But this prosperity continued for a short season only. The National Treasury was too full; money too plentiful; the tariff was too good; and "tinkering" and experiment was again resorted to by our statesmen. It is said, however, that the "lobby" and British gold framed the tariff of 1846-47 and its ad valorem duties. The duties of 1842 were specific, and were collected on our own valuation in cash, and the appraisers, collectors, and naval officers had power to examine parties under oath in relation to the value of exported articles in the principal markets from whence they were exported. But the tariff of 1846 gave to importers the means of peculation and fraud by obtaining false invoices; and while the duties were not suffiCient to protect our domestic industry, they were still made less protective by the dishonesty of the British manufacturers and their agents here.
But a still more powerful influence rendered our domestic manufacturers less able than usual to compete with the foreigner at this time. The highly protective duties of 1842 were almost prohibitory in many articles of importation. Our industry flourished in consequence; the prices of labor and the products of labor were high; money was plentiful, and the markets for home production insatiate.
In England the case was reversed. The United States were her best customers during the free-trade periods; and when these were cut off by high tariffs the prices of labor and the productions of labor there were cheap. Consequently, the English manufacturers were able to sell their productions much below American prices, which were then unusually high. English labor cost fifty cents per day, ours not less than one dollar and fifty cents, or three times the price of English labor; while the freights from England to New York were not greater than the transportation from our manufactures generally to the same point. Our labor, therefore, should drop suddenly to the English standard if we would compete with them. But revolutions of this kind cannot be effected in a day or a year. Prices and regulations cannot change so suddenly. Bank
ruptcy and ruin come to communities slowly. Foreign goods sell cheap at first, when we are rich, but dear at last, when we are poor. These are natural results; but British policy encourages them, and British avarice hastens to take all the advantages they offer.
It is strange that statesmen, with our history before them, and the examples of former years fresh in their memory, should legislate for the destruction of domestic industry and in favor of our foreign rivals. The disastrous results of a free-trade policy had been demonstrated again and again. Ruin always followed in its wake; while protec tion always brought prosperity, " good times," and high prices for labor and the products of labor. Yet, strange as it may appear, we were again to try the "blessings of free trade" as taught by British economists. We were to experience once more the beautiful precepts so lovingly taught us by our good cousins over the water; but we ignored their example. The free-trade tariff of 1846-47 took the place of the protective tariff of 1842. When this free-trade tariff went into effect, we were rich; plenty every where existed; our vaults were full of gold, and our people enjoyed prosperity and abundance. All this could not change suddenly. Our wealth did not vanish in a day nor a year. But a crisis was imminent in 1850. The gold of California only put it off. In 1852-53 we exported $97,000,000 in specie to pay for goods which we should have made ourselves. But the treasure of California, though it flowed in a steady stream of millions from the Golden Gate of the West, only put off the evil day by paying the enormous losses of our free-trade hobby. In 1857 came the third crisis, and we were poor indeed. The profits of former industry, the millions of California, the labor of many years, all wasted by the insatiate demands of free trade, or, worse, gone into the pockets of our enemies and rivals.