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In his first annual message to Congress on January 8, 1790, President George Washington had stated that “the safety and interest” of a free people “require[s] that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.” This report is one of several that Hamilton, who was the first secretary of the treasury, presented to Congress to jump-start his economic plan for America, the others being his reports on public credit and the national bank. In each, Hamilton used both theory and practice to defend his plan for expanding and strengthening America’s economy to compete on a global scale.
Hamilton read Adam Smith, which is evidenced in his discussion of the division of labor; however, he does not agree with all of Smith’s principles. He is writing in the context of the global economic policy of mercantilism. However, reception and implementation of the report two years later demonstrates that Hamilton’s tariffs were meant to fund public debt rather than discourage imports.
Source: Report on Manufactures, in The Works of Alexander Hamilton, ed. Henry Cabot Lodge (Federal Edition) (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). In 12 vols. Vol. 4. https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/hamilton-the-works-of-alexander-hamilton-federal-edition-vol-4?q=HAMILTON+#Hamilton_0249-04_1 (accessed March 18, 2020).
Communicated to the House of Representatives,
December 5, 1791
The secretary of the treasury, in obedience to the order of the House of Representatives, of the 15th day of January, 1790, has applied his attention, at as early a period as his other duties would permit, to the subject of Manufactures, and particularly to the means of promoting such as will tend to render the United States independent of foreign nations for military and other essential supplies; and he thereupon respectfully submits the following report:
The expediency of encouraging manufactures in the United States, which was not long since deemed very questionable, appears at this time to be pretty generally admitted. The embarrassments which have obstructed the progress of our external domestic commerce. The restrictive regulations, which, in foreign markets, abridge the vent of the increasing surplus of our agriculture produce, serve to beget an earnest desire that a more extensive demand for that surplus may be created at home; and the complete success which has rewarded manufacturing enterprise in some valuable branches, conspiring with the promising symptoms which attend of this species of industry are less formidable than they were apprehended to be, and that it is not difficult to find, in its further extension, a full indemnification for any external disadvantages, which are or may be experienced, as well as an accession of resources, favorable to national independence and safety.
. . .
It is now proper to proceed a step further, and to enumerate the principle circumstances from which it may be inferred that manufacturing establishments not only occasion a positive augmentation of the produce and revenue of the society, but that they contribute essentially to rendering them greater than they could possibly be without such establishments. These circumstances are:
1.The division of labor.
2.An extension of the use of machinery.
3.Additional employment to classes of the community not ordinarily engaged in the business.
4.The promoting of emigration from foreign countries.
5.The furnishing greater scope for the diversity of talents and dispositions, which discriminate men from each other.
6.The affording a more ample and various field for enterprise.
7.The creating, in some instances, a new, and securing, in all, a more certain and steady demand for the surplus produce of the soil.
Each of these circumstances has a considerable influence upon the total mass of industrious effort in a community; together, they add to it a degree of energy and effect which is not easily conceived.
. . .
III. Previously to a further discussion of the objections to the encouragement of manufactures, which have been stated, it will be of use to see what can be said, in reference to the particular situation of the United States, against the conclusion appearing to result from what has been already offered.
It may be observed, and the idea is of no inconsiderable weight, that however true it might be that a state which, possessing large tracts of vacant and fertile territory, was, at the same time, secluded from foreign commerce, would find its interest and the interest of agriculture in diverting a part of its population from tillage to manufactures, yet it will not follow, that the same is true of a state which, having such vacant and fertile territory, has, at the same time, ample opportunity of procuring from abroad, on good terms, all the fabrics of which it stands in need, for the supply of its inhabitants. The power of doing this, at least secures the great advantage of a division of labor, leaving the farmer free to pursue, exclusively, the culture of his land, and enabling him to procure with its products the manufactured supplies requisite either to his wants or to his enjoyments. And though it should be true that, in settled countries, the diversification of industry is conducive to an increase in the productive powers of labor, and to an augmentation of revenue and capital, yet it is scarcely conceivable that there can be anything of so solid and permanent advantage to an uncultivated and unpeopled country, as to convert its wastes into cultivated and inhabited districts. If the revenue, in the meantime, should be less, the capital, in the event, must be greater.
