Robert Mackenzie.

America. A history

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As the enormous mineral resources of the Rocky Mountains became more certainly ascertained, crowds were attracted in hope of sudden wealth, and the States which include the richer portions of the range became the home of a large population. In the remote north-west wheat crops of astonishing opulence rewarded the simple husbandry of the settler. The law that cultivated plants are most productive near the northern limit of their growth was illustrated in the happy experience of Dakotah and northern Minnesota, where the growing of wheat has now become one of the most lucrative of industrial occupations. The railways of those States are being extended with all possible rapidity, and each extension is followed by a fresh influx of settlers. Farmers of experience from the older and less productive States are drawn to the north-west by the unrivalled advantages which soil and climate present. During the year 1878 not less than five million acres of land were purchased in northern Minnesota for immediate cultivation.77
  To the north of Minnesota and across the Canadian frontier lies the province of Manitoba, a section of the North-West Territories recently acquired by the Canadian Government from the Hudson Bay Company. In the capability of a large portion of its soil to produce wheat Manitoba is unsurpassed, perhaps unequalled, by any part of the world. An active immigration is in progress: during the year 1879, when navigation was open, the daily arrivals numbered four hundred. When communication by rail and river is more adequate, Manitoba may be expected to take the highest place as a wheat-producing country.


America has never been satisfied with mere agricultural greatness. The ambition to manufacture was coeval with her origin, and has grown with her growing strength. Twenty years after the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers there were bounties offered in Massachusetts for the encouragement of the manufacture of linen, woollen, and cotton cloths. When the Arkwright spinning machinery was introduced into England, the Americans were eager to possess themselves of an improvement so valuable. But the English law which prohibited the export of machinery was inflexibly administered, and the models prepared in secret for shipment to America were seized and confiscated. But no discouragement repressed the enterprising colonists. The beginnings of their great textile industries were sufficiently humble. The earliest motive-power applied to cotton machinery was the hand; next to it, and as an important advance, came the use of animal-power.88
  The use of animal-power was not confined to America.

In England the earliest of Cartwright’s power-looms are said to have owed their movement to the labour of a bull.

[Закрыть] But the growth of demand was rapid, and before the close of last century the application of water-power was universal.

The increase of consumption was more rapid in America than the increase of production, and it had to be met by considerable imports of English goods. England, with abundant capital and low-priced labour, was able to produce more cheaply than America, and the struggling native manufacturer had to complain of a competition against which he was not able to support himself. He appealed to the Government for protection, and was influential enough to obtain that which he desired. For many years the subject of the tariff was keenly disputed. The Northern manufacturers were habitually seeking increased protection, which the Southern planters, having no kindred interests to protect, were often unwilling to grant. The rates imposed rose or fell with the strength of the contending parties and the political exigencies of the time. 1861 A.D. At length, immediately after the representatives of the South had quitted Congress, and the friends of protection were absolute, a highly protective tariff was enacted. Duties, the mass of which range from thirty to fifty per cent., with some very much larger, were imposed on nearly all foreign commodities landed at American ports. Under this law, with only slight modification, the foreign commerce of America has been conducted for the last eighteen years, and there has not yet manifested itself any change in American opinion which warrants the expectation of an early return to a more liberal system.

The large protection now enjoyed, and the active demand occasioned by the war, stimulated the increase of productive power. Within twelve years the machinery engaged in cotton-spinning had doubled, rising from five to ten million spindles. The increase in many other industries was equally rapid. Side by side with this undue development there appeared the customary fruits of a protective policy. There was a general disregard of economy, a prevailing wastefulness which seemed to neutralize the advantages enjoyed, and leave the manufacturer still in need of additional protection. But a new competition had now arisen, against which protection could not be gained. It was no longer foreign competition which marred the fortune of the native manufacturer; it was the still more deadly competition which resulted from excessive production at home. Especially when the panic of 1873 diminished so suddenly the purchasing power of the American people, it was seen that even if the manufactures of Europe had been wholly excluded, America could no longer consume the commodities which her machinery was able to produce.

During the years of misery which followed the panic, American manufacturers gained experience of the “sweet uses” of adversity. It was incumbent upon them now above all things to study cheapness. Wages were reduced; improved appliances by which cost might be lessened were eagerly and successfully sought for; economy in every detail was studied with anxious care. The result gained was of high national importance. In a few years the American manufacturers found, in regard to many articles of general consumption, that they were now able to produce as cheaply as their rivals in England, and that they were wholly independent of that legislative protection which hitherto had been regarded as indispensable.

