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I am told, however, that this is not the principal question of the day. It may not be so with the people of your city, but you would greatly err, were you to suppose that such was the case with those of the States south and west of you, and north of Mason and Dixon's line. In this State and Jersey, it is the one, and almost the only question. In Ohio, a large majority of the Republican senators are stated to have announced their distinct intention to make it the question. In Illinois, the most influential of all the Republican journals of the State has entirely abandoned the free-trade doctrines—giving itself now to the advocacy of protection. Throughout the West, the question of the adoption of measures required for the creation of domestic markets, and for the emancipation of the country from the control of British manufacturers, is rapidly taking the place heretofore so exclusively occupied by the anti-slavery one. All of these people may be wrong, and, if so, they should be set right. That they may be so, I have offered you the use of the columns of protectionist journals, circulating, to the extent of hundreds of thousands of copies, among the very persons who are thus in error. That great offer it is that, thus far, you have not accepted.
The great question of the day, in your estimation, is that of slavery and freedom, and in this we are entirely agreed. How is it that men may be made more free? That is the question, and it must be answered before we can venture upon action, unless we are willing to incur the risk of promoting the growth of slavery, while really desiring to advance the cause of freedom. All experience shows, that men have become more free as they have been more and more enabled to work in combination with each other, and that the power of combination grows as employments become more diversified—slavery, on the other hand, growing in all those countries in which men are becoming more and more limited to the labors of the field. Such being the case, that policy which tends to produce diversification and combination should be the one which would lead to freedom. Which of the two is it, protection or free trade, which tends in that direction ? For an answer to this question, we need but look to Northern and Central Europe—finding there the protective system in full vigor, and the people rapidly advancing in wealth, strength, freedom, and power. The opposite, or free-trade system, has been in active operation in India, Ireland, Turkey, and other countries, whose people are as rapidly declining towards poverty, slavery, and general demoralization. .
How, my dear sir, has it been among ourselves? Turn to the years which followed the abandonment of the protective policy in 1816, and study the rapid growth of pauperism and wretchedness that was then observed. Pass on to those which followed the passage of the protective tariffs of 1824 and 1828, and remark the wonderful change towards wealth and freedom that was at once produced. Study next the growth of pauperism and destitution under the compromise tariff, closing with the almost entire paralysis of 1840–42. Pass onward, and examine the action of the tariff of 1842—remarking the constant increase in the demand for labor—in the production and consumption of iron, and of cotton and woollen goods—and in the strength and power of a community which had so recently been obliged to apply, and that in vain, at all the banking houses of Europe, for the small amount of money that then was needed for carrying on the government. Took, next, to the repeated crises we have had under the tariffs of 1846 and 1857—each and all of them tending toward strengthening the rich, while weakening the poor, and promoting a growth of pauperism such as has never, I believe, been known, in any country of the civilized world, to be accomplished in so brief a period. Such having been the result, the questions now arise, —Whither are we tending? Is it not toward slavery for the white laborer? Those are the questions I have desired to have discussed, and whatever you, my dear sir, may think of it, they must be always in order. These, however, as may be said, are mere facts — a sort of political arithmetic. Trade should be free, and any facts that may be produced in opposition to that theory, must be such as cannot be relied on.—That we should be always going in the direction of freedom of commerce, and freedom of man, I fully and freely admit; but what is the road which leads in that direction ? Certainly, not the one on which we recently have travelled—all our present tendencies being toward pauperism and slavery, for the white man and the black. As certainly, it is the one on which we travelled in the years of the period of the tariffs of 1828 and 1842; and if you desire any evidence of this, you have but to look to the most distinguished free-trade writers of the present century—their teachings and mine being in full accordance with each other. Seeking proof of this assertion, allow me, my dear sir, to request that you will turn to Mr. J. B. Say, and study the cases described by him as being those in which “protection, granted with a view to promote the profitable application of labor and capital, may become productive of universal