To these observations, the following appears to be a satisfactory answer:
1st. If the system of perfect liberty to industry and commerce were the prevailing system of nations, the arguments which dissuade a country, in the predicament of the United States, from the zealous pursuit of manufactures, would doubtless have great force. It will not be affirmed that they might not be permitted, with few exceptions, to serve as a rule of national conduct. In such a state of things, each country would have the full benefit of its peculiar advantages to compensate for its deficiencies or disadvantages. If one nation were in a condition to supply manufactured articles on better terms than another, that other might find an abundant indemnification in a superior capacity to furnish the produce of the soil. And a free exchange, mutually beneficial, of the commodities which each was able to supply, on the best terms, might be carried on between them, supporting, in full vigor, the industry of each. And though the circumstances which have been mentioned, and others which will be unfolded hereafter, render it probable that nations, merely agricultural, would not enjoy the same degree of opulence, in proportion to their numbers, as those which united manufactures with agriculture, yet the progressive improvement of the lands of the former might, in the end, atone for an inferior degree of opulence in the meantime; and in a case in which opposite considerations are pretty equally balanced, the option ought, perhaps, always be in favor of leaving industry to its own direction.
But the system which has been mentioned is far from characterizing the general policy of nations. The prevalent one has been regulated by an opposite spirit. The consequence of it is, that the United States are, to a certain extent, in the situation of a country precluded from foreign commerce. They can, indeed, without difficulty, obtain from abroad the manufactured supplies of which they are in want; but they experience numerous and very injurious impediments to the emission and vent of their own commodities. Nor is this the case in reference to a single foreign nation only. The regulations of several countries, with which we have the most extensive intercourse, throw serious obstructions in the way of the principal staples of the United States.
In such a position of things, the United States cannot exchange with Europe on equal terms; and the want of reciprocity would render them the victim of a system which should induce them to confine their views to agriculture, and refrain from manufactures. A constant and increasing necessity, on their part, for the commodities of Europe, and only a partial and occasional demand for their own, in return, could not but expose them to a state of impoverishment, compared with the opulence to which their political and natural advantages authorize them to aspire.
Remarks of this kind are not made in the spirit of complaint. It is for the nations whose regulations are alluded to, to judge for themselves, whether, by aiming at too much, they do not lose more than they gain. It is for the United States to consider by what means they can render themselves least dependent on the combinations, right or wrong, of foreign policy.
It is no small consolation that, already, the measures which have embarrassed our trade have accelerated internal improvements, which, upon the whole, have bettered our affairs. To diversify and extend these improvements is the surest and safest method of indemnifying ourselves for any inconveniences which those or similar measures have a tendency to beget. If Europe will not take from us the products of our soil, upon terms consistent with our interest, the natural remedy is to contract, as fast as possible, our wants of her.
2d. The conversion of their waste into cultivated lands is certainly a point of great moment in the political calculations of the United States. But the degree in which this may possibly be retarded by the encouragement of manufactories, does not appear to countervail the powerful inducements to afford that encouragement.
An observation made in another place is of a nature to have great influence upon this question. If it cannot be denied, that the interests, even of agriculture, may be advanced more by having such of the lands of a State as are occupied, under good cultivation, than by having a greater quantity occupied under a much inferior cultivation; and if manufactories, for the reasons assigned, must be admitted to have a tendency to promote a more steady and vigorous cultivation of the lands occupied than would happen without them, it will follow that they are capable of indemnifying a country for a diminution of the progress of new settlements, and may serve to increase both the capital value and the income of its lands, even though they should abridge the number of acres under tillage.
But it does by no means follow, that the progress of new settlements would be retarded by the extension of manufactures. The desire of being an independent proprietor of land is founded on such strong principles in the human breast, that, where the opportunity of becoming so is as great as it is in the United States, the proportion will be small of those whose situations would otherwise lead to it, who would be diverted from it towards manufactures. And it is highly probable, as already intimated, that the accession of foreigners, who, originally drawn over by manufacturing views, would afterward abandon them for agricultural, would be more than an equivalent for those of our own citizens who might happen to be detached from them.