As the skill and care of the native producer increased, the purchases which America required to make from foreigners underwent large diminution. Her imports in 1878 were smaller by one-third than they had been in 1873. She ceased to purchase railroad iron, and diminished by more than eight-tenths her purchases of other descriptions of iron. She almost ceased to use European watches, having signally distanced us in that branch of industry. She diminished by nearly one-half her use of foreign books and other publications. Where formerly she had required the earthen and glass wares of Europe to the value of thirteen million dollars, seven million now sufficed. Her use of foreign carpets fell to one-tenth; of foreign cottons and woollens to one-half; of manufactures of wood to one-third; of manufactures of steel to a little over one-third. April, 1879 A.D. And in explanation of this record of decay our Secretary of Legation at Washington contributes the ominous suggestion: – “The decreased importation of the articles referred to has been due in a great measure to the substitution in the markets of this country of articles of American manufacture.”

But the Americans were not contented with this limitation of their purchases from foreign producers. A desire to become themselves exporters of manufactured articles sprang up during the years of depression which followed the panic. Under the pure democracy of America a general desire translates itself very quickly into Government action. 1877 A.D. The Secretary of State addressed to his consuls in all parts of the world a request that they would collect for him all information fitted to be useful to American manufacturers who sought markets for their wares in foreign countries. The answers have put him in possession of a mass of information such as no Government ever before took the trouble to gather regarding the conditions of foreign markets, and the openings which existed or might be created in each for American manufactures. The growth of this trade has thus far been steady, but not rapid, and even now it has reached only moderate dimensions. In 1870 American manufactures were exported to the value of fifteen million sterling, while in 1878 the value had risen to twenty-seven million. Chief among the articles which make up this respectable aggregate are cotton cloths, manufactures of wood, of leather, of iron and steel, including machinery, tools, and agricultural implements. America sells to foolish nations which have not yet grown out of their fighting period, fire-arms, cartridges, gunpowder, and shell, to the extent of nearly a million and a half sterling. The multiplicity of articles which leave her ports show how keenly her foreign trade is being prosecuted. She sends household furniture, made by machinery, and sells it at prices which to the British cabinet-maker seem to be ruinous. She sends cutlery and tools of finish and price which fill the men of Sheffield with dismay, but do not apparently stimulate them to improvement. She sends watches manufactured by processes so superior to those still practised in Europe that the Swiss manufacturers have explicitly acknowledged hopeless defeat. She sends medicines, combs, perfumery, soap, spirits, writing-paper, musical instruments, glass-ware, carriages. All these are articles for which, but a few years ago, she herself was indebted to Europe. Now she supplies her own requirements, and has an increasing surplus for which she seeks markets abroad. Her policy of protection has been costly beyond all calculation; but those who upheld it now point with reasonable pride to the splendid place which America has taken among the manufacturing nations of the Earth.


The Pilgrim Fathers carried with them to New England a deep persuasion that the people of the State which they went to found must be universally educated. Not otherwise could the enduring success of their great enterprise be hoped for. It was their care from the very outset to provide in such manner as circumstances enabled them for the education of their children. The germ of a free-school system is to be found in each of their youthful settlements. The records of the European countries of the time would be searched in vain for evidence of a sentiment so deeply seated, so widely prevalent, so enlightened as the New England desire that all children should be educated. Its sincerity was proved by the willingness of the people to submit to taxation in the cause. In the early days of Connecticut one-fourth of the revenues of the colony was applied to the support of schools. Long before the revolution, schools maintained by public funds and free of charge to the pupils had extended widely over the New England States. This love of education has never cooled. When the colonists gained their independence and established themselves as an association of freemen, conducting their own public affairs, a new urgency was added to the necessity that all should be educated. It was clearly seen, even then, that while ignorant men might be serviceable subjects of a despotism, only educated citizens were capable of self-government. Northern America sought to build the fabric of republican institutions upon the solid and durable foundation of universal enlightenment.

In the Southern States the aristocratic tendencies which the slave-system fostered were adverse to the education of the poor. The slave-owners desired submission; their property was not improved in value, but the reverse, by education. While America was still a dependency, a question was put to the Governor of Virginia by the English Commissioners for Foreign Plantations. “I thank God,” replied the Governor, “there are no free schools or printing-presses, and I hope we shall not have these hundred years.” The Governor’s hope was more than fulfilled. The common-school system was almost unknown in the South while slavery existed. It became criminal to teach a slave to read; the poor white had no desire to learn, and no one sought to teach him. At the close of the rebellion the mass of the Southern population were as little educated as the Russian peasants are to-day. But peace was no sooner restored than the eager desire of the negroes for education was met by the generous efforts of the North. Northern teachers were quickly at work among the negro children. So soon as the means of the ruined States permitted, the common-school system of the North was set up. It entailed burdens which they were then ill able to bear. But these burdens have been borne with a willingness which is evidence that the South now recognizes her need of education. Notwithstanding their poverty, some of the States yield for school purposes a rate of taxation larger for each member of the population than is that of England.

