This section is from the "The Science Of Wealth" book, by Amasa Walker.
We infer, from all that has preceded, that " protection " is an unfortunate expression. To restrict industry, to put the bad on the level of the good, to remove from industry its only guaranty of a full reward, to contract trade and neutralize the gifts of Nature, is not protection, in any proper sense of the word.
In conclusion of the subject, it may be proper to allude to the great natural characteristics of our national industry. We see that the important fact of our condition is unequalled agricultural power. Possessing such an advantage, with an active, enlightened, and enterprising population, and an industry perfectly untrammelled, we should naturally become the granary of the world, and create, as a certain consequence, the most extensive and powerful commercial and naval marine on the globe. We should secure, by sea and land, a greater power to give help to friends, or hurt to foes, than any other people, and should rapidly attain our best national condition.
We should have, not only the most profitable, but the most salutary industry, as favorable to the acquisition of unlimited wealth as to a sound physical development and high moral culture. We should have manufactures, also, in their spontaneous growth. They would arise — they were arising previous to any tariff— as fast as the best interests of the country required them.
States and sections, like New England, would naturally and profitably undertake manufactures, because they have a thinner soil, a denser population, and a larger capital relatively, than others. Such regions would be the workshops of the nation, while the prairies of the West and the rich uplands of the Middle States would be the nation's farms, What manufactures arise of themselves should be welcomed, for they come in obedience to natural laws; they are founded on extraordinary facilities, on high natural protection, on local necessities. But we bind the swelling thews of the youth when we endeavor to force on America the industry of Europe. We grow enough every year to cover some of the kingdoms of the old world. Every year's growth stretches over and appropriates some country, fertile as the plains of the Nile, and bearing every manner of precious or useful ore. Here is our destiny. This is our wealth.
It cannot be too often repeated, because it is the great fact in regard to manufactures, that they only need to be " let alone." When a distinguished French minister of finance called the manufacturers of that country to Paris, and asked what he could do for them, they made the well-known answer, " Laissez nous faire." It is within our personal knowledge, that, when the proposal was made to impose the protective tariff of 1816, the leading manufactures of Rhode Island, amongst whom was the late Mr. Slater, the father of cotton-spinning in this country, met at the counting-room of one of their number, and, after deliberate consultation upon the matter, came unanimously to the conclusion, that they had " rather be let alone." Their business had grown up naturally, and succeeded well; and they felt confident of its continued prosperity, if uninter-fered with by government. On the other hand, they argued, that, by laying a protective tariff, the business would be thrown out of its natural channels, and become fluctuating and uncertain. How well founded were these anticipations subsequent events have fully shown.
It will, doubtless, be a matter of profound astonishment to the future historian, that a people who had a free and untrammelled industry, with natural advantages for the most productive agriculture in the world and for the legitimate growth of every kind of manufacture, should ever have asked for restrictions upon trade. But, in truth, they did not ask for protection at the outset. It was forced upon them by politicians, irrespective of their wishes, for the avowed purpose of securing a home market for cotton.
All New England was opposed to the policy, and protested against it; yet it was carried. Special forms of manufacturing were brought into existence; and, as these were sickly and needed all the help they could obtain from government, an interested party was formed which clamored incessantly for protection. Yet it was not until the third tariff, that of 1824, had gone into operation, that the Northern and Central States became the partisans of protection. As New England was the last to assent to restrictive legislation, so she will undoubtedly be the first to ask for its abandonment. No policy could be more adverse to her permanent interests. She has great natural advantages for manufacturing. With these, she can carry them on successfully. By high protective duties, other sections of the country, not having the same natural advantages, will be led to introduce the same branches of industry,* and she will find her severest competition at home; while all parts of the nation will be crippled by a false system, equally against the-laws of nature and value; since protection, as previously shown, puts the bad on the level with the good, and destroys all natural tests of usefulness in production. It should always be borne in mind, that protective duties must be high enough to enable the home manufacturer to get, at least, average profits; that is, such profits as commodities in general afford. He will not make broadcloth unless it is as profitable as any other branch of trade, manufacture, or agriculture. Nothing short of this is protection; and the duties must be carried upwards, until they arrive at that point in which those who are manufacturing to the greatest disadvantage can make average profits; otherwise there will be a call for higher duties. This is one of the practical difficulties of protection. The higher the duties imposed, the greater will be the rush into the protected branch of industry; and none will be satisfied until they make the business profitable, however imperfectly conducted. Hence there will be a constant call for increased duties. Witness the history of protection in the United States, — a tariff in 1816, a higher one in "1820, higher yet in 1824, still higher in 1828, with continued changes from that time to this.
* This is already becoming quite apparent.