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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/858

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be subsequently used for larger manufacturing, as a feature of protection to its domestic industry, but rather as antagonistic to and destructive of such industry; and that while such taxation in the United States had undoubtedly built up some industries and enriched their owners, it had been a great restraint on the development of a much larger and higher class of industries, employing many more workmen and paying much higher average wages; a taxation imposed then and now, for example, of from thirty to forty millions per annum on the importation of crude and partially manufactured articles, being a tax of ten per cent on a product of three or four hundred millions of finished products, thereby excluding them from all sales in the markets of the world, in competition with similar products not subject to such pi-ice enhancement. And, second, that the countries of Europe—like Russia and Austria—in which the average rates of wages are lowest, were the most clamorous for protective duties on foreign imports; and that high wages in any country, conjoined with the extensive and skillful use of machinery, instead of being evidences of industrial weakness, were evidences of great industrial strength; inasmuch as no employer can continuously pay high wages unless bis product is large, his labor most effective, and his cost of product, measured in terms of labor, low. These personal experiences in respect to European industry, coupled with a subsequent study of our customs system, and a complete redrafting of our whole tariff rates under instructions from Congress through the Secretary of the Treasury, gradually, and greatly against all his preconceived ideas, led Mr. Wells to a complete abandonment of his original position as a strong protectionist, and to the adoption of the belief that free trade, made subordinate to revenue and progressively but tentatively entered upon, was for the best interest of the whole country.

The announcement of these views, and especially the publication of his report for 1869, created great opposition among the protectionists, and Horace Greeley publicly charged that Mr. Wells had been corrupted through British gold distributed through the agency of Mr. A. T. Stewart. Mr. Stewart, exceedingly angry at being brought into this matter, desired that Mr. Wells should at once institute proceedings for libel, and several leading members of the New York bar volunteered to take charge of the case. But Mr. Wells felt that it was not necessary to vindicate his public or private character by any such action, and refused to become a party to it. The story, nevertheless, found extensive credence, and is undoubtedly believed by many persons at the present time who are unable otherwise to account for such a change in the economic opinions of the Commissioner so shortly after his return from Europe.

A draft for a very complete revision of the tariff, prepared by Mr. Wells in accordance with instructions, together with a full and