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MR. CLAY AND THE RESTRICTIVE SYSTEM.*
MR. CLAY is a remarkable man amid remarkable men. Having early engaged in public life, with his native ability, his sharp insight into man, his subtlety in detecting, and skill in presenting the motives by which they are or may be governed, with his affable manners-throwing others, but never himself, off their guard—with his wonderful elocution, wonderful whether displayed at the bar, or festive board, or in the legislative hall, endowed (it is Mr. Webster who says it) with extraordinary powers of tragedy, he has been enabled to exercise a strong influence, amounting sometimes to the most despotic control, over those with whom and by whom he has acted.
At twenty-six, in the Kentucky Legislature; at twenty-nine, chosen to some vacancy in the Senate of the United States;-shortly afterwards, a member of the Lower House,-then one of the Commissioners to Ghent, then member again, then candidate for the Presidency, defeated, and made Secretary of State under one of his competitors, then some years in private life, then Senator again; finally, having resigned the virtual dictatorship with which his superiority to his party associates had invested him, he now re-appears as a candidate once more for the Presidency of the Union.
In the electoral college, that former canvass gave General Jackson ninetynine votes, Mr. Adams eighty-four, Mr. Crawford forty-one, and Mr. Clay thirty-eight. In the eighteen years which have since elapsed, one of those rival candidates has died; another, defeated at a re-election, has been doing the State some questionable service, after his own peculiar fashion, in the House of Representatives; a third, over and over again by overwhelming majorities chosen Chief Magistrate, has returned to the Hermitage. Next came Mr. Van Buren, and next General
Harrison. But, before victors or vanquished had recovered from their astonishment at the election of 1840, he, in whose name the victory had been gained, was no more; and the apple of power became ashes on the lips of those who had been too unscrupulous in the means by which they had succeeded in grasping it. It was the manner in which that victory was won, that made it a defeat. If the Whigs had dealt fairly with the public, and told distinctly for what measures they went, and made their nomination for the second office accordingly, though the likelihood of success would have been far less, yet, success once gained, the subsequent disasters had been avoided. Some of the leaders were for a National Bank, some for high tariff, and public lands given away, some for State rights and no tariff, and no bank; meanwhile, the chief made no declarations. All scrambled on board, each hoping the vessel would steer by his particular chart, especially as the Commander seemed to have none of his own. But when the First Lieutenant became so suddenly Captain, and felt, withal, so sure that he had as good right as any to dictate what course the craft should steer, and on what cruise enter,-who was surprised that a mutiny ensued, such as to render her useless for service of any kind ? The result of this mutiny,-whether the Captain is to be thrown overboard, or whether the crew are to submit, or, whether, as is most likely, in the strife, the ship will get scuttled, and all go down together, we do not propose to inquire, and indeed, have at present no object in seeking to know.
A distinguished French writer (Say), has said, that, whenever mankind shall be in a situation to profit by experience, they will no longer require her lessons; plain, sound sense, will then be sufficient. That happy day
Life and Speeches of Henry Clay. Vol. I. James B. Swain, New York. Published with the approval of the Clay Club of New York.
seems at length to have arrived. For, immediately Mr. Clay is fairly nominated, forth fly,-admirably printed, and on beautiful paper, and expressly for the public eye, declarations," already exceeding three hundred goodly octavo pages, and to be continued, we have reason to suppose, beyond three hundred more. They are made up of his speeches, delivered heretofore, as time, place, and subject may have prompted. And although no man probably ever lived, between whose speeches as delivered by himself, and as read by others, there is so marked a disparity of effect, yet the publisher has done all that ink and material properly put together, can, to make us forget what we have lost. Indeed, since Mr. Clay has now withdrawn from the Legislature, as he had long before done from the bar, and since, in the course of human events, he is likely to address but few human audiences more, we cannot, highly as we regard the rhetorical merits of this collection, but feel that the time is fast approaching, when the wonder will be as great, how his speeches could have been so thrilling, as it now is, how Mr. Burke's could have been so dull; for he has three attributes in a degree of perfection, never more than once or twice surpassed in America. The first is, that mysterious gesticulation by which every attitude of the body, each move ment of every limb, the foot hard stamping, the pointed finger, expanded palm, or fist tight clenched, all full to the utmost of animation, but never ungraceful, conspire to make visible, as well as audible, the emotion or passion which stirs the speaker's breast. The next is his voice, so varied in its intonations, so melodious in its cadences, attuned to the harmonious utterance of every hidden feeling, which no form of mere words could utter, and seeming as if it were the purified spirit of human emotion, sent forth to teach and kindle, and make like itself, the spirits of those around. The last is his countenance, the most wonderful of all, commonly so passionless, yet, when love, or cheerfulness, or hope, or irony, anger, scorn, hate, majesty, nay, even PRAYER (we speak of his rhetorical devotions, having, of course, no desire to intrude on his private ones), are to be expressed, then warming up and transforming itself, till it becomes the
very impersonation of whatever he would convey most vividly to the conceptions of his auditory. These wonderful qualities of his, have done their magic upon the last and present generations, till men, hearing him, have lost their free agency, yielding themselves they know not to what, and able to give for their conduct no sensible reason to others, why. But this magic will soon be doing its wonders upon these generations no longer. And the speeches now before us, and which are soon to follow, will become the inadequate representatives to a future more or less distant, of all that has so strangely agitated those who now move, or lately moved, at his bidding.
