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THE PROTECTIVE POLICY OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, AND ITS EFFECTS UPON THE WAGES OF LABORERS AND THE PRICES OF COMMODITIES.
IT is not the duty of a government to give employment to its subjects or citizens, but it is a duty to create and secure opportunities for employment.
In every community the labor of many persons is required for the support, education, and comfort of its members. If all the citizens or subjects of a government are regarded as members of one community, it is reasonable that their labor should be directed to their own support in every branch of industry that is free from natural obstacles to its successful prosecution.
At the close of the Revolutionary War, England, France, and Holland were in possession of all the skill in manufactures and the productive arts that was common to the western world. Those nations possessed capital sufficient for every reasonable undertaking.
England had discouraged manufactures in the Colonies, and the States of the new Republic had neither capital nor skilled labor. Political independence is not by necessity the equivalent of national freedom. The latter exists only when the internal resources of a nation are such that it may defy blockades by sea and frontier fortifications on the land, and yet continue in the uninterrupted possession and enjoyment of the comforts and conveniences essential to domestic and social life.
The possibilities of an agricultural community are limited to the productions essential to human existence, and in such variety only as the soil and climate will encourage or tolerate. A surplus of these productions may, through commerce, be exchanged for the manufactures of other communities; but as a condition of peace cannot
be assumed of any nation, and as commerce is the first and easiest victim of war, a constant and sufficient supply of the comforts and conveniences of life can be secured only by the application of domestic labor to manufactures and the arts.
Of all the provisions of the Constitution, no one has contributed more to the industrial freedom of the United States than the paragraph which authorizes Congress to "promote the progress of science and the useful arts, by securing, for limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries." Herein is found the extremest form of the doctrine of protection, yet there is no other provision of the Constitution that has contributed so largely to the material prosperity of the country and to the comfort of the people. Nearly every improvement in machinery, by which articles of consumption by the people generally have been reduced in cost and placed within the reach of all, is due to an invention that would not have been made had not the inventor been assured that he would enjoy the exclusive use and benefit of his invention for a period of time. Nearly every advance in manufactures, from the hand-loom and spinning-wheel, is due to the stimulus given to the inventive faculties of man by the protection accorded to inventors. That protection has sustained the great body of inventors in their struggles against poverty, prejudice, and the disinclination of mankind to accept new ways in place of the old. Of the mass of inventors whose inventions have contributed to the prosperity and comfort of mankind, a few only have received adequate returns, either in fame or money. The private emoluments bear no just relation to the public benefits.
If, to-day, the results of the system of protection to inventors could be destroyed, there is not a family upon the continent that would not be deprived of much the larger share of its comforts, conveniencies, and luxuries.
The invention of labor-saving machines was stimulated by the laws framed for the protection of their inventors; but the use of laborsaving machines could be secured only by protecting those who were employed to construct and operate them. Such protection, however, was not practical, nor would it have been useful, as between the citizens or inhabitants of our own country.
As the knowledge and use of labor-saving machines cannot be limited to the country in which the inventions are made, a duty upon the products of such machines is the only adequate means of pro
tecting our domestic labor, by giving to its results an advantage in the markets of the United States. The benefits of such a system are indirect as well as direct. The laborer in the mine, shop, or mill is saved from the full competition of the laborer in another country, who, from the circumstances in which he is placed, is compelled to give his labor for small compensation.
Beyond this fact, it is also true that the supplies consumed by the laborer and his family are, in a large part, obtained from the vicinity. Those supplies, in the main, are furnished by the agricultural population. The farmers of England supply the laborers of Birmingham and Manchester; the farmers of the United States supply the laborers of Pittsburgh and Lowell. If the goods now made in Pittsburgh and Lowell were made in Manchester, Sheffield, and Birmingham, the demand for the products of agricultural labor would be diminished in the United States, and proportionately increased in England.
Nor is it an answer to the claim that the protective system benefits the laboring classes, to maintain that, as an increase of wages in the United States is followed by the migration of laborers from Europe, an equilibrium of prices is secured in the end, and the laboring populations of the countries whose commercial relations are intimate are brought, finally, to the same level. If this were true, the fact that it is better for the American farmer to have the exclusive control of a near market than to take a chance in a distant market, would also be true. If, therefore, the operatives in a mill at Pittsburgh were all of foreign birth, the articles for their subsistence would be furnished by American laborers in other departments of industry. Washington and Jefferson were advocates of protection to domestic labor, and the advantages of the system were as well stated and argued by Hamilton as they can be now stated and argued after a century nearly of experience under a protective system at times, and a system of free trade at other times.
