The Great Speeches and Orations of Daniel Webster
Daniel Webster

Part 5 out of 25

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 every thing, 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[2] 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 protection of a prohibitory duty, that
manufacture, or that produce, could not be brought to market but at a
loss. In his opinion, the name of strict prohibition might, therefore,
in commerce, be got rid of altogether; but he did not see the same
objection to protecting duties, which, while they admitted of the
introduction of commodities from abroad similar to those which we
ourselves manufactured, placed them so much on a level as to allow a
competition between them." "No axiom," he added, "was more true than
this: that it was by growing what the territory of a country could grow
most cheaply, and by receiving from other countries what it could not
produce except at too great an expense, that the greatest degree of
happiness was to be communicated to the greatest extent of population."

In assenting to the motion, the first minister[3] of the crown expressed
his own opinion of the great advantage resulting from unrestricted
freedom of trade. "Of the soundness of that general principle," he
observed, "I can entertain no doubt. I can entertain no doubt of what
would have been the great advantages to the civilized world, if the
system of unrestricted trade had been acted upon by every nation from
the earliest period of its commercial intercourse with its neighbors. If
to those advantages there could have been any exceptions, I am persuaded
that they would have been but few; and I am also persuaded that the
cases to which they would have referred would not have been, in
themselves, connected with the trade and commerce of England. But we are
now in a situation in which, I will not say that a reference to the
principle of unrestricted trade can be of no use, because such a
reference may correct erroneous reasoning, but in which it is impossible
for us, or for any country in the world but the United States of
America, to act unreservedly on that principle. The commercial
regulations of the European world have been long established, and cannot
suddenly be departed from." Having supposed a proposition to be made to
England by a foreign state for free commerce and intercourse, and an
unrestricted exchange of agricultural products and of manufactures, he
proceeds to observe: "It would be impossible to accede to such a
proposition. We have risen to our present greatness under a different
system. Some suppose that we have risen in consequence of that system;
_others, of whom I am one, believe that we have risen in spite of that
system_. But, whichever of these hypotheses be true, certain it is that
we have risen under a very different system than that of free and
unrestricted trade. It is utterly impossible, with our debt and
taxation, even if they were but half their existing amount, that we can
suddenly adopt the system of free trade."

Lord Ellenborough, in the same debate, said, "that he attributed the
general distress then existing in Europe to the regulations that had
taken place since the destruction of the French power. Most of the
states on the Continent had surrounded themselves as with walls of
brass, to inhibit intercourse with other states. Intercourse was
prohibited, even in districts of the same state, as was the case in
Austria and Sardinia. Thus, though the taxes on the people had been
lightened, the severity of their condition had been increased. He
believed that the discontent which pervaded most parts of Europe, and
especially Germany, was more owing to commercial restrictions than to
any theoretical doctrines on government; and that a free communication
among them would do more to restore tranquillity, than any other step
that could be adopted. He objected to all attempts to frustrate the
benevolent intentions of Providence, which had given to various
countries various wants, in order to bring them together. He objected to
it as anti-social; he objected to it as making commerce the means of
barbarizing instead of enlightening nations. The state of the trade with
France was most disgraceful to both countries; the two greatest
civilized nations of the world, placed at a distance of scarcely twenty
miles from each other, had contrived, by their artificial regulations,
to reduce their commerce with each other to a mere nullity." Every
member speaking on this occasion agreed in the general sentiments
favorable to unrestricted intercourse, which had thus been advanced; one
of them remarking, at the conclusion of the debate, that "the principles
of free trade, which he was happy to see so fully recognized, were of
the utmost consequence; for, though, in the present circumstances of the
country, a free trade was unattainable, yet their task hereafter was to
approximate to it. Considering the prejudices and interests which were
opposed to the recognition of that principle, it was no small indication
of the firmness and liberality of government to have so fully conceded

Sir, we have seen, in the course of this discussion, that several
gentlemen have expressed their high admiration of the _silk manufacture_
of England. Its commendation was begun, I think, by the honorable member
from Vermont, who sits near me, who thinks that that alone gives
conclusive evidence of the benefits produced by attention to
manufactures, inasmuch as it is a great source of wealth to the nation,
and has amply repaid all the cost of its protection. Mr. Speaker's
approbation of this part of the English example was still warmer. Now,
Sir, it does so happen, that both these gentlemen differ very widely on
this point from the opinions entertained in England, by persons of the
first rank, both as to knowledge and power. In the debate to which I
have already referred, the proposer of the motion urged the expediency
of providing for the admission of the silks of France into England. "He
was aware," he said, "that there was a poor and industrious body of
manufacturers, whose interests must suffer by such an arrangement; and
therefore he felt that it would be the duty of Parliament to provide for
the present generation by a large Parliamentary grant. It was
conformable to every principle of sound justice to do so, when the
interests of a particular class were sacrificed to the good of the
whole." In answer to these observations, Lord Liverpool said that, with
reference to several branches of manufactures, time, and the change of
circumstances, had rendered the system of protecting duties merely
nominal; and that, in his opinion, if all the protecting laws which
regarded both the woollen and cotton manufactures were to be repealed,
no injurious effects would thereby be occasioned. "But," he observes,
"with respect to silk, that manufacture in this kingdom is so completely
artificial, that any attempt to introduce the principles of free trade
with reference to it might put an end to it altogether. I allow that the
silk manufacture is not natural to this country. _I wish we had never
had a silk manufactory._ I allow that it is natural to France; I allow
that it might have been better, had each country adhered exclusively to
that manufacture in which each is superior; and had the silks of France
been exchanged for British cottons. But I must look at things as they
are; and when I consider the extent of capital, and the immense
population, consisting, I believe, of about fifty thousand persons,
engaged in our silk manufacture, I can only say, that one of the few
points in which I totally disagree with the proposer of the motion is
the expediency, under existing circumstances, of holding out any idea
that it would be possible to relinquish the silk manufacture, and to
provide for those who live by it, by Parliamentary enactment. Whatever
objections there may be to the continuance of the protecting system, I
repeat, that it is impossible altogether to relinquish it. I may regret
that the system was ever commenced; but as I cannot recall that act, I
must submit to the inconvenience by which it is attended, rather than
expose the country to evils of greater magnitude." Let it be remembered,
Sir, that these are not the sentiments of a theorist, nor the fancies of
speculation; but the operative opinions of the first minister of
England, acknowledged to be one of the ablest and most practical
statesmen of his country.

Gentlemen could have hardly been more unfortunate than in the selection
of the silk manufacture in England as an example of the beneficial
effects of that system which they would recommend. It is, in the
language which I have quoted, completely artificial. It has been
sustained by I know not how many laws, breaking in upon the plainest
principles of general expediency. At the last session of Parliament, the
manufacturers petitioned for the repeal of three or four of these
statutes, complaining of the vexatious restrictions which they impose on
the wages of labor; setting forth, that a great variety of orders has
from time to time been issued by magistrates under the authority of
these laws, interfering in an oppressive manner with the minutest
details of the manufacture,--such as limiting the number of threads to
an inch, restricting the widths of many sorts of work, and determining
the quantity of labor not to be exceeded without extra wages; that by
the operation of these laws, the rate of wages, instead of being left to
the recognized principles of regulation, has been arbitrarily fixed by
persons whose ignorance renders them incompetent to a just decision;
that masters are compelled by law to pay an equal price for all work,
whether well or ill performed; and that they are wholly prevented from
using improved machinery, it being ordered, that work, in the weaving of
which machinery is employed, shall be paid precisely at the same rate as
if done by hand; that these acts have frequently given rise to the most
vexatious regulations, the unintentional breach of which has subjected
manufacturers to ruinous penalties; and that the introduction of all
machinery being prevented, by which labor might be cheapened, and the
manufacturers being compelled to pay at a fixed price, under all
circumstances, they are unable to afford employment to their workmen, in
times of stagnation of trade, and are compelled to stop their looms. And
finally, they complain that, notwithstanding these grievances under
which 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 re-appointment 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 every thing 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 nourish 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 limited 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 to refer 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 partial 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 endeavor to
keep other vendors 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 that 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 make it 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 re-establish 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 occasion the trouble of hearing me. Some days ago,
I believe it was when we were settling the controversy between the
oil-merchants and the tallow-chandlers, 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 instance 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, and other articles procured in that market. With
this new cargo she proceeded to Europe; two thirds 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 in specie, and $15,000 in Italian merchandise. These
sums together make $170,000 imported, which is $100,000 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 farmer and the smith,
have hitherto very much misunderstood their own interests. And with
regard to the internal trade of a country, in which the same rule would
apply as between nations, do we ever speak of such an intercourse as
prejudicial to one side because it is useful to the other? Do we ever
hear that, because the intercourse between New York and Albany is
advantageous to one of those places, it must therefore be ruinous to the

May I be allowed, Sir, to read a passage on this subject from the
observations of a gentleman, in my opinion one of the most clear and
sensible writers and speakers of the age upon subjects of this sort?[4]
"There is no political question on which the prevalence of false
principles is so general, as in what relates to the nature of commerce
and to the pretended balance of trade; and there are few which have led
to a greater number of practical mistakes, attended with consequences
extensively prejudicial to the happiness of mankind. In this country,
our Parliamentary proceedings, our public documents, and the works of
several able and popular writers, have combined to propagate the
impression, that we are indebted for much of our riches to what is
called the balance of trade." "Our true policy would surely be to
profess, as the object and guide of our commercial system, that which
every man who has studied the subject must know to be the true principle
of commerce, the interchange of reciprocal and equivalent benefit. We
may rest assured that it is not in the nature of commerce to enrich one
party at the expense of the other. This is a purpose at which, if it
were practicable, we ought not to aim; and which, if we aimed at, we
could not accomplish." These remarks, I believe, Sir, were written some
ten or twelve years ago. They are in perfect accordance with the
opinions, advanced in more elaborate treatises, and now that the world
has returned to a state of peace, and commerce has resumed its natural
channels, and different nations are enjoying, or seeking to enjoy, their
respective portions of it, all see the justness of these ideas,--all
see, that, in this day of knowledge and of peace, there can be no
commerce between nations but that which shall benefit all who are
parties to it.

