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PROTECTION AND FREE TRADE; ANOTHER REVERSAL
SINGULARLY enough, before the development of the cotton industry the South had inclined toward protection, while New England favored free trade. Although the Virginians, Jefferson and Madison, originally extolled the virtues of a free interchange of commodities, they united in 1793 in the advocacy of vigorous measures of protection directed against England; and so zealous a convert did Madison become to Hamilton's economic doctrine, that in laying before Congress the treaty of peace in 1815 he called attention to the "unparalleled maturity” attained by manufactures, and "anxiously recommended this source of national independence and wealth to the prompt and constant guardianship of Congress."
The Protective Tariff of 1816 was introduced by Lowndes of South Carolina, and ably defended by Calhoun, who declared that manufactures produced an interest strictly American, and "calculated to bind the widely separated Republic more closely together, greatly increasing mutual dependence and interThrough the signature of Madison this Tariff became a law. In fact, the Southern cotton growers were among the first and chief beneficiaries of the original protective Act passed by the very first Congress in 1789, through a provision advocated by Tench Coxe that imposed a duty of three cents a
1 Chief authority: O. L. Elliott, as cited.
pound on cotton of foreign growth, which manufacturers were then importing from Brazil and the West Indies instead of using the sea-island home product. Only John Randolph of Virginia had the penetration to discern that the South-fostered Tariff of 1816 would work an economic hardship on the South. "The agriculturist," he said, "has his property, his lands, his all, his household goods to defend. Upon whom bears the duty on coarse woollens and linens and blankets, upon salt and all the necessaries of life? Upon poor men and upon slaveholders!"
New England, represented by Daniel Webster, opposed the Protective Tariff of 1816. Goldwin Smith says that there is nothing better on the side of free trade than some of Webster's early speeches.2 "This 'favorite American policy,' sir," said Webster in Congress, combating Clay, "is what America has never tried, and this odious foreign policy is what we are told foreign states have never pursued. Sir, that is the truest American policy which shall most usefully employ American capital and American labor, and best sustain the whole population. With me it is a fundamental axiom that is interwoven with all my opinions that the great interests of the country are united and inseparable, that agriculture, commerce, and manufactures will prosper together or languish together, and that all legislation is dangerous which proposes to benefit one of these without looking to consequences which may fall on the others. I know it would be very easy to promote manufactures, at least for a time, but probably only for a short time. If we might act in disregard of other interests we could cause a sudden transfer of capital and a violent change in the 2 The United States, as cited, p. 186.
pursuits of men. We could exceedingly benefit some classes by these means; what then would become of the interests of others?"
This was in 1816. When the Tariff enacted in that year came up for revision in 1824 Webster was still opposed to it, denying the necessity for increased protection to manufactures, and disputing its adequacy, if granted, to the relief of the country where distress prevailed. But in 1828, when the "Tariff of Abominations" was proposed, he frankly changed front; while Calhoun also had swung squarely about, appearing now as a strenuous foe of protection. The two powerful debaters were opposed to each other, indeed, just as in 1816; but now each was standing in the other's shoes, having completely reversed their positions, each opposing what he had formerly defended, and supporting the side he had previously opposed. Webster's own words explain his reversal:
"New England, sir, has not been a leader in this policy (of protection). The opinion of New England up to 1824 was founded in the conviction that, on the whole, it was wisest and best, both for herself and others, that manufactures should make haste slowly. When, at the commencement of the late war, duties were doubled, we were told that we should find a mitigation of the weight of taxation in the new aid and succor which would be thus afforded to our own manufacturing labor. Like arguments were urged, and prevailed, but not by the aid of New England votes, when the tariff was afterwards arranged, at the close of the war in 1816. Finally, after a whole winter's deliberation, the act of 1824 received the sanction of both Houses of Congress and settled the policy of the country. What, then, was New England to do?-Was she to hold out
forever against the course of the Government, and see herself losing on one side, and yet make no effort to sustain herself on the other? No, sir. Nothing was left to New England, after the act of 1824, but to conform herself to the will of others. Nothing was left to her, but to consider that the government had fixed and determined its own policy; and that policy was protection.”3
Senator Lodge, in his biography of Webster, offers this comment:-"The speech which he made on this occasion is a celebrated one, but it is so solely on account of the startling change of position which it announced.-Opinion in New England changed for good and sufficient business reasons, and Mr. Webster changed with it. Free trade had commended itself to him as an abstract principle, and he had sustained and defended it as in the interest of commercial New England. But when the weight of interest in New England shifted from free trade to protection Mr. Webster followed it."4
Calhoun was neither better nor worse. Both of them simply swung true to the economic interests of their respective constituencies."
3 Writings and Speeches: Boston, 1903.
4 H. C. Lodge, Daniel Webster: Boston, 1895; pp. 165, 167.
5 Free trade became a leading economic interest of the South not only because the huge export business in cotton made it desirable to load the empty ships with cheap foreign supplies for the return voyage, but also because the need of all kinds of manufactured articles was greatly intensified by the decline of Southern manufacture due to absorption in cotton cultivation (see pp. 169-170). As Ashley says, Southern political leaders began about this time to be convinced that the policy of protection was undermining the interests of the South, while building up those of the North at the expense of the slave States. High tariffs, they said, were valuable only for manufacturing districts. "Naturally, in South Carolina and some other States there was a growing sentiment that the Constitution did not give Congress the right to pass a tariff which protected one section only."-R. L. Ashley, American History: New York, 1914; pp. 305-306.
NEW ENGLAND AND THE SOUTH
THE shifting of this New England "weight of interest" of which Senator Lodge speaks was from commerce and transportation to manufacture. The War of 1812 had lamed the carrying power of New England, and forced her away from shipping investments deeper and deeper into the manufacturing opportunities provided by English invention of cotton machinery on the one hand and by Southern production of cotton on the other. In 1816, when Webster opposed protection, there was a capital of only about $52,000,000 invested in textile manufacture, of which much still lay in the South. In 1828, when he reversed his position, this capital had probably doubled,2 and had become localized in and about New England.3 Massachusetts led with 260 mills and factories, representing an investment of thirty million dollars; Rhode Island followed with 150 mills, employing thirty thousand operatives; New Hampshire supported sixty cotton mills, 300 tanneries, 200 bark factories, and ten paper mills; Vermont manufactured copper, iron, and wool; New York was engaged in diversified industries, while New Jersey had gone largely into the cotton and wool manufacture, and in one county of Pennsyl
1 Bishop, as cited, ii, 214.
2 Bishop, ii, 357, 360; and J. B. McMaster, in Cambridge Modern History, vii, 375.
8 Bogart, as cited, p. 149.