Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/59

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

totally unfounded. The champions of both free trade and protection have hitherto waged their combats clothed in mail. Their swords have been of lead; their lances, wood. And, like the modern French duels, no lives have been lost and no blood shed. Hence the duration of the contest; hence its fruitlessness. Tariff discussions have been conducted on the assumption that the prosperity of trade was due to one of two systems. Instead of working from effect to cause, the cause has been assumed, and the struggle has been an endeavor to reconcile given facts with given theories. Hitherto it has been a drawn battle. As often as the advocates of commercial restriction have laid claim to those periods of national prosperity when their system happened to be in vogue as evidence of its success, the free-traders have as often and with equal right claimed like success under eras of free trade. And when these have associated times of commercial depression with the protective system, their opponents have retorted by instancing years in which free trade was accompanied with panics and business stagnation. The high-tariff periods of 1824 to 1833 and 1842 to 1846 are offset by the low-tariff period of 1840 to 1856, and the panic of 1857 by that of 1873. The growth of the iron industry under protection is balanced by the death of the shipbuilding industry during the same time. With such instances, gathered from a century's experience, the cause of the duration of this contest—which threatens to be perpetual—becomes apparent when we consider the lines along which the battle has hitherto been conducted. In England it was conducted somewhat differently, hence the results were different. There the leaders fought with sterner weapons, and the fight was fought to a finish. The difference between the English free-traders and the so-called free-traders of the United States consists in the former professing what their name indicates. They have followed their theory to its logical conclusion. The latter, however, have always stopped short of absolute free trade. Often, in fact, the dispute on this side of the Atlantic has been nothing more than one of "tweedle-dee" and "tweedle-dum." Instead of a difference of principle, it has generally been one of percentages. We think the fruitlessness of these controversies has been due principally to the method of reasoning employed. Both sides have used the same arguments, and both have been equally effective. Both parties have rested their claims on the teachings of experience, and both have drawn equal encouragement from similar results. It becomes evident that so long as this position is maintained, so long the discussion will remain in statu quo ante bellum.

Recently, attention has been called to a renewal of the combat, and the occasion has received more than ordinary attention, owing to the great distinction of the combatants. Indeed, it is doubtful