The remaining objections to a particular encouragement of manufactures in the United States now require to be examined.
One of these turns on the proposition, that industry, if left to itself, will naturally find its way to the most useful and profitable employment. Whence it is inferred that manufactures, without the aid of government, will grow up as soon and as fast as the natural state of things and the interest of the community may require.
Against the solidity of this hypothesis, in the full latitude of the terms, very cogent reasons may be offered. These have relation to the strong influence of habit and the spirit of imitation; the fear of want of success in untried enterprises; the intrinsic difficulties incident to first essays towards a competition with those who have previously attained to perfection in the business to be attempted: the bounties, premiums, and other artificial encouragements with which foreign nations second the exertions of their own citizens, in the branches in which they are to be rivalled.
. . .
The superiority antecedently enjoyed by nations who have preoccupied and perfected a branch of industry, constitutes a more formidable obstacle than either of those which have been mentioned, to the introduction of the same branch into a country in which it did not before exist. To maintain, between the recent establishments of one country, and the long-matured establishments of another country, a competition upon equal terms, both as to quality and price, is, in most cases, impracticable. The disparity, in the one, or in the other, or in both, must necessarily be so considerable, as to forbid a successful rivalship, without the extraordinary aid and protection of government.
But the greatest obstacle of all to the successful prosecution of a new branch of industry in a country in which it was before unknown, consists, as far as the instances apply, in the bounties, premiums, and other aids which are granted, in a variety of cases, by the nations in which the establishments to be imitated are previously introduced. It is well known (and particular examples, in the course of this report, will be cited) that certain nations grant bounties on the exportation of particular commodities, to enable their own workmen to undersell and supplant all competitors in the countries to which those commodities are sent. Hence the undertakers of a new manufacture have to contend, not only with the natural disadvantages of a new undertaking, but with the gratuities and remunerations which other governments bestow. To be enabled to contend with success, it is evident that the interference and aid of their own governments are indispensable. . . .
The objections to the pursuit of manufactures in the United States which next present themselves to discussion, represent an impracticability of success, arising from three causes: scarcity of hands, dearness of labor, want of capital.
The two first circumstances are, to a certain extent, real; and, within due limits, ought to be admitted as obstacles to the success of manufacturing enterprise in the United States. But there are various considerations which lessen their force, and tend to afford an assurance that they are not sufficient to prevent the advantageous prosecution of many very useful and extensive manufactories.
. . .
The effect of a funded debt, as a species of capital, has been noticed upon a former occasion; but a more particular elucidation of the point seems to be required, by the stress which is here laid upon it. This shall, accordingly, be attempted.
Public funds answer the purpose of capital, from the estimation in which they are usually held by moneyed men; and, consequently, from the ease and dispatch with which they can be turned into money. This capacity of prompt convertibility into money causes a transfer of stock to be, in a great number of cases, equivalent to a payment in coin. And where it does not happen to suit the party who is to receive, to accept a transfer of stock, the party who is to pay is never at a loss to find, elsewhere, a purchaser of his stock, who will furnish him, in lieu of it, with the coin of which he stands in need.
Hence, in a sound and settled state of the public funds, a man possessed of a sum in them, can embrace any scheme of business which offers, with as much confidence as if he were possessed of an equal sum in coin.
. . .
It ought not, however, to be omitted, that the negotiation of the funds becomes itself a distinct business, which employs, and, by employing, diverts, a portion of the circulating coin from other pursuits. But, making due allowance for this circumstance, there is no reason to conclude that the effect of the diversion of coin, in the whole operation, bears any considerable proportion to the amount of the capital to which it gives activity. The sum of the debt in circulation is continually at the command of any useful enterprise; the coin itself, which circulates it, is never more than momentarily suspended from its ordinary functions. It experiences an incessant and rapid flux and reflux, to and from the channels of industry, to those of speculations in the funds.
