« PreviousContinue »
that it will do them little or no harm; but they are all fully satisfied that it is fraught with the most pernicious consequences to us. Mr Huskisson states his decided impression, that the interest of the United States would be greatly prejudiced by the course they were about to pursue, and declares that he can prove it to a demonstration;' but does not apprehend that Great Britain will suffer by the duties which the Americans have imposed for the protection of their industry.' Mr Hume pronounces the protecting policy foolish, narrow, injurious, and mischievous; and adds, that it was manfully opposed by all the intelligent men in Congress; but, has no hesitation in saying, that,' if America should shut out every article of British manufacture, an ample market for them would easily be found in other quarters." Mr Peel has no doubt that even should the immediate result be to encourage our domestic industry, the final effect would be against us;' and Mr Grant 'rejoices that the subject has been started, because it affords an opportunity for giving us a little wholesome advice in regard to the mistaken course of policy which we are pursuing, and which must in the end operate to the detriment of the funds of the United States, by lessening the amount of our import duties, and making it necessary for us to increase our direct taxes.'
The same exclusive regard for the interest of the United States is observable in the opinions expressed in other quarters, and some of these good-natured critics are evidently quite out of humor with us for not being more attentive to our own good. If America,' says the Courier newspaper, fancies that she will promote her own prosperity by shutting herself in surly selfishness from the world, she will be grievously disappointed. The system of exclusion laid down in this Tariff will produce her as little profit in a commercial view, as honor in a national one.' In like manner the burden of the article in the Edinburgh Review now before us is the fatal influence which the Tariff must necessarily exercise, not on Great Britain, but on ourselves. What we object to in their conduct,' says the Review, 'is, that they mistake wherein their own interest really lies, and that their restrictions and prohibitions, by narrowing the field of commercial enterprise, are a public and general nuisance, though it is certain that they are infinitely more injurious to themselves than to any other people.' Again, in a tone of mingled flattery and reproach, like that of a kind parent endeavoring to coax a promising but wayward
boy; Why should Jonathan, who is so very sharp-sighted on other practical questions, be so very blind on this?" and afterwards, in the same style of elegant pleasantry; Who will now presume to say that John Bull is the greatest goose in the world? Had he been in Jonathan's place, we believe he would have said, that it was clearly for his interest to buy his woollens, cottons, and hardware, wherever he could get them cheapest.' 'In our ignorance we long imagined that John Bull had been the most gullible of animals, but if Jonathan can swallow such assertions as these, then John has not a vestige of claim to that distinction.' All this display of argument and humor is completely disinterested, for America cannot inflict any material injury on us by refusing to buy our products, although at present she might injure us by refusing to sell.' The writer in the Quarterly does not yield in disinterestedness to his brother of Edinburgh, and is, if possible, even more decidedly and exclusively American. We shall point out the effects of the Tariff, not as they regard Great Britain, France, Russia, Germany, and the Netherlands, but as they regard the interests of the United States as a whole.' He then proceeds to enlarge upon the subject, principally under a political point of view; enters at some length into the controversy that has arisen among us, whether the Tariff law be or be not consistent with the constitution; and concludes by affirming, that whether we succeed in preventing the importation of foreign manufactures, or whether the people obtain their supplies by the contraband trade, the Tariff will in either event infallibly destroy the revenue. Notwithstanding the complete security felt by these writers in regard to the effect of the Tariff on British interests, they sometimes admit, for argument's sake, that it may to a certain extent diminish the imports of manufactured goods; but the supposition of even this extreme case gives them no alarm. They have a remedy prepared, to the application of which they evidently look forward with much complacency. There is a grand corrector ready, whose influence upon vicious commercial and financial legislation they consider as hardly less beneficial, than that of the school-master is supposed by Mr Brougham to be upon political institutions in general. The smuggler, provided we allow him to bring back equivalents, will take care of our interests.' Under such high protection they are of course safe ;
"The gods take care of Cato,'
and the British statesmen and writers are quite at leisure to devise the best means of saving poor Jonathan from the disastrous consequences of his own ignorance and folly.
