Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

house report, that the estimated value of the domestic produce exported from the United States amounted, in 1825, to 66,944,745 dollars; and of this no less than 40,372,987 dollars worth was sent to Great Britain and her colonies ; 35,043,466 dollars worth being exported direct to Great Britain. Well and truly, therefore, might the merchants of Boston say in their Report, that • Whatever view we take of the trade with Great Britain, it will . be found to be equal in value to TWO THIRDS OF ALL THE COM

MERCE which we carry on with the remaining parts of the whole world ; but it will be impossible for us to retain more than a

small portion of what we now enjoy, if the system we are opposing should prevail.'—P. 127.**

There cannot be a question, indeed, that the commerce with Great Britain is of the utmost consequence to the Americans, and that we deal with them on infinitely more liberal terms than they deal with us. We annually import more than 125 millions of pounds weight of American cotton, charging it only with a duty of six per cent. Our supplies of tobacco are principally imported from America ; and though it is charged with a heavy duty of 3s. a pound, that duty is imposed solely for the sake of revenue, and certainly with no view to check the consumption of an American product, in order to encourage the use of one raised at home. With the exception, indeed, of ashes and rice, no articles brought from America pay a protecting duty; and on the majority of the American articles we import, the duties do not, at an average, exceed eight per cent ad valorem. But there is not, as we have already seen, any reciprocity in the proceedings of the Americans. They charge our woollen goods with a Sduty of from 45 to 90 per cent, cottons with a duty of from 30 to 100 per cent, iron bolts and bar-iron with a duty of L.7, 178. per ton, and so on. It would be well, therefore, if in future discussions of this matter, the advocates and eulogists of the • American system' were to lay somewhat less stress on our 6 cupidity' and illiberality. Whatever may be our defects in that way, it does not really seem that the Americans have any very peculiar right to reproach us with them.

It is true, that it is our own interest we have in view in admitting American raw cotton, and other products, at comparatively low duties. Nor do we object to the Americans that they act on this principle; for no nation ever acts on any other. What

* In 1827 the value of the exports from the United States to Great Britain and her dependencies amounted to 32,870,465 dollars, of which 28,297,692 dollars worth went direct to Great Britain.

we object to in their conduct is, that they mistake wherein their own interest really lies; and that their prohibitions and restrictions, by narrowing the field of commercial enterprise, are a public and general nuisance; though it is certain that they are infinitely more injurious to themselves than to any other people.

On hearing the terms in which some of the leading American orators talk about the mischiefs arising from the balance of trade being unfavourable to the republic, and the consequent exportation of specie, one is almost tempted to believe in the doctrine of the metempsychosis, and to conclude that the Roses, the Kenyons, and the Lauderdales of a former age, are again revived in the Baldwins, the Lawrences, and the Everetts of the present. It is difficult to argue with those who, at this time of day, can talk seriously about the balance of trade. To say that the old doctrine with respect to it has been a thousand times shown to be false, contradictory, and absurd, is not enough. The fact is, that the very reverse of it is true; and that every nation carrying on an advantageous foreign commerce must import more than she exports, and must therefore, according to the Transatlantic illuminati, have the balance against her. But in despite of the speeches of honourable gentlemen, and the innumerable essays of Mr Carey, we apprehend that Jonathan is not quite so simple as to export any commodity, except in the view of importing a more valuable one in its stead. It is this greater value that constitutes the profits of the merchants engaged in the foreign trade; and to affirm that it is large, is to affirm, what is not reckoned a very serious evil on this side the Atlantic, whatever it may be on the other, that the external trade of the country is very lucrative.

It would, however, be unjust to individual members of the American Legislature to represent them as all approving the exploded and absurd notions with regard to the balance of trade. Mr Cambreleng, in an able pamphlet, entitled an Examination of the Tariff proposed in 1821, forcibly exposed the fallacy of the opinion of those who believe, or affect to believe, in the pernicious effect of what is called an unfavourable balance. Mr Webster, too, in an admirable speech on the tariff bill of 1824, set the real nature of commerce, and the true doctrine as to the balance, in the clearest point of view. Mr Webster illustrated his statement by a case which, although it failed to make any impression on the majority of his auditors, is so very conclusive, that we believe it will carry conviction to every one who may happen to throw his eye over these pages. Some time since,' said Mr Webster, ' a ship left one of the towns of New England, having on board 70,000 dollars in specie. She proceeded

« to Mocha, on the Red Sea, and there laid out these dollars on • coffee, drugs, spices, &c. With this new cargo she proceeded * to Europe; two thirds of it were sold in Holland for 130,000 • dollars, which the ship brought back and placed in the vaults

of the same bank whence 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 dol·lars in Italian merchandise. These sums together make 170,000 • dollars imported, which is 100,000 dollars more than were ex

ported; and forms, therefore, according to the doctrine of honourable gentlemen on the other side, an unfavourable balance ' to that amount.' But honourable gentlemen were proof against this reductio ad absurdum-They continued firm in their belief, that the doctrine of the balance was no chimera, and that the adventure described by Mr Webster was a losing one !

