July 6, 1822.
The following is an extract of a letter addressed to the editor, by a distinguished gentleman of one of the middle states. It may do some good to insert it, (though not designed for publication), accompanied with some remarks.
"Your exertions to lead our general government into the adoption of home manufactures and commerce, are beyond all praise;— the idea of free trade, &c. is but a mere catch-word: we shall not effect it, nor is it desirable; we have an empire at home, and why not keep our money and exchange it for the encouragement and supply of our own growers and manufacturers, instead of sending it to Liverpool for salt and crockery, and to China for silks and nankins, and all the rest of our mischievous and wasting trade !
"If our government want revenue, let them protect and encourage our people in their industry, and then they will not be frightened with direct taxes; after all, not so deceptive and unequal as the indirect. But thirty years of an unnatural state of the world, has swept not only the currency of the country into commercial cities and foreign dealings, but has created a host of creatures whose only creed and interest lie in the circle of banks, stocks and ships. Banks, bankers, stock jobbers, shippers, merchants, salary-men, and lastly, the deluded agriculturalists, have all put their forces together to rivet on us this baneful and shameful policy. That, however, which a wise and provident and honest policy could have averted, without any violent or unnatural measure, I mean "dire necessity," will at last resuscitate our country; but experience is a dear school. Had the double duties only have been continued in 1815, our country now would have exhibited a scene of universal activity and prosperity; and the revenue or the sources of revenue, have suffered no diminution. When will our merchants, bankers and shippers, find out that their true interest lies in carrying on the exchanges of the country, produced by its unrestricted industry — I mean restrictions by foreign competition. If our faculties had been fairly dealt with, we now should, besides supplying our own wants and being independent, have occupied the commerce of the South American republics with our manufactures — surplus manufactures, which always combine in them the growers and producers, &c. of the raw materials. I mean the planters and farmers. But I write and think always on this subject with too much feeling to be quite rational; I beg you, however, to go on and reason, until even cotton-growers, and China-merchants, and stock jobbers, and lastly, our deceived farmers and even professional men, may be converted."
It has clearly appeared to my mind, that the people of what has been descriptively called the grain-growing sections of the United States, have nearly shaken off their delusions and are prepared to raise up a stable revenue, that a crook of "Alexander the deliverer's" finger, or a nod of the head of "my lord of Londonderry" cannot impair; but they cannot do this until the consumer is placed alongside of the producer,[**] and a stable market is established. If there is a surplus after the supply of this market, it will find vent without expensive embassies, commercial treaties, and political embarrassments with the powers or Europe; whose interest is opposed to our interest, and whose dispositions and objects are at open war with ours. There is no rightful or natural affinity between republics and monarchies — their purposes are the antipodes of one another. --[** Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Austin
, January 9, 1816.]
The home-market is that which every sound statesman mainly regards. We see that it is so much attended to in Europe, as even to prohibit the import of bread, "the staff of life," unless when a semi-famine prevails. England will not receive French grain, though it might be supplied for half the price at which the British agriculturalist can furnish it; and France rejects numerous English manufactures, which, (according to the doctrine urged for our observance), she could much more advantageously buy than fabricate for herself. But when people talk thus they only regard certain amounts of money — pounds, dollars, or francs, which have no more than a relative concern in the matter. The high price of bread to the British consumer enables the British agriculturalist to pay his taxes to government, and the exclusion of foreign manufactures by France, sustains the market for French grain, and enables both farmers and manufacturers to contribute their several portions of the public expenses. It might be better for the people of both countries, if Britain would receive French bread stuffs, and France receive British manufactures in exchange for them; but as the one will not or cannot, the other must not, if just to itself. "Free trade" is a pretty thing to talk about, and "let us alone" is a very charming catch word; but the former does not exist, and the latter is — just three small words, without any practical meaning, in the present condition of the world. But we are the only nation so wise as ever to talk about it, or to support our institutions by means as uncertain as the winds and waves: with a revenue fluctuating from nearly forty millions to twelve or thirteen ! Hence even our most valuable establishments partake of all the "glorious uncertainty" of the good will or severe wants of foreigners.
