February 14, 1861, Page 4,
The New York Times Archives

                                            Editorial

Congress, at the very instant the country is threatened with dismemberment, which may involve a recasting
of all our foreign and domestic relations, and the adoption of an entirely new chart for the future, presents
the singular spectacle of seeking to inaugurate a line of policy which cannot be changed or modified in any
of its important features for many years, without most disastrous consequences. It is now proposed to
reenact a highly protective tariff, both for revenue and protection. To the adoption at this crisis of such a
measure, there are certainly very grave objections.

No act of the kind should become a law, unless it is to be the permanent policy of the country; for
immediately upon its adoption capital will rush into manufactures, which would necessarily be sacrificed
by its repeal. But are we in a position to cast the horoscope for the future, or determine the policy it may be
our interest to adopt, under circumstances which we cannot by any means foresee? All admit the breaking
up of the Confederacy to be possible. Suppose it to happen; is it not almost certain that we must adapt our
import duties to our altered relations? Suppose the Cotton States to maintain even a form of government;

they will certainly leave no stone unturned to draw off the Border States. One of the strongest arguments
they could address to these would be furnished by a highly protective tariff on the part of our Government,
toward which they cherish the deepest aversion, except, perhaps, Maryland and Kentucky. While efforts at
reconciliation are still pending, both in and out of Congress, is it wise to divest ourselves of the power of
offering similar arguments, and throw an additional firebrand among the present causes of difference?

Another reason for letting things remain as they are, is found in our foreign relations. The tendency of all
leading commercial nations, is unmistakably toward free trade. If the Southern States go off, we shall
immediately come in conflict with them in every court of Europe, if not on our own soil. They will, by

appealing to the popular sentiment in all commercial circles, make every effort to secure favorable
recognition and relations at our expense. We should be in a pretty fix, with free trade at every Southern
port, and a prohibitory tariff at New-York, Philadelphia and Boston. Instead of settling down upon such a
policy, we should hold ourselves in a position in which we can readily adjust ourselves to the contingencies
that may arise, abroad as well as at home. If we are to have a foreign commerce, it must be a reciprocal
one. We must have something to offer as a means of obtaining favorable terms from others. To tie our
hands, when, if ever, they should be free, by adopting a policy which we cannot, without a great loss,
abandon, is most unwise and unstatesmanlike.

A still stronger reason is drawn from the effect of the proposed measure upon our internal trade. In the

present crisis we are striking for a trade which has been previously monopolized by the Gulf ports. The
action of the seceding States will, to a very considerable extent, close these ports, on account of the
dangers to which property in them is exposed. Enough has been seen to prove this. Already are all the
highways leading to the Northeastern States crowded with freights that, but for secession, would be going
down the Mississippi. Is it not for our interest to draw this trade to us by every means in our power? Once
secured it will be retained, compensating in some degree the losses sustained by the present

disturbances. With proper measures we can draw to our own harbor no small part of the cotton trade of the
Southwestern States, adding the staple, which is the great figure in our foreign commerce, as one of our
leading exports. Is it wise in the present emergency to meet this stream of trade by the passage of a law

most odious to those turning it to us? Such a course would be commercial suicide.

The modification of the Tariff should not be attempted till we see more clearly the policy we may desire,

or be compelled to adopt, especially as it is almost certain that the one proposed will diminish instead of
increasing the revenue. Such is the opinion of every person who has any familiarity with the subject. The

bill was apparently framed with such an object. It virtually sweeps away at a blow the warehouse system,
which has recently done more to build up the trade of New-York, than almost any other agency. This was
mainly copied from the English system, and is an essential feature in that of any great commercial people.
United with our unrivaled means for distribution, this system renders the City of New-York the depot for the
whole country. People come here to buy for the reason that they know that in the warehouse they can find

the genuine foreign manufactured article, not adulterated or imitated by some cunning trickster. The value
of a warehouse certificate is shown by the fact that with an empty cask of a particular brand, it will
frequently sell for $20. The warehouse in effect, makes our City instead of Paris, London, or Liverpool, the
depot for foreign merchandise. To abolish it, or to limit the time for retaining merchandise in it, would be to
send abroad for their goods, merchants who now flock to us from every part of the United States. Its

passage would be a blow to our trade quite as fatal and disastrous as secession: -- the two coming
together would inflict upon us injuries which twenty years could not repair.

The proposed bill is most objectionable both in its principle and in its details, uniting the specific
and ad valorem duties with such minuteness of subdivision and detail as to give rise to endless
misunderstandings and disputes, and rendering necessary, with our present imports, a force at least treble
that now employed. Unbleached cottons, for example, having not over one hundred threads to the square

inch, warp and filling, and not exceeding five ounces in weight, pay one cent duty. Such as have one
hundred and forty threads to the square inch, and weighing over five ounces, pay two cents; over one
hundred and forty threads three cents. If the cottons are bleached the duty is increased in ratio to the
number of threads per square inch, and weight. The duty on prints is levied in the same way with ten per
cent, ad valorem added. The first thing appraisers will have to be fitted out with after the law goes into
effect, will be magnifying glasses of great power, and scales of exquisite sensitiveness. For the
appraisement of what STEWART daily sells, an army of office-holders would be required. In fact, the
amount of business now daily transacted at the Customhouse would be impossible; and importations
would be necessarily greatly curtailed, because the goods could not be got through the Customhouse.
The duty upon manufactures of iron is framed upon a principle often as complicated as upon cottons, and
is in most cases entirely prohibitory. On wooden screws, a specific duty, varying from five to eight cents,
is laid, equaling 60 per cent, ad valorem, and is entirely prohibitory. Bar iron pays $15 per ton. Railway
tires pay two cents per pound, and 15 per cent, ad valorem; rails, $12 per ton; pig iron, $6. The duty on
table blade steel is 136 per cent.; on hoe and fork steel, 167 per cent.; on German machinery steel,
216 per cent.; on round machinery steel, 154 per cent.; on blistered steel, 211 per cent. In fact,
the Morrill Tariff is nearly, if not quite, prohibitory upon all manufactures of iron. This is a sop
thrown to Pennsylvania. Upon silks, that we can neither produce, nor to any considerable extent
manufacture, a duty of 30 per cent,
is imposed upon the greater part of the list.

Such are some of the features of this illtimed, ill-advised, and if carried into effect, disastrous measure. It

ties our hands when they should be free. It will destroy our commerce at the very instant our whole care
should be directed toward its cultivation and development. It alienates extensive sections of the
country we seek to retain. It will tend directly to destroy our credit, by showing to the world that the
great source from which we have derived our revenues, is no longer available. It is unjust to the
manufacturer, because it cannot be maintained. Under these circumstances, we ask Congress to act in
view of the circumstances by which it is surrounded, not by the light of tradition, or party affiliations.
Otherwise they will deal a deadly blow at the trade and commerce of the country, at the measures now in
progress to heal our political differences, and particularly at the party now about to assume the reins of
Government, which, by the measures now proposed, will find itself greatly weakened, if not defeated and
destroyed.