Lowell, Massachusetts 1837
"The crude treasures, perpetually exposed before our eyes, contain within them other and more valuable principles. All these, likewse, in their numberless combinations, which ages of labour and research can never exhaust, may be destined to furnish, in perpetual succession, new sources of our wealth and of our happiness."
The whole American people suffered, during the revolutionary war, from the want of the comforts and some of the necessaries of life, now so called. Their commerce with the world abroad being almost wholly intercepted, they had nothing wherewith to console themselves but the stocks which might be left in their warehouses, and the produce of their soil. It is amazing, at this day, to hear of the wants of the commonest articles of clothing and domestic use, undergone in those days by some of the first families in the republic.
The experience of these troubles suggested to many persons the expediency of establishing manufactures in the United States: but there was an almost universal prejudice against this mode of employment. It is amusing now to read Hamilton's celebrated Report on Manufactures, presented in 1790, and to see how elaborately the popular objections to manufactures are answered. The persuasion of the nation was that America was designed to be an agricultural country; that agriculture was wholly productive, and manufactures not productive at all; and that agriculture was the more honourable occupation. The two former prejudices have been put to flight by bappy experience. The last still lingers. It is not five years since tbe President's message declared that "the wealth and strength of a country are its population; and the best part of that population are the cultivators of the soil."
Such prepossessions may be left to die out. They arise mainly from a
very good notion, not very clearly defined;--that the more intercourse
men have with Nature, the better for the men. This is true; but Nature
is present in all places where the hands of men work, if tbe workmen can
but see her. If Nature is supposed present only where there is a blue sky
overhead, and grass and trees around, this shows only the narrowness of
mind of him who thus supposes. Her forces are at work wherever there is
mechanism; and man only directs them to his particular purpose. In America,
it may be said that her beauty is present wherever her forces are at work;
for men have there set up their mechanism in some of the choicest spots
in the land. There is a good and an evil aspect belonging to all things.
As to the old objection to American manufactures, that America was designed
to be an agricultural country,--it seems to me, as I said before, that
America was meant to be everything. Her group of republics is merged in
one, in the eyes of the world; and, for some purposes, in reality: but
this involves no obligation to make them all alike in their produce and
occupations; but rather the contrary. Here, as everywhere else, let the
laws of nature be followed, and the procedure will be wise. Nature has
nothing to do with artificial boundaries and arbitrary inclosures. There
are many soils and many climates included within the boundary line of the
United States; many countries; and one rule cannot be laid down
for all. If there be any one or more of these where the requisites for
manufactures are present, and those for agriculture deficient, there let
manufactures arise. If there is poor land, and good mill-seats; abundant
material, animal and mineral, on the spot, and vegetable easily to be procured;
a sufficiency of hands, and talent for the construction and use of machinery,
there should manufactures spring up. This is eminently the case with New
England, and some other parts of the United States. It was perceived to
be so, even in the days when the growth of cotton in the south was spoken
of as a small experiment, not likely to produce great consequences.
The same Report mentions seventeen classes of manufacture going on as distinct trades, at the same time, in the northern States.
The only plausible objection to the establishment of manufactures was the scarcity and dearness of labour, in comparison with that of the old countries of Europe. But, if the exportation of some articles actually took place, while the labour which produced them was scattered about in farm-houses, what might not be expected if the same labour could be called forth and concentrated, and aided by the introduction of machinery? A great immigration of artisans might also be looked for, when once any temptation was held out to the poor of Europe to come over to a young and thriving country. Moreover, improvements in machinery are the invariable consequence of a deficiency of manufacturing labour; for the obvious reason that men's wits are urged to supply the want under which their interests suffer. Again: manufactures can, to a considerable degree, be carried on by the labour of women; and there is a great number of unemployed women in New England, from the circumstance that the young men of that region wander away in search of a settlement on the land; and, after being settled, find wives in the south and west.
Thus much of the case might have been, and was by some, foreseen. What has been the event?
In 1825, the amount of manufactures exported from the United States, was 5,729,797 dollars. Of these about one-fourth were cotton-piece goods, in the sale of which the American merchants were now able to compete with the English, in some foreign markets. The manufacture of cottons in the United States afforded a market for one hundred and seventy-five thousand bales of cotton annually; and the printed cottons manufactured at home amounted annually to fourteen millions of yards. The importation of cotton goods into the country in 1825 was in value between twelve and thirteen millions of dollars; and in 1826, between nine and ten millions. The woollen manufacture has never flourished like the cotton; the bad effects of the tariff being more immediately visible in regard to articles of manufacture whose raw material must be chiefly derived from abroad.