That a man is a subtle disputer, gifted with a most charming elocution, adroit in the use of all the weapons of forensic strife, and possessed of a style in a reputable degree rhetorical, is certainly a high encomium of him for the bar or legislature. But when he is named in connection with a station where these high endowments would be of no avail, and, indeed, where they would be singularly out of place, men not unnaturally look for other qualifications. In fact, the White House is, of all places this side of the Asteroids, most unfit for the vehement gesture, the sudden exclamation, the swollen veins of the brow, the convulsed frame, in a word, for all the histrionic arts, with which oratory sometimes puzzles, and sometimes confounds the plainer sort of understandings. Accordingly, it is is on no such grounds, that the friends of Mr. Clay rest his claims to the Presidency. But to correct the error committed two years ago, and to inform the people what he has thought, and said, and advised in the course of his public career, and what they are to expect he will advise again,-and execute, too, if he should get the power, we suppose it is, that the collection before us has been made, and such means employed to give it a wide and rapid diffusion, and the solemn approval of the Clay Club of New York obtained to ensure it a profound and prayerful meditation. This is not unfair. And in the same spirit, though in our more humble way, and without any such imposing sanctions, we propose to examine, not the literary, nor the rhetorical, but the business merits of two, one the best, the other among the best speeches of
the collection." These embody the whole outline, and all the arguments in behalf of what has pleasantly been called the American system. Of this system, Mr. Clay was, in 1824, as he still is, the champion. And his great oration, the most elaborate of his life, was delivered in March, he being then in nomination for the Presidency; and in the canvass of the ensuing autumn, it formed the main pillar of whatever strength he possessed; for, as we have seen, of all the candidates he found least favor with the people.
The maxim of buying in the cheapest market, and selling in the dearest, commends itself to the common sense of all men. He, too, who purchases amid the competition of various sellers, is sure to buy cheapest, and he who sells amid the competition of various buyers, to sell dearest.
On the plain sense of these doctrines, our government suffered her people to set out. And hardly was the Union fairly together, before American enter prise, the whole world lying before it to buy and sell in, had hunted out where to dispose of its products, and supply its wants to the best advantage. And what we had to dispose of was sold for the most it would anywhere fetch, and our markets were stored with what could cheapest anywhere be bought. Men in the enjoyment of such advantages both ways, are usually deemed in a state of great prosperity. If their productions be numerous and sold high, and their wants few and supplied cheap, the difference between income and outgo, is not only marked, but the blind alone can fail to see which way the current sets. And when this state of things exists among the individuals of a whole nation, it requires uncommon vigor of assertion to say that the condition of that people is anything but prosperous and happy.
Like many young persons, America began the world, known chiefly for her indomitable spirit and determination, but without any far-spread and long established reputation for business of the ordinary sort, and, withal, sadly in debt. But, somehow, she managed to get along. By the year 1816, her people had, in large quantities, got over the mountains and were "doing consider
able" in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and the sun shone down into several unwonted apertures in the forests beyond the Mississippi. Her population had grown from three millions to ten. After scolding Great Britain several years, she quarrelled outright, and other countries that were looking on, said that the way she bragged of what she accomplished in that line, was justifiable. Meanwhile, that banner of hers had contrived not only to get acquainted, but to be on exceeding good terms with those of all the other nations, though a little difficulty was experienced at times, because the number of the stars kept changing so. She, in fact, thought herself well to do in the world.
