« PreviousContinue »
“pests to society, dangerous among the slave population.” This opposition in many cases exhibited itself in the destruction of factories erected by Northern capital, of which the ruins seen by our army on the Peninsula one on the James River above Newport News, and another near Lee's Mills — are illustrations. But the educated men in the South, even before this war, comparing their material poverty with the wealth of New England, began to see that manufactures were absolutely necessary to their existence. The fallacy that a people could prosper, even in a material point of view, by exclusive devotion to agriculture, was by actual sad experiment finally exploded. So we find a Governor of Virginia earnestly advocating and recommending the introduction of manufactures. The result of this war, introducing a new element of population, will probably quench the last sparks of this opposition of public opinion. But this obstacle probably never operated to any considerable extent, save in the rural districts, among the more ignorant classes of society. In the cities, where the semblance of law and order was more efficiently maintained, the failure may be traced mainly to one cause alone ; the same which, in the opinions of the old Whig party, ruined so often this branch of Northern industry, - competition and custom.
It would be unnecessary to dilate upon this subject, were it not a matter so little understood by one class of our political economists, and never applied at home by another. Those who believe that capital will necessarily flow to the place where the largest profits can be earned, will probably also hold that purchasers always buy the cheapest goods, if not of inferior quality. Hence, if cotton goods could have been sold for less by Southern manufacturers than by Northern, they would have found purchasers enough. Space is not afforded to refute either of these fallacies; but the upholders of the first may be referred to one advocate of free trade, Adam Smith; † and another free-trader can answer the second class. But to students of the subject it is only necessary to show how these admitted
* Olmsted's Seaboard Slave States, p. 512. + See Wealth of Nations, Book IV. Chap. 2. IJ. S. Mill's Political Economy, Vol. I. Book II. Chap. 4, § 3.
influences affected the South. The absence of a tariff ruined them by an inundation of English goods; its presence crushed them no less by the fabrics of New England. The mode of accounting for the latter fact must necessarily be by an enumeration of some of the arguments used so feelingly by Northern manufacturers for explaining England's power over our markets, under a non-protective system. First, preponderance of capital. The greater the capital employed up to a certain point, the more cheaply, of course, manufactured goods can be produced and sold. From this the South suffered, and yet could, as we have seen, with small capital, have succeeded but for the other power which capital affords, that of underselling for a time, at an absolute loss to the underseller, in order to run off competition. In 1815, Henry Brougham, now Lord Brougham, understanding fully England's commercial policy, declared in Parliament, that "England could afford to incur some loss on the export of English goods, for the purpose of destroying foreign manufactures in their cradle." And the London Times stated that the combination, during three or four years, for this purpose,
, cost between one and a half and two million dollars. And as England has treated the North, so New England has treated the South. The history of one town in South Carolina will illustrate this, as also the beneficial effects of the establishment of manufactories. In the village of Graniteville, near Charleston, S.C., about one thousand persons were before the war gathered together by one cotton-mill; some working as factory hands, others raising produce for their support. The company supported day and Sunday schools for the children. This mill bought yearly four thousand bales of cotton, and sold four million yards of cloth, better than English or Northern goods. But for several years the owners sold their goods at or under cost of manufacture, in order to get them into market; and having a large capital, were finally successful.
Another reason for the power of the North over the Southern market was priority of establishment of manufactures. Mill says: “The superiority of one country over another in a branch of production often arises only from having begun it sooner. There may be no inherent advantage on one part, or disadvantage on the other, but only a present superiority of acquired
skill and experience.' This superiority was shown in the case of the South, in two ways. First, by absence of skilled labor. The production of a body of skilled artisans is a work of long time and favorable circumstances. For want of them, England could not compete with the Netherlands or France till the atrocities of Philip and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes drove the workmen to her shores whom she herself could not produce. For fine work, a few operatives imported into a country might suffice to teach a people, already accustomed to manufactures,
a the secrets of their art; but in the South is needed a whole manufacturing population, which must be raised at home, the number required being too large for importation. The second effect of this prior establishment of manufactures in the North is occupation of the market, - an advantage not generally noticed by political economists, yet one whose influence is daily seen. Persons accustomed to purchase goods at one place for years change with reluctance. When used to goods of a certain brand, they distrust even a better article with another stamp; and, in fact, in most branches of business the age of an establishment is a presumption for or against the article presented, often too strong to be overthrown by evidence. Some people purchase many articles of foreign manufacture, although as good a home production is offered at a smaller price. So our winemerchants send a mixture to France, which reimported sells for champagne. The proof of the influence of this in the South is the fact, that often, before the war, Southern manufactured goods were sent to New York to be reshipped to the South for sale, under the name of Northern fabrics. Southern goods would not sell, because not known. And in fact, the products of a few Southern mills formed so small a part of the stock which a merchant would buy in the fall, that, in the absence of a large Southern city like New York, where he could lay in his stock, it was cheaper for him to buy all together in one place, than to expend time and money by hunting up and purchasing a few cotton goods at Southern factories.