The American people manifest a profound and, as recent reports indicate, an increasing interest in their system of common schools. It is not merely or chiefly the personal advantage of the individual citizen which concerns them. It is the greatness and permanence of the State.99
  “We regard [the education of the people] as a wise and liberal system of police by which property and life and the peace of society are secured.” —Daniel Webster.

“Free education for all is the prime necessity of republics.” Institutions which rest altogether upon popular support demand, as essential to their safety, the support of an instructed people. It was the same conviction which impressed itself upon Great Britain when, having conceded household suffrage, she hastened to set up a compulsory and universal system of education, that the dangers likely to arise from the ignorance of the new electors might be averted. Moreover, the Americans believe firmly that without educated labour eminence in the industrial arts is not attainable. According to an estimate which has grown out of the experience of employers, the educated labourer is more valuable by twenty-five per cent. than his ignorant rival. Here is a source of national wealth which no wise State will disregard. It is the American theory that the State – the associated citizens – has a proprietary interest in each of its members. For the good of the community, it is entitled to insist that every citizen shall become as effective as it is possible to make him; to expend public funds in order to that result is therefore a warrantable and remunerative outlay.

Looking thus upon the value of public instruction, the American people have borne willingly the heavy costs of the common school. They suffer taxation ungrudgingly at a rate which, for the smaller population of England and Wales, would amount to nine million sterling instead of the four million actually expended. Nor is this the easy product of lands set apart for educational purposes at a time when land was valueless. Many of the States wisely set apart one-sixteenth of their land to uphold their schools. But in many of the old States the appropriation was not respected; too often, especially in the South, the endowment was applied to other uses. The revenue derived now from any description of endowment does not exceed five per cent. of the whole; the remainder comes from State or local taxation. At one time, in some of the States, fees were charged from the pupils. But the opinion came to be widely entertained that this charge impaired in many ways the efficiency of the system. Six or eight years ago fees were discontinued, and now the schools of the nation are free to all. The Americans witness with approbation the increase of their expenditure on education. During the ten years which preceded the rebellion this expenditure was doubled; again, during the ten years which followed it was trebled. It has now grown to nearly eighteen million sterling – a sum larger than all the nations of Europe unitedly expend for the same purpose. Large as it is, however, it is equal to no more than two-thirds of the sum which Britain still expends upon her military and naval preparations.

The common school is used by all classes of the American people. At one time there existed among the rich a disposition to have their children educated with others of their own social position, and many private schools sprang up to meet their demand. As the common schools have increased in efficiency, and consequently in public favour, this disposition has weakened, and private schools have decayed. Their number is much smaller now than it was ten years ago, and continues to diminish. With one unhappy exception, the common school satisfies the requirements of the American people. The leaders of the Roman Catholic body perceive that its influences are adverse to the growth of their tenets, and do not cease to demand the means of educating their children apart from the children of those who hold religious beliefs differing from theirs. But their proposals meet with no favour beyond the limits of their own denomination, and even there only partial support is given. The American Roman Catholic is more apt than his brethren in Europe to fall into the disloyal practice of independent judgment. It has not been found possible to alienate him wholly from the common school.

It is of interest to inquire in what measure the American people have been requited by the success of their common-school system for the vast sums which they expend on its maintenance. At first sight the statistics of the subject seem to return a discouraging reply to such an inquiry. When the census of 1870 was taken it disclosed a high percentage of illiteracy. Seventeen adult males and twenty-three adult females in every hundred were wholly uneducated – numbers almost as high as those of England at the same period. But the special circumstances of the country explain these figures in a manner which relieves the common school of all blame. The larger portion of this illiteracy had its home in the Southern States and among the coloured population, whose ignorance had been carefully preserved by wicked laws and a corrupted public feeling. Again, America had received during the ten years which preceded the census an immigration of four and a half million persons. The educational condition of those strangers was low, and their presence therefore bore injuriously upon the averages which were reported. The common school must be judged in the Northern States and among the native white population, for there only has it had full opportunity to act. And there it has achieved magnificent success. In the New England States there is not more than one uneducated native of ten years and upwards in every hundred. In the other Northern States the average is scarcely so favourable. The uneducated number from two up to four in every hundred.

It thus appears that the common school has banished illiteracy from the North. The native American of the Northern States is almost invariably a person who has received, at the lowest, a sound primary education. The efforts by which this result has been reached began with the foundation of each State, and have been continued uninterruptedly throughout its whole history. In the rising industrial competition of the time, it must count for much that American artisans are not only educated men and women, but are the descendants of educated parents. A nation which expends upon education a sum larger than all the nations of Europe unitedly expend; which contents itself with an army of twenty-five thousand soldiers; whose citizens are exempt from the curse of idle years laid by the governments of Continental Europe upon their young men, – such a nation cannot fