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of this year.
A further encouragement to manufactures will result from improvements and discoveries in agriculture. There are many raw materials, that could be produced in this country on a large scale, which have hitherto been very confined. Cotton, for many years before the Revolution, was not worth more than nine pence sterling in the West India Islands. The perfection of the factories in Europe has raised it to such a pitch, that, besides the prohibition against shipping it from the colonies to any foreign port, the price has risen fifty per cent. The consumers in Pennsylvania have paid near two shillings sterling for the importation
This article must be worth the attention of the Southern planters.
If the facts and observations in the preceding part of this paper be admitted to be true and just, and if we take into consideration with them the acknowledged superiority of foreign commerce and the fisheries over our manufactories, we may come to the following conclusions :
That the United States of America cannot make a proper use of the natural advantages of the country, nor promote her agriculture and other lesser interests, without manufactures; that they cannot enjoy the attainable benefits of commerce and the fisheries, without some general restrictions and prohibitions affecting foreign nations; that in forming these restrictions and prohibitions, as well as in establishing manufactories, there is occasion for great deliberation and wisdom, that nothing may be introduced which can interfere with the sale of our produce, or with the settlement and improvement of our waste lands.
It will not be amiss to draw a picture of our country, as it would really exist under the operation of a system of national laws formed upon these principles. While we indulge ourselves in the contemplation of a subject at once so interesting and dear, let us confine ourselves to substantial facts, and avoid those pleasing delusions into which the spirits and feelings of our countrymen have too long misled them.
In the foreground we should find the mass of our citizens the cultivators, (and what is happily for us, in most instances, the same thing,) the independent proprietors of the soil. Every wheel would appear in motion that could carry forward the interests of this great body of our people, and bring into action the inherent powers of the country. A portion of the produce of our lands would be consumed in the families or employed in the business of our manufacturers, a farther portion would be applied in the sustenance of our merchants and fishermen and their numerous assistants, and the remainder would be transported, by those that could carry it at the lowest freight (that is, with the smallest deduction from the aggregate profits of the business of the country), to the best foreign markets.
On one side, we should see our manufacturers encouraging the tillers
of the earth by the consumption and employment of the fruits of their labors, and supplying them and the rest of their fellow-citizens with the instruments of their occupations, and the necessaries and conveniences of life, in every instance where it could be done without injuriously and unnecessarily increasing the distress of commerce, the labors of the husbandmen, and the difficulties of changing our native wilds into scenes of cultivation and plenty. Commerce, on the other hand, attentive to the general interests, would come forward with offers to range through foreign climates in search of those supplies which the manufacturers could not furnish but at too high a price, or which nature has not given us at home, in return for the surplus of those stores that had been drawn from the ocean or produced by the earth.
The commercial citizens of America have for some time felt the deepest distress; among the principal causes of their unhappy situation were the inconsiderate spirit of adventure to this country, which pervaded every kingdom in Europe, and the prodigious credits from thence given to our merchants. To these may be added the high spirits and the golden dreams that naturally followed such a war, closed with so much honor and success. Triumphant over a great enemy, courted by the most powerful nations in the world, it was not in human nature that America should immediately comprehend her new situation. Really possessed of the means of future greatness, she anticipated the most distant benefits of the Revolution, and considered them as already in her hands. She formed the highest expectations, many of which, however, serious experience has taught her to relinquish, and now that the thoughtless adventures and imprudent credits from foreign countries take place no more, and time has been given for cool reflection, she will see her true situation, and need not be discouraged.
The foundations of national wealth and consequence are so firmly laid in the United States, that no foreign power can undermine or destroy them. But the enjoyment of these substantial blessings is rendered precarious by domestic circumstances. Scarcely held together by a weak and half-formed federal constitution, the powers of our national government are unequal to the complete execution of any salutary purpose, foreign or domestic. The evils resulting from this unhappy state of things have again shocked our reviving credit, produced among our people alarming instances of disobedience to the laws, and, if not remedied, must destroy our property, liberties, and peace. Foreign powers, however disposed to favor us, can expect neither satisfaction nor benefit from treaties with Congress, while they are unable to enforce them. We can, therefore, hope to secure no privileges from them, if matters are thus conducted.
We must immediately remedy this defect, or suffer exceedingly.
Desultory commercial acts of the legislatures, formed on the impression of the moment, proceeding from no uniform or permanent principles, clashing with the laws of the other States, and opposing those made in the preceding year by the enacting State, can no longer be supported, if we are to continue one people. A system which will promote the general interests with the smallest injury to particular ones, has become indispensably necessary. Commerce is more affected by the distractions and evils arising from the uncertainty, opposition, and errors of our trade laws, than by the restrictions of any one power in Europe. A negative upon all commercial acts of the legislatures, if granted to Congress, would be perfectly safe, and must have an excellent effect. If thought expedient, it should be given as well with regard to those that exist, as to those that may be devised in future. Congress would thus be enabled to prevent every regulation that might oppose the general interests, and, by restraining the States from impolitic laws, would gradually bring our national commerce to order and perfection. Such of the ideas suggested in the preceding part of this paper as shall be honored with the public approbation, may be better digested, and, if they appear worthy of it, may form new articles of confederation, which would be the foundation of the commercial system.
