Imagens das páginas

of distress precisely where there has been the greatest attempt to relieve it by systems of paper credit. And, on the other hand, content, prosperity, and happiness, are most observable in those parts of the country, where there has been the least endeavour to administer relief by law. In truth, nothing is so baneful, so utterly ruinous to all true industry, as interfering with the legal value of money, or attempting to raise artificial standards to supply its place. Such remedies suit well the spirit of extravagant speculation, but they sap the very foundation of all honest acquisition. By weakening the security of property, they take away all motive for exertion. Their effect is to transfer property. Whenever a debt is allowed to be paid by anything less valuable than the legal currency in respect to which it was contracted, the difference, between the value of the paper given in payment and the legal currency, is precisely so much property taken from one man and given to another, by legislative enactment. When we talk, therefore, of protecting industry, let us remember that the first measure for that end, is to secure it in its earnings; to assure it that it shall receive its own. Before we invent new modes of raising prices, let us take care that existing prices are not rendered wholly unavailable, by making them capable of being paid in depreciated paper. I regard, sir, this issue of irredeemable paper as the most prominent and deplorable cause of whatever pressure still exists in the country; and, further, I would put the question to the members of this Committee, whether it is not from that part of the people who have tried this paper system, and tried it to their cost, that this Bill receives the most earnest support? And I cannot forbear to ask, further, whether this support does not proceed rather from a general feeling of uneasiness under the present condition of things, than from the clear perception of any benefit which the measure itself can confer? Is not all expectation of advantage centred in a sort of vague hope, that change may produce relief? Debt certainly presses hardest, where prices have been longest kept up by artificial means. They find the shock lightest, who take it soonest; and I fully believe that, if those parts of the country which now suffer most, had not augmented the force of the blow by deferring it, they would have now been in a much better condition than they are. We may assure ourselves, once for all, sir, that there can be no such thing as payment of debts by legislation. We may abolish debts indeed; we may transfer property, by visionary and violent laws. But we deceive both ourselves and our constituents, if we flatter, either ourselves or them, with the hope that there is any relief against whatever pressure exists, but in economy and industry. The depression of prices and the stagnation of business, have been in truth the necessary result of circumstances. No government could prevent them, and no government can altogether relieve the people from their effect. We had enjoyed a day of extraordinary prosperity; we had been neutral while the world was at war, and had found a great demand for our products, our navigation, and our labor. We had no right to expect that that state of things would continue always. With the return of peace, foreign nations would struggle for themselves, and enter into competition with us in the great objects of pursuit.

Now, sir, what is the remedy for existing evils? what is the course of policy suited to our actual condition? Certainly it is not our wisdom to adopt any system that may be offered to us without examination, and in the blind hope that whatever changes our condition may improve it. It is better that we should

• “Bear those ills we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of.” We are bound to see that there is a fitness and an aptitude in whatever measures may be recommended to relieve the evils that afflict us; and before we adopt a system that professes to make great alterations, it is our duty to look carefully to each leading interest of the community, and see how it may probably be affected by our proposed legislation.

And, in the first place, what is the conditirn of our commerce? Here we must clearly perceive, that it is not enjoying that rich harvest which fell to its fortune during the continuance of the European wars. It has been greatly depressed, and limited to small profits. Still, it is elastic and active, and seems caparle of recov. ering itself in some measure froin its depression. The shipping interest, also, has suffered severely, still more severely, probably, than commerce. If anything should strike us with astonishment, it is that the navigation of the United States sh uld be able to sustaia itself. Without a:ly goverument protection whatever, it goes abroad to challenge competition with the wh le world; and, in spite of ail obstacles, it has yet been able to maintain 800,000 tons in the employment of foreign trade. How, sir, do the ship owners and navigators accomplish this? How is it that they are able to meet, and in some measure overcome, universal competition ? Not, sir, by protection and bounties; but by unwearied exertion, by extreme economy, by unshaken perseverance, by that manly and resolute spirit which relies on itself to protect itself. These causes al se enable American ships still to keep their element, and show the tiag of their country in distant seas. The rates of ipsurance inay teach us how thoroughly our ships are built, and how skiliully and salely they are navigated. Risks are taken, as I learn, from the United States to Liverpool, at 1 per cent.; and froin the United States to Canton and back, as low as 3 per cent. But when we look to the low rate of freight, and when we consider, also, that the articles entering into the composition of a ship, with the exception of wood, are dearer here than in other countries, we cannot but be utterly surprised, that the shipping interest has been able to sustain itself at all. I need not say that the navigation of the country is essential to its honor, and its defence. Yet, instead of proposing benet for it in this hour of its de pression, we propose by this measure to lay upon it new and heavy burdens. In the discussion, the other day, of that provision of the bill which proposes to tax tallow for the benefit of the oil merchants and whalemen, we had the pleasure of hearing eloquent eulogiums upon that portion of our shipping employed in the whale fishery, and strong statements of its impor. tance to the public interest. But the same Bill proposes a severe tax upon that interest, for the benefit of the iron manufacturer and

