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culation will be established. I undertake to say, that no greater fallacy than this was ever uttered; the thing is impossible, and for this plain reason. The dues which the government collects come from individuals; each pays for himself. But it is far otherwise with the disbursements of government. They do not go down to individuals, and, seeking out the workmen and the laborers, pay to each his dues. Government pays in large sums, to large contractors, and to these it may pay gold and silver. But do the gold and silver reach those whom the contractor employs ? On the contrary, the contractors deal as they see fit with those whom they employ, or of whom they purchase. The Army and the Navy are fed and clothed by contract; the materials for expensive custom-houses, fortifications, for the Cumberland Road, and for other public works, are all supplied by contract. Large contractors flock to Washington, and receive their tons of gold and silver; but do they carry it with them to Maine, Mississippi, Michigan, or wherever their residence and vocation may be? No, not a dollar; but, selling it for depreciated paper, the contractor swells his previous profits by this added premium, and pays off those he owes in depreciated bank-notes. This is not an imaginary case. I speak of what is in proof. A contractor came to Washington last winter, and received a draft of $ 180,000 on a specie-paying bank in New York. This he sold at ten per cent. premium, and with the avails purchased funds in the West, with which he paid the producer, the farmer, the laborer.
This is the operation of specie payments. It gives to the government hard money, to the rich contractor hard money; but to the producer and the laborer it gives paper, and bad paper only. And yet this system is recommended as specially favoring the poor man, rather than the rich, and credit is claimed for this administration as the poor man's friend.
Let us look a little more nearly at this matter, and see whom, in truth, it does favor. Who are the rich in this country? There is very little hereditary wealth among us; and large capitalists are not numerous. But some there are, nevertheless, who live upon the interest of their money; and these, certainly, do not suffer by this new doctrine; for their revenues are increased in amount, while the means of living are reduced in value. There is the money-lender, too, who suffers not by the reduction of prices all around him. Who else are the rich in this coun
try? Why, the holders of office. He who has a fixed salary of from $2,500 to $5,000 finds prices falling; but does his salary fall? On the contrary, three fourths of that salary will now purchase more than the whole of it would purchase before; and he, therefore, is not dissatisfied with this new state of things.
There is, too, another class of our fellow-citizens, wealthy men, who have prospered during the last year; and they have prospered when nobody else has. I mean the owners of shipping. What is the reason? Give me a reason. Well, I will give you one. The shipping of the country carries on the trade, the larger vessels being chiefly in the foreign trade. Now, why have these been successful? I will answer by an example. I live on the sea-coast of New England, and one of my nearest neighbors is the largest ship-owner, probably, in the United States. During the past year, he has made what might suffice for two or three fortunes of moderate size; and how has he made it? He sends his ships to Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, to take freights of cotton. This staple, whatever may be the price abroad, cannot be suffered to rot at home; and therefore it is shipped. My friend tells his captain to provision his ship at Natchez, for instance, where he buys flour and stores in the currency of that region, which is so depreciated that he is able to sell his bills on Boston at forty-eight per cent. premium! Here, at once, it will be seen, he gets his provision for half price, because prices do not always rise suddenly, as money depreciates. He delivers his freight in Europe, and gets paid for it in good money. The disordered currency of the country to which he belongs does not follow and afflict him abroad. He gets his freight in good money, places it in the hands of his owner's banker, who again draws at a premium for it. The ship-owner, then, makes money, when all others are suffering, because he can escape from the influence of the bad laws and bad currency of his own country.
Now, I will contrast the story of this neighbor with that of another of my neighbors, not rich. He is a New England mechanic, hard-working, sober, and intelligent, a tool-maker by trade, who wields his own sledge-hammer. His particular business is the making of augers for the South and Southwest. He has for years employed many hands, and been the support thereby of many families around him, himself, meanwhile, mod
erately prosperous until these evil times came on. Arnually, however, for some years, he has been going backwards. Not less industrious, not less frugal, he has yet found, that, however good nominally the prices he might receive at the South and Southwest for his tools, the cost of converting his Southern or Western funds into money current in New England was ruinous. He has persevered, however, always hoping for some change for the better, and contracting gradually the circle of his work and the number of his workmen, until at length, the little earnings of the past wasted, and the condition of the currency becoming worse and worse, he is reduced to bankruptcy; and he, and the twenty families that he supported, are beggared by no fault of their own. What was his difficulty ? He could not escape from the evils of bad laws and bad currency at home; and while his rich neighbor, who could and did, is made richer by these very causes, he, the honest and industrious mechanic, is crushed to the earth; and yet we are told that this is a system for promoting the interests of the poor!