Some members of the American Legislature, who advocate the protecting system, and of the purity of whose motives no doubt can be entertained, seem to lay a great deal of stress on the assumed principle, that no people can truly be said to be independent, if they are indebted to foreigners for supplies of any commodity of very great utility. There is some apparent, but no real foundation for this opinion. The fallacy lies in attaching an erroneous meaning to the term independent. No one would reckon a private gentleman, who had his clothes, hats, shoes, &c. made in his own house, as in any respect more independent than one who had money enough to buy them of the tailors, hatters, shoemakers, and other tradesmen. The same is the case with nations. Each, by applying itself in preference to those pursuits for which it has some peculiar aptitude, will be able to obtain a greater command over the necessaries and conveniences of life, through the intervention of an exchange, and will, consequently, be richer, and consequently more truly independent, than if it had directly produced the various articles for which it has a demand. In commerce, equivalents are always given for equivalents ; so that there can be no dependence, in the vulgar acceptation of the term. The Americans, it is true, have on one or two occasions experienced a scarcity of foreign manufactured goods; but this was a consequence of their own policy, of their non-importation acts, and not of the prohibitive regulations of any foreign power. They may rest assured, that no manufacturing nation will ever refuse to sell. No such circumstance has ever yet occurred; and it may be safely affirmed that it never will. The danger that the American statesmen would provide against is therefore altogether imaginary. The independence at which they aspire, is the independence of those who swim across the river that they may owe nothing to the bridge.

We have hitherto argued this question, on the assumption that the provisions of the tariff might be carried into effect; but this seems to be quite out of the question. The great corrector of vicious commercial and financial legislation, the Smuggler, will prove too powerful for the utmost vigilance of the custom-house officers. The vast extent of the American frontier, and the facilities it affords for the clandestine importation of foreign goods, present insuperable obstacles to the success of the mad attempt in which the government has embarked. We have no idea, indeed, that our exports to the United States will be very materially diminished by the new Tariff. Free access to Canada will afford our merchants so many facilities for smuggling, that unless the Americans place a custom-house officer in every bush, and station a gun-boat in every creek, it will not be in their power to prevent the introduction of our products. The American Legislature will not, therefore, be able, do what it will, to establish the finer branches of manufacture within the Union. It may carry the protecting duties from 100 to 500 or 1000 per cent; it will only be so much additional premium to the clandestine trader. The injury will fall heavy on the Americans themselves; but will be comparatively little felt by the foreigner. Instead of reaping a large revenue from moderate custom duties, they will empty the public coffers of the state to fill the pockets of the smuggler; instead of having the population on their frontier engaged in the clearing of land, and in extending the empire of civilization, they will imbue them with predatory and ferocious habits, and teach them to defy the laws, and to place their hopes of rising in the world, not in the laborious occupations of agriculture, but in schemes to defraud the public revenue. Commerce will be diverted from its natural and wholesome channels ; and instead of being one of the most productive sources of wealth and civilization, it will become, under the operation of the “ Ame" rican system,” a prolific source of every sort of disorder.

But it is alleged by some, that, whatever may be the merits or demerits of the “system,” Congress has now gone too far in its support to be able to recede. It is alleged that a vast amount of capital has been expended in the erection of woollen and cotton mills, and other manufacturing establishments, in the belief that the protecting system would be continued, and that the Legislature cannot now abandon that system, and revert to the sound principle of moderate duties, imposed for the sake of revenue only. But the sophistry of this sort of reasoning is apparent. Were it admitted to be sound, it would be virtually

admitting that no system of legislation, however vicious, in the support of which some individuals have an interest, could ever be changed or amended! Error and abuse would be perpetuated for ever, and every sort of improvement would be at an end. Had the American Legislature declared that any particular duty was to continue for a given number of years, then, certainly, it could not have modified that duty within the period mentioned, without making full compensation to those who might suffer by it. But we believe we are correct in saying, that, how absurdly soever it may have acted in many respects, it has not done this. It has imposed no duties for definite periods ; it has reserved to itself full power to increase or diminish them when it thinks proper; and it might, without laying itself under a charge of acting with bad faith towards any one, repeal the duties, and throw the ports open to-morrow. Of course, we do not say that it would be expedient to make any such sudden change, even from a supremely bad to a good system. But if the Americans be wise, they will set about retracing their steps, and will continue gradually to reduce the duties on imports, till they have brought them to, at most, the rates they were fixed at in 1818.

That the present tariff can be allowed to regulate the commerce of America for any very lengthened period, is what we do not believe. It was carried by extremely narrow majorities both in the House of Representatives and the Senate; and has excited, more especially in the Southern States, an extreme degree of dissatisfaction. Its opponents contend, that in imposing heavy duties, not for the sake of revenue but of protection, Congress has exceeded its powers, and violated one of the fundamental principles of the constitution. Whether this be really the case, it would be presumptuous in us to attempt to decide. We may however observe, that Mr Jefferson took this view of the matter; and, in a letter to Mr Giles, written after the passing of the Tariff of 1824, has expressed himself very strongly indeed on the subject- Under the power,' said this truly distinguished patriot and statesman, • to regulate commerce, they (Congress) assume indefinitely that also over agriculture and manufactures; and call it regulation, too, to take the earnings of one of these branches of industry, and that too the most depressed, and put them into the pockets of the others, the most flourishing of all.' And after briefly noticing some of the objectionable proceedings of Congress, Mr Jefferson adds— Are we then to stand ‘at arms ? No! that must be the last resource, not to be thought

of until much longer and greater sufferings. If every infraction • of a compact of so many parties is to be resisted at once as a

« AnteriorContinuar »