If it were necessary, Mr. Chairman, I might ask the attention of the
committee to refer to a document before us, on this subject of the
balance of trade. It will be seen by reference to the accounts, that, in
the course of the last year, our total export to Holland exceeded two
millions and a half; our total import from the same country was but
seven hundred thousand dollars. Now, can any man be wild enough to make
any inference from this as to the gain or loss of our trade with Holland
for that year? Our trade with Russia for the same year produced a
balance the other way, our import being two millions, and our export but
half a million. But this has no more tendency to show the Russian trade
a losing trade, than the other statement has to show that the Dutch
trade has been a gainful one. Neither of them, by itself, proves any

Springing out of this notion of a balance of trade, there is another
idea, which has been much dwelt upon in the course of this debate; that
is, that we ought not to buy of nations who do not buy of us; for
example, that the Russian trade is a trade disadvantageous to the
country, and ought to be discouraged, because, in the ports of Russia,
we buy more than we sell. Now allow me to observe, in the first place,
Sir, that we have no account showing how much we do sell in the ports of
Russia. Our official returns show us only what is the amount of our
direct trade with her ports. But then we all know that the proceeds of
another portion of our exports go to the same market, though indirectly.
We send our own products, for example, to Cuba, or to Brazil; we there
exchange them for the sugar and the coffee of those countries, and these
articles we carry to St. Petersburg, and there sell them. Again; our
exports to Holland and Hamburg are connected directly or indirectly with
our imports from Russia. What difference does it make, in sense or
reason, whether a cargo of iron be bought at St. Petersburg, by the
exchange of a cargo of tobacco, or whether the tobacco has been sold on
the way, in a better market, in a port of Holland, the money remitted to
England, and the iron paid for by a bill on London? There might indeed
have been an augmented freight, there might have been some saving of
commissions, if tobacco had been in brisk demand in the Russian market.
But still there is nothing to show that the whole voyage may not have
been highly profitable. That depends upon the original cost of the
article here, the amount of freight and insurance to Holland, the price
obtained there, the rate of exchange between Holland and England, the
expense, then, of proceeding to St. Petersburg, the price of iron there,
the rate of exchange between that place and England, the amount of
freight and insurance at home, and, finally, the value of the iron when
brought to our own market. These are the calculations which determine
the fortune of the adventure; and nothing can be judged of it, one way
or the other, by the relative state of our imports or exports with
Holland, England, or Russia.

I would not be understood to deny, that it may often be our interest to
cultivate a trade with countries that require most of such commodities
as we can furnish, and which are capable also of directly supplying our
own wants. This is the original and the simplest form of all commerce,
and is no doubt highly beneficial. Some countries are so situated, that
commerce, in this original form, or something near it, may be all that
they can, without considerable inconvenience, carry on. Our trade, for
example, with Madeira and the Western Islands has been useful to the
country, as furnishing a demand for some portion of our agricultural
products, which probably could not have been bought had we not received
their products in return. Countries situated still farther from the
great marts and highways of the commercial world may afford still
stronger instances of the necessity and utility of conducting commerce
on the original principle of barter, without much assistance from the
operations of credit and exchange. All I would be understood to say is,
that it by no means follows that we can carry on nothing but a losing
trade with a country from which we receive more of her products than she
receives of ours. Since I was supposed, the other day, in speaking upon
this subject, to advance opinions which not only this country ought to
reject, but which also other countries, and those the most distinguished
for skill and success in commercial intercourse, do reject, I will ask
leave to refer again to the discussion which I first mentioned in the
English Parliament, relative to the foreign trade of that country. "With
regard," says the mover[5] of the proposition, "to the argument employed
against renewing our intercourse with the North of Europe, namely, that
those who supplied us with timber from that quarter would not receive
British manufactures in return, it appeared to him futile and
ungrounded. If they did not send direct for our manufactures at home,
they would send for them to Leipsic and other fairs of Germany. Were not
the Russian and Polish merchants purchasers there to a great amount? But
he would never admit the principle, that a trade was not profitable
because we were obliged to carry it on with the precious metals, or that
we ought to renounce it, because our manufactures were not received by
the foreign nation in return for its produce. Whatever we received must
be paid for in the produce of our land and labor, directly or
circuitously, and he was glad to have the noble Earl's[6] marked
concurrence in this principle."

Referring ourselves again, Sir, to the analogies of common life, no one
would say that a farmer or a mechanic should buy _only_ where he can do
so by the exchange of his own produce, or of his own manufacture. Such
exchange may be often convenient; and, on the other hand, the cash
purchase may be often more convenient. It is the same in the intercourse
of nations. Indeed, Mr. Speaker has placed this argument on very clear
grounds. It was said, in the early part of the debate, that, if we cease
to import English cotton fabrics, England will no longer continue to
purchase our cotton. To this Mr. Speaker replied, with great force and
justice, that, as she must have cotton in large quantities, she will buy
the article where she can find it best and cheapest; and that it would
be quite ridiculous in her, manufacturing as she still would be, for her
own vast consumption and the consumption of millions in other countries,
to reject our uplands because we had learned to manufacture a part of
them for ourselves. Would it not be equally ridiculous in us, if the
commodities of Russia were both cheaper and better suited to our wants
than could be found elsewhere, to abstain from commerce with her,
because she will not receive in return other commodities which we have
to sell, but which she has no occasion to buy?

Intimately connected, Sir, with this topic, is another which has been
brought into the debate; I mean the evil so much complained of, the
exportation of specie. We hear gentlemen imputing the loss of market at
home to a want of money, and this want of money to the exportation of
the precious metals. We hear the India and China trade denounced, as a
commerce conducted on our side, in a great measure, with gold and
silver. These opinions, Sir, are clearly void of all just foundation,
and we cannot too soon get rid of them. There are no shallower reasoners
than those political and commercial writers who would represent it to be
the only true and gainful end of commerce, to accumulate the precious
metals. These are articles of use, and articles of merchandise, with
this additional circumstance belonging to them, that they are made, by
the general consent of nations, the standard by which the value of all
other merchandise is to be estimated. In regard to weights and measures,
something drawn from external nature is made a common standard, for the
purposes of general convenience: and this is precisely the office
performed by the precious metals, in addition to those uses to which, as
metals, they are capable of being applied. There may be of these too
much or too little in a country at a particular time, as there may be of
any other articles. When the market is overstocked with them, as it
often is, their exportation becomes as proper and as useful as that of
other commodities, under similar circumstances. We need no more repine,
when the dollars which have been brought here from South America are
despatched to other countries, than when coffee and sugar take the same
direction. We often deceive ourselves, by attributing to a scarcity of
money that which is the result of other causes. In the course of this
debate, the honorable member from Pennsylvania[7] has represented the
country as full of every thing but money. But this I take to be a
mistake. The agricultural products, so abundant in Pennsylvania, will
not, he says, sell for money; but they will sell for money as quick as
for any other article which happens to be in demand. They will sell for
money, for example, as easily as for coffee or for tea, at the prices
which properly belong to those articles. The mistake lies in imputing
that to want of money which arises from want of demand. Men do not buy
wheat because they have money, but because they want wheat. To decide
whether money be plenty or not, that is, whether there be a large
portion of capital unemployed or not, when the currency of a country is
metallic, we must look, not only to the prices of commodities, but also
to the rate of interest. A low rate of interest, a facility of obtaining
money on loans, a disposition to invest in permanent stocks, all of
which are proofs that money is plenty, may nevertheless often denote a
state not of the highest prosperity. They may, and often do, show a want
of employment for capital; and the accumulation of specie shows the same
thing. We have no occasion for the precious metals as money, except for
the purposes of circulation, or rather of sustaining a safe paper
circulation. And whenever there is a prospect of a profitable investment
abroad, all the gold and silver, except what these purposes require,
will be exported. For the same reason, if a demand exist abroad for
sugar and coffee, whatever amount of those articles might exist in the
country, beyond the wants of its own consumption, would be sent abroad
to meet that demand.

Besides, Sir, how should it ever occur to anybody, that we should
continue to export gold and silver, if we did not continue to import
them also? If a vessel take our own products to the Havana, or
elsewhere, exchange them for dollars, proceed to China, exchange them
for silks and teas, bring these last to the ports of the Mediterranean,
sell them there for dollars, and return to the United States,--this
would be a voyage resulting in the importation of the precious metals.
But if she had returned from Cuba, and the dollars obtained there had
been shipped direct from the United States to China, the China goods
sold in Holland, and the proceeds brought home in the hemp and iron of
Russia, this would be a voyage in which they were exported. Yet
everybody sees that both might be equally beneficial to the individual
and to the public. I believe, Sir, that, in point of fact, we have
enjoyed great benefit in our trade with India and China, from the
liberty of going from place to place all over the world, without being
obliged in the mean time to return home, a liberty not heretofore
enjoyed by the private traders of England, in regard to India and China.
Suppose the American ship to be at Brazil, for example; she could
proceed with her dollars direct to India, and, in return, could
distribute her cargo in all the various ports of Europe or America;
while an English ship, if a private trader, being at Brazil, must first
return to England, and then could only proceed in the direct line from
England to India. This advantage our countrymen have not been backward
to improve; and in the debate to which I have already so often referred,
it was stated, not without some complaint of the inconvenience of
exclusion, and the natural sluggishness of monopoly, that American ships
were at that moment fitting out in the Thames, to supply France,
Holland, and other countries on the Continent, with tea; while the East
India Company would not do this of themselves, nor allow any of their
fellow-countrymen to do it for them.

There is yet another subject, Mr. Chairman, upon which I would wish to
say something, if I might presume upon the continued patience of the
committee. We hear sometimes in the House, and continually out of it, of
the rate of exchange, as being one proof that we are on the downward
road to ruin. Mr. Speaker himself has adverted to that topic, and I am
afraid that his authority may give credit to opinions clearly unfounded,
and which lead to very false and erroneous conclusions. Sir, let us see
what the facts are. Exchange on England has recently risen one or one
and a half per cent, partly owing, perhaps, to the introduction of this
bill into Congress. Before this recent rise, and for the last six
months, I understand its average may have been about seven and a half
per cent advance. Now, supposing this to be the _real_, and not merely,
as it is, the nominal, par of exchange between us and England, what
would it prove? Nothing, except that funds were wanted by American
citizens in England for commercial operations, to be carried on either
in England or elsewhere. It would not necessarily show that we were
indebted to England; for, if we had occasion to pay debts in Russia or
Holland, funds in England would naturally enough be required for such a
purpose. Even if it did prove that a balance was due England at the
moment, it would have no tendency to explain to us whether our commerce
with England had been profitable or unprofitable.

