BY MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
MR. HARTLE. . . . If we consult the history of the ancient world, we shall see that they have thought proper, for a long time past, to give great encouragement to the establishment of manufactures, by laying such partial duties on the importation of foreign goods, as to give the home manufactures a considerable advantage in the price when brought to market. It is also well known to this committee, that there are many articles that will bear a higher duty than others, which are to remain in the common mass, and be taxed with a certain impost ad valorem. From this view of the subject, I think it both politic and just that the fostering hand of the General Government should extend to all those manufactures which will tend to national utility. I am therefore sorry that gentlemen seem to fix their minds to so early a period as 1783; for we very well know our circumstances are much changed since that time: we had then but few manufactures among us, and the vast quantities of goods that flowed in upon us from Europe, at the conclusion of the war, rendered those few almost useless; since then we have been forced by necessity, and various [p.263]other causes, to increase our domestic manufactures to such a degree as to be able to furnish some in sufficient quantity to answer the consumption of the whole Union, while others are daily growing into importance. Our stock of materials is, in many instances, equal to the greatest demand, and our artisans sufficient to work them up even for exportation. In these cases, I take it to be the policy of every enlightened nation to give their manufactures that degree of encouragement necessary to perfect them, without oppressing the other parts of the community; and, under this encouragement, the industry of the manufacturer will be employed to add to the wealth of the nation. . . .
Mr. MADISON. . . . I own myself the friend to a very free system of commerce, and hold it as a truth, that commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive, and impolitic; it is also a truth, that if industry and labor are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened Legislature could point out. Nor do I think that the national interest is more promoted by such restrictions than that the interest of individuals would be promoted by legislative interference directing the particular application of its industry. . . .
. . . I agree with the gentleman from Pennsylvania, that there are exceptions important in themselves, and which claim the particular attention of the committee. Although the freedom of commerce would be advantageous to the world, yet, in some particulars, one nation might suffer to benefit others, and this ought to be for the general good of society. . . .
Duties laid on imported articles may have an effect which comes within the idea of national prudence. It may happen that materials for manufactures may grow up without any encouragement for this purpose; it has been the case in some of the States, but in others regulations have been provided, and have succeeded in producing some establishments, which ought not to be allowed to perish, from the alteration which has taken place: it would be cruel to neglect them and divert their industry to other channels; for it is not possible for the hand of man to shift from one employment to another without being injured by the change. There may be some manufactures, which, being once formed, can advance towards perfection without any adventitious aid, while others, for want of the fostering hand of Government, will be unable to go on at all. Legislative attention will therefore be necessary to collect [p.264] the proper objects for this purpose, and this will form another exception to my general principle. . . .
The next exception that occurs, is one on which great stress is laid by some well informed men, and this with great plausibility. That each nation should have within itself the means of defence, independent of foreign supplies: that in whatever relates to the operations of war, no State ought to depend upon a precarious supply from any part of the world. There may be some truth in this remark, and therefore it is proper for legislative attention. I am, though, well persuaded that the reasoning on this subject has been carried too far. . . .
The impost laid on trade for the purpose of obtaining revenue may likewise be considered as an exception; so far, therefore, as revenue can be more conveniently and eertainly raised by this than any other method, without injury to the community, and its operation will be in due proportion to the consumption, which consumption is generally proportioned to the circumstances of individuals, I think sound policy dictates to use this means; but it will be necessary to confine our attention at this time peculiarly to the object of revenue, because the other subject involves some intricate questions, to unravel which we perhaps are not prepared. . . .
[April 15.] On . . . all steel unwrought, per 112 pounds,-. . . .
Mr. TUCKER considered the smallest tax on this article to be a burden on agriculture, which ought to be considered an interest most deserving protection and encouragement; on this is our principal reliance, on it also our safety and happiness depend. When he considered the state of it in that part of the country which he represented on this floor, and in some other parts of the Union, he was really at a loss to imagine with what propriety any gentleman could propose a measure big with oppression, and tending to burden particular States. . . . He thought an impost of five per cent. as great an encouragement as ought to be granted, and would not oppose that being laid. He called upon gentlemen to exercise liberality and moderation in what they proposed, if they wished to give satisfaction and do justice to their constituents.
April 9, 1789.
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