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adoption of the late report of the war department, on classing the militia, so as to place the effective force of the nation at command; and the third, the suppression of all paper circulation during peace, and allowing a national currency in war, on the credit of specific taxes pledged for the redemption of the paper.
In thus denouncing drawbacks, Mr. Jefferson deviates from the commercial policy which he had repeatedly favoured when in public life, as well as from the sound principles of political economy, on account of the supposed tendency of the system to embroil us with foreign nations; and it is probably owing to the weight of his authority that we may ascribe the attempt that was subsequently made in Congress to repeal it, and perhaps Mr. Crawford's letter in 1816. The plan, however, seems to have been properly rejected. The object of the system is to encourage foreign commerce, only so far as by taking off that duty or restriction which has been previously imposed, to re
re trade to its natural freedom, and the direction of capital to that course it would spontaneously take. It must often happen that a nation extensively engaged in foreign trade, will find it convenient to take as a return cargo what is not wanted for home consumption, or what may be more valuable in another country. Sound policy would recommend that the exportation of such arti. cles should not be discouraged. Now if, as is commonly the case, they have paid a duty on being imported, and this duty is not returned on the re-exportation, the effect of the policy would be to deprive the merchant of a profit he might otherwise make, the ships and sailors of employment, and the community of a more regularly supplied market by means of the return cargo. It is true that the public revenue is diminished by the amount of the duty thus returned, but as that would have been virtually paid by the consumer, the amount saved to the community is equal to the amount lost to the treasury; but the profit that might have been made by the re-exportation, is an uncompensated loss. Nor is this all, for if commodities are thus fettered when once imported, it will greatly check importation, and instead of keeping the market always adequately supplied, so as to afford all articles at the lowest price at which they can be afforded, they must sometimes necessarily be above this price, from the fear of overstocking the market. A higher tax will thus be levied on the community by the merchant, and yet the sum of his gains will be diminished by this inconvenient restriction. Drawbacks then merely restore foreign trade to its natural course, which had been previously disturbed by the import, and that course is always the most beneficial to the nation.
But say Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Crawford, granting that it encourages the carrying trade and the shipping interests, yet it is in this very way that it excites the jealousy of our commercial rivals, and exposes us to their lawless vexations, to disputes, and finally to war. This argument assumes that it is better to surrender an unquestioned right than to incur the risk of quarrel in defending it; and a nation that would show that it acted on this principle, (nor could its motives be concealed,) would give an invitation to aggression on its rights that would not be easily resisted. Nothing more need be done than to set up some plausible pretexts for invading any of its rights, and the same timid policy would recommend the surrender of the debateable ground, rather than to quarrel and fight about it. It is clear that if it is the interest of the navigating class of Great Britain to prevent the United States from carrying for other nations, it is equally her interest to prevent them for carrying for themselves. Nay, it is much more so, since they employ ten times as much shipping in the last business as in the first. For this country then to give up one branch of its rightful trade without a struggle, would certainly hold out an inducement to England to attempt to drive it from the other; and thus the evil sought to be avoided would not be prevented, but only postponed, until the nation should be goaded into resistance. When, however, it has finally resolved to assert its rights by an appeal to arms, it does so under the double disadvantage of the loss it has tamely submitted to, and of acting against its own previous example; a circumstance which gives courage and confidence to an enemy, and is proportionally dispiriting to ourselves. In these cases of clear invasions of right, it is with nations as with individuals, safety is best found in courage; and a prompt resistance of injustice is the surest way of preventing it.
Mr. Jefferson himself, a few years before, had persuaded himself that it was the settled policy of Great Britain to drive Americans from the ocean, from a dread not merely of their future rivalry of her maritime power, but also of her commerce. If so, the voluntary adoption of this policy would have been to second her purpose to a considerable extent, without any cost or exertion on her part. Fortunately other councils prevailed, and our commerce and shipping have increased to that point, which in case of another war, would enable them to defend themselves.
