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United States. A discrimination was made in the beginning in favor of American owners. They were required to pay only six cents per ton, and foreign owners fifty. On vessels owned partly in this country and in part abroad, a duty of thirty cents per ton was levied.
At the second session, higher rates, both specific and ad valorem, were substituted. The lowest ad valorem duty was five per cent., but it was not levied on so many articles. The free list was somewhat extended in those directions which were thought to be helpful to manufactures and agriculture. It was further declared that the duties thus levied should be continued until the debts and purposes for which they were appropriated were satisfied. Congress, however, reserved the right to substitute other duties or taxes of equal value.
The next year, the duties on imported spirits were increased from twenty to forty cents a gallon, and a tax was laid on spirits distilled at home. In consequence of the large outlay to protect the frontier, several of the duties were increased at the following session of Congress.
Thus, the duties grew heavier annually ; yet, when the Government was six years old, the burden of taxation did not cause any dissatisfaction, unless, perhaps, the duty on salt was regarded as too great. Even that was not very keenly felt, and might have been deemed moderate, compared with the tax imposed by some Governments. Gallatin said it was higher in proportion to the value of the article than that paid on any other, and that, whatever impediment might exist in the way of its repeal from the difficulty of finding a substitute, it would be equally unjust and impolitic to raise it above the present rate. So far as the article was consumed by man, it was a species of poll tax, which fell alike on the poor and rich; when consumed by cattle, it was a tax on agriculture, and would prove pernicious if ever increased so high as to check its use.
Between 1789 and 1812, thirteen tariff laws were enacted, the general scope of which was to increase the duties as well as the number of dutiable articles. The increase was for the purpose of meeting the expenditures of the Government and the payment of the national indebtedness. But the protection of American industries was not ignored, as the history of the proceedings of Congress clearly show. The subject, however, did not assume such importance in the debates of that body as it has subsequently acquired. One reason was because public sentiment was so strongly united. The reports of the committees of Congress and the subsequent debates thereon show very clearly that the protection of American industries from foreign competition was a principle very widely accepted. Wherever may lie the truth respecting Free Trade and Protection, as the subject is popularly termed, there is no question whatever that in the earlier history of the Republic the tide of public opinion set more strongly in the direction of Governmental protection than it does to-day. The atmosphere was heavily charged at that time with the idea of building up home industries.
Throughout the colonial period, the English Government had sought to restrain every form of domestic manufacture unfavorably affecting the manufacturing interests of the parent country. The jealousy of the English Government in this regard, and of its manufacturing classes, is a familiar fact of history. The colonists were permitted to plant, sow and reap, to live and labor for their happiness and prosperity, so long as they did not mar the peace and prospects of their English brethren across the ocean.
With the acknowledgment of independence by Great Britain, and the establishment of peace, blessed as that peace was, it could not efface all the wrongs of the past. The spirit which the English manufacturer and his Government had manifested toward America could not be speedily forgotten. The recollection of these things contributed very much in coloring the early tariff legislation of this country. We were more eager to manufacture and to wear homespun goods because of the treatment we had received from our English mother. The manufacturing of goods in the United States at that period was not a business merely of dollars and cents. Let anyone read the literature of the time, and he will find that home manufactures were encouraged, not solely to get them cheaper, either immediately or prospectively, but because revenge was sweet, even if purchased at considerable cost to the avenger.
In 1789, when the first tax on imports was imposed, there were several circumstances which favored the experiment of home manufacturing. The value of labor, provisions, fuel, rents and raw material, were much lower than they had been, and cotton machines to some extent had been introduced; hemp had risen in Russia thirty or forty per cent., and this advance afforded a protection to the American cultivator of that product.
During the time of inconsiderate and unbounded adventure to this country, the American manufacturer had been often perplexed by injudicious importations of foreign goods, which were not only injurious to him, but unprofitable to importers. The losses in some cases were very heavy, especially on malt liquors, cordage, loaf sugar, steel, shoes and cabinet work. The ebbing of the tide, which turned after a brief period, relieved those who were manufacturing these things.
A strong desire for European manufactures and luxuries had spread after the close of the war. “ Fortunately for us,” says a writer, “ we became sensible of our error. Ashamed of our folly, and alarmed at the danger we were in, a serious change was generally resolved on, and has generally taken place, as beneficial to home manufactures as our former habits were injurious. Buckskin breeches and gloves; home-made jeans and cottons; home-spun stockings of thread, cotton and worsted; American porter, beer, and cheese, and many other articles, have become fashionable in dress and familiar in diet,—and, in general, a greater simplicity and frugality has been introduced into our families.”