It is a singular historical fact, which admits of no explanation that can be justified to the reason of mankind, that the political party in the United States most hostile to Great Britain was also the party that was most hostile to a system of protection to domestic industry by which America, in the highest national sense, could be made independent of the mother country.
Hamilton was an advocate of the British Constitution, and there was a period in his career when he would have accepted it as a model for the United States; yet he and the party which he founded were
in favor of so organizing the policy of the new nation that it would be free, absolutely, in all its industrial and financial affairs. On the other hand, the party which had no sympathy for the political institutions of Great Britain, originated and maintained a policy of free trade, under and against which our infant manufactures struggled for more than half a century. The tariff acts of 1816, 1828, and 1842, gave temporary encouragement to the manufacturing industries of the country, but as the policy was controverted by the Democratic party, it was not easy to command either confidence or capital for new undertakings.
In the year 1860, at the end of seventy years of national life, distinguished by a vacillating policy upon the subject of protection, our manufactures in the aggregate amounted to no more than eight hundred and fifty-five million dollars upon an invested capital of one thousand and ten million dollars.
Employment was thus given to 1,311,246 persons, to whom was paid, in the aggregate, the sum of $378,878,966 as annual wages. The laborers received an average of $288 each per annum.
In 1880, the capital invested in manufactures amounted to $2,790,272,606. The product had risen to the sum of $1,972,755,642. The wages paid to 2,732,595 operatives amounted to $947,953,795, or an average annual earning of $346. From the year 1860 to the year 1880, the wages of the operatives, including men, women, and children, had been advanced twenty per cent. In other words, the operatives who were employed in 1880 were in the receipt each year of the enormous sum of one hundred and sixty million dollars in excess of the amount that would have been paid to them upon the basis of the wages allowed in 1860.
The aggregate wages paid in 1880 were one hundred and fifty per cent. greater than in 1860, while the increase in the number of hands employed was only one hundred and eight per cent.
A statement made by the "Clark Thread Company," doing business at Paisley, Scotland, and Newark, New Jersey, proves beyond controversy the fact that the ability to manufacture in this country the thread furnished by that company is due, solely, to the protection given to it, unless, indeed, the wages of the operatives were reduced something more than fifty per cent.
The correspondence between that company and Joseph Nimmo, Jr., Esq., Chief of the Bureau of Statistics, contains information of
great value. The "Clark Thread Company" have transferred a portion of their manufacturing business from Paisley to Newark. Two advantages accrue to the company: the goods are made near the market, and the duties are avoided. The advantages to this country by the transfer of the business are many. The buildings for the business and the houses for the operatives are the product of American labor, and the subsistence of the operatives gives employment to mechanics and artisans in other departments, and creates a market for agricultural products.
A comparison of the wages paid by this company in Paisley and in Newark shows that, except for the custom's duties, not one spool of thread would be made in Newark, unless the wages of the laborers were reduced about one-half.
DEAR SIR: Your favor of yesterday is received.
CLARK THREAD COMPANY, NEWARK, N. J., January 31, 1882.
In reply to your question as to what number of hours the employés work in either place, would say that in Paisley the factories work ten hours daily, five days in the week, and Saturdays to 12 o'clock noon, making a half holiday for Saturdays. In Newark we work ten and one-half hours, five days in the week, and stop on Saturdays at half-past one, making for Newark 59 hours as against 55 for Paisley.
With regard to your question as to the effectiveness of labor here and in Paisley, would say that my experience is about equal in both places, and the employés in either place, with the same machinery, will produce about the same amount of work, and work as steadily in the one place as in the other. . . . Our business of making spool-cotton is only in process of development in this country, as there is still large quantities of six-cord imported, but is becoming less as we get our means of production extended.
Any further information I can give you, will be glad to do so; as I think it is best for you people to know the true inwardness of the business.
J. NIMMO, JR., Esq.
CLARK THREAD COMPANY, NEWARK, N. J., March 31, 1882.
DEAR SIR: Yours of the 29th came duly to hand, and contents noted, and in reply would answer the statements contained therein, as under, which we trust will be what you require to close up your report.
1. In regard to the machinery used in our two factories, would say that it is used in the same manner, but in a little larger extent in Paisley than in Newark.
2. The organization of labor is similar.
3. The methods pursued in the employment of labor is similar.
4. The physical and intellectual ability of the operatives in both countries are about equal.