I have ventured to hint at prohibitory powers, but shall leave that point, and the general power of regulating trade, to those who may undertake to consider the political objects of the convention, suggesting only the evident propriety of enabling Congress to prevent the importation of such foreign commodities as are made from our own raw materials. When any article of that kind can be supplied at home, upon as low terms as it can be imported, a manufacture of our own produce, so well established, ought not by any means to be sacrificed to the interests of foreign trade, or subjected to injury by the wild speculations of ignorant adventurers. In all cases, careful provision should be made for refunding the duties on exportation, which renders the im. post a virtual excise without being liable to the objections against an actual one, and is a great encouragement to trade.
The restoration of public credit at home and abroad should be the first wish of our hearts, and requires every economy, every exertion we can make. The wise and virtuous axioms of our political constitutions, resulting from a lively and perfect sense of what is due from man to man, should prompt us to the discharge of debts of such peculiar obligation. We stand bound to no common creditors. The friendly foreigner, the widow and the orphan, the trustees of charity and relig. ion, the patriotic citizen, the war-worn soldier, and a magnanimous ally, - these are the principal claimants upon the feeling and justice of America. Let her apply all her resources to this great duty and wipe away the darkest stain that has ever fallen upon her.
The general impost, the sale of the lands and every other unnecessary article of public property, restraining with a firm hand every needless expense of government and private life, steady and patient industry, with proper dispositions in the people, would relieve us of part of the burden, and enable Congress to commence their payments, and, with the aid of taxation, would put the sinking and funding of our debts within the power of all the States.
No. II. — Page 171.
TO THE TRADESMEN AND MANUFACTURERS OF THE COMMONWEALTH OP
MASSACHUSETTS: GENTLEMEN, — The large importations from Europe of the manufactures of this country call loudly on us to join in some united effort to remedy a measure so destructive. It is with regret we observe, that since the peace the importations into this State have consisted of many articles which are usually manufactured among ourselves, on which thousands of individuals depend for the maintenance of themselves and families, and many of our brethren who have been engaged in the war, and are now returned to their occupations, rely for subsistence and support; we therefore view the continuance of such a practice as tending to the ruin of those several manufacturers, and impoverishing great numbers of industrious members of society.
Nothing can be more desirable, at this important period, than a firm, united exertion to prevent the evils we apprehend, and, as we conceive, the interest of the whole is so infinitely connected with those branches already affected, we should wish to establish a union upon so broad a basis that it cannot fail of producing the most extensive and permanent advantages to the collective body of mechanics.
We conceive ourselves interested in one common cause, although the evils we complain of are not equally felt by all. Yet we trust our brethren will view the concern as general, and will be ready to join with us in all legal measures to obtain a regulation in the present system of commerce, which, if not speedily checked, must prove fatal to the whole.
If ever the attention of the manufacturers and mechanics of this Commenwealth was required, this is the interesting moment. If we let this opportunity pass without some endeavors on our part, we shall for ever have reason to repent of our remissness. Every day brings fresh proofs of the necessity of our exertions, and we cannot answer it to God, our VOL. II.
COUNTRY, Our POSTERITY, or OURSELVES, if we are inactive at this decisive crisis.
The restrictions by the British government on all American vessels, and the shipping of goods from England to America in British bottoms, must eventually operate to the destruction of ship-building among ourselves, and render our vessels of little value in prosecuting voyages to any part of the British dominions, and entirely destroy our carrying trade, an object so essentially important to America.
We have reason to apprehend, from what has hitherto taken place, that not only our ship-building will be ruined, but that every article of rig. ging, sails, blocks, and also cordage ready fitted for the rigger, together with all the variety of ship-chandlery, will soon be imported by British merchants or factors, or brought in vessels freighted as English bottoms. The consequence must be the entire ruin of our ship-builders, blacksmiths, rope-makers, riggers, block-makers, sail-makers, with every other branch of business connected with the equipment of vessels.
We need not mention other branches of trade and manufacture more immediately affected by foreign importation, — they are too keenly felt to need repetition, - being sensible that every implement throughout the whole system of mechanism will ere long (without speedy assistance) be wrested from the hands of the industrious American.
These things are not surmises, they are truths which cannot be controverted; they therefore require our joining in a petition to the next General Court, praying that such duties may be laid on foreign importations of all articles usually manufactured here, as will prevent their be. ing brought among us to the injury of such individuals as are now employed in those branches.
As the time is now approaching for the choice of persons to represent us the ensuing year, on whom we greatly rely for the success of our petition, it is hoped the tradesmen and manufacturers will exert their whole-influence to make choice of those men who are avowedly friends to the manufactures of this country. Your own judgment will dictate to you such persons, whose connections, whose steadiness, and whose patriotism will bear the test of scrutiny.
We are, Gentlemen, with every sentiment of esteem, your friends and brethren in a common cause.
The following letter was addressed to Governor Bowdoin :
May it please your Excellency, We, the Committee of Tradesmen and Manufacturers of the town of Boston, do in their names congratulate your Excellency on your appointment to the chief seat of government.