The second measure of policy recommended by him, that of disciplining the elile of the militia so as to have it always in readiness to take the field, would certainly be a very efficient measure, and may have been once a very prudent one; but in the present state of the world, it seems hardly necessary to introduce so great an innovation on the settled habits of the people. No wise nation will neglect the art of war, which so multiplies the physical force of a country, and which, having shown itself so formidable an engine for assailing and overpowering independent nations, should be made to exert the same power in their defence; but this art, and the necessary military spirit, may be kept up without so inconvenient a tax on the time of the young men as the scheme in question proposes.
The third measure, of prohibiting the issue of paper money, except in time of war, and then to confine the benefit of it to the government, would unquestionably greatly increase the resources, but there would be some difficulties in the way of its execution; and supposing them removed, it may be questioned whether the advantage would be worth the price paid for it.
The execution of the plan would not be without difficulty; for, after a people have had experience of the advantages of paper over metallic money, as to cheapness, facility of transmission, security, and saving of time, it is not easy to deprive them of it, but hy interdictions which would forbid ordinary commercial dealings: and supposing paper currency of all kinds banished, both that issued by banks and by individuals, then, on the approach of a war, when it was resorted to, the public may be slow to give credit to a currency to which they were unused. But there is another obstacle to be overcome, and that is the paper money of adjoining states, which would necessarily circulate to a greater or less extent in this.
All these measures, however, are recommended by their bear. ing on the national defence, and on this subject the circumstances of this country are very much changed in the twenty years which have passed away since Mr. Jefferson's letter was written, and will get further change with an accelerated pace. 1. There has since been such an increase of capital, and the national credit stands so high by its augmented resources and the discharge of its debt, that it could borrow any sum that the exigencies of war may be supposed to require, without difficulty? 2. The navy has greatly increased in strength, and could in a short time be made sufficiently strong, when united, to be formi. dable to any force that could be detached, and permanently stationed on this side of the Atlantic. 3. Our chief harbours could not be safely blocked up by single ships or small squadrons, and to leave some open would leave enough to supply the country with foreign merchandise, and of course to supply the treasury with money. 4. The facilities of inland transportation have been so multiplied since the last war, by means of canals, railroads, and steamboats, that merchandise can now be sent along the Atlantic 100 miles with as little expense as 10 miles formerly. 5. And lastly, manufactures, for which the country was almost wholly dependent on foreign countries, have been so extended in variety and amount, and improved in quality, that, under the fustering encouragement of a war, the supply of all the most important commodities might soon become equal to the demand. In the rapid growth of this country the difficulties which are appalling to one generation, disappear in the next. So that it seems unnecessary to resort to the untried expedient recommended by Mr. Jefferson.
Mr. Jefferson's views of the Constitution of Virginia. Letter to Mr.
Kercheval. Distribution of power. Supposed wisdom of ancestors. Periodical revisions of the Constitution. The subsequent Constitution of Virginia compared with his views. Independence of the Judiciary. County Courts. Amendments of the Constitution. Public Debts. The right of representation for Slaves. Letter to Mr. Adams. System of Morals. Efforts to improve Education in Virginia. Central College. Legislative measures. Location of the University. Letter to Mr. Adams. Spanish America. Letter to Mr. Gallatin. Power to make Roads and Canals considered. Construction of the power to lay Taxes.
Ever since the adoption of the constitution of Virginia, in 1776, there had been opposition to it, which had been incurred by the objections urged against it by Mr. Jefferson in his notes. One of the strongest grounds of complaint was the inequality of representation which it sanctioned, as every county in the state was represented by two members, while the population of some was ten times as great as that of others; and the small counties lay chiefly in the tide water district. There had been repeated efforts to call a convention to revise this instrument, but the power which was complained of had been sufficient to defeat a measure by which that power would certainly be abridged. But in 1816, the western counties having been disappointed in