But it is not true, in point of fact, that the _real_ price of exchange
is seven and a half per cent advance, nor, indeed, that there is at the
present moment any advance at all. That is to say, it is not true that
merchants will give such an advance, or any advance, for _money_ in
England, beyond what they would give for the same amount, in the same
currency, here. It will strike every one who reflects upon it, that, if
there were a real difference of seven and a half per cent, money would
be immediately shipped to England; because the expense of transportation
would be far less than that difference. Or commodities of trade would be
shipped to Europe, and the proceeds remitted to England. If it could so
happen, that American merchants should be willing to pay ten per cent
premium for money in England, or, in other words, that a real difference
to that amount in the exchange should exist, its effects would be
immediately seen in new shipments of our own commodities to Europe,
because this state of things would create new motives. A cargo of
tobacco, for example, might sell at Amsterdam for the same price as
before; but if its proceeds, when remitted to London, were advanced, as
they would be in such case, ten per cent by the state of exchange, this
would be so much added to the price, and would operate therefore as a
motive for the exportation; and in this way national balances are, and
always will be, adjusted.

To form any accurate idea of the true state of exchange between two
countries, we must look at their currencies, and compare the quantities
of gold and silver which they may respectively represent. This usually
explains the state of the exchanges; and this will satisfactorily
account for the apparent advance now existing on bills drawn on England.
The English standard of value is gold; with us that office is performed
by gold, and by silver also, at a fixed relation to each other. But our
estimate of silver is rather higher, in proportion to gold, than most
nations give it; it is higher, especially, than in England, at the
present moment. The consequence is, that silver, which remains a legal
currency with us, stays here, while the gold has gone abroad; verifying
the universal truth, that, if _two_ currencies be allowed to exist, of
different values, that which is cheapest will fill up the whole
circulation. For as much gold as will suffice to pay here a debt of a
given amount, we can buy in England more silver than would be necessary
to pay the same debt here; and from this difference in the value of
silver arises wholly or in a great measure the present apparent
difference in exchange. Spanish dollars sell now in England for four
shillings and nine pence sterling per ounce, equal to one dollar and six
cents. By our standard the same ounce is worth one dollar and sixteen
cents, being a difference of about nine per cent. The true par of
exchange, therefore, is nine per cent. If a merchant here pay one
hundred Spanish dollars for a bill on England, at nominal par, in
sterling money, that is for a bill of L22 10s., the proceeds of this
bill, when paid in England in the legal currency, will there purchase,
at the present price of silver, one hundred and nine Spanish dollars.
Therefore, if the nominal advance on English bills do not exceed nine
per cent, the real exchange is not against this country; in other words,
it does not show that there is any pressing or particular occasion for
the remittance of funds to England.

As little can be inferred from the occasional transfer of United States
stock to England. Considering the interest paid on our stocks, the
entire stability of our credit, and the accumulation of capital in
England, it is not at all wonderful that investments should occasionally
be made in our funds. As a sort of countervailing fact, it may be
stated that English stocks are now actually held in this country,
though probably not to any considerable amount.

I will now proceed, Sir, to state some objections of a more general
nature to the course of Mr. Speaker's observations.

He seems to me to argue the question as if all domestic industry were
confined to the production of manufactured articles; as if the
employment of our own capital and our own labor, in the occupations of
commerce and navigation, were not as emphatically domestic industry as
any other occupation. Some other gentlemen, in the course of the debate,
have spoken of the price paid for every foreign manufactured article as
so much given for the encouragement of foreign labor, to the prejudice
of our own. But is not every such article the product of our own labor
as truly as if we had manufactured it ourselves? Our labor has earned
it, and paid the price for it. It is so much added to the stock of
national wealth. If the commodity were dollars, nobody would doubt the
truth of this remark; and it is precisely as correct in its application
to any other commodity as to silver. One man makes a yard of cloth at
home; another raises agricultural products and buys a yard of imported
cloth. Both these are equally the earnings of domestic industry, and the
only questions that arise in the case are two: the first is, which is
the best mode, under all the circumstances, of obtaining the article;
the second is, how far this first question is proper to be decided by
government, and how far it is proper to be left to individual
discretion. There is no foundation for the distinction which attributes
to certain employments the peculiar appellation of American industry;
and it is, in my judgment, extremely unwise to attempt such

We are asked, What nations have ever attained eminent prosperity without
encouraging manufactures? I may ask, What nation ever reached the like
prosperity without promoting foreign trade? I regard these interests as
closely connected, and am of opinion that it should be our aim to cause
them to flourish together. I know it would be very easy to promote
manufactures, at least for a time, but probably for a short time only,
if we might act in disregard of other interests. We could cause a sudden
transfer of capital, and a violent change in the pursuits of men. We
could exceedingly benefit some classes by these means. But what, then,
becomes of the interests of others? The power of collecting revenue by
duties on imports, and the habit of the government of collecting almost
its whole revenue in that mode, will enable us, without exceeding the
bounds of moderation, to give great advantages to those classes of
manufactures which we may think most useful to promote at home. What I
object to is the immoderate use of the power,--exclusions and
prohibitions; all of which, as I think, not only interrupt the pursuits
of individuals, with great injury to themselves and little or no benefit
to the country, but also often divert our own labor, or, as it may very
properly be called, our own domestic industry, from those occupations in
which it is well employed and well paid, to others in which it will be
worse employed and worse paid. For my part, I see very little relief to
those who are likely to be deprived of their employments, or who find
the prices of the commodities which they need raised, in any of the
alternatives which Mr. Speaker has presented. It is nothing to say that
they may, if they choose, continue to buy the foreign article; the
answer is, the price is augmented: nor that they may use the domestic
article; the price of that also is increased. Nor can they supply
themselves by the substitution of their own fabric. How can the
agriculturist make his own iron? How can the ship-owner grow his own

But I have a yet stronger objection to the course of Mr. Speaker's
reasoning; which is, that he leaves out of the case all that has been
already done for the protection of manufactures, and argues the question
as if those interests were now for the first time to receive aid from
duties on imports. I can hardly express the surprise I feel that Mr.
Speaker should fall into the common mode of expression used elsewhere,
and ask if we will give our manufacturers no protection. Sir, look to
the history of our laws; look to the present state of our laws. Consider
that our whole revenue, with a trifling exception, is collected at the
custom-house, and always has been; and then say what propriety there is
in calling on the government for protection, as if no protection had
heretofore been afforded. The real question before us, in regard to all
the important clauses of the bill, is not whether we will _lay_ duties,
but whether we will _augment_ duties. The demand is for something more
than exists, and yet it is pressed as if nothing existed. It is wholly
forgotten that iron and hemp, for example, already pay a very heavy and
burdensome duty; and, in short, from the general tenor of Mr. Speaker's
observations, one would infer that, hitherto, we had rather taxed our
own manufactures than fostered them by taxes on those of other
countries. We hear of the fatal policy of the tariff of 1816; and yet
the law of 1816 was passed avowedly for the benefit of manufacturers,
and, with very few exceptions, imposed on imported articles very great
additions of tax; in some important instances, indeed, amounting to a

Sir, on this subject, it becomes us at least to understand the real
posture of the question. Let us not suppose that we are _beginning_ the
protection of manufactures, by duties on imports. What we are asked to
do is, to render those duties much higher, and therefore, instead of
dealing in general commendations of the benefits of protection, the
friends of the bill, I think, are bound to make out a fair case for each
of the manufactures which they propose to benefit. The government has
already done much for their protection, and it ought to be presumed to
have done enough, unless it be shown, by the facts and considerations
applicable to each, that there is a necessity for doing more.

On the general question, Sir, allow me to ask if the doctrine of
prohibition, as a general doctrine, be not preposterous. Suppose all
nations to act upon it; they would be prosperous, then, according to the
argument, precisely in the proportion in which they abolished
intercourse with one another. The less of mutual commerce the better,
upon this hypothesis. Protection and encouragement may be, and doubtless
are, sometimes, wise and beneficial, if kept within proper limits; but
when carried to an extravagant height, or the point of prohibition, the
absurd character of the system manifests itself. Mr. Speaker has
referred to the late Emperor Napoleon, as having attempted to naturalize
the manufacture of cotton in France. He did not cite a more extravagant
part of the projects of that ruler, that is, his attempt to naturalize
the growth of that plant itself, in France; whereas, we have understood
that considerable districts in the South of France, and in Italy, of
rich and productive lands, were at one time withdrawn from profitable
uses, and devoted to raising, at great expense, a little bad cotton. Nor
have we been referred to the attempts, under the same system, to make
sugar and coffee from common culinary vegetables; attempts which served
to fill the print-shops of Europe, and to show us how easy is the
transition from what some think sublime to that which all admit to be
ridiculous. The folly of some of these projects has not been surpassed,
nor hardly equalled, unless it be by the philosopher in one of the
satires of Swift, who so long labored to extract sunbeams from

The poverty and unhappiness of Spain have been attributed to the want of
protection to her own industry. If by this it be meant that the poverty
of Spain is owing to bad government and bad laws, the remark is, in a
great measure, just. But these very laws are bad because they are
restrictive, partial, and prohibitory. If prohibition were protection,
Spain would seem to have had enough of it. Nothing can exceed the
barbarous rigidity of her colonial system, or the folly of her early
commercial regulations. Unenlightened and bigoted legislation, the
multitude of holidays, miserable roads, monopolies on the part of
government, restrictive laws, that ought long since to have been
abrogated, are generally, and I believe truly, reckoned the principal
causes of the bad state of the productive industry of Spain. Any partial
improvement in her condition, or increase of her prosperity, has been,
in all cases, the result of relaxation, and the abolition of what was
intended for favor and protection.

In short, Sir, the general sense of this age sets, with a strong
current, in favor of freedom of commercial intercourse, and unrestrained
individual action. Men yield up their notions of monopoly and
restriction, as they yield up other prejudices, slowly and reluctantly;
but they cannot withstand the general tide of opinion.