benefit.” Look next, if you please, to Mons. Blanqui, his successor, and find him assuring his readers that “experience had already taught, that a people ought never to deliver over to the chances of a foreign trade, the fate of its manufactures.” Pass on to Mons. Rossi, and read his entire disclaimer of the idea of non-intervention by the government—holding, as he does, that “a prudent and enlightened administration requires the making, in view of probable future benefit, of advances that may not, possibly, be repaid in full.” Turn thence to Mr. J. S. Mill, who tells his readers, that “the superiority of one country over another, in any branch of production, often arises only from having begun it sooner, and that a country which has skill and experience yet to acquire, may, in other respects, be better adapted to the production than others that were earlier in the field;” but, that “it cannot be expected that individuals should, at their own risk, or, rather, at their certain loss, introduce a new manufacture, and bear the burthen of carrying it on, until the producers have been educated up to the level of those with whom the processes have become traditional.” Look next to Mons. Chevalier, and learn that not only “it is not an abuse of power on the part of the government,” but that “it is only the accomplishment of a positive duty, so to act at each epoch in the progress of a nation, as to favor the taking possession of all the branches of industry whose acquisition is authorized by the nature of things.” The government which fails to do this, “makes,” as he thinks, “a great mistake.” You have here, my dear sir, the views of five of the most eminent European economists of the present century—all of them high authorities in the free-trade school, and yet all concurring in the views I have expressed to you. Facts and theories being thus in opposition to your doctrines, is it not time that you should undertake anew the examination of the question, with a view to satisfy yourself whether the teachings of the Post are really those of slavery or of freedom 7
I am told that I was once a free-trader, and nothing can be more true. Careful study of the phenomena of the free-trade convulsion of 1840– 42, and of the protectionist revival of 1842–47, having, however, satisfied me that that the facts and the theory could not agree, I was led to study anew the latter, and find the cause of error. That found, I felt no more difficulty in admitting that I had been wrong, than would be felt by yourself, after you should have tried, and vainly tried, to establish the fact, that the cause of freedom was to be promoted by a policy that separated the producer from the consumer—placing the spindle and the loom on one continent, and leaving the plough and the harrow on the other.
At the moment of inviting you to join with me in an inquiry as to the real road towards wealth and freedom for our people, harmony for our Union, and prosperity and power for our great Confederacy — that inquiry to be conducted in the spirit of men who sought for truth, and not for victory—I had still some lingering doubts of your acceptance; and yet, it appeared to me that you yourself should be quite as anxious for it as I, by any possibility, could be.—Desirous to remove all difficulty, the space to be given was left to your decision—the greatness of the subject seeming to me to give assurance that the inquiry would be allowed to assume proportions somewhat in accordance with those of the interests to be discussed. Pledged, as we should be, to the cause of truth, and to
that alone, any previous involvements, on either side, would shrink into
utter insignificance. Neither of us, as it seemed to me, need be so anxious to shine in the dispute as to hesitate at any risk that we, as individuals, might run—pledged as we were, by all our past history, to give to this one great question, the most frank and candid examination.
Regretting that you have not, thus far, been able to agree with me in the view that has been here presented, but hoping that you may yet do So, I remain, with great respect, * * *
Yours, very truly,
PHILADELPHIA, January 24, 1859.
L ET T E R F IFT H.
DEAR SIR. — A fortnight since, you stated, on the authority of Dr.
Wynne, that pauperism in the State of New York had assumed proportions relatively greater than those of England or of Scotland, and “largely in advance” of even the downtrodden and unhappy Ireland—your percentage being as high as 7.40, or more than double that of all the British Islands. When these facts were first presented to your sanitary society, they appeared to the managers “so startling as to lead them to doubt their accuracy, but,” as you now have told your readers, “after the most careful scrutiny, they have not only adopted them, but given them currency as authority in their report.” This “condition of facts” is one that, as you think, “calls for investigation by the proper authorities” — the alarming facts being presented for their consideration, that no less than forty-one per cent of the paupers are native born, and that the terrible disease of pauperism appears, “like the Canadian thistle, to have settled on our soil, and to have germinated with such vigor as,” in your opinion, “to defy all half measures to eradicate it.”