Poor Jonathan will doubtless feel himself too highly flattered by these unusual testimonies of interest and friendship on the part of his respectable elder brother to suppose for a moment that anything more is meant than meets the ear; nor will he probably resent very highly the reflection implied in them upon his capacity to take care of himself, when he finds it sugared over by so many pretty compliments and fond familiarities. Admitting therefore that the regard for our interest professed by these writers, and by all classes of the British public on this occasion, is entirely sincere and disinterested, and offering with equal sincerity our best acknowledgments in return, we may still perhaps be permitted to inquire, whether it be quite certain that this zeal is according to knowledge. Are our transatlantic friends so fully acquainted with all the circumstances, geographical, statistical, and political, of our situation, as to be able to judge with unerring certainty, at three thousand miles' distance, what measures will best promote our good? Supposing their disposition to serve us to be as great as our own to serve ourselves, and their ability as much greater, as they may think proper to imagine it, do they possess the complete magazine of facts which would enable them to exhibit this disposition and exert this ability in such a way as to produce beneficial results? Is not their inferiority to us in this latter respect necessarily as obvious, as their superiority may be, and in their own judgment probably is, in the other? Differences among intelligent and candid men turn much less frequently upon general principles, than upon the manner of applying them. In this particular case there is little or no dispute about principles, and the only question is about the form under which acknowledged truths are to be reduced to practice in the United States. Now will any British statesman of tolerable candor undertake to affirm, that his advantages for coming to a correct opinion upon such a question are equal to ours? Would any prudent British physician so far commit himself, as to declare positively upon the strength of a reported case, that a patient who had received the best medical advice that could be had at New York or Boston, had been improperly treated? And yet how few and simple are the symptoms of even the most difficult and complicated case of illness com
pared with the vast variety of details that make up the situation, for the time being, of a great community, and which must all be kept in view for the purpose of legislation, especially on matters of an economical kind? The very maxim upon which the British writers found their reasoning against the protecting system is, that every man understands his own interest best, and will take better care of himself, than any body else can take of him. But is not this principle, the general correctness of which we readily admit, as true of communities as it is of individuals? Is it not as completely against these writers on one view of the case, as they suppose it to be against us on another? It is quite clear that the very argument upon which they rest with so much apparent confidence, may be urged by us as a peremptory and unanswerable plea to the jurisdiction of their tribunal, and ought to prevent any British politician from pretending to offer an opinion on the subject in any other way than as a matter of general speculation.
There are two inconveniences in reasoning from general principles without a sufficient knowledge of the circumstances under which they are to be applied. One is, that we are apt to leave out of view facts of importance, that ought to be considered, and the other, that we are apt to keep in view the facts of the case with which we are most familiar, but which may not exist in the one before us. It is easy to see, upon a survey of the British opinions upon our Tariff, that the judgments of our transatlantic friends have been warped by both these causes of error. They take no notice, as we shall have occasion to show, of the various weighty and urgent considerations deduced from the actual situation of the United States, which in our minds are completely decisive of the whole question; and they evidently reason on the supposition of a state of things similar to that which now exists in Great Britain. The general introduction, throughout the world, of the system of an unrestrained importation of foreign manufactures would be highly beneficial to Great Britain; therefore it would be highly beneficial to every other country. Such is the sum and substance of the argument. But mark the difference of the operation of this principle under the different circumstances of Great Britain and the United States. As respects the former country, where capital is abundant and almost every branch of manufactures flourishing to an unprecedented extent, the effect
of the general introduction of the principle is to facilitate the entrance of British manufactures into foreign markets. As respects other countries, that are differently circumstanced, and especially the United States, the effect is to facilitate the entrance of foreign manufactures into the domestic market. In the former case it encourages domestic manufactures; in the latter, it destroys them. Can it be maintained with a shadow of plausibility, that a principle which, under different circumstances, produces such directly opposite results, is to be applied indiscriminately throughout the world, without consideration of the actual situation of particular countries? The precise object of the British politicians in desiring the extension of the system of free importation, is to encourage their own domestic manufacWe find no fault with them for this, but, on the contrary, approve and admire the zeal with which they pursue a really valuable and patriotic purpose. But can they in turn complain, if we pursue the very same purpose of encouraging our domestic manufactures, though by a different process? Or if they do, is it not obvious to the slightest observation, that they are viewing our policy through the medium of their own interest? Of this again we make no complaint. It is quite natural, and perhaps commendable, that British statesmen should look at everything through British spectacles. But are we to be the dupes of such palpable sophistry? If we are, we shall exhibit but little of the sagacity which the Edinburgh Reviewer is pleased to consider as a characteristic of Jonathan. The grossness of this sophistry was well exposed by Mr de St Cricq, the late intelligent French minister of commerce, in conversation with Mr Huskisson, who was exhorting him to consent to place the relations of the two countries upon the footing of low duties, and a reciprocally free importation of their respective products. The anecdote has found its way into the newspapers, and is worth repeating and keeping in mind. The system you propose,' said Mr de St Cricq, is excellent for you and detestable for us for precisely the same reason; that is, because we both wish to extend and foster our domestic industry. The operation of it would be to ruin our fabrics, and to build up yours. It is a natural if not a modest request in you to urge us in this way to sacrifice our resources for your benefit; but if we are not surprised at your making the proposal, you will probably not take it ill that we decline it. When our