Let me now ask, Sir, what relief this bill proposes to some of those
great and essential interests of the country, the condition of which has
been referred to as proof of national distress; and which condition,
although I do not think it makes out a case of _distress_, yet does
indicate depression.

And first, Sir, as to our foreign trade. Mr. Speaker has stated that
there has been a considerable falling off in the tonnage employed in
that trade. This is true, lamentably true. In my opinion, it is one of
those occurrences which ought to arrest our immediate, our deep, our
most earnest attention. What does this bill propose for its relief? It
proposes nothing but new burdens. It proposes to diminish its
employment, and it proposes, at the same time, to augment its expense,
by subjecting it to heavier taxation. Sir, there is no interest, in
regard to which a stronger case for protection can be made out, than the
navigating interest. Whether we look at its present condition, which is
admitted to be depressed, the number of persons connected with it, and
dependent upon it for their daily bread, or its importance to the
country in a political point of view, it has claims upon our attention
which cannot be surpassed. But what do we propose to do for it? I
repeat, Sir, simply to burden and to tax it. By a statement which I have
already submitted to the committee, it appears that the shipping
interest pays, annually, more than half a million of dollars in duties
on articles used in the construction of ships. We propose to add nearly,
or quite, fifty per cent to this amount, at the very moment that we
appeal to the languishing state of this interest as a proof of national
distress. Let it be remembered that our shipping employed in foreign
commerce has, at this moment, not the shadow of government protection.
It goes abroad upon the wide sea to make its own way, and earn its own
bread, in a professed competition with the whole world. Its resources
are its own frugality, its own skill, its own enterprise. It hopes to
succeed, if it shall succeed at all, not by extraordinary aid of
government, but by patience, vigilance, and toil. This right arm of the
nation's safety strengthens its own muscle by its own efforts, and by
unwearied exertion in its own defence becomes strong for the defence of
the country.

No one acquainted with this interest can deny that its situation, at
this moment, is extremely critical. We have left it hitherto to maintain
itself or perish; to swim if it can, and to sink if it must. But at this
moment of its apparent struggle, can we as men, can we as patriots, add
another stone to the weight that threatens to carry it down? Sir, there
is a limit to human power, and to human effort. I know the commercial
marine of this country can do almost every thing, and bear almost every
thing. Yet some things are impossible to be done, and some burdens may
be impossible to be borne; and as it was the last ounce that broke the
back of the camel, so the last tax, although it were even a small one,
may be decisive as to the power of our marine to sustain the conflict in
which it is now engaged with all the commercial nations on the globe.

Again, Mr. Chairman, the failures and the bankruptcies which have taken
place in our large cities have been mentioned as proving the little
success attending _commerce_, and its general decline. But this bill has
no balm for those wounds. It is very remarkable, that when the losses
and disasters of certain manufacturers, those of iron, for instance, are
mentioned, it is done for the purpose of invoking aid for the
distressed. Not so with the losses and disasters of commerce; these last
are narrated, and not unfrequently much exaggerated, to prove the
ruinous nature of the employment, and to show that it ought to be
abandoned, and the capital engaged in it turned to other objects.

It has been often said, Sir, that our manufacturers have to contend, not
only against the natural advantages of those who produce similar
articles in foreign countries, but also against the action of foreign
governments, who have great political interest in aiding their own
manufactures to suppress ours. But have not these governments as great
an interest to cripple our marine, by preventing the growth of our
commerce and navigation? What is it that makes us the object of the
highest respect, or the most suspicious jealousy, to foreign states?
What is it that most enables us to take high relative rank among the
nations? I need not say that this results, more than from any thing
else, from that quantity of military power which we can cause to be
water-borne, and from that extent of commerce which we are able to
maintain throughout the world.

Mr. Chairman, I am conscious of having detained the committee much too
long with these observations. My apology for now proceeding to some
remarks upon the particular clauses of the bill is, that, representing a
district at once commercial and highly manufacturing, and being called
upon to vote upon a bill containing provisions so numerous and so
various, I am naturally desirous to state as well what I approve, as
what I would reject.

The first section proposes an augmented duty upon woollen manufactures.
This, if it were unqualified, would no doubt be desirable to those who
are engaged in that business. I have myself presented a petition from
the woollen manufacturers of Massachusetts, praying an augmented _ad
valorem_ duty upon imported woollen cloths; and I am prepared to accede
to that proposition, to a reasonable extent. But then this bill
proposes, also, a very high duty upon imported wool; and, as far as I
can learn, a majority of the manufacturers 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 bill should
pass. It is said, this tax on raw wool will benefit the agriculturist;
but I know it to be the opinion of some of the best informed of that
class, that it will do them more hurt than good. They fear it will check
the manufacturer, and consequently check his demand for their article.
The argument is, that a certain quantity of coarse wool, cheaper than we
can possibly furnish, is necessary to enable the manufacturer to carry
on the general business, and that if this cannot be had, the consequence
will be, not a greater, but a less, manufacture of our own wool. I am
aware that very intelligent persons differ upon this point; but if we
may safely infer from that difference of opinion, that the proposed
benefit is at least doubtful, it would be prudent perhaps to abstain
from the experiment. Certain it is, that the same reasoning has been
employed, as I have before stated, on the same subject, when a renewed
application was made to the English Parliament to repeal the duty on
imported wool, I believe scarcely two months ago; those who supported
the application pressing urgently the necessity of an unrestricted use
of the cheap, imported raw material, with a view to supply with coarse
cloths the markets of warm climates, such as those of Egypt and Turkey,
and especially a vast newly created demand in the South American states.

As to the manufactures of cotton, it is agreed, I believe, that they are
generally successful. It is understood that the present existing duty
operates pretty much as a prohibition over those descriptions of fabrics
to which it applies. The proposed alteration would probably enable the
American manufacturer to commence competition with higher-priced
fabrics; and so, perhaps, would an augmentation less than is here
proposed. I consider the cotton manufactures not only to have reached,
but to have passed, the point of competition. I regard their success as
certain, and their growth as rapid as the most impatient could well
expect. If, however, a provision of the nature of that recommended here
were thought necessary, to commence new operations in the same line of
manufacture, I should cheerfully agree to it, if it were not at the cost
of sacrificing other great interests of the country. I need hardly say,
that whatever promotes the cotton and woollen manufactures promotes most
important interests of my constituents. They have a great stake in the
success of those establishments, and, as far as those manufactures are
concerned, would be as much benefited by the provisions of this bill as
any part of the community. It is obvious, too, I should think, that, for
some considerable time, manufactures of this sort, to whatever magnitude
they may rise, will be principally established in those parts of the
country where population is most dense, capital most abundant, and where
the most successful beginnings have already been made.

But if these be thought to be advantages, they are greatly
counterbalanced by other advantages enjoyed by other portions of the
country. I cannot but regard the situation of the West as highly
favorable to human happiness. It offers, in the abundance of its new and
fertile lands, such assurances of permanent property and respectability
to the industrious, it enables them to lay such sure foundations for a
competent provision for their families, it makes such a nation of
freeholders, that it need not envy the happiest and most prosperous of
the manufacturing communities. We may talk as we will of well-fed and
well-clothed day-laborers or journeymen; they are not, after all, to be
compared, either for happiness or respectability, with him who sleeps
under his own roof and cultivates his own fee-simple inheritance.

With respect to the proposed duty on glass, I would observe, that, upon
the best means of judging which I possess, I am of opinion that the
chairman of the committee is right in stating that there is in effect a
bounty upon the exportation of the British article. I think it entirely
proper, therefore, to raise our own duty by such an amount as shall be
equivalent to that bounty.

And here, Mr. Chairman, before proceeding to those parts of the bill to
which I most strenuously object, I will be so presumptuous as to take up
a challenge which Mr. Speaker has thrown down. He has asked us, in a
tone of interrogatory indicative of the feeling of anticipated triumph,
to mention any country in which manufactures have flourished without the
aid of prohibitory laws. He has demanded if it be not policy,
protection, ay, and prohibition, that have carried other states to the
height of their prosperity, and whether any one has succeeded with such
tame and inert legislation as ours. Sir, I am ready to answer this

There is a country, not undistinguished among the nations, in which the
progress of manufactures has been far more rapid than in any other, and
yet unaided by prohibitions or unnatural restrictions. That country, the
happiest which the sun shines on, is our own.

The woollen manufactures of England have existed from the early ages of
the monarchy. Provisions designed to aid and foster them are in the
black-letter statutes of the Edwards and the Henrys. Ours, on the
contrary, are but of yesterday; and yet, with no more than the
protection of existing laws, they are already at the point of close and
promising competition. Sir, nothing is more unphilosophical than to
refer us, on these subjects, to the policy adopted by other nations in a
very different state of society, or to infer that what was judged
expedient by them, in their early history, must also be expedient for
us, in this early part of our own. This would be reckoning our age
chronologically, and estimating our advance by our number of years;
when, in truth, we should regard only the state of society, the
knowledge, the skill, the capital, and the enterprise which belong to
our times. We have been transferred from the stock of Europe, in a
comparatively enlightened age, and our civilization and improvement date
as far back as her own. Her original history is also our original
history; and if, since the moment of separation, she has gone ahead of
us in some respects, it may be said, without violating truth, that we
have kept up in others, and, in others again, are ahead ourselves. We
are to legislate, then, with regard to the present actual state of
society; and our own experience shows us, that, commencing manufactures
at the present highly enlightened and emulous moment, we need not resort
to the clumsy helps with which, in less auspicious times, governments
have sought to enable the ingenuity and industry of their people to
hobble along.

The English cotton manufactures began about the commencement of the last
reign. Ours can hardly be said to have commenced with any earnestness,
until the application of the power-loom, in 1814, not more than ten
years ago. Now, Sir, I hardly need again speak of its progress, its
present extent, or its assurance of future enlargement. In some sorts of
fabrics we are already exporters, and the products of our factories are,
at this moment, in the South American markets. We see, then, what _can_
be done without prohibition or extraordinary protection, because we see
what _has_ been done; and I venture to predict, that, in a few years, it
will be thought wonderful that these branches of manufactures, at least,
should have been thought to require additional aid from government.