The pauper is necessarily a slave to those who feed and clothe him, and a slave, too, more abject, as a general rule, than are even the negroes of the South. White slavery thus grows steadily—furnishing good reason for the fears that you have here expressed. Equal cause for such alarm may be found, however, in the fact that the growth in the number and power of your millionaires keeps even pace therewith—growing inequality of condition here furnishing conclusive proof of decline in civilization and in freedom. How is it that such effects are being produced? Here is a great question, the solution of which may, as I think you will agree with me, be found in the following frightful facts, which have just now been given to the world, and which reveal a state of things well calculated to carry the alarm of which you speak, into the breast of every man who takes an interest in our future.
In your city there are 560 tenement houses, containing, by actual enumeration, 10,933 families, or about 65 persons each; 193 with 111 each; 71 others, with 140 each; and, finally, 29, that, as we are told, are the most profitable, and that have a total population of no less than 5449 souls, or 187 to each. What are the accommodations therein provided for the wretched occupants, is shown in the following picture:
“One of the largest and most recently built of the New York ‘barracks” has apartments for 126 families. It was built especially for this use. It stands on a lot 50 by 250 feet, is entered at the sides from alleys eight feet wide, and, by reason of the vicinity of another barrack of equal height, the rooms are so darkened that on a cloudy day it is impossible to read or sew in them without artificial light. It has not one room which can in any way be thoroughly ventilated. The vaults and sewers which are to carry off the filth of the 126 families have grated openings in the alleys, and doorways in the cellars, through which the noisome and deadly miasmata penetrate and poison the dank air of the house and the courts. The water-closets for the whole vast establishment are a range of stalls without doors, and accessible not only from the building, but even from the street. Comfort is here out of the question; common decency has been rendered impossible; and the horrible brutalities of the passenger-ship are day after day repeated, —but on a larger scale. And yet, this is a fair specimen. And for such hideous and necessarily demoralizing habitations,—for two rooms, stench, indecency, and
gloom, the poor family pays—and the rich builder receives— ‘thirty-five per cent annually on the cost of the apartments l’.”
We have here the type of the system that is now more and more obtaining throughout the country. One financial convulsion follows another, each in its turn closing mills, mines, and furnaces, and thus destroying internal commerce. With every step in that direction, our people are more compelled to seek the cities, and thereby augmenting the power of the rich to demand enormous rents, usurious interest, and enormous prices for lots—their fortunes growing rapidly, while reducing thousands, and tens of thousands, to a state of pauperism and destitution.
Is it, however, among the occupants of tenement houses, alone, that we are to find the facts which indicate the decline to which I have referred — a decline which must be arrested, if we desire not to find the end of our great republic is anarchy and despotism 7 Look around you, and you will see that while our population is growing at the rate of a million a-year, there is a daily diminution in the demand for skilled labor to be applied to the conversion of raw materials into finished commodities — a daily diminution of that confidence in the future which is required for producing applications of capital to the development of our great natural resources—a daily increase in the necessity for looking to trade as the only means of obtaining a support—and a consequent increase in the proportions borne by mere middlemen to producers, causing increased demand for shops, and stores, and offices, in great cities, and enabling landlords to demand the enormous rents which now are paid. The poor tenant slaves and starves, and finds himself at length driven to bankruptcy because his profits, after his rent is paid, are not enough to enable him to feed and clothe his wife and children —he and they being then driven to seek refuge in a “tenement house,” there to pay a rent that enables its rich owner to double his capital in almost every other year. The rich are thus made richer, while pauperism and crime advance with the gigantic strides you have described.
Is it, however, in your city alone that facts like these present themselves to view? That such is not the case, is shown in the following accurate sketch of the Philadelphia movement in the same direction, given, a few days since, by your neighbors of the Tribune:
“Poverty has reached higher places in society than the habitually destitute. Want of employment with many, and reduced wages with others, all growing out of the warfare of the government on the industry of the country, have made the present season one of peculiar hardship and suffering. Honest labor goes without its loaf, because no one can afford to employ it. Persons formerly able to support themselves decently, are now crowding for relief to our benevolent institutions. The visitors of the latter say there is more suffering now than ever before known. Clothing, food, and fuel are daily given in large amounts, and yet the cry of distress continues. The soup-houses have been compelled to reopen, and the charitable are taxed to the utmost. These suffering thousands are the victims of the Scandalous misgovernment which has palsied the energies of so many branches
of industry. They would gladly earn their bread, if permitted to do so.”