It is true that the unsettled state of affairs in Europe, had given a kind of unsafe acceleration to her prosperity. It lured her a little too fast, and too far. This evil tendency was farther increased by the lavish internal expenditures, and consequent high prices which everything bore during the last war with Great Britain. And when these causes ceased operating, there was a general pause. The business on the ocean was not enough for all the shipping; there was not a ready sale for all manufactures; nor did the products of agriculture find, at home or abroad, any sufficient market. Much distress, an embarrassment yet more general, and stagnation everywhere, ensued. There was the languor of over-exertion; and there was the uneasiness which the industrious ever feel, in having, for a time, nothing to do; and there was, moreover, that feeling, most painful of all, of anxiety and alarm always felt by the money-making and money-loving who, after a series of hazardous but most lucrative adventures, find business running into new channels, and can see no chance of any more realizing gains like those they have realized already.
The revulsion was undoubtedly severe, but it must have been temporary; true, the day of inordinate profits had gone, never to return, save along with the causes which made them; but the sober incomes, such as discreet men acquire when all is calm, and there are no calamities of others to profit by, were sure soon to be realized. The shock
Our Protection of Home Industry, April 26th, 1820, p. 139-161. On American Industry, March 30th and 31st, 1824, p. 219-266.
was infinitely, infinitely less than that which followed the war of the Revolution, in itself a few years recovered from. Though it must be admitted that the latter war had continued so long, and the calamities of the country had been so great, that the people nearly forgot that they ever had been prosperous, and therefore quietly set themselves to Wo to create for themselves a new prosperity; while, in the other case, the shock came right on the heel of high activity. The vessel in a smart breeze struck with all sail at full press. Everything was in panic; all clamored; some, outright, leaped overboard; and others, the cunning ones, got the tariff long-boat out and launched her alongside close, and levied contributions, of the best, too, on all the crew to furnish her well. And when the wind lulled, and the tide turned, and the old craft was found safe, hardly a seam loosened, they, the cunning ones, the long-boat lashed close there, jumped in and cried out to those left on board, “we have saved you; don't voyage further; your surplus is safe here in the longboat; you've a home market new; what you buy of foreigners you must pay gold for; it will make you beg gars; trade among yourselves. Great thought this, of getting out the longboat! No other craft on the ocean, but has one out the same way; if you had only let us put it down sooner, you had not struck; no, sure, only keep us here, and PROTECT us well, and you will never strike again." And the old craft righted and swung loose, and away she sailed, the tariff boat lashed to her side, making her go slower and steer harder; and the long-boat, though of power, BEYOND ALL DOUBT, to save the larger vessel and all her crew, yet unable to save herself, however much she may be protected, but getting water-logged at every rise of the breeze and turn of the tide. But we anticipate.
During nearly forty years, American citizens had been permitted to go wherever they could buy cheapest and sell dearest, and they fancied among themselves, looking only at the net gains, that the liberty was profitable.
But now, in 1816, a different system was proposed. All Europe lay under a paralysis, similar to our own. Her stimulus derived from her wars, and ours derived from our own, had subsided together; and a like prostra
VOL. XII.NO. LVII.
tion, only heavier beyond the Atlantic than here, lay on all the commercial world. And the measure which was to put us on our legs again, before the rest of the earth should think about rising, was this:
Inasmuch as the foreign demand for our raw material-(new countries ever abound in the unmanufactured, as the old do in e manufactured article)-had diminished; there must be constituted a HOME MARKET. As without exports there could be no imports, so, whatever had theretofore been brought from abroad was to be produced at home. But since, notwithstanding the imposts for revenue, foreigners could import their goods, paying freight and all duties, and yet sell cheaper than we could make the like ourselves, a tax, a tariff, must therefore be imposed on the importations, heavy enough to drive those goods away. On their departure, the home manufacturer took possession of the market, and being free from foreign competition then, he added to the cost of manufacturing what of the tax he could, without running the price high enough to let the foreigner in, and this price the consumer had to pay; and the difference between this price, and what, without the tax, foreigners would have furnished him for, is the exact measure of the contribution levied on him to provision and protect the tariff long-boat.
