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contributed largely to the employment of the capital, the industry, and the enterprise of our citizens. It has quickened the march of agriculture; and by increasing the value, as well as amount, of its products, has given to the planters and husbandmen a reward in solid profit for their toils. It has also materially sustained the credit and finances of the nation, by insuring a regular and growing revenue, through a taxation scarcely felt, and cheerfully borne by all classes of our citizens. It has also given birth to our naval power, by fostering a bardy race of seamen, and patronizing those arts, which are essential to the building, preservation, and equipment of ships. It has greatly enlarged, and, the Memorialists had almost said, created, the monied capital of the country. And the Memorialists believe, that it cannot be too frequently or deeply inculcated as an axiom in political economy, that productive capital, in whatever manner added to the stock of the country, is equally beneficial to its best interests. Its real value can never be ascertained by the sources, from whence it flows; but from the blessings, which it dispenses.
A million of dollars added to the producțive capital by commerce, is at least as useful as the same sum added by manufactures.
The benefits of the commerce of the United States, which have been enumerated, are not deduced from theoretical reasoning; they are established by tbirty years' experience, since the constitution was adopted. At that time our capital was small, and had suffered for a series of years a continual diminution. Our agriculture was depressed, and our finances were embarrassed.
The changes, which a thrifty commerce during this period has contributed to produce, are so striking, that they scarcely require to be stated. There is not a single portion of the country, that has not felt its beneficial influence. On the seaboard, we have every where fourishing towns and cities, the busy haunts of industry, where the products of our soil are accumulated on their transit to foreign countries. In the interior, hundreds of towns have arisen in places, which but a few years
since were desolate wastes, or dreary forests. The agriculture of the old states has grown up, and spread itself in a thousand new directions; and our coiton and our wheat, our tobacco and our provisions, are administering to the wants of millions, to whom even our very name was but a short time ago utterly unknown.
The Memorialists would respectfully ask, if it be not a part of the duty of a wise nation to profit by the lessons of experience ? Is it just, is it salutary, is it politic, to abandon a course, which has so eminently conduced to our welfare, for the purpose of trying experiments, the effect of which cannot be fully ascertained, which are founded upon merely theoretical doctrines, at best complex and questionable, and, it may be, in practice, ruinous as well to morals as to property ? Suppose it were practicable to arrest the present course of commerce, to narrow its limits, and even to reduce it to the mere coasting trade of the nation, is it clear, that the capital, thus withdrawn from commercial pursuits, could be as usefully or as profitably employed in any other branch of business? It is perfectly certain, that such a change must be attended with severe losses to the merchants, and with ruin to numerous classes of our citizens, to our seamen, and shipwrights, and other artisans, whose business depends on, or is connected with, commerce. Cases may possibly arise, in which the interests of a respectable portion of the community may be justly sacrificed; but they are cases of extreme public necessity; not cases, where the rivalry and the interests of one class of men seek to sustain themselves by the destruction of another. In a free country, too, it may well be asked, if it be a legitimate end of government to control the ordinary occupations of men, and to compel them to confine themselves to pursuits, in which their babits, their feelings, or their enterprise, forbid them to engage. While the manufacturers are left free to engage in their own peculiar pursuits, enjoying, in common with others, a reasonable protection from the government, the Memorialists trust, that it is no undue claim on their own part to plead for the freedom of commerce also, as the natural ally of agriculture and naval greatness. Nothing, however, can be more obvious, than that many of the manufacturers and their friends are attempting, by fallacious statements, founded on an interested policy, or a misguided zeal, or very shortsighted views, to uproot some of the fundamental principles of our revenue policy, and to compel our merchants to abandon some of the most lucrative branches of commerce — branches, which alone enable us to contend with success against the monopoly and the competition of foreign nations.
It is not a little remarkable, too, that these attempts, to which the Memorialists allude, are not only repugnant to those maxims of free trade, which the l'nited States have bitherto so forcibly and perseveringly contended for, as the sure foundation of national prosperity ; but they are pressed upon us at a moment, when the statesmen of the Old World, in admiration of the success of our policy, are relaxing the rigor of their own systeins, and yielding themselves to the rational doctrine, that national wealth is best promoted by a free interchange of commodities, upon principles of perfect reciprocity. May the Memorialists be permitted to say, that it would be a strange anomaly in America to adopt a system, which sound philosophy is exploding in Europe ; to attempt a monopoly of the home market, and yet claim an entire freedom of commerce abroad; to stimulate our own manufactures to an unnatural growth by the exclusion of foreign manufactures, and yet to expect, that no retaliatory measures would be pursued by other nations. If we are unwilling to receive foreign manufactures, we cannot reasonably suppose, that foreign nations will receive our raw materials. We may force other nations to seek an inferior market for their productions; but we cannot force them to become buyers, when they are not sellers, or to consume our cottons, when they cannot
pay the price in their own fabrics. We may compel them to use the cotton of the West Indies, or of the Brazils, or of the East Indies, or the wheat of the Mediterranean, an experiment in itself sufficiently dangerous to some of our most vital interests; but we cannot expect them to carry on with us a ruinous trade, when the profit is all on one side. Nations, like individuals, will pursue their own interests, and sooner or later abandon a trade, however fixed may be its habits, where there is no reciprocity of benefit.
