Page images
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

a crowded population. Hence, although the system of agriculture in the United States is less

perfect, and less productive on a given quantity of ground, than in some parts of Europe, yet the far wider

range of land under cultivation (about three times as many acres as make up the whole superficies of the British isles) produces annually a more abundant crop, in mass, to the industry of a given number of proprietors.

Formerly, some of our leading politicians professed to think it more adviseable for the United States to pro secute the labours of agriculture, than to attempt to force manufactures into a premature and pernicious existence. Mr. Jefferson, in his “ Notes on Virginia," strenuously labours this point, and pathetically deprecates the hour when the American people shall be converted from robust and virtuous farmers into sickly and profligate manufacturers. But he has lately altered his opinion, as appears from his recent letter to the Secretary of the Society for encouraging American manufactures, in which he seems to have forgotten all his former exclamations in favour of agriculture, and all his Jeremiadesagainst manufactures. In order to accomplish their purpose, this Society, consisting of manufacturers all over the Union, is continually beseeching and besieging Congress to exclude all foreign goods from the United States, and give them a monopoly of the American market; that is, in other words, to lay a heavy tax upon all the other classes of the community, the farmers, clergy, lawyers, merchants, physicians, and all the labouring orders, that a few manufacturers, about a hundredth part of the whole population, may enrich themselves by selling to their fellow-citizens bad goods, at a much greater price than they could import far better commodities from Europe.

This is, in fact, checking the growth of the wealth and population of the United States, by at least all the difference between the monopoly price of American manufactures and the fair competition price of imported European goods; to do which, might, indeed, be very good patriotism, but it is certainly very bad policy. The

United States having but recently commenced their national career, and looking forward to many ages of improvement and growth, should be, above all other countries, particularly careful to avoid the errors of the European mercantile system; errors which sprang up amidst the darkness and ignorance of feudal despotism; and which all the most distinguished political philosophers of the present age unite to condemn. The United States, therefore, should resolutely cast from off their shoulders all the shackles of bounties, protections, prohibitions, and monopolies, and permit agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, to find the legitimate level of unimpeded competition, and to employ just so much of the productive industry and capital of the country as individual inclination and interest might require, without any interference on the part of the government, which ever acts the wisest part, when it suffers all the various classes of the community to manage their own affairs in their own way.

Laissez nous faire was the reply of the French merchants to M. Colbert, when he attempted to build up the delapidated commerce of France, by ministerial intermeddling with what no minister can possibly either direct or understand so well as the merchants themselves.

Besides, every free country manufactures as fast as its wants and interests demand; because every country, as well as every individual, prefers a home to a foreign market, for the purpose of barter, sale, and purchase. Nevertheless, the interests of agriculture are quite inadequate to contend with the spirit of encroachment and monopoly so inherent in the very nature of manufacturers. "Manufacturers enjoy a great advantage over the farmers, who are scattered thinly throughout the country, in the facility of combining together, and acting in large bodies, so as to compel the government to listen to their complaints. Their standing committees, and eternal clamour about the dignity of patriotism, and the necessity of not depending on foreign nations for articles of use and convenience, are always an overmatch for the yeomen, who, widely separated


57 from each other, cannot act in such close concert, nor with such efficient activity and perseverance. Add to which, many of the Members of Congress, themselves farmers, and therefore peculiarly representing the agricultural interests, are deeply engaged in manufactures and banks; whence they are not so clear-sighted to the evils of a monopoly, on the part of the manufacturers, as they otherwise might be.

During the late war with England, manufactures thrived in the United States, precisely because they had a monopoly of the home market, and compelled the consumer to pay above a hundred per cent. more for goods of an inferior quality to those which might have been imported from Europe at half the price, if our ports had been open for the admission of foreign commodities. At that period there was a capital of about $ 1,000,000,000 employed in carrying on American manufactures; but on the return of peace, the influx of European goods reduced the price to at least one-half, and stopped perhaps more than half of the manufacturing establishments in the Union; so that the capital now employed in American manufactories scarcely reaches the sum of five hundred millions of dollars. Nevertheless, our manufacturers are convinced that continuing this war monopoly, and compelling the American people to pay a double price for all their articles of consumption, would materially promote the national welfare of the United States. Whether or not the general government is to be borne down by this incessant clamour, and sacrifice the interests of the rest of the community to those of a very small portion of that community, remains yet to be seen. The President, in his Message of the 2d of December, says, “Our manufactures will require the continued attention of Congress: the capital employed in them is considerable, and the knowledge acquired in the machinery and fabric of all the most useful manufactures is of great value: their preservation, which depends on due encouragement, is connected with the high interests of the nation.”

Few nations, however, can boast of skill and ingenuity in manufactures, and especially improvements in labour-saving machinery, equal to those which have been exhibited and discovered in the progress of the mechanical arts in the United States. The causes of

this superior ingenuity and skill are various. The high -price of labour, and the comparative scarcity of labourers, offer a continual bounty of certain and immediate remuneration to all those who shall succeed in the construction of any machinery that may be substituted in the place of human labour. Add to this, the entire freedom of vocation enjoyed by every individual in this country. Here there are no compulsory apprenticeships; no town and corporation restraints, tying each man down to his own peculiar trade and calling, as in Europe; the whole, or nearly the whole of which still

labours under this remnant of feudal servitude. In the - United States every man follows whatever pursuit, and

in whatever place, his inclination, or opportunity, or interest prompts or permits; and consequently a much greater amount of active talent and enterprise is employed in individual undertakings here than in any other country. Many men in the United States follow various callings, either in succession or simultaneously. One and the same person sometimes commences his career as a farmer, and, before he dies, passes through the several stages of a lawyer, clergyman, merchant, congress-man, soldier, and diplomatist. There is also a constant migration hither of needy and desperate talent from Europe, which helps to swell the aggregate of American ingenuity and invention; and the European discoveries in art and science generally reach the United States within a few months after they first see the light in their own country, and soon become amalgamated with those made by Americans themselves.

For information respecting the manufactures of the United States, the reader is referred to General Hamilton's " Report on the subject of Manufactures," made in the year 1791, when he was Secretary of the Trea

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


sury, in consequence of an order of the House of Representatives. It is not too much to say, that this is one of the ablest State Papers which ever came from the pen

of See also the list of American patents, published by order of Congress ; Mr. Tench Coxe's * View of the United States ;" Mr. Fessenden's “ Register of the Arts ;” Dr. Redman Coxe's “ Emporium of the Arts and Sciences ;” and Mr. Pitkin's “ Statistics of the United States."

The following very slight summary of American manufactures is all that the limits of the present work will allow.

What the present annual value of manufactures in the United States is has not been ascertained; but, before the peace of 1815 had reduced their monopoly price, and diminished the number of manufacturing establishments, their yearly value was estimated thus :

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

Manufactures of Wood

825,000,000 Leather

24,000,000 Soap and Tallow Candles 10,000,000 Spermaceti Candles & Oil

500,000 Refined Sugar

1,600,000 Cards

300,000 Hats

13,000,000 Spirituous and malt liquors 14,000,000 Iron.

18,000,000 Cotton, Wool, and Flax 45,000,000

[ocr errors]

Making a Total of .


Of this amount nearly the whole is consumed at home, as appears from the following table of Exports :

« PreviousContinue »