In taking Clay’s speech in 1832 as the representative statement of the argument for protection, the editor has consulted Professor Thompson, of the University of Pennsylvania, and has been guided by his advice. On the other side, the statement of Representative Hurd, in 1881, has been taken as, on the whole, the best summary of the free-trade argument. In both cases, the difficulty has been in the necessary exclusion of merely written arguments.
OF KENTUCKY. (BORN 1777, DIED 1852.)
On the American system;
In the united states senate, February 2-6, 1832.
The question which we are now called upon to determine, is not, whether we shall establish a new and doubtful system of policy, just proposed, and for the first time presented to our consideration, but whether we shall break down and destroy a long-established system, carefully and patiently built up and sanctioned, during a series of years, again and again, by the nation and its highest and most revered authorities. And are we not bound deliberately to consider whether we can proceed to this work of destruction without a violation of the public faith? The people of the United States have justly supposed that the policy of protecting their industry against foreign legislation and foreign industry was fully settled, not by a single act, but by repeated and deliberate acts of government, performed at distant and frequent intervals. In full confidence that the policy was firmly and unchangeably fixed, thousands upon thousands have invested their capital, purchased a vast amount of real and other estate, made permanent establishments, and accommodated their industry. Can we expose to utter and irretrievable ruin this countless multitude, without justly incurring the reproach of violating the national faith? * * *
When gentlemen have succeeded in their design of an immediate or gradual destruction of the American system, what is their substitute? Free trade! The call for free trade is as unavailing, as the cry of a spoiled child in its nurse’s arms, for the moon, or the stars that glitter in the firmament of heaven. It never has existed, it never will exist. Trade implies at least two parties. To be free, it should be fair, equal, and reciprocal. But if we throw our ports wide open to the admission of foreign productions, free of all duty, what ports of any other foreign nation shall we find open to the free admission of our surplus produce? We may break down all barriers to free trade on our part, but the work will not be complete until foreign powers shall have removed theirs. There would be freedom on one side, and restrictions, prohibitions, and exclusions on the other. The bolts and the bars and the chains of all other nations will remain undisturbed. It is, indeed, possible, that our industry and commerce would accommodate themselves to this unequal and unjust state of things; for, such is the flexibility of our nature, that it bends itself to all circumstances. The wretched prisoner incarcerated in a jail, after a long time, becomes reconciled to his solitude, and regularly notches down the passing days of his confinement.