cargo, and finds a market in the North of Europe, the Mediterranean, and in South America. This exportation the bill proposes entirely to destroy.

The increased duty on molasses, while it thus needlessly and wantonly enhances the price to the consumer, may affect also, in a greater or less degree, the importation of that article; and be thus injurious to the commerce of the country. The importation of molasses, in exchange for lumber, provisions, and other articles of our own production, is one of the largest portions of our West India trade; a trade, it may be added, though of small profit, yet of short voyages, suited to small capitals, employing many hands, and much navigation; and the earliest and oldest branch of our foreign commerce. That portion of this trade which we now enjoy is conducted on the freest and most liberal principles. The exports which

« PreviousContinue »