. . .
But though a funded debt is not, in the first instance, an absolute increase of capital, or an augmentation of real wealth, yet, by serving as a new power in the operations of industry, it has, within certain bounds, a tendency to increase the real wealth of a community, in like manner as money, borrowed by a thrifty farmer to be laid out in the improvement of his farm, may, in the end, add to his stock of real riches.
. . .
To all the arguments which are brought to evince the impracticability of success in manufacturing establishments in the United States, it might have been a sufficient answer to have referred to the experience of what has been already done. It is certain that several important branches have grown up and flourished, with a rapidity which surprises, affording an encouraging assurance of success in future attempts. Of these it may not be improper to enumerate the most considerable.
- Of skins.—Tanned and tawed leather, dressed skins, shoes, boots, and slippers, harness and saddlery of all kinds, portmanteaus and trunks, leather breeches, gloves, muffs, and tippets, parchment and glue.
- Of iron.—Bar and sheet iron, steel, nail rods and nails, implements of husbandry, stoves, pots, and other household utensils, the steel and iron work of carriages, and for ship-building, anchors, scale beams and weights, and various tools of artificers, arms of different kinds; though the manufacture of these last has of late diminished for want of demand.
- Of wood.—Ships, cabinet wares, and turnery, wool and cotton cards, and other machinery for manufactures and husbandry, mathematical instruments, coopers’ wares of every kind.
- Of flax and hemp.—Cables, sail cloth, cordage, twine, and pack thread.
- Bricks and coarse tiles, and potters’ wares.
- Ardent spirits and malt liquors.
- Writing and printing paper, sheathing and wrapping paper, pasteboard, fullers’ or press papers, paper hangings.
- Hats of fur and wool, and mixtures of both; women’s stuff and silk shoes.
- Refined sugars.
- Oils of animals and seeds, soap, spermaceti and tallow candles.
- Copper and brass wires, particularly utensils for distillers, sugar refiners, and brewers; andirons and other articles for household use, philosophical apparatus.
- Tin wares for most purposes of ordinary use.
- Carriages of all kinds.
- Snuff, chewing and smoking tobacco.
- Starch and hair-powder.
- Lampblack, and other painters’ colors.
Besides manufactories of these articles, which are carried on as regular trades, and have attained to a considerable degree of maturity, there is a vast scene of household manufacturing, which contributes more largely to the supply of the community than could be imagined without having made it an object of particular inquiry. This observation is the pleasing result of the investigation to which the subject of this report has led, and is applicable as well to the Southern as to the Middle and Northern States. Great quantities of coarse cloths, coatings, serges, and flannels, linsey woolseys, hosiery of wool, cotton, and thread, coarse fustians, jeans, and muslins, checked and striped cotton and linen goods, bedticks, coverlets and counterpanes, tow linens, coarse shirtings, sheetings, toweling, and table linen, and various mixtures of wool and cotton, and of cotton and flax, are made in the household way, and, in many instances, to an extent not only sufficient for the supply of the families in which they are made, but for sale, and even, in some cases, for exportation. It is computed in a number of districts that two thirds, three fourths, and even four fifths of all the clothing of the inhabitants are made by themselves. The importance of so great a progress as appears to have been made in family manufactures, within a few years, both in a moral and political view, renders the fact highly interesting.
Neither does the above enumeration comprehend all the articles that are manufactured, as regular trades. Many others occur, which are equally well established, but which, not being of equal importance, have been omitted. And there are many attempts, still in their infancy, which, though attended with very favorable appearances, could not have been properly comprised in an enumeration of manufactories already established. There are other articles, also, of great importance, which, though, strictly speaking, manufactures, are omitted, as being immediately connected with husbandry: such are flour, pot- and pearl-ashes, pitch, tar, turpentine, and the like.
There remains to be noticed an objection to the encouragement of manufactures, of a nature different from those which question the probability of success. This is derived from its supposed tendency to give a monopoly of advantages to particular classes, at the expense of the rest of the community, who, it is affirmed, would be able to procure the requisite supplies of manufactured articles on better terms from foreigners than from our own citizens; and who, it is alleged, are reduced to the necessity of paying an enhanced price for whatever they want, by every measure which obstructs the free competition of foreign commodities.