the hemp grower. So that the tallowchandlers and soapboilers are sacrificed to the oil merchants, in order that these again may contribute to the manufacturers of iron and the growers of hemp.

If such be the state of our commerce and navigation, what is the condition of our home manufactures? How are they amidst the general depression? Do they need further protection and if any, how much? On all these points, we have had much general statement, but little precise information. In the very elaborate speech of Mr. Speaker, we are not supplied with satisfactory grounds of judging in these various particulars. Who can tell, from anything yet before the Committee, whether the proposed duty be too high or too low, on any one article? Gentlemen tell us, that they are in favor of domestic industry; so am I. They would give it protection: so would I. But then all domestic industry is not confined to manufactures. The employments of agriculture, commerce, and navigation, are all branches of the same domestic industry; they all furnish employment for American capital, and American labor. And when the question is, whether new duties shall be laid, for the purpose of giving further encouragement to particular manufactures, every reasonable man must ask himself, both, whether the proposed new encouragement be necessary, and, whether it can be given without injustice to other branches of industry.

It is desirable to know, also, somewhat more distinctly, how the proposed means will produce the intended effect. One great object proposed, for example, is, the increase of the home market for the consumption of agricultural products. This certainly is much to be desired; but what provisions of the Bill are expected wholly, or principally to produce this, is not stated. I would not suggest that some increase of the home market may not follow, from the adoption of this Bill, but all its provisions have not an equal tendency to produce this effect. Those manufactures which employ most labor, create of course, most demand for articles of consumption; and those create least, in the production of which capital and skill enter as the chief ingredients of cost. I cannot, sir, take this Bill, merely because a. Committee has recommended it. I cannot espouse a side, and fight under a flag. I wholly repel the idea, that we must take this law, or pass no law on the subject. What should hinder us from exercising our own judgments upon these provisions, singly and severally? Who has the power to place us, or why should we place ourselves, in a condition where we cannot give to every measure, that is distinct and separate in itself, a separate and distinct consideration? Sir, I presume no member of the Committee will withhold his assent from what he thinks right, until others will yield their assent to what they think wrong. There are many things in this Bill, acceptable probably to the general sense of the House. Why should not these provisions be passed into a law, and others left to be decided upon their own merits, as a majority of the House shall see fit? To some of these provisions, I am myself decidedly favorable; to others, I have great objections; and I should have been very glad of an opportunity of giving my own vote distinctly on propositions, which are, in their own nature, essentially and substantially distinct from one another.


