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Of course, the direct national injury, caused by an embargo of twelve months duration, would be,
Mercantile loss, as above - - g23,814,249
and waste .... 50,196,028
Total direct national loss - - g63,010,277
At the same moment, therefore, that the nation is called upon to aid their government with a loan of 11,000,000, dolls, this government, without any single openly avoxced, or obvicusbj beneficial purpose, at the bare suggestion of expediency on the part of the executive, destroys, by an embargo of three months, national wealth to the amount of 15,750,000 dollars, not to reckon the indirect, and collateral mischief, of enormous magnitude, with which the same measure is pregnant.
If our farmers were ordered to leave one fourth of their arable lands uncultivated; if our house owners were required by law not to let their houses for a twelve month; or, if our labourers were prohibited from working more than three days during the week—how universal and irresistible would be the cry of oppression. But, if an embargo renders one fourth of our arable lands useless; if it causes the vessels of our merchants, engaged in foreign commerce,—a tonnage of 984,269 tons,*—to become unproductive, and wasting property; if it forces our fishermen to saunter about in idleness, or to catch their usal prey merely for the sake of sport—we think it right enough,—we think it constitutional—because there is nothing unusual in the sound of embargo; governments often have laid them;—though surely not of the same description with ours.
Nor is it merely the mercantile, and agricultural interests which our embargoes affect injuriously. The manufacturing interest, whatever may be imagined to the contrary, suffers not less.
. The manufactures, which thrive in regular times, must be deemed the most beneficial to a country, because they will be the best adapted to its local, and permanent relations.
The principal support of manufactures is, in all instances, domestic consumption. This is even the case in England, though exporting a greater proportion of her manufactured productions', than perhaps ever any nation did before.
* See Report of the Secretary of the Treasury of the 12th December 1811
If we apply these principles to our situation under an embargo, it will be difficult not to perceive, that, from the diminution of national income, to an extent—according to our certainly much underrated computation,—of no less than 63,000,000 dollars per annum—there must result a proportionate diminution of consumption, which will necessarily affect the demand for home manufactured articles, as well as for those imported from abroad.
A sum so considerable, in a country of 8,000,000 of inhabitants, cannot possibly be substracted from consumption,without serious injury to the manufacturers and artists, as well as to cultivators, and almost every other description of people.
This observation will be deemed the more correct, when we reflect, that this diminution of income, affects in the first instance, and affects most severely, the people in the sea ports; whose prosperity chiefly depends on the success of commercial pursuits, and who are in this country the largest consumers; who sustain from an embargo a yearly loss of more than 23,000,000 dollars; who find themselves placed by this measure in the most discouraging and helpless situation.
It receives further corroboration from the well known fact, that all those articles, the manufacture of which has succeeded best in this country, have been exported to the West Indies, and other places, to an amount by no means trifling. Our nails, our hats, our leather, shoes, saddlery, cabinet ware, tin ware, chairs, cotton yarn, gun powder, lumber, paper, &c. &c. have found an advantageous market abroad.
If we only consider how many arts, and trades, are concerned in shipbuilding, how can we doubt that our domestic manufactures must suffer, during a state of things which renders ships useless.
On appealing to facts, we perceive, that every manufacturer and tradesman, who prospered with the general prosperity, previously to embargo and restrictions, now partakes of the general distress.
Those, therefore, who imagine that an embargo gives encouragement to domestic manufactures, cannot possibly mean such manufactures, as comport best with our local circumstances, with our present state of capital, skill, and knowledge; such as are most natural to us, and have been hitherto thriving. It is too obvious that these will suffer. They must mean manufactures with which, properly, we ought not yet to meddle, because we are not ripe for them, and which cannot succeed, unless aided by embargo or war.
With regard to these their opinion would be correct, if the embargo were the permanent law of the land. But the measure is not, cannot be a permanent one.
People will not therefore readily engage in forming establishments, which must cause their ruin when the embargo ceases.
Besides this consideration, they will be deterred by the fear of the competition arising from smuggling.
The cheapness of goods in Europe; their increased price with us; the lowness of exchange on England—hold out together such great temptations to smuggling, that even a government, as energetic and despotic as that of Bonaparte, with sea coasts, and frontiers, like ours, would prove inadequate to prevent it.
Experience supports the argument. Fresh British goods, notwithstanding the non-importation act, make their appearance daily in this market.
Manufactures, therefore, of commodities, the manufacture of which docs not succeed with us in regular times, will not be readily attempted in consequence of an embargo, from apprehension of ruin, when it ceases; and of the competition arising from systematized smuggling, while it lasts.