It is not an unreasonable supposition, that measures which serve to abridge the free competition of foreign articles, have a tendency to occasion an enhancement of prices; and it is not to be denied that such is the effect, in a number of cases; but the fact does not uniformly correspond with the theory. A reduction of prices has, in several instances, immediately succeeded the establishment of a domestic manufacture. Whether it be that foreign manufacturers endeavor to supplant, by underselling our own, or whatever else be the cause, the effect has been such as is stated, and the reverse of what might have been expected.
But, though it were true that the immediate and certain effect of regulations controlling the competition of foreign with domestic fabrics was an increase of price, it is universally true that the contrary is the ultimate effect with every successful manufacture. When a domestic manufacture has attained to perfection, and has engaged in the prosecution of it a certain number of persons, it invariably becomes cheaper. Being free from the heavy charges which attend the importation of foreign commodities, it can be afforded, and accordingly seldom or never fails to be sold, cheaper, in process of time, than was the foreign article for which it is a substitute. The internal competition which takes place soon does away with everything like monopoly, and by degrees reduces the price of the article to the minimum of a reasonable profit on the capital employed. This accords with the reason of the thing, and with experience.
Whence it follows, that it is the interest of a community, with a view to eventual and permanent economy, to encourage the growth of manufactures. In a national view, a temporary enhancement of price must always be well compensated by a permanent reduction of it.
It is a reflection which may with propriety be indulged here, that this eventual diminution of the prices of manufactured articles, which is the result of internal manufacturing establishments, has a direct and very important tendency to benefit agriculture. It enables the farmer to procure, with a smaller quantity of his labor, the manufactured produce of which he stands in need, and consequently increases the value of his income and property.
The objections which are commonly made to the expediency of encouraging, and to the probability of succeeding in, manufacturing pursuits, in the United States, having now been discussed, the considerations, which have appeared in the course of the discussion, recommending that species of industry to the patronage of the government, will be materially strengthened by a few general and some particular topics, which have been naturally reserved for subsequent notice.
- There seems to be a moral certainty that the trade of a country which is both manufacturing and agricultural, will be more lucrative and prosperous than that of a country which is merely agricultural.
One reason for this is found in that general effort of nations (which has been already mentioned) to procure from their own soils the articles of prime necessity requisite to their own consumption and use, and which serves to render their demand for a foreign supply of such articles, in a great degree, occasional and contingent. Hence, while the necessities of nations exclusively devoted to agriculture, for the fabrics of manufacturing states, are constant and regular, the wants of the latter for the products of the former are liable to very considerable fluctuations and interruptions. The great inequalities resulting from difference of seasons have been, elsewhere, remarked. This uniformity of demand on one side, and unsteadiness of it on the other, must necessarily have a tendency to cause the general course of the exchange of commodities between the parties to turn to the disadvantage of the merely agricultural states. Peculiarity of situation, a climate and soil adapted to the production of peculiar commodities, may, sometimes, contradict the rule, but there is every reason to believe that it will be found, in the main, a just one.
Another circumstance, which gives a superiority of commercial advantages to states that manufacture as well as cultivate, consists in the more numerous attractions which a more diversified market offers to foreign customers, and in the greater scope which it affords to mercantile enterprise. It is a position of indisputable truth, in commerce, depending too on very obvious reasons, that the greatest resort will ever be to those marts where commodities, while equally abundant, are most various. Each difference of kind holds out an additional inducement; and it is a position not less clear, that the field of enterprise must be enlarged to the merchants of a country, in proportion to the variety as well as the abundance of commodities which they find at home for exportation to foreign markets.