Mr. Chairman, the best apology for laws of prohibition and laws of
monopoly will be found in that state of society, not only unenlightened
but sluggish, in which they are most generally established. Private
industry, in those days, required strong provocatives, which governments
were seeking to administer by these means. Something was wanted to
actuate and stimulate men, and the prospects of such profits as would,
in our times, excite unbounded competition, would hardly move the sloth
of former ages. In some instances, no doubt, these laws produced an
effect, which, in that period, would not have taken place without them.
But our age is of a wholly different character, and its legislation
takes another turn. Society is full of excitement; competition comes in
place of monopoly; and intelligence and industry ask only for fair play
and an open field. Profits, indeed, in such a state of things, will be
small, but they will be extensively diffused; prices will be low, and
the great body of the people prosperous and happy. It is worthy of
remark, that, from the operation of these causes, commercial wealth,
while it is increased beyond calculation in its general aggregate, is,
at the same time, broken and diminished in its subdivisions. Commercial
prosperity should be judged of, therefore, rather from the extent of
trade, than from the magnitude of its apparent profits. It has been
remarked, that Spain, certainly one of the poorest nations, made very
great profits on the amount of her trade; but with little other benefit
than the enriching of a few individuals and companies. Profits to the
English merchants engaged in the Levant and Turkey trade were formerly
very great, and there were richer merchants in England some centuries
ago, considering the comparative value of money, than at the present
highly commercial period. When the diminution of profits arises from the
extent of competition, it indicates rather a salutary than an injurious

The true course then, Sir, for us to pursue, is, in my opinion, to
consider what our situation is; what our means are; and how they can be
best applied. What amount of population have we in comparison with our
extent of soil, what amount of capital, and labor at what price? As to
skill, knowledge, and enterprise, we may safely take it for granted that
in these particulars we are on an equality with others. Keeping these
considerations in view, allow me to examine two or three of those
provisions of the bill to which I feel the strongest objections.

To begin with the article of iron. Our whole annual consumption of this
article is supposed by the chairman of the committee to be forty-eight
or fifty thousand tons. Let us suppose the latter. The amount of our own
manufacture he estimates, I think, at seventeen thousand tons. The
present duty on the imported article is $15 per ton, and as this duty
causes, of course, an equivalent augmentation of the price of the home
manufacture, the whole increase of price is equal to $750,000 annually.
This sum we pay on a raw material, and on an absolute necessary of life.
The bill proposes to raise the duty from $15 to $22.50 per ton, which
would be equal to $1,125,000 on the whole annual consumption. So that,
suppose the point of prohibition which is aimed at by some gentlemen to
be attained, the consumers of the article would pay this last-mentioned
sum every year to the producers of it, over and above the price at which
they could supply themselves with the same article from other sources.
There would be no mitigation of this burden, except from the prospect,
whatever that might be, that iron would fall in value, by domestic
competition, after the importation should be prohibited. It will be
easy, I think, to show that it cannot fall; and supposing for the
present that it shall not, the result will be, that we shall pay
annually the sum of $1,125,000, constantly augmented, too, by increased
consumption of the article, _to support a business that cannot support

It is of no consequence to the argument, that this sum is expended at
home; so it would be if we taxed the people to support any other useless
and expensive establishment, to build another Capitol, for example, or
incur an unnecessary expense of any sort. The question still is, Are the
money, time, and labor well laid out in these cases? The present price
of iron at Stockholm, I am assured by importers, is $53 per ton on
board, $48 in the yard before loading, and probably not far from $40 at
the mines. Freight, insurance, &c. may be fairly estimated at $15, to
which add our present duty of $15 more, and these two last sums,
together with the cost on board at Stockholm, give $83 as the cost of
Swedes iron in our market. In fact, it is said to have been sold last
year at $81.50 to $82 per ton. We perceive, by this statement, that the
cost of the iron is doubled in reaching us from the mine in which it is
produced. In other words, our present duty, with the expense of
transportation, gives an advantage to the American over the foreign
manufacturer of one hundred per cent. Why, then, cannot the iron be
manufactured at home? Our ore is said to be as good, and some of it
better. It is under our feet, and the chairman of the committee tells us
that it might be wrought by persons who otherwise will not be employed.
Why, then, is it not wrought? Nothing could be more sure of constant
sale. It is not an article of changeable fashion, but of absolute,
permanent necessity, and such, therefore, as would always meet a steady
demand. Sir, I think it would be well for the chairman of the committee
to revise his premises, for I am persuaded that there is an ingredient
properly belonging to the calculation which he has misstated or
omitted. Swedes iron in England pays a duty, I think, of about $27 per
ton; yet it is imported in considerable quantities, notwithstanding the
vast capital, the excellent coal, and, more important than all perhaps,
the highly improved state of inland navigation in England; although I am
aware that the English use of Swedes iron may be thought to be owing in
some degree to its superior quality.

Sir, the true explanation of this appears to me to lie in the different
prices _of labor_; and here I apprehend is the grand mistake in the
argument of the chairman of the committee. He says it would cost the
nation, as a nation, nothing, to make our ore into iron. Now, I think it
would cost us precisely that which we can worst afford; that is, great
_labor_. Although bar-iron is very properly considered a raw material in
respect to its various future uses, yet, as bar-iron, the principal
ingredient in its cost is labor. Of manual labor, no nation has more
than a certain quantity, nor can it be increased at will. As to some
operations, indeed, its place may be supplied by machinery; but there
are other services which machinery cannot perform for it, and which it
must perform for itself. A most important question for every nation, as
well as for every individual, to propose to itself, is, how it can best
apply that quantity of labor which it is able to perform. Labor is the
great producer of wealth; it moves all other causes. If it call
machinery to its aid, it is still employed, not only in using the
machinery, but in making it. Now, with respect to the quantity of labor,
as we all know, different nations are differently circumstanced. Some
need, more than any thing, work for hands, others require hands for
work; and if we ourselves are not absolutely in the latter class, we are
still most fortunately very near it. I cannot find that we have those
idle hands, of which the chairman of the committee speaks. The price of
labor is a conclusive and unanswerable refutation of that idea; it is
known to be higher with us than in any other civilized state, and this
is the greatest of all proofs of general happiness. Labor in this
country is independent and proud. It has not to ask the patronage of
capital, but capital solicits the aid of labor. This is the general
truth in regard to the condition of our whole population, although in
the large cities there are doubtless many exceptions. The mere capacity
to labor in common agricultural employments, gives to our young men the
assurance of independence. We have been asked, Sir, by the chairman of
the committee, in a tone of some pathos, whether we will allow to the
serfs of Russia and Sweden the benefit of making iron for us. Let me
inform the gentleman, Sir, that those same serfs do not earn more than
seven cents a day, and that they work in these mines for that
compensation because they are serfs. And let me ask the gentleman
further, whether we have any labor in this country that cannot be better
employed than in a business which does not yield the laborer more than
seven cents a day? This, it appears to me, is the true question for our
consideration. There is no reason for saying that we will work iron
because we have mountains that contain the ore. We might for the same
reason dig among our rocks for the scattered grains of gold and silver
which might be found there. The true inquiry is, Can we produce the
article in a useful state at the same cost, or nearly at the same cost,
or at any reasonable approximation towards the same cost, at which we
can import it?

Some general estimates of the price and profits of labor, in those
countries from which we import our iron, might be formed by comparing
the reputed products of different mines, and their prices, with the
number of hands employed. The mines of Danemora are said to yield about
4,000 tons, and to employ in the mines twelve hundred workmen. Suppose
this to be worth $50 per ton; any one will find by computation, that the
whole product would not pay, in this country, for one quarter part of
the necessary labor. The whole export of Sweden was estimated, a few
years ago, at 400,000 ship pounds, or about 54,000 tons. Comparing this
product with the number of workmen usually supposed to be employed in
the mines which produce iron for exportation, the result will not
greatly differ from the foregoing. These estimates are general, and
might not conduct us to a precise result; but we know, from intelligent
travellers, and eye-witnesses, that the price of labor in the Swedish
mines does not exceed seven cents a day.[9]

The true reason, Sir, why it is not our policy to compel our citizens to
manufacture our own iron, is that they are far better employed. It is an
unproductive business, and they are not poor enough to be obliged to
follow it. If we had more of poverty, more of misery, and something of
servitude, if we had an ignorant, idle, starving population, we might
set up for iron makers against the world.

The committee will take notice, Mr. Chairman, that, under our present
duty, together with the expense of transportation, our manufacturers are
able to supply their own immediate neighborhood; and this proves the
magnitude of that substantial encouragement which these two causes
concur to give. There is little or no foreign iron, I presume, used in
the county of Lancaster. This is owing to the heavy expense of land
carriage; and as we recede farther from the coast, the manufacturers are
still more completely secured, as to their own immediate market, against
the competition of the imported article. But what they ask is to be
allowed to supply the sea-coast, at such a price as shall be formed by
adding to the cost at the mines the expense of land carriage to the sea;
and this appears to me most unreasonable. The effect of it would be to
compel the consumer to pay the cost of two land transportations; for, in
the first place, the price of iron at the inland furnaces will always be
found to be at, or not much below, the price of the imported article in
the seaport, and the cost of transportation to the neighborhood of the
furnace; and to enable the home product to hold a competition with the
imported in the seaport, the cost of another transportation downward,
from the furnace to the coast, must be added. Until our means of inland
commerce be improved, and the charges of transportation by that means
lessened, it appears to me wholly impracticable, with such duties as any
one would think of proposing, to meet the wishes of the manufacturers of
this article. Suppose we were to add the duty proposed by this bill,
although it would benefit the capital invested in works near the sea and
the navigable rivers, yet the benefit would not extend far in the
interior. Where, then, are we to stop, or what limit is proposed to us?

The freight of iron has been afforded from Sweden to the United States
as low as eight dollars per ton. This is not more than the price of
fifty miles of land carriage. Stockholm, therefore, for the purpose of
this argument, may be considered as within fifty miles of Philadelphia.
Now, it is at once a just and a strong view of this case, to consider,
that there are, within fifty miles of our market, vast multitudes of
persons who are willing to labor in the production of this article for
us, at the rate of seven cents per day, while we have no labor which
will not command, upon the average, at least five or six times that
amount. The question is, then, shall we buy this article of these
manufacturers, and suffer our own labor to earn its greater reward, or
shall we employ our own labor in a similar manufacture, and make up to
it, by a tax on consumers, the loss which it must necessarily sustain.