Besides, manufacturing establishments, of the description in which Great Britain excels, require mostly the command of low priced labour, or the investment of large capitals. But our labour must continue high, till our population becomes redundant, and embargoes, so far from disengaging capital, as is most erroneously conceived, cause it, as we shall presently show, to dwindle away, and disappear.
But, if restrictions on commerce were to bring a few manufactures into existence, and occasion them for a while to prosper, the individual benefit, in this instance, would nevertheless result from the national loss, while the infinitely greater number of manufactures, suitable to our situation, and the flourishing state of which, is the more desirable on account of their promoting individual as well as public prosperity, must inevitably suffer.
Generally speaking, therefore, it seems undeniable, that embargoes, and commercial restrictions of any sort, like every other violent, unlawful interference of government with private pursuits, proves in the highest degree injurious to manufactures, as well as to agriculture and commerce.
Measures of this description have consequently a bane/bl effect on our own industry, whilst they only partially, momentarily, and in a slight degree, affect the industry of other nations.
In addition to this they have a tendency to disunite us, because they operate with great inequality, bearing, in the first instance, most heavily, and destructively, on one particular, and useful description of citizens—the merchants, who link us with the world; enable us to make the most of our national advantages, and to attain the greatest share of prosperity at the least expense of labour.
They have a tendency to disunite us also, because they affect some parts of the Union more severely than others. The people in the back country experience from their operation no inconvenience, that could be compared to the privations which those suffer who, in the maritime districts, derive their comforts from the produce of the sea.
Nor ought we to forget, that the calamities which these measures occasion, by destroying security, and defeating all rational calculation, affect chiefly the active, the enterprising, the industrious, the honest.
The injuries, which the country sustains from embargoes, do not even cease with them. A trade, once repelled, rarely returns again to its former channel.
They, moreover, demoralize the nation; introduce, and systematize the business of smuggling; permanently impair, and temporarily destroy, the most convenient, and most productive source of public revenue.
A vigorous war, by sea and land, substitutes at least one species of activity for another. Fleets and armies receive the surplus produce; fishermen find employment in the navy. Armed, or swift sailing merchant vessels will still force some trade; others will become lucrative as privateers. The pleasure of individual distinction, or the participation of national renown, may compensate in some small degree for pecuniary losses. Embargoes take all and give nothing. They deaden.
So that it seems difficult to conceive a system of policy, considered as a substitute for war, more inefficient, with regard to an enemy; more ruinous, with regard to ourselves; more unjust, in the mode of its operation; more inimical to our federal union; more ignominious; more thoroughly bad; more preposterous, in every point of view. It constitutes a species of political suicide; not suicide, but self-torture, with dissolution in the rear, in consequence of gradual disorganization, inanition, and languor.
Experience, during the long embargo, has so powerfully confirmed some of these observations, and was so near verifying the rest, that it is now seldom attempted to defend the interdiction of foreign trade on this ground. It is rather pretended that the present embargo was necessary as a measure of safety, as a step preparatory to war.
But, an embargo could not be necessary, as a measure of safety, on account of approaching war, with a view to the trade from which it is attempted to exclude us by the orders in council. With respect to this trade we are already in the same situation, as if we were actually at war with Great Britain.
With regard to our trade to Great Britain herself, her dependencies, and allies, it is not probable that property sent to them by our merchants, under the idea of a still prevailing peace, or of the probability of its continuance, would be endangered. A nation to whom trade is so necessary, that she thinks proper to establish a licensed one, with the enemy bent on her destruction, is not likely to injure individuals, seeking to preserve a friendly, and mutually beneficial intercourse, to the last moment; the less as it must be her interesrather to reconcile the good will, than to provoke the resentment of our merchants; the less also, as she endeavours to hold out the idea, that the orders in council, the cause of the expected war, are with her a measure of self-preservation, and, consequently, of necessity, well or ill understood—but not of ill will, or enmity, to this country.
At any rate, if apprehensions were entertained by our government on this score, they ought, consistently, to have afforded our merchants an opportunity at least, of bringing home the vast amount of property, which they have in Great Britain already. A genuine parental solicitude in congress would have urged, as the true policy,—pursuant to their declared object, —the removal of every restriction on trade, and the intimation that a general embargo would be laid, and a hostile attitude taken at the expiration of a fixed period, should no adjustment of difficulties have taken place by that time.
Besides, if the embargo was intended as a measure of safety, as a forerunner of war, there could be no occasion to lay it for sixty days, less for three months, still less for four, as wa; proposed.
Finally, our merchants might be suffered to judge themselves of the degree of danger attending their adventures. Self-interest is of all others the most sagacious, and government does not pretend to be in possession of secret information.
As a last argument in favour of the present embargo it is urged, that the measure is expedient and beneficial, with 9