Thus we find that the first obstacle was public opinion, the fear of danger to their institutions, though we see this giving
* Political Economy, Vol. II. Book V. Chap. 10, $ 1.
way under the greater dread of poverty ; while still stronger than this was the influence of the well-settled, long-established manufactories of the North, - a power explicable by reason, and acknowledged by the authority of free-traders and protectionists alike.
This war has accomplished much in changing the public opinion of the South, and in establishing manufactures there of various kinds. Yet few of these, from want of capital, can be more than temporary furnishers of goods formerly supplied by the North. The North, in its preparation for the newly opened “Southern trade,” evidently expects the old régime. Another result of the war, hopeful for the future, is the liberation of capital (a phrase not strictly correct, but enough so for our purpose) in the North, which perhaps will flow into the South for investment. The rich man who would invest a few millions in South Carolina cotton-factories would soon find it a profitable enterprise, and thereby more would be done to cement the Union than by any compromise or political concession. The pressure of the national debt will probably sustain a tariff, and in a measure prevent the foreign competition which so often has injured the South. But it is very improbable that any or all of these combined will be sufficient support against the greatly strengthened Northern manufactures. The North, after two hundred years, still complains, that, unaided, it cannot compete with England. Can Southern mills of four years' growth compete with us? But unless in some way they are enabled to establish this counteracting force against aristocracy, its growth appears inevitable. The framers of the Constitu
. tion, as if almost foresceing this necessity, wisely made provision for such a case. Instead of saying that Congress alone should have power to lay imposts, which should be uniform, or using some other form of words which would require an amendment to permit a State tariff against another State, they provided by Section 10, Article I.: “No State shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports,” &c. This permission of course Congress can give, if it seems advisable; the sums collected going into the treasury of the United States, as provided by the same section. On this subject, John Stuart Mill, an advocate of free trade, says:
“ The only case in which, on mere principles of political economy, protecting duties can be defensible, is when they are imposed temporarily (especially in a young and rising nation), in hopes of naturalizing a foreign industry, in itself perfectly suitable to the circumstances of the country. The superiority of one country over another in a branch of production often arises only from having begun it sooner. There may be no inherent advantage on one part, or disadvantage on the other, but only a present superiority of acquired skill and experience. But it cannot be expected that individuals should at their own risk, or rather to their certain loss, introduce a new manufacture, and bear the burden of carrying it on, until the producers have been educated up to the level of those with whom the processes are traditional. A protecting duty, continued for a reasonable time, will sometimes be the least inconvenient mode in which the nation can tax itself for the support of such an experiment."
We at the North have urged these arguments for ourselves these many years ; are we now willing to apply them to the South? We have long shown to the South philanthropy to be both a common and an easy virtue ; are we willing to exhibit wisdom and justice which are neither common nor easy? If, by some protective laws in favor of the South, easily framed and easily executed, we can establish manufactures there, one great cause of dissension will be removed; the tariff no longer directly or indirectly will threaten the Union.
So much political economy teaches of the mode of reconciling the conflicting interests of North and South ; yet this alone will not suffice. The growth of manufactures must necessarily be slow, and their influence will be but gradually felt; while the agricultural power, at first supreme, always will be paramount. Without manufactures the preservation of democratic principles appears impossible, the growth of aristocratic ones inevitable. With manufactures their perpetuation seems hopeful; yet it is a contest against soil and climate, in which freedom needs every possible assistance. In a country whose natural tendency to aristocracy is such as has been pointed out,
* Political Economy, Vol. II. Book V. Chap. 10, $ 1.