I proceed, Sir, to the article of hemp. Of this we imported last year,
in round numbers, 6,000 tons, paying a duty of $30 a ton, or $180,000 on
the whole amount; and this article, it is to be remembered, is consumed
almost entirely in the uses of navigation. The whole burden may be said
to fall on one interest. It is said we can produce this article if we
will raise the duties. But why is it not produced now? or why, at least,
have we not seen some specimens? for the present is a very high duty,
when expenses of importation are added. Hemp was purchased at St.
Petersburg, last year, at $101.67 per ton. Charges attending shipment,
&c., $14.25. Freight may be stated at $30 per ton, and our existing duty
$30 more. These three last sums, being the charges of transportation,
amount to a protection of near seventy-five per cent in favor of the
home manufacturer, if there be any such. And we ought to consider, also,
that the price of hemp at St. Petersburg is increased by all the expense
of transportation from the place of growth to that port; so that
probably the whole cost of transportation, from the place of growth to
our market, including our duty, is equal to the first cost of the
article; or, in other words, is a protection in favor of our own product
of one hundred per cent.

And since it is stated that we have great quantities of fine land for
the production of hemp, of which I have no doubt, the question recurs,
Why is it not produced? I speak of the water-rotted hemp, for it is
admitted that that which is dew-rotted is not sufficiently good for the
requisite purposes. I cannot say whether the cause be in climate, in the
process of rotting, or what else, but the fact is certain, that there is
no American water-rotted hemp in the market. We are acting, therefore,
upon an hypothesis. Is it not reasonable that those who say that they
_can_ produce the article shall at least prove the truth of that
allegation, before new taxes are laid on those who use the foreign
commodity? Suppose this bill passes; the price of hemp is immediately
raised $14.80 per ton, and this burden falls immediately on the
ship-builder; and no part of it, for the present, will go for the
benefit of the American grower, because he has none of the article than
can be used, nor is it expected that much of it will be produced for a
considerable time. Still the tax takes effect upon the imported article;
and the ship-owners, to enable the Kentucky farmer to receive an
additional $14 on his ton of hemp, whenever he may be able to raise and
manufacture it, pay, in the mean time, an equal sum per ton into the
treasury on all the imported hemp which they are still obliged to use;
and this is called "protection"! Is this just or fair? A particular
interest is here burdened, not only for the benefit of another
particular interest, but burdened also beyond that, for the benefit of
the treasury. It is said to be important for the country that this
article should be raised in it; then let the country bear the expense,
and pay the bounty. If it be for the good of the whole, let the
sacrifice be made by the whole, and not by a part. If it be thought
useful and necessary, from political considerations, to encourage the
growth and manufacture of hemp, government has abundant means of doing
it. It might give a direct bounty, and such a measure would, at least,
distribute the burden equally; or, as government itself is a great
consumer of this article, it might stipulate to confine its own
purchases to the home product, so soon as it should be shown to be of
the proper quality. I see no objection to this proceeding, if it be
thought to be an object to encourage the production. It might easily,
and perhaps properly, be provided by law, that the navy should be
supplied with American hemp, the quality being good, at any price not
exceeding, by more than a given amount, the current price of foreign
hemp in our market. Every thing conspires to render some such course
preferable to the one now proposed. The encouragement in that way would
be ample, and, if the experiment should succeed, the whole object would
be gained; and, if it should fail, no considerable loss or evil would be
felt by any one.

I stated, some days ago, and I wish to renew the statement, what was the
amount of the proposed augmentation of the duties on iron and hemp, in
the cost of a vessel. Take the case of a common ship of three hundred
tons, not coppered, nor copper-fastened. It would stand thus, by the
present duties:--

14-1/2 tons of iron, for hull, rigging, and
and anchors, at $15 per ton, $217.50
10 tons of hemp, at $30, 300.00
40 bolts Russia duck, at $2, 80.00
20 bolts Ravens duck, at $1.25, 25.00
On articles of ship-chandlery, cabin
furniture, hard-ware, &c., 40.00

The bill proposes to add,--

$7.40 per ton on iron, which will be $107.30
$14.80 per ton on hemp, equal to 148.00
And on duck, by the late amendment
of the bill, say 25 per cent, 25.00

But to the duties on iron and hemp should be added those paid on copper,
whenever that article is used. By the statement which I furnished the
other day, it appeared that the duties received by government on
articles used in the construction of a vessel of three hundred and
fifty-nine tons, with copper fastenings, amounted to $1,056. With the
augmentations of this bill, they would be equal to $1,400.

Now I cannot but flatter myself, Mr. Chairman, that, before the
committee will consent to this new burden upon the shipping interest, it
will very deliberately weigh the probable consequences. I would again
urgently solicit its attention to the condition of that interest. We are
told that government has protected it, by discriminating duties, and by
an exclusive right to the coasting trade. But it would retain the
coasting trade by its own natural efforts, in like manner, and with more
certainty, than it now retains any portion of foreign trade. The
discriminating duties are now abolished, and while they existed, they
were nothing more than countervailing measures; not so much designed to
give our navigation an advantage over that of other nations, as to put
it upon an equality; and we have, accordingly, abolished ours, when they
have been willing to abolish theirs. Look to the rate of freights. Were
they ever lower, or even so low? I ask gentlemen who know, whether the
harbor of Charleston, and the river of Savannah, be not crowded with
ships seeking employment, and finding none? I would ask the gentlemen
from New Orleans, if their magnificent Mississippi does not exhibit, for
furlongs, a forest of masts? The condition, Sir, of the shipping
interest is not that of those who are insisting on high profits, or
struggling for monopoly; but it is the condition of men content with the
smallest earnings, and anxious for their bread. The freight of cotton
has formerly been three pence sterling, from Charleston to Liverpool, in
time of peace. It is now I know not what, or how many fractions of a
penny; I think, however, it is stated at five eighths. The producers,
then, of this great staple, are able, by means of this navigation, to
send it, for a cent a pound, from their own doors to the best market in
the world.

Mr. Chairman, I will now only remind the committee that, while we are
proposing to add new burdens to the shipping interest, a very different
line of policy is followed by our great commercial and maritime rival.
It seems to be announced as the sentiment of the government of England,
and undoubtedly it is its real sentiment, that the first of all
manufactures is the manufacture of ships. A constant and wakeful
attention is paid to this interest, and very important regulations,
favorable to it, have been adopted within the last year, some of which I
will beg leave to refer to, with the hope of exciting the notice, not
only of the committee, but of all others who may feel, as I do, a deep
interest in this subject. In the first place, a general amendment has
taken place in the register acts, introducing many new provisions, and,
among others, the following:--

A direct mortgage of the interest of a ship is allowed, without
subjecting the mortgagee to the responsibility of an owner.

The proportion of interest held by each owner is exhibited in the
register, thereby facilitating both sales and mortgages, and giving a
new value to shipping among the moneyed classes.

Shares, in the ships of copartnerships, may be registered as joint
property, and subject to the same rules as other partnership effects.

Ships may be registered in the name of trustees, for the benefit of
joint-stock companies.

And many other regulations are adopted, with the same general view of
rendering the mode of holding the property as convenient and as
favorable as possible.

By another act, British registered vessels, of every description, are
allowed to enter into the general and the coasting trade in the India
seas, and may now trade to and from India, with any part of the world
except China.

By a third, all limitations and restrictions, as to latitude and
longitude, are removed from ships engaged in the Southern whale-fishery.
These regulations, I presume, have not been made without first obtaining
the consent of the East India Company; so true is it found, that real
encouragement of enterprise oftener consists, in our days, in
restraining or buying off monopolies and prohibitions, than in imposing
or extending them.

The trade with Ireland is turned into a free coasting trade; light
duties have been reduced, and various other beneficial arrangements
made, and still others proposed. I might add, that, in favor of general
commerce, and as showing their confidence in the principles of liberal
intercourse, the British government has perfected the warehouse system,
and authorized a reciprocity of duties with foreign states, at the
discretion of the Privy Council.

This, Sir, is the attention which our great rival is paying to these
important subjects, and we may assure ourselves that, if we do not
cherish a proper sense of our own interests, she will not only beat us,
but will deserve to beat us.

Sir, I will detain you no longer. There are some parts of this bill
which I highly approve; there are others in which I should acquiesce;
but those to which I have now stated my objections appear to me so
destitute of all justice, so burdensome and so dangerous to that
interest which has steadily enriched, gallantly defended, and proudly
distinguished us, that nothing can prevail upon me to give it my

* * * * *


This is commonly called Mr. Webster's "Free Trade" speech. It has been
found difficult to select one among his many speeches in support of the
policy of Protection which would fully represent his views on the
subject; but the reasons for his change of opinion, and for his advocacy
of Protection, are fully stated in many of the speeches printed in this
volume, delivered after the year 1830. Perhaps as good a statement as
can be selected from his many speeches on the Tariff, in explanation of
his change of position as to the need, policy, and duty of protection to
American manufactures, may be found in his speech delivered in the
Senate of the United States, on the 25th and 26th of July, 1846, on the
Bill "To reduce the Duties on Imports, and for other Purposes." In this
speech, he made the following frank avowal of the reasons which induced
him to reconsider and reverse his original opinions on the subject:--

"But, Sir, before I proceed further with this part of the case, I
will take notice of what appears, latterly, to be an attempt, by
the republication of opinions and expressions, arguments and
speeches of mine, at an earlier and later period of life, to found
against me a charge of inconsistency, on this subject of the
protective policy of the country. Mr. President, if it be an
inconsistency to hold an opinion upon a subject at one time and in
one state of circumstances, and to hold a different opinion upon
the same subject at another time and in a different state of
circumstances, I admit the charge. Nay, Sir, I will go further; and
in regard to questions which, from their nature, do not depend upon
circumstances for their true and just solution, I mean
constitutional questions, if it be an inconsistency to hold an
opinion to-day, even upon such a question, and on that same
question to hold a different opinion a quarter of a century
afterwards, upon a more comprehensive view of the whole subject,
with a more thorough investigation into the original purposes and
objects of that Constitution, and especially after a more thorough
exposition of those objects and purposes by those who framed it,
and have been trusted to administer it, I should not shrink even
from that imputation. I hope I know more of the Constitution of my
country than I did when I was twenty years old. I hope I have
contemplated its great objects more broadly. I hope I have read
with deeper interest the sentiments of the great men who framed it.
I hope I have studied with more care the condition of the country
when the convention assembled to form it. And yet I do not know
that I have much to retract or to change on these points.

"But, Sir, I am of the opinion of a very eminent person, who had
occasion, not long since, to speak of this topic in another place.
Inconsistencies of opinion, arising from changes of circumstances,
are often justifiable. But there is one sort of inconsistency which
is culpable. It is the inconsistency between a man's conviction and
his vote; between his conscience and his conduct. No man shall ever
charge me with an inconsistency like that. And now, Sir, allow me
to say, that I am quite indifferent, or rather thankful, to those
conductors of the public press who think they cannot do better than
now and then to spread my poor opinions before the public.

"I have said many times, and it is true, that, up to the year 1824,
the people of that part of the country to which I belong, being
addicted to commerce, having been successful in commerce, their
capital being very much engaged in commerce, were averse to
entering upon a system of manufacturing operations. Every member in
Congress from the State of Massachusetts, with the exception, I
think, of one, voted against the act of 1824. But what were we to
do? Were we not bound, after 1817 and 1824, to consider that the
policy of the country was settled, had become settled, as a policy,
to protect the domestic industry of the country by solemn laws? The
leading speech[11] which ushered in the act of 1824 was called a
speech for the 'American System.' The bill was carried principally
by the Middle States. Pennsylvania and New York would have it so;
and what were we to do? Were we to stand aloof from the occupations
which others were pursuing around us? Were we to pick clean teeth
on a constitutional doubt which a majority in the councils of the
nation had overruled? No, Sir; we had no option. All that was left
us was to fall in with the settled policy of the country; because,
if any thing can ever settle the policy of the country, or if any
thing can ever settle the practical construction of the
Constitution of the country, it must be these repeated decisions of
Congress, and enactments of successive laws conformable to these
decisions. New England, then, did fall in. She went into
manufacturing operations, not from original choice, but from the
necessity of the circumstances in which the legislation of the
country had placed her. And, for one, I resolved then, and have
acted upon the resolution ever since, that, having compelled the
Eastern States to go into these pursuits for a livelihood, the
country was bound to fulfil the just expectations which it had

[Footnote 1: Mr. Clay.]

[Footnote 2: Lord Lansdowne.]

[Footnote 3: Lord Liverpool.]

[Footnote 4: Mr. Huskisson, President of the English Board of Trade.]

[Footnote 5: The Marquess of Lansdowne.]

[Footnote 6: Lord Liverpool.]

[Footnote 7: Mr. Tod.]

[Footnote 8: "The present equable diffusion of moderate wealth cannot be
better illustrated, than by remarking that in this age many palaces and
superb mansions have been pulled down, or converted to other purposes,
while none have been erected on a like scale. The numberless baronial
castles and mansions, in all parts of England, now in ruins, may all be
adduced as examples of the decrease of inordinate wealth. On the other
hand, the multiplication of commodious dwellings for the upper and
middle classes of society, and the increased comforts of all ranks,
exhibit a picture of individual happiness, unknown in any other
age."--_Sir G. Blane's Letter to Lord Spencer, in_ 1800.]

[Footnote 9: The price of labor in Russia may be pretty well collected
from Tooke's "View of the Russian Empire." "The workmen in the mines and
the founderies are, indeed, all called master-people; but they
distinguish themselves into masters, under-masters, apprentices,
delvers, servants, carriers, washers, and separators. In proportion to
their ability their wages are regulated, which proceed from fifteen to
upwards of thirty roubles per annum. The provisions which they receive
from the magazines are deducted from this pay." The value of the rouble
at that time (1799) was about twenty-four pence sterling, or forty-five
cents of our money.

"By the edict of 1799," it is added, "a laborer with a horse shall
receive, daily, in summer, twenty, and in winter, twelve copecks; a
laborer without a horse, in summer, ten, in winter, eight copecks."

A copeck is the hundredth part of a rouble, or about half a cent of our
money. The price of labor may have risen, in some degree, since that
period, but probably not much.]

[Footnote 10: Since the delivery of this speech, an arrival has brought
London papers containing the speech of the English Chancellor of the
Exchequer (Mr. Robinson), on the 23d of February last, in submitting to
Parliament the annual financial statement. Abundant confirmation will be
found in that statement of the remarks made in the preceding speech, as
to the prevailing sentiment, in the English government, on the general
subject of prohibitory laws, and on the silk manufacture and the wool
tax particularly.]

[Footnote 11: That of Mr. Clay.]



[This was an appeal from the Court for the Trial of Impeachments and
Correction of Errors of the State of New York. Aaron Ogden filed his
bill in the Court of Chancery of that State, against Thomas Gibbons,
setting forth the several acts of the legislature thereof, enacted for
the purpose of securing to Robert R. Livingston and Robert Fulton the
exclusive navigation of all the waters within the jurisdiction of that
State, with boats moved by fire or steam, for a term of years which had
not then expired; and authorizing the Chancellor to award an injunction,
restraining any person whatever from navigating those waters with boats
of that description. The bill stated an assignment from Livingston and
Fulton to one John R. Livingston, and from him to the complainant,
Ogden, of the right to navigate the waters between Elizabethtown, and
other places in New Jersey, and the city of New York; and that Gibbons,
the defendant below, was in possession of two steamboats, called the
Stoudinger and the Bellona, which were actually employed in running
between New York and Elizabethtown, in violation of the exclusive
privilege conferred on the complainant, and praying an injunction to
restrain the said Gibbons from using the said boats, or any other
propelled by fire or steam, in navigating the waters within the
territory of New York.

The injunction having been awarded, the answer of Gibbons was filed, in
which he stated, that the boats employed by him were duly enrolled and
licensed to be employed in carrying on the coasting trade, under the act
of Congress, passed the 18th of February, 1793, ch. 8, entitled, "An Act
for enrolling and licensing ships and vessels to be employed in the
coasting trade and fisheries, and for regulating the same." And the
defendant insisted on his right, in virtue of such licenses, to navigate
the waters between Elizabethtown and the city of New York, the said acts
of the legislature of the State of New York to the contrary
notwithstanding. At the hearing, the Chancellor perpetuated the
injunction, being of the opinion that the said acts were not repugnant
to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and were valid. This
decree was affirmed in the Court for the Trial of Impeachments and
Correction of Errors, which is the highest court of law and equity in
the State of New York before which the cause could be carried, and it
was thereupon carried up to the Supreme Court of the United States by

The following argument was made by Mr. Webster, for the plaintiff in

It is admitted, that there is a very respectable weight of authority in
favor of the decision which is sought to be reversed. The laws in
question, I am aware, have been deliberately re-enacted by the
legislature of New York; and they have also received the sanction, at
different times, of all her judicial tribunals, than which there are
few, if any, in the country, more justly entitled to respect and
deference. The disposition of the court will be, undoubtedly, to
support, if it can, laws so passed and so sanctioned. I admit,
therefore, that it is justly expected of us that we should make out a
clear case; and unless we do so, we cannot hope for a reversal. It
should be remembered, however, that the whole of this branch of power,
as exercised by this court, is a power of revision. The question must be
decided by the State courts, and decided in a particular manner, before
it can be brought here at all. Such decisions alone give this court
jurisdiction; and therefore, while they are to be respected as the
judgments of learned judges, they are yet in the condition of all
decisions from which the law allows an appeal.

It will not be a waste of time to advert to the existing state of the
facts connected with the subject of this litigation. The use of
steamboats on the coasts and in the bays and rivers of the country, has
become very general. The intercourse of its different parts essentially
depends upon this mode of conveyance and transportation. Rivers and
bays, in many cases, form the divisions between States; and thence it is
obvious, that, if the States should make regulations for the navigation
of these waters, and such regulations should be repugnant and hostile,
embarrassment would necessarily be caused to the general intercourse of
the community. Such events have actually occurred, and have created the
existing state of things.

By the law of New York, no one can navigate the bay of New York, the
North River, the Sound, the lakes, or any of the waters of that State,
by steam-vessels, without a license from the grantees of New York, under
penalty of forfeiture of the vessel.

By the law of the neighboring State of Connecticut, no one can enter her
waters with a steam-vessel having such license.

By the law of New Jersey, if any citizen of that State shall be
restrained, under the New York law, from using steamboats between the
ancient shores of New Jersey and New York, he shall be entitled to an
action for damages, in New Jersey, with treble costs against the party
who thus restrains or impedes him under the law of New York! This act of
New Jersey is called an act of retortion against the illegal and
oppressive legislation of New York; and seems to be defended on those
grounds of public law which justify reprisals between independent

It will hardly be contended, that all these acts are consistent with the
laws and Constitution of the United States. If there is no power in the
general government to control this extreme belligerent legislation of
the States, the powers of the government are essentially deficient in a
most important and interesting particular. The present controversy
respects the earliest of these State laws, those of New York. On these,
this court is now to pronounce; and if they should be declared to be
valid and operative, I hope somebody will point out where the State
right stops, and on what grounds the acts of other States are to be held
inoperative and void.

It will be necessary to advert more particularly to the laws of New
York, as they are stated in the record. The first was passed March 19th,
1787. By this act, a sole and exclusive right was granted to John Fitch,
of making and using every kind of boat or vessel impelled by steam, in
all creeks, rivers, bays, and waters within the territory and
jurisdiction of New York for fourteen years.

On the 27th of March, 1798, an act was passed, on the suggestion that
Fitch was dead, or had withdrawn from the State without having made any
attempt to use his privilege, repealing the grant to him, and conferring
similar privileges on Robert R. Livingston, for the term of twenty
years, on a suggestion, made by him, that he was possessor of a mode of
applying the steam-engine to propel a boat, on new and advantageous
principles. On the 5th of April, 1803, another act was passed, by which
it was declared, that the rights and privileges granted to Robert R.
Livingston by the last act should be extended to him and Robert Fulton,
for twenty years from the passing of the act. Then there is the act of
April 11, 1808, purporting to extend the monopoly, in point of time,
five years for every additional boat, the whole duration, however, not
to exceed thirty years; and forbidding any and all persons to navigate
the waters of the State with any steam boat or vessel, without the
license of Livingston and Fulton, under penalty of forfeiture of the
boat or vessel. And lastly comes the act of April 9, 1811, for enforcing
the provisions of the last-mentioned act, and declaring, that the
forfeiture of the boat or vessel found navigating against the provisions
of the previous acts shall be deemed to accrue on the day on which such
boat or vessel should navigate the waters of the State; and that
Livingston and Fulton might immediately have an action for such boat or
vessel, in like manner as if they themselves had been dispossessed
thereof by force; and that, on bringing any such suit, the defendant
therein should be prohibited, by injunction, from removing the boat or
vessel out of the State, or using it within the State. There are one or
two other acts mentioned in the pleadings, which principally respect the
time allowed for complying with the condition of the grant, and are not
material to the discussion of the case.