A third circumstance, perhaps not inferior to either of the other two, conferring the superiority which has been stated, has relation to the stagnations of demand for certain commodities, which, at some time or other, interfere more or less with the sale of all. The nation which can bring to market but few articles is likely to be more quickly and sensibly affected by such stagnations, than one which is always possessed of a great variety of commodities; the former frequently finds too great a proportion of its stock of materials for sale or exchange lying on hand, or is obliged to make injurious sacrifices to supply its wants of foreign articles, which are numerous and urgent in proportion to the smallness of the number of its own. The latter commonly finds itself indemnified, by the high prices of some articles, for the low prices of others; and the prompt and advantageous sale of those articles which are in demand, enables its merchants the better to wait for a more favorable change in respect to those which are not. There is ground to believe that a difference of situation, in this particular, has immensely different effects upon the wealth and prosperity of nations.
From these circumstances, collectively, two important inferences are to be drawn: one, that there is always a higher probability of a favorable balance of trade, in regard to countries in which manufactures, founded on the basis of a thriving agriculture, flourish, than in regard to those which are confined wholly, or almost wholly, to agriculture; the other (which is also a consequence of the first), that countries of the former description are likely to possess more pecuniary wealth, or money, than those of the latter.
Facts appear to correspond with this conclusion. The importations of manufactured supplies seem invariably to drain the merely agricultural people of their wealth. Let the situation of the manufacturing countries of Europe be compared, in this particular, with that of countries which only cultivate, and the disparity will be striking. Other causes, it is true, help to account for this disparity between some of them; and among these causes, the relative state of agriculture; but between others of them, the most prominent circumstance of dissimilitude arises from the comparative state of manufactures. In corrobation of the same idea, it ought not to escape remark, that the West India Islands, the soils of which are the most fertile, and the nation which, in the greatest degree, supplies the rest of the world with the precious metals, exchange to a loss with almost every other country.
. . .
Not only the wealth but the independence and security of a country appear to be materially connected with the prosperity of manufactures. Every nation, with a view to those great objects, ought to endeavor to possess within itself, all the essentials of national supply. These comprise the means of subsistence, habitation, clothing, and defense.
The possession of these is necessary to the perfection of the body politic; to the safety as well as to the welfare of the society. The want of either is the want of an important organ of political life and motion; and in the various crises which await a state, it must severely feel the effects of any such deficiency. The extreme embarrassments of the United States during the late war, from an incapacity of supplying themselves, are still matter of keen recollection; a future war might be expected again to exemplify the mischiefs and dangers of a situation to which that incapacity is still, in too great a degree, applicable, unless changed by timely and vigorous exertion. To effect this change, as fast as shall be prudent, merits all the attention and all the zeal of our public councils: ’t is the next great work to be accomplished.
The want of a navy, to protect our external commerce, as long as it shall continue, must render it a peculiarly precarious reliance for the supply of essential articles, and must serve to strengthen prodigiously the arguments in favor of manufactures. . . . The charges on manufactured supplies, brought from Europe, are greatly enhanced by the same circumstances of distance. . . .
One more point of view only remains, in which to consider the expediency of encouraging manufactures in the United States.
It is not uncommon to meet with an opinion, that, though the promoting of manufactures may be the interest of a part of the Union, it is contrary to that of another part. The Northern and Southern regions are sometimes represented as having adverse interests in this respect. Those are called manufacturing, these agricultural States; and a species of opposition is imagined to subsist between the manufacturing and agricultural interests.
This idea of an opposition between those two interests is the common error of the early periods of every country; but experience gradually dissipates it. Indeed, they are perceived so often to succor and befriend each other, that they come at length to be considered as one—a supposition which has been frequently abused, and is not universally true. Particular encouragements of particular manufactures may be of a nature to sacrifice the interests of land-holders to those of manufacturers; but it is nevertheless a maxim, well established by experience, and generally acknowledged, where there has been sufficient experience, that the aggregate prosperity of manufactures and the aggregate prosperity of agriculture are intimately connected. In the course of the discussion which has had place, various weighty considerations have been adduced, operating in support of that maxim. Perhaps the superior steadiness of the demand of a domestic market, for the surplus produce of the soil, is, alone, a convincing argument of its truth.