Foreign commerce has a most imposing character, because its whole amount is added up and we see at once the millions that it amounts to. It looks large. But, compared with the home trade, as to any country under the canopy of heaven, it is a mere balance wheel or regulation of the domestic trade, and so far it is important as a part of a grand machine. The population of the British possessions is many scores of millions — say one hundred millions; that of the British islands in Europe, less than twenty; yet the home trade of these last amounts to five or six times more than their trade with the other eighty millions of fellow-subjects, and all the rest of the people of the world besides! — and it is on this home trade, not on foreign commerce, that Britain depends for revenue. Yes, even Britain, the most commercial nation that ever was known, that ever may exist; regarded with whose colonial and foreign commerce, that of the United States is a trifle, much as we think of it.
The farmers of the United States begin to see the value of their home trade. The consumption of the surplus cabbages that one might raise in his garden, by the establishment of a neighboring market for them, would produce as much as his share of a reasonable direct tax would amount to; and he has found it out that the price of commodities consumed is to be valued only by the price of commodities raised or labor bestowed — that there is no such thing as a money — value between him and his comforts; and this is operating on all classes of agriculturalists, not excepting the growers of cotton. So, I hope and believe, that the time is at hand when we shall have a national legislation — when the revenues of the republic will depend on its own citizens — when the people will feel the taxes, as they ought, and inquire, as they should, into the manner in which their money is expended — when honest industry will be fashionable, and banking and jobbing, be unfashionable — when a rogue will be called a rogue — and the fact become manifest, that corporations have no soul, like the bank of the United States — the mammoth monster of the whole brood.
It is amusing to look over the debates in the British house of commons, on what is called the "agricultural report" — or the adoption of measures designed to protect the British agriculturalists, and then to think of the zeal with which British agents and traders in the United States urge upon us the the right and necessity of letting things alone. The impudence of British subjects, on matters of this sort, is intolerable; they recommend that we should apply ourselves to agricultural pursuits, and purchase their manufactures — yet, in payment for the latter, they will not receive any thing that is produced by five-sixths of the free labor of the United States — they modestly ask us to vex every sea to find a market for that produce, and then throw its product into their hands. What admirable generosity! — wonderful instruction! — The naked truth is, as to commercial matters, on which depends the revenue of government, we are not much better conditioned than it we were colonists and subjects of Great Britain. A vast quantity of the labor of our people is wasted to deposite money at London and Liverpool, to employ British labor, — which, under a sound national policy, such as every other nation practises, would be brought home to encourage and sustain domestic labor. There is nothing of a national character in our revenue affairs, except the item received from the sale of public lands — nearly all the rest is anti-national and injurious to the public welfare.
It happens in every country, even in the U. States, though the people have ACKNOWLEDGED sovereignty, that the mighty mass of the population are directed and governed by a designing few. Some noble lord, rich office holder, proud land possessor, village lawyer, chattering shop keeper, red nosed grog-seller, or canting priest — each receiving his cue from a superior power and crouching to it like a spaniel under the kick of a master, gives out the dictum for neighborhoods, and wo be to those who neglect to obey it ! The noble lord denounces them as "radicals" or enemies of order; the office-holder calls them grumblers; the land possessor persecutes them; the lawyer prosecutes them; the vender of tapes and bobbins attacks their credit; the whiskey-seller denounces their morals, and the priest sends them outright to his Satannic majesty, so far as he, "holy man" can, to be purged of error by doses of brimstone !
In putting the priests last, after "publicans and sinners," I wish that my meaning may be understood — I have reference only to those of established churches; who, whatever their denominations may be, I regard as composing the worst sets of men to be found in any country, bands of robbers not excepted. — I speak of their practices, the things that they do, not those which they pretend to teach or affect to believe in, nor in regard to any particular sect. It is thus that whole districts are under the real government of the little tools of the greater tools, of the chief tools, of a cunning and calculating, abominable and profligate few.
It is gratefully admitted that there are less of such doings in the United States than any where else, wherein the people are called upon to think and have a right to act — but there is enough of deception and delusion among us. False principles are every where inculcated to subserve the interests of individuals, and powerful political movements are made to accomplish private purposes. The disposition prevails all over the world and is every where exerted, to keep down the people, and to mislead them by false doctrines and theories; and it is a common misfortune that many, a vast majority, appear inclined to throw the trouble of thinking on public affairs to public men, aspirants for office, stumporators and whiskey-inspired declaimers, with glasses in hand.