From the occasion and aim of this wise expedient, it is easy to see, that since exports and imports were, in a great measure, to be done away with, our shipping was, to the same extent, to be laid up. Without the tariff it might have been left to get along as it could with the adversity which the altered condition of the world had brought upon it. But since the HOME MARKET was to consume whatever our vessels had heretofore carried away, and since home manufactures were to produce whatever our vessels had brought back, they had no resource left but to pull up to the wharf and rot. The shipping out of the way, it would be easier to reconcile the producers of the raw material to this so-called home market, because reconciled or not reconciled they could get no other; and though they should grumble they could not but submit, and submit none the less how much soever every manufactured article they bought was
enhanced in price. Thus cooped up and hedged in, what could agriculture do with its raw materials, its grain, cotton, wool, hemp, and other "notions," but sell them for what they would fetch, take courage, and be thankful? And why not? Manufacturers are an active, shrewd, improving, acute, everadvancing race-the noblemen of nature; while the agriculturalists are dull, inapt, delving away, from Adam's time to ours, without improvement; so stupid that they are hardly fit for any thing. For God's sake, readers, take not these sentiments for ours; they are Mr. Clay's. Hear ye him:
"There is a great difference in favor of manufactures when compared with agriculture. It is the rapidity with which the whole manufacturing community avail themselves of an improvement. It is instantly communicated and put in operation. There is an avidity for improvement in the one system-an AVERSION from it in the other. THE HABITS OF GENERATION AFTER GENERATION PASS DOWN THE LONG TRACK OF TIME IN PERPETUAL SUCCESSION, WITHOUT THE SLIGHTEST CHANGE IN AGRICULTURE. THE PLOUGHMAN WHO FASTENS HIS PLOUGH TO THE
TAILS OF HIS CATTLE, WILL NOT OWN THAT THERE IS ANY OTHER MODE EQUAL TO HIS."-On the Protection of Home Industry, p. 145.
Those farmers-a brutal set-generation after generation, through the long track of time, in perpetual succession, tying their ploughs to their oxen's tails there-what are they good for, sure enough, but to protect manufactures and save the country, manufactures being the country?
In the two orations of Mr. Clay, for they have an air of too much elaboration to be called speeches, no phrase figures so largely, and hardly any occurs so often as Home Market. It is everywhere represented as the one thing needful, the pearl of great price, a thing really attainable, yet if lost, the acquisition of the whole world besides would nothing profit. Still, often as the phrase occurs, and largely as it figures, it is never once defined; the thing itself indicated is never once described, never located. We are, therefore, left to wonder, and ask what could it be? The farmer, to take a single instance, had his barn full of unthreshed grain, and nowhere to sell
All other farmers were in the same condition. With grain, too, the storehouses were crammed to the eaves. The cities were glutted. It was cheap as dust; nobody hungered; all were gorged full, and lamented that they could eat no more, that the hateful drug might be got out of sight. There was no foreign market.
Now, what under heaven, could this Home Market be? Where was it? Who were the dealers in it? That market which was to carry nothing abroad, but was to buy up, at full price, all this surplus which nobody wanted at any price? The philosopher's stone had been nothing to a discovery like this. Yet it was all simple enough,only protect manufactures! Aye, but the manufacturers were not starving, but were gorged full as the rest; only just like the rest, they made no money, but were getting deeper and deeper into debt. How then was the protection of them to consume the grain? Spinning-jennies and cotton-gins could not eat. For this, an increase of popu lation would alone suffice. And a law of Congress may do many things, but can it create mouths? Can it beget children? If so, then, under the general-welfare clause, the National Legislature had better assume that duty at once, and the Litany say no more about the perils of child-birth.
The truth is, Home Market, thus used, is a word of delusion. In regard to the great products of food, no home market ever could be, nor ever was produced, which did not exist before. Yet this excess of grain was one, nay the greatest, of the evils for which this American system was to provide a remedy. Undoubtedly, however, it had the effect to stop production. But why call this stoppage a home market? Why not give it the true name? Why cajole men with sounds meaning nothing? If nothing more was meant than that the farmers must wait till their surplus was con sumed, and then raise no faster than they could readily sell, why not say so? But then why was an act of Congress necessary? For, ignorant as they were, with their ploughs hitched to their cattle's tails, might they not have been left to themselves to find out that they had better produce no faster than they could sell?
So far, then, as the surplus already