This leads me naturally to the great subject of American labor, which has hardly been considered or discussed as carefully as it deserves. What is American labor? It is best described by saying, it is not European labor. Nine tenths of the whole labor of this country is performed by those who cultivate the land they or their fathers own, or who, in their workshops, employ some little capital of their own own, and mix it up with their manual toil. No such thing exists in other countries. Look at the different departments of industry, whether agricultural, manufacturing, or mechanical, and you will find that, in almost all, the laborers mix up some little capital with the work of their hands. The laborer of the United States is the United States. Strike out the laborers of the United States, including therein all who in some way or other belong to the industrious and working classes, and you reduce the population of the United States from sixteen millions to one million. The American laborer is expected to have a comfortable home, decent though frugal living, and to be able to clothe and educate his children, to qualify them to take part, as all are called to do, in the political affairs and government of their country. Can this be said of any European laborer? Does he take any share in
the government of his country, or feel it an obligation to educate his children? In most parts of Europe, nine tenths of the laborers have no interest in the soil they cultivate, nor in the fabrics they produce; no hope, under any circumstances, of rising themselves, or of raising their children, above the condition of a day-laborer at wages; and only know the government under which they live by the sense of its burdens, which they have no voice in mitigating.
To compare such a state of labor with the labor of this country, or to reason from that to ours, is preposterous. And yet the doctrine now is, not of individuals only, but of the administration, that the wages of American labor must be brought down i the level of those of Europe.
I have said this is not the doctrine of a few individuals; and on that head I think injustice has been done to a Senator from Pennsylvania," who has been made to bear a large share of the responsibility of suggesting such a policy. If I mistake not, the same idea is thrown out in the President's message at the commencement of the last session, and in the treasury report. Hear what Mr. Woodbury says:
“ Should the States not speedily suspend more of their undertakings which are unproductive, but, by new loans or otherwise, find means to employ armies of laborers in consuming rather than raising crops, and should prices thus continue in many cases to be unnaturally inflated, as they have been of late years, in the face of a contracting currency, the effect of it on our finances would be still more to lessen exports, and, consequently, the prosperity and revenue of our foreign trade."
He is for turning off from the public works these “armies of laborers," who consume without producing crops, and thus bring down prices, both of crops and labor. Diminish the mouths that consume, and multiply the arms that produce, and you have the treasury prescription for mitigating distress and raising prices! How would that operate in this great State? You have, perhaps, some fifteen thousand men employed on your public works, works of the kind that the Secretary calls “unproductive”; and, even with such a demand as they must produce for provisions, prices are very low. The Secretary's remedy is to set them to raise provisions themselves, and thus augment
the supply, while they diminish the demand. In this way, the wages of labor are to be reduced, as well as the prices of agricultural productions. But this is not all. I have in my hand an extract from a speech in the House of Representatives of a zealous supporter, as it appears, of the administration, who maintains that, other things being reduced in proportion, you may reduce the wages of labor, without evil consequences. And where does he seek this example? On the shores of the Mediterranean. He fixes upon Corsica and Sardinia. But what is the Corsican laborer, that he should be the model upon which American labor is to be formed ? Does he know any thing himself? Has he any education, or does he give any to his children? Has he a home, a freehold, and the comforts of life around him ? No: with a crust of bread and a handful of olives, his daily wants are satisfied. And yet, from such a state of society, the laborer of New England, the laborer of the United States, is to be taught submission to low wages. The extract before me states that the wages of Corsica are,
- For the male laborer, 24 cents a day;
And the female do. 11 cents do." ;both, I presume, finding their own food. And the honorable gentleman argues, that, owing to the greater cheapness of other articles, this is relatively as much as the American laborer gets; and he illustrates the fact by this bill of clothing for a Corsican laborer: • Jacket,
lasting 24 months, 8 francs;
do. 2 do.
do. 12 do. 3 do.
28 francs." Eight francs are equal to one dollar and sixty cents, and five francs to one dollar. Now, what say you, my friends? What will the farmer of New York, of Pennsylvania, or of New Eng. land say to the idea of walking on Sunday to church, at the head of his family, in his jacket two years old ? What will the young man say, when, his work ended, he desires to visit the families of his neighbors, to the one pair of pantaloons, not