I will not say that this destructive course originates with our general government, because I do not entertain an idea that it does — but much of our legislation goes to the encouragement of political ignorance by enacting or suffering political wrongs, wrapped up in such a manner as to mislead or confound the public understanding. To mention one case — it has been said even on the floor of congress and frequently intimated in state papers, as if the people of the United States paid no taxes for the support of the general government, and thousands who are paying them every day, verily believe that they do not pay any — one cent in a year, though their share of the taxes, actually paid, may amount to 50 or 100 dollars per annum ! My prayer is that such delusions may pass away, and every faculty that I possess shall be exerted to dissipate them. If it must be that the laboring many shall continue to be the sport of the unproductive few, "heaven and earth will witness I am innocent" of any participation in this matter.
To return to our British friends, who talk about "free trade," and say "let us alone." It is stated in debate, that good foreign wheat can be afforded at twenty-six shillings per quarter. The question not being decided, we cannot give its result; but a disposition was manifested to make the DUTY equal to forty shillings per quarter — an advance of more than one hundred and fifty per cent by way of protection (on the "staff or life"), in favor of British agriculture ! Here is "free trade" and letting things alone, with a vengeance ! An American may say what he pleases to me on subjects of national policy, and a difference of opinion shall not produce any degree of enmity towards him — but if an English agent, pattern-card carrier or whipper in, happens to talk about "free trade," &c. when I am present, he shall soon ascertain the contempt in which I hold his puppyism.
The words "free trade," if uttered by a Briton, as applicable to commerce with his country, is insulting to common sense; for its opposite, of restriction, is the Alpha and Omega of British policy. Yet they have gulled us with pretty sounds, while they have carried off our substance and laughed at our stupidity. They have treated us as the sailors do Boobies on the coast of Patagonia.
All men and every set of men are supposed to seek their own interest — and the British are not alone interested in preventing a national system of revenue, and men combine to produce a common object from motives entirely different. It is the first principle of honest republicanism, that representation and taxation shall go hand in hand — it was the denial of this that produced the American revolution. The fact should be seriously thought on. Like causes produce like effects.
Again, every free citizen of the United States is liable to the performance of military duty, or the payment of taxes raised for the defence of property. But from these, one-fifth of our whole population are constitutionally or practically exempted, and more than one-tenth part of the power of legislation is vested in the representation of those so exempted; and the whole is bound to defend this non-fighting, non-taxpaying part.
These are things that I do not wish to say much about. The last census gives a lesson to all that none should fail to profit by, and that afforded by the next enumeration will be of a much, more imposing character. Let us be wise and just in time. It was a fixed principle with the old congress and in the minds of the men of ’76, that "taxation without representation was tyranny." If so, representation without taxation, or a liability to defend the country, must also be tyranny. Let the most skillful casuist take up his pen and deny the proposition, or what I regard as its corollary. The foundation of our government is esteemed to be justice, its base is equity, its structure the common welfare. Partial legislation has no right in it, and when partial power forgets general right, there will be an end of it.
The moral and physical power of this nation rests not with the partial power alluded to. But we trust that the spirit of accommodation which raised up this partial power, will cause the moral and physical power forever to act in concert with it, for the good of the whole. Without pretending to prophecy, I can venture to say that it is essential to the welfare of the republic that these things should be considered. The practice of dividing and commanding is getting into disrepute — when one interest in our country is as firmly knit together as another interest is, a demand will be made for that which sober discretion should grant ere it is asked; and the demand will be sustained. People should think.
"It will do for the present," is an unwise saying. A deferring of the day of trouble only increases the amount of the difficulty to be encountered. The time is close at hand when the cotton grower of the United States will experience all the sufferings which the grain growers have passed through, — for the quantity raised will exceed the foreign demand, which exists only of necessity; not one pound being purchased on account of good will — there is no friendship in trade. I would a home market for all that we raise, as being the best for all parties, — that our product, in its most improved state, may be sent forth to supply the market of the world and yield us the accumulated profits of agriculture, manufactures and commerce; and the fact is, that the two former united are the only support of the latter, in times of general tranquillity, when every nation carries on its own trade, and will not employ the ships and seamen of others.