Utilisateur:James 4/Protectionism in the United States
One of the first acts of Congress Washington signed was a tariff among whose stated purpose was “the encouragement and protection of manufactures.”
In his 1790 State of the Union Address, Washington justified his tariff policy for national security reasons:
A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies
In 1816, President Thomas Jefferson said, “manufactures are now as necessary to our independence as to our comfort… keep pace with me in purchasing nothing foreign where an equivalent of domestic fabric can be obtained, without regard to difference of price.”
As Jefferson wrote in explaining why his views had evolved to favor more protectionist policies: “In so complicated a science as political economy, no one axiom can be laid down as wise and expedient for all times and circumstances, and for their contraries.”
After the War of 1812, Jefferson's position began to resemble that of Washington, some level of protection was necessary to secure the nation's political independence:
experience has taught me that manufactures are now as necessary to our independence as to our comfort: and if those who quote me as of a different opinion will keep pace with me in purchasing nothing foreign where an equivalent of domestic fabric can be obtained, without regard to difference of price
In 1832, then the United States Senator from Kentucky, Henry Clay said about his disdain for “free traders” that "it is not free trade that they are recommending to our acceptance. It is in effect, the British colonial system that we are invited to adopt; and, if their policy prevail, it will lead substantially to the re-colonization of these States, under the commercial dominion of Great Britain.”
When gentlemen have succeeded in their design of an immediate or gradual destruction of the American System, what is their substitute? Free trade! 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.
Clay explained that “equal and reciprocal” free trade “never has existed; [and] it never will exist.” He warned against practicing “romantic trade philanthropy… which invokes us to continue to purchase the produce of foreign industry, without regard to the state or prosperity of our own.” Clay made clear that he was “utterly and irreconcilably opposed” to trade which would “throw wide open our ports to foreign productions” without reciprocation.
Henry Clay’s longtime rival and political opponent, President Andrew Jackson, in explaining his support for a tariff, wrote:
We have been too long subject to the policy of the British merchants. It is time we should become a little more Americanized, and, instead of feeding the paupers and laborers of Europe, feed our own, or else, in a short time, by continuing our present policy, we shall all be paupers ourselves.
In 1822, President James Monroe observed that “whatever may be the abstract doctrine in favor of unrestricted commerce,” the conditions necessary for its success—reciprocity and international peace—“has never occurred and can not be expected.” Monroe said, “strong reasons… impose on us the obligation to cherish and sustain our manufactures.”
President Abraham Lincoln declared, “Give us a protective tariff and we will have the greatest nation on earth.” Lincoln warned that “the abandonment of the protective policy by the American Government… must produce want and ruin among our people.”
Lincoln similarly said that, “if a duty amount to full protection be levied upon an article” that could be produced domestically, “at no distant day, in consequence of such duty,” the domestic article “will be sold to our people cheaper than before.”
Additionally, Lincoln argued that based on economies of scale, any temporary increase in costs resulting from a tariff would eventually decrease as the domestic manufacturer produced more.
Lincoln did not see a tariff as a tax on low-income Americans because it would only burden the consumer according to the amount the consumer consumed By the tariff system, the whole revenue is paid by the consumers of foreign goods… the burthen of revenue falls almost entirely on the wealthy and luxurious few, while the substantial and laboring many who live at home, and upon home products, go entirely free.
Lincoln argued that a tariff system was less intrusive than domestic taxation: The tariff is the cheaper system, because the duties, being collected in large parcels at a few commercial points, will require comparatively few officers in their collection; while by the direct tax system, the land must be literally covered with assessors and collectors, going forth like swarms of Egyptian locusts, devouring every blade of grass and other green thing.
President William McKinley supported tariffs:
Under free trade, the trader is the master and the producer the slave. Protection is but the law of nature, the law of self-preservation, of self-development, of securing the highest and best destiny of the race of man
[Free trade] destroys the dignity and independence of American labor… It will take away from the people of this country who work for a living—and the majority of them live by the sweat of their faces—it will take from them heart and home and hope. It will be self-destruction.
He also rejected the “cheaper is better” argument outright:
They [free traders] say, ‘Buy where you can buy the cheapest.’ That is one of their maxims… Of course, that applies to labor as to everything else. Let me give you a maxim that is a thousand times better than that, and it is the protection maxim: ‘Buy where you can pay the easiest.’ And that spot of earth is where labor wins its highest rewards.
They say, if you had not the Protective Tariff things would be a little cheaper. Well, whether a thing is cheap or whether it is dear depends on what we can earn by our daily labor. Free trade cheapens the product by cheapening the producer. Protection cheapens the product by elevating the producer.
The protective tariff policy of the Republicans… has made the lives of the masses of our countrymen sweeter and brighter, and has entered the homes of America carrying comfort and cheer and courage. It gives a premium to human energy, and awakens the noblest aspiration in the breasts of men. Our own experience shows that it is the best for our citizenship and our civilization and that it opens up a higher and better destiny for our people.
President Theodore Roosevelt believed that America's economic growth was due to the protective tariffs, which helped her industrialize. He acknowledged this in his State of the Union address from 1902:
The country has acquiesced in the wisdom of the protective-tariff principle. It is exceedingly undesirable that this system should be destroyed or that there should be violent and radical changes therein. Our past experience shows that great prosperity in this country has always come under a protective tariff.