By these acts, then, an exclusive right is given to Livingston and
Fulton to use steam navigation on all the waters of New York, for thirty
years from 1808.

It is not necessary to recite the several conveyances and agreements,
stated in the record, by which Ogden, the plaintiff below, derives title
under Livingston and Fulton to the exclusive use of part of these waters
for steam navigation.

The appellant being owner of a steamboat, and being found navigating the
waters between New Jersey and the city of New York, over which waters
Ogden, the plaintiff below, claims an exclusive right, under Livingston
and Fulton, this bill was filed against him by Ogden, in October, 1818,
and an injunction granted, restraining him from such use of his boat.
This injunction was made perpetual, on the final hearing of the cause,
in the Court of Chancery; and the decree of the Chancellor has been duly
affirmed in the Court of Errors. The right, therefore, which the
plaintiff below asserts, to have and maintain his injunction, depends
obviously on the general validity of the New York laws, and especially
on their force and operation as against the right set up by the
defendant. This right he states in his answer to be, that he is a
citizen of New Jersey, and owner of the steamboat in question; that the
boat is a vessel of more than twenty tons burden, duly enrolled and
licensed for carrying on the coasting trade, and intended to be employed
by him in that trade, between Elizabethtown, in New Jersey, and the city
of New York; and that it was actually employed in navigating between
those places at the time of, and until notice of, the injunction from
the Court of Chancery was served on him.

On these pleadings the substantial question is raised, Are these laws
such as the legislature of New York has a right to pass? If so, do they,
secondly, in their operation, interfere with any right enjoyed under the
Constitution and laws of the United States, and are they therefore void,
as far as such interference extends?

It may be well to state again their general purport and effect, and the
purport and effect of the other State laws which have been enacted by
way of retaliation.

A steam-vessel, of any description, going to New York, is forfeited to
the representatives of Livingston and Fulton, unless she have their
license. Going from New York or elsewhere to Connecticut, she is
prohibited from entering the waters of that State if she have such

If the representatives of Livingston and Fulton in New York carry into
effect, by judicial process, the provision of the New York laws, against
any citizen of New Jersey, they expose themselves to a statute action in
New Jersey for all damages, and treble costs.

The New York laws extend to all steam-vessels; to steam frigates, steam
ferry-boats, and all intermediate classes. They extend to public as well
as private ships; and to vessels employed in foreign commerce, as well
as to those employed in the coasting trade.

The remedy is as summary as the grant itself is ample; for immediate
confiscation, without seizure, trial, or judgment, is the penalty of

In regard to these acts, I shall contend, in the first place, that they
exceed the power of the legislature; and, secondly, that, if they could
be considered valid for any purpose, they are void still, as against any
right enjoyed under the laws of the United States with which they come
in collision; and that in this case they are found interfering with such

I shall contend that the power of Congress to regulate commerce is
complete and entire, and, to a certain extent, necessarily exclusive;
that the acts in question are regulations of commerce, in a most
important particular, affecting it in those respects in which it is
under the exclusive authority of Congress. I state this first
proposition guardedly. I do not mean to say, that all regulations which
may, in their operation, affect commerce, are exclusively in the power
of Congress; but that such power as has been exercised in this case does
not remain with the States. Nothing is more complex than commerce; and
in such an age as this, no words embrace a wider field than _commercial
regulation_. Almost all the business and intercourse of life may be
connected incidentally, more or less, with commercial regulations. But
it is only necessary to apply to this part of the Constitution the
well-settled rules of construction. Some powers are held to be exclusive
in Congress, from the use of exclusive words in the grant; others, from
the prohibitions on the States to exercise similar powers; and others,
again, from the nature of the powers themselves. It has been by this
mode of reasoning that the court has adjudicated many important
questions; and the same mode is proper here. And, as some powers have
been held to be exclusive, and others not so, under the same form of
expression, from the nature of the different powers respectively; so
where the power, on any one subject, is given in general words, like the
power to regulate commerce, the true method of construction will be to
consider of what parts the grant is composed, and which of those, from
the nature of the thing, ought to be considered exclusive. The right set
up in this case, under the laws of New York, is a monopoly. Now I think
it very reasonable to say, that the Constitution never intended to leave
with the States the power of granting monopolies either of trade or of
navigation; and therefore, that, as to this, the commercial power is
exclusive in Congress.

It is in vain to look for a precise and exact _definition_ of the powers
of Congress on several subjects. The Constitution does not undertake the
task of making such exact definitions. In conferring powers, it proceeds
by the way of _enumeration_, stating the powers conferred, one after
another, in few words and where the power is general or complex in its
nature, the extent of the grant must necessarily be judged of, and
limited, by its object, and by the nature of the power.

Few things are better known than the immediate causes which led to the
adoption of the present Constitution; and there is nothing, as I think,
clearer, than that the prevailing motive was _to regulate commerce_; to
rescue it from the embarrassing and destructive consequences resulting
from the legislation of so many different States, and to place it under
the protection of a uniform law. The great objects were commerce and
revenue; and they were objects indissolubly connected. By the
Confederation, divers restrictions had been imposed on the States; but
these had not been found sufficient. No State, it is true, could send or
receive an embassy; nor make any treaty; nor enter into any compact with
another State, or with a foreign power; nor lay duties interfering with
treaties which had been entered into by Congress. But all these were
found to be far short of what the actual condition of the country
required. The States could still, each for itself, regulate commerce,
and the consequence was a perpetual jarring and hostility of commercial

In the history of the times, it is accordingly found, that the great
topic, urged on all occasions, as showing the necessity of a new and
different government, was the state of trade and commerce. To benefit
and improve these was a great object in itself; and it became greater
when it was regarded as the only means of enabling the country to pay
the public debt, and to do justice to those who had most effectually
labored for its independence. The leading state papers of the time are
full of this topic. The New Jersey resolutions[1] complain that the
regulation of trade was in the power of the several States, within their
separate jurisdiction, to such a degree as to involve many difficulties
and embarrassments; and they express an earnest opinion, that the sole
and exclusive power of regulating trade with foreign states ought to be
in Congress. Mr. Witherspoon's motion in Congress, in 1781, is of the
same general character; and the report of a committee of that body, in
1785, is still more emphatic. It declares that Congress ought to possess
the sole and exclusive power of regulating trade, as well with foreign
nations as between the States.[2] The resolutions of Virginia, in
January, 1786, which were the immediate cause of the Convention, put
forth this same great object. Indeed, it is the only object stated in
those resolutions. There is not another idea in the whole document. The
sole purpose for which the delegates assembled at Annapolis was to
devise means for the uniform regulation of trade. They found no means
but in a general government; and they recommended a convention to
accomplish that purpose. Over whatever other interests of the country
this government may diffuse its benefits and its blessings, it will
always be true, as matter of historical fact, that it had its immediate
origin in the necessities of commerce; and for its immediate object, the
relief of those necessities, by removing their causes, and by
establishing a uniform and steady system. It will be easy to show, by
reference to the discussions in the several State conventions, the
prevalence of the same general topics; and if any one would look to the
proceedings of several of the States, especially to those of
Massachusetts and New York, he would see very plainly, by the recorded
lists of votes, that wherever this commercial necessity was most
strongly felt, there the proposed new Constitution had most friends. In
the New York convention, the argument arising from this consideration
was strongly pressed, by the distinguished person[3] whose name is
connected with the present question.

We do not find, in the history of the formation and adoption of the
Constitution, that any man speaks of a general concurrent power, in the
regulation of foreign and domestic trade, as still residing in the
States. The very object intended, more than any other, was to take away
such power. If it had not so provided, the Constitution would not have
been worth accepting.

I contend, therefore, that the people intended, in establishing the
Constitution, to transfer from the several States to a general
government those high and important powers over commerce, which, in
their exercise, were to maintain a uniform and general system. From the
very nature of the case, these powers must be exclusive; that is, the
higher branches of commercial regulation must be exclusively committed
to a single hand. What is it that is to be regulated? Not the commerce
of the several States, respectively, but the commerce of the United
States. Henceforth, the commerce of the States was to be a _unit_, and
the system by which it was to exist and be governed must necessarily be
complete, entire, and uniform. Its character was to be described in the
flag which waved over it, E PLURIBUS UNUM. Now, how could individual
States assert a right of concurrent legislation, in a case of this sort,
without manifest encroachment and confusion? It should be repeated, that
the words used in the Constitution, "to regulate commerce," are so very
general and extensive, that they may be construed to cover a vast field
of legislation, part of which has always been occupied by State laws;
and therefore the words must have a reasonable construction, and the
power should be considered as exclusively vested in Congress so far, and
so far only, as the nature of the power requires. And I insist, that the
nature of the case, and of the power, did imperiously require, that such
important authority as that of granting monopolies of trade and
navigation should not be considered as still retained by the States.

It is apparent from the prohibitions on the power of the States, that
the general concurrent power was not supposed to be left with them. And
the exception out of these prohibitions of the inspection laws proves
this still more clearly. Which most concerns the commerce of this
country, that New York and Virginia should have an uncontrolled power to
establish their inspection of flour and tobacco, or that they should
have an uncontrolled power of granting either a monopoly of trade in
their own ports, or a monopoly of navigation over all the waters leading
to those ports? Yet the argument on the other side must be, that,
although the Constitution has sedulously guarded and limited the first
of these powers, it has left the last wholly unlimited and uncontrolled.

But although much has been said, in the discussion on former occasions,
about this supposed concurrent power in the States, I find great
difficulty in understanding what is meant by it. It is generally
qualified by saying, that it is a power by which the States could pass
laws on subjects of commercial regulation, which would be valid until


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