The cause of this return to home productions and to greater simplicity of living and sharper economy, was not an outburst of patriotism, but an emptying of private purses,—the solid wherewith to make purchases. Imports of merchandise had greatly exceeded exports, and the balance could be liquidated only in specie. This was soon exhausted ; credit did not exist, and the people could not do otherwise than curtail their purchases of foreign goods, whatever might be their wishes.
The destruction of our credit, therefore, was a blessing to the home manufacturer. Nor was the blessing of less consequence to “the landed gentlemen throughout the Union.” “They now suddenly see,” says a writer of that period, “ that it is their interest to purchase home-made articles at a given price, rather than imported, because the foreign manufacturer calls not for their produce, either for provisions or raw materials, but the American manufacturer must necessarily consume both.” Accordingly, a new movement was begun to extend American manufactures The movement became general. The literature of the day was full of appeals, addresses and resolutions, setting forth the duty of the people to encourage home industry.
Not only did this spirit permeate the people during the administrations of Washington and Adams; it continued for a long period, without any perceptible abatement. Memorials were presented to Congress from every quarter,—from gun manufacturers, bottlers, iron, copper, leather and twine manufacturers, the cultivators of hemp, the distillers of ardent spirits, and from other sources. Some of these memorials were very elaborate, like the memorial presented by the artisans and manufacturers of Philadelphia. They set forth at considerable length the reasons why a large number of articles, even of the first necessity, manufactured for the United States by foreign nations, were produced here less advantageously. Briefly stated, the reasons were,--foreign fashion, the overstocking of the Anerican market with foreign goods, unjust competition with foreign manufacturers, the expense necessarily attending the commencement of complicated manufactures, and, lastly, duties injudiciously laid on raw materials or goods partially manufactured.
During the first and second sessions of the VIIth Congress, applications for protection rapidly multiplied. A report thereon was made by the Committee of Commerce and Manufactures. A history of the efforts to protect home industries was succinctly given. One mode of encouraging them had been to exempt imported raw materials from taxation. Consequently, wrought iron and unwrought burrs were thus admitted ; so were the bristles of swine, the regulus of antimony, rags, saltpetre and sulphur. These exemptions were made for the purpose of aiding those who used these things in the manufacture of other commodities. Another mode of encouraging manufactures was “ by laying higher or prohibitory duties on manufactured articles imported.” A third mode was withholding a drawback from articles of foreign manufacture subsequently exported. Such a policy was adopted with reference to loaf and refined sugar. A fourth mode of encouragement was the allowance of a drawback on domestic manufactures equal to the duty paid on the imported raw materials used in such manufactures. A drawback, therefore, was allowed on the re-exportation of sugar refined from the foreign material, and on rum distilled from molasses. A final mode of encouragement was the
bestowal of direct bounties, which were received by fishermen engaged in curing and exporting fish.
"From this view of the proceedings of Congress,” say the Committee, “ it will appear that much has been done already to encourage the domestic industries of our citizens. That industry, under such aids as the Government by these means has given, at a time when population is so rapidly increasing, has caused i seful arts and manufactures to rise up and thrive in almost every part of the country. Our works in wood, copper, hemp, leather and iron are really excellent and extensive; and, if we do not excel in the manufacture of the finer articles of cotton, silk, wool and the metals, we may felicitate ourselves that, by reason of the ease of gaining a subsistence and the high price of wages, our fellow-citizens born to happier destinies are not doomed to the wretchedness of a strict discipline of such manufactures.” The Committee continue in the following exulting strain : “Qur citizens are distinguished for their ingenuity and skill. They have invented many expedients by machinery to shorten and cheapen labor. The machines for making wool and cotton cards, the machines for ginning cotton, the machines for cutting and heading nails, the machinery for elevating wheat, and for raising and stirring meal in mills, and the improvements in the manufacture of muskets,-class with all the most useful inventions with which the age has been adorned.”
The conclusions of the Committee were in harmony with their reasonings. The Secretary of the Treasury, complying with a resolution of Congress, had prepared a plan for levying new and more specific duties. This report formed the basis of the calculations of the Committee. They recommended that rags of linen, cotton, woolen and hempen cloths, bristles of swine, regulus of antimony, unwrought burr stones, saltpetre and the bark of the cork tree should be admitted without payment of a duty, though previously a duty of twelve and a half per cent. had been exacted. The duty on brushes and black bottles of twelve and a half per cent. was doubled ; that on fur hats and plated ware was raised from fifteen to twenty per cent., and on stone ware, window glass and cannon ball from fifteen to twenty-five per cent. Foreign pickled and dried fish, on which a duty of twelve and a half per cent. ad valorem was levied, were to be subjected to a duty of $1.50 per barrel for the