But, sir, before expressing my own opinion upon the several provisions of this Bill, I will advert for a moment to some other general topics. We have heard much of the policy of England, and her example has been repeatedly urged upon us, as proving, not only the expediency of encouragement and protection, but of exclusion and direct prohibition also. I took occasion the other day to remark, that more liberal notions were growing prevalent on this subject; that the policy of restraints and prohibitions was getting out of repute, as the true nature of commerce became better understood; and that, among public men, those most distinguished, were most decided in their reprobation of the broad principle of exclusion and prohibition. Upon the truth of this representation, as matter of fact, I supposed there could not be two opinions among those who had observed the progress of political sentiment in other countries, and were acquainted with its present state. In this respect, however, it would seem, that I was greatly mistaken. We have heard it again and again declared, that the English government still adheres, with immovable firmness, to its old doctrines of prohibition; that although journalists, theorists, and scientific writers, advance other doctrines, yet the practical men, the legislators, the government of the country, are too wise to follow them. It has even been most sagaciously hinted, that the promulgation of liberal opinions on these subjects, is intended only for a delusion upon other nations, to cajole them into the folly of liberal ideas, while England retains to herself all the benefits of the admirable old system of prohibition. We have heard from Mr. Speaker a warm commendation of the complex mechanism of this system. The British Empire, it is said, is, in the first place, to be protected against the rest of the world; then the British isles against the colonies; next, the isles respectively against each other–England herself, as the heart of the empire, being protected most of all, and against all. · Truly, sir, it appears to me, that Mr. Speaker's imagination has seen system, and order, and beauty, in that, which is much more justly considered as the result of ignorance, partiality, or violence. This part of English legislation has resulted, partly from considering Ireland as a conquered country, partly from the want of a complete union, even with Scotland, and partly from the narrow views of colonial regulation, which in early and uninformed periods, influenced the European states.

And, sir, I imagine, nothing would strike the public men of England more singularly, than to find gentlemen of real information, and much weight, in the councils of this country, expressing sentiments like these, in regard to the existing state of these English laws. I have never said, indeed, that prohibitory laws did not exist in England; we all know they do; but the question is, does she owe her prosperity and greatness to these laws? I venture to say, that such is not the opinion of the public men now in England, and the contingance of the laws, even without any alteration, would not be evidence that their opinion is different from what I have represented it; because the laws having existed long, and great interests having been built up on the faith of them, they cannot now be repealed, without great and overwhelming inconvenience. Because a thing has been wrongly done, it does not therefore follow that it can now be undone; and this is the reason, as I understand it, upon which exclusion, prohibition, and monopoly, are suffered to remain in any degree in the English system; and for the same reason, it will be wise in us to take our measures, on all subjects of this kind, with great caution. We may not be able, but at the hazard of much injury to individuals, hereafter to retrace our steps. And yet, whatever is extravagant, or unreasonable, is not likely to endure. There may come a moment of strong reaction, and if no moderation be shown in laying on duties, there may be little scruple in taking them off. It may here be observed, that there is a broad and marked distinction between entire prohibition, and reasonable encouragement. It is one thing by duties or taxes on foreign articles, to awaken a home competition in the production of the same articles; it is another thing to remove all competition by a total exclusion of the foreign article; and it is quite another thing still, by total prohibition, to raise at home, manufactures not suited to the climate, the nature of the country, or the state of the population. These are substantial distinctions, and although it may not be easy in every case, to determine which of them applies to a given article, yet, the distinctions themselves exist, and in most cases, will be sufficiently clear to indicate the true course of policy; and, unless I have greatly mistaken the prevailing sentiment in the councils of England, it grows every day more and more favorable to the diminution of restrictions, and to the wisdom of leaving much (I do not say everything, for that would not be true to the enterprise and the discretion of individuals. I should certainly not have taken up the time of the Committee to state at any length the opinions of other governments, or of the public men of other countries, upon a subject like this, but an occasional remark made by me the other day, having been so directly controverted, especially by Mr. Speaker, in his observations yesterday, I must take occasion to refer to some proofs of what I have stated.

What, then, is the state of English opinion? Everybody knows that, after the termination of the late European war, there came a time of great pressure in England. Since her example has been quoted, let it be asked in what mode her government sought relief. Did it aim to maintain artificial and unnatural prices? Did it maintain a swollen and extravagant paper circulation? Did it carry further the laws of prohibition and exclusion? Did it draw closer the cords of colonial restraint? No, sir, but precisely the reverse. Instead of relying on legislative contrivances and artificial devices, it trusted to the enterprise and industry of the people; which it sedulously sought to excite, not by imposing restraint, but by removing it, wherever its removal was practicable. In May, 1820, the attention of the government having been much turned to the state of foreign trade, a distinguished member of the House of Peers brought forward a parliamentary motion upon that subject, followed by an ample discussion, and a full statement of his own opinions. In the course of his remarks, he observed, “That there ought to be no prohibitory duties, as such; for that it was evident, that where a manufacture could not be carried on, or a production raised, but under the pro

• Lord Lansdowne.

« AnteriorContinuar »