There is another consideration, which the Memorialists would respectfully suggest that is entitled, in their opinion, to great weight on questions of this nature, and that is, the dangers and inconveniences, which fluctuations in the commercial policy of a nation unavoidably produce. The trade of a nation is of gradual growth, and forms its channels by slow and almost imperceptible degrees. Time, and confidence, and protection, and experience, are necessary to give it a settled course. It insinuates itself into the general commerce of the world with difficulty ; and when incorporated into the mass, its ramifications are so numerous and intricate, that they cannot be suddenly withdrawn, without immense losses and injuries. Even the temporary stoppage of but a single branch of trade throws thousands out of employment; and by pressing the mass of capital and shipping, which it held engaged in its service, into other branches, it is sure to produce embarrassment and depression, and not unfrequently ruin to the ship-holders and the merchants. Besides all this, men are slow to engage their capital in new pursuits. They have a natural timidity in ernbarking in enterprises, to which
they are not accustomed; and, if the commercial policy of the nation is fluctuating, they feel so much insecurity in it, that they are unwilling to yield themselves up even to prospects apparently inviting. No nation ever prospered in commerce, until its own policy became settled, and the channels of its trade were worn deep and clear. It is to this state of things, that the capitalist looks with confidence; because he may conclude, that, if his profits are but small, they are subject to a reasonable certainty of calculation. Another state of things may suit the young and enterprising speculators; but it can never be safe for a nation to found its revenue upon a trade, that is not uniform in its operations. The Memorialists most sincerely believe, that it is a sound political maxim, that the more free trade is, and the more widely it circulates, the more sure will be its prosperity, and that of the nation. Every restriction, which is not indispensable for purposes of revenue, is a shoal, which will impede its progress, and not unfrequently jeopard its security.
Having made these preliminary observations, which they cannot deem unworthy of the serious attention of the national legislature, the Memorialists now beg leave more particularly to call the attention of Congress to the measures, which have been recently proposed, and apparently approved, for the purpose of prohibiting the introduction of foreign woollen and cotton goods, and, as auxiliary thereto, the abolition of drawbacks and credits upon the duties due upon goods imported into the United States ; measures, which, if adopted, will, in the opinion of the Memorialists, bring a premature decay and a general distress upon the whole commercial and agricultural interests of the nation.
It has been suggested, both in and out of Congress, when measures have been heretofore proposed, having a direct bearing upon commercial interests, that the silence of merchants ought justly to be considered as an acquiescence in the justice and policy of such measures. Truth compels the Memorialists to say, that the reverse has generally been the case. The merchants of our country have had a deep, and, it is hoped, not an ill-founded confidence, in the firmness, the wisdom, and enlightened policy of Congress. They have not been prepared to suppose, that old and well tried and successful systems would be abandoned, merely because they were assailed by those, whose interests or whose mistaken zeal led them to plan their overthrow. They have believed, (nor is it an idle or vain credulity,) that our statesmen, selected from the
whole community, would watch with anxiety and diligence over the interests of all; and that they would distinguish the natural biases of those, whose judgments were blinded by a partial view of their own interests, from the just influences of superior political foresight, aided by the most comprehensive knowledge. On many occasions, therefore, in which their interests have been assailed, and, as the Memorialists, think, injuriously assailed, the merchants have been silent, not from indifference, but from confidence; not from a sense of propriety and justice, but from a proud belief, that their interests were safe, when they were understood; and that the national legislature could not be presumed to want knowledge or inclination to protect them. On the present occasion, however, so wide have been the exertions of the manufacturers, so plausible some of their statements, and so popular, though delusive, some of their doctrines, that the Memorialists feel themselves called upon to resist them in the most serious manner, as injurious to the country, and to throw themselves upon the intelligence and firmness of the representatives of the nation to vindicate their rights.
The subjects of drawbacks, and of credit upon duties, are intimately connected in their general aspects; but at the same time admit of some distinct views, which may well entitle them to separate consideration. Both of them originated at the earliest period of our government, and were incorporated into our first revenue laws. Both of them had the unequivocal approbation of our most enlightened statesmen of that day; and both of them have the sanction nearly thirty years of experience in their favor. At do period of our political history, until the present, has
any been publicly breathed, at least to the knowledge of the Memorialists, of their practical advantages ; and during this whole period, our commerce has been progressively increasing. Almost all commercial nations, too, have a system, analogous to ours, engrafted into their revenue regulations. In all, it is believed, a discrimination is made between goods imported for home consumption, and those designed for exportation; and the duties on the latter are very trifling, especially when compared with the duties usually paid on the former. In respect to credit for duties, the known equivalent is the deposit of the goods in entrepot; and the duties are paid only after a limited period, or upon an eventual sale in the domestic market. In Great Britain, to whose system of revenue ours bears the strongest resemblance, imported goods are warehoused under the joint direction and keys of the government and the owner,