In 1828, the legislature of Massachusetts passed resolutions deploring
the increasing depression of the woollen manufacture, and praying for increased
protection from Congress. The exportation of cotton goods that year amounted
to upwards of a million of
At Lowell, in Massachusetts, there was in 1818, a small satinet mill, employing about twenty hands; the place itself containing two hundred inhabitants. In 1825, the Merrimack Manufacturing Company was formed; it was joined by others; and in 1832, the capital invested was above six millions of dollars. The whole number of operatives employed was five thousand; of whom three thousand eight hundred were women and girls. The quantity of raw cotton used was upwards of twenty thousand bales. The quantity of pure cotton goods manufactured was twenty-five millions of yards. The woollen fabric manufactured in these establishments was, at the same time, one hundred and fifty thousand yards. Sixty-eight carpet-looms were at work also. The workmen employed in all these operations received for wages about 1,200,000 dollars per annum. About two hundred mechanics, of a high order of ability, are constantly employed. The fuel consumed in a year is five thousand tons of anthracite coal, besides charcoal and wood.
The same protective system which caused the sudden growth of such an establishment as this, tempted numerous capitalists to seek their share of the supposed benefits of the tariff. The manufacturing interest was well nigh ruined by the protection it had asked for. The competition and consequent over-manufacture were tremendous. Failure after failure took place, till forty-five thousand spindles were standing idle, and thousands of operatives were thrown into a state of poverty unnatural enough in such a country as theirs. A cry was raised by many for a repeal of the tariff: this created a panic among those who, on the strength of the tariff, had withdrawn their capital from commerce, and invested it in manufactures. The stock of all the manufacturing companies was offered in vain, at prices ruinously low. Thus stood matters in 1829.
The history of the quarrel between the north and south about the tariff,
and the nature of the Compromise Bill, is already known. The mischief done
will be repaired, as far as reparation is possible, by the reduction of
the import duties, year by year, till 1842. If the demands of the country
and of foreign customers should not rise to the limit of the over-manufacture
which has taken place, time is thus allowed for the gradual withdrawing
of the capital and industry which have been seduced into this method of
employment. Meantime, the manufactures of the northern States are permanently
established, though not in the wisest way. If they had been left to themselves,
they would have been an unmixed good to the community. As it is, society
has suffered the inevitable consequences of an irrational policy,--a policy
indefensible in a republic. It is well that the experiment wrought out
its consequences so speedily and so plainly that any repetition is unlikely,--little
as the natural laws which regulate commerce are yet understood.
The shoe manufacture is one of the most remarkable in the States, from the suddenness and extent of its spread. It has been mentioned that the shoe trade of New York State is more valuable than the total commerce of Georgia. The extent to which the manufacture is carried on in one village in Massachusetts, with which I am acquainted, shows the prosperity of the business.
In order to shoemaking, there must be tanning. There are many and large tanneries in Danvers and the outskirts of Salem, for the supply of the Lynn shoe-manufacture. The largest tannery in the United States is at Salem. The hides are partly imported. The bark is brought from Maine. These tanneries were in a state of temporary adversity when I saw them. Some kinds of skins are two or three years in tanning; and capital is thus locked up in such amounts as render fluctuation dangerous. It had lately been discovered that oak bark could be had cheaper, and tanning consequently carried on to a greater advantage up the Hudson than on the Massachusetts coast: so that the tanners and curriers of Salem and Danvers were descending somewhat from their high prosperity. But nothing could exceed the flourishing aspect of Lynn, the sanctum of St. Crispin.
In 1831, the value of boots and shoes, (very few boots, and chicely ladies' shoes,) made at Lynn was nearly a million of dollars a year. The total number made was above a million and a half pairs: the number of people employed, three thousand five hundred; being about seven-eighths of the population of the place, partially employed; and some hundreds from other places, wholly employed. Last year, the place was much on the increase. A green, with a piece of water in the middle, and trees, was being laid out in the centre of the town. New houses were rising in all directions, and fresh hands were welcomed from any quarter; for the orders sent could not be executed. Besides the domestic supply, two million pairs of ladies' shoes a-year were sent off to the remotest corners of the States; and, as they have once penetrated there, it seems difficult to imagine where the demand will stop; for those remote corners are all being more thickly peopled every day. Their united demand will be enough to make the fortune of a whole State.
It seems probable that a few more manufactures may be added to those
which are sure to flourish in the United States: as silk and wine. If the
government firmly refuses to interfere again in the way of protection,
it will be easily and safely discoverable what resources the country really
possesses; and what direction her improving industry may naturally and
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