Ideas of a contrariety of interests between the Northern and Southern regions of the Union are, in the main, as unfounded as they are mischievous. The diversity of circumstances, on which such contrariety is usually predicated, authorizes a directly contrary conclusion. Mutual wants constitute one of the strongest links of political connection; and the extent of these bears a natural proportion to the diversity in the means of mutual supply. . . . In proportion as the mind is accustomed to trace the intimate connection of interest which subsists between all the parts of a society united under the same government, the infinite variety of channels will serve to circulate the prosperity of each, to and through the rest,—in that proportion will be little apt to be disturbed by solicitudes and apprehensions which originate in local discriminations.
. . .
A full view having now been taken of the inducements to the promotion of manufactures in the United States, accompanied with an examination of the principal objections which are commonly urged in opposition, it is proper, in the next place, to consider the means by which it may be effected, as introductory to a specification of the objects, which, in the present state of things, appear the most fit to be encouraged, and of the particular measures which it may be advisable to adopt, in respect to each.
In order to a better judgment of the means proper to be resorted to by the United States, it will be of use to advert to those which have been employed with success in other countries. The principal of these are:
- Protecting duties—or duties on those foreign articles which are the rivals of the domestic ones intended to be encouraged
- Prohibitions of rival articles, or duties equivalent to prohibitions
- Prohibitions of the exportation of the materials of manufactures
- Pecuniary bounties
- The exemption of the materials of manufactures from duty
- Drawbacks of the duties which are imposed on the materials of manufactures
- The encouragement of new inventions and discoveries at home, and of the introduction into the United States of such as may have been made in other countries; particularly those which relate to machinery
- Fudicious regulations for the inspection of manufactured commodities
- The facilitating of pecuniary remittances from place to place
- The facilitating of the transportation of commodities
. . .
The foregoing are the principal of the means by which the growth of manufactures is ordinarily promoted. It is, however, not merely necessary that the measures of government which have a direct view to manufactures, should be calculated to assist and protect them, but that those which only collaterally affect them in the general course of the administration, should be guarded from any peculiar tendency to injure them.
There are certain species of taxes, which are apt to be oppressive to different parts of the community, and, among other ill effects, have a very unfriendly aspect towards manufactures. All poll or capitation taxes are of this nature. They either proceed according to a fixed rate, which operates unequally and injuriously to the industrious poor, or they vest a discretion, in certain officers, to make estimates and assessments, which are necessarily vague, conjectural, and liable to abuse. They ought, therefore, to be abstained from in all but cases of distressing emergency.
. . .
Arbitrary taxes, under which denomination are comprised all those that leave the quantum of the tax to be raised on each person to the discretion of certain officers, are as contrary to the genius of liberty as to the maxims of industry. In this light they have been viewed by the most judicious observers on government, who have bestowed upon them the severest epithets of reprobation, as constituting one of the worst features usually to be met with in the practice of despotic governments.
It is certain, at least, that such taxes are particularly inimical to the success of manufacturing industry, and ought carefully to be avoided by a government which desires to promote it.
. . .
In countries where there is great private wealth, much may be effected by the voluntary contributions of patriotic individuals; but in a community situated like that of the United States, the public purse must supply the deficiency of private resource. In what can it be so useful, as in prompting and improving the efforts of industry?
All which is humbly submitted.
- 1. Annals of Congress, January 8, 1790, p. 969.
- 2. Irwin, Douglas A. “Aftermath of Hamilton’s ‘Report on Manufactures.’” Journal of Economic History 64 (3), 2004, 800-821.
- 3. Hamilton may be referring to Adam Smith here as he uses the same language. Hamilton’s report seems to follow the argument of the Wealth of Nations closely, though Hamilton does not directly reference Smith and only quotes him directly near the end of the report on facilitating transportation of commodities.
- 4. Hamilton refers to his Report on Public Credit, January 14, 1790.
- 5. Hamilton’s explanation of how to implement each of these suggestions has been omitted for brevity.
- 6. As elsewhere in the report, Hamilton cites Smith’s Wealth of Nations (WN I.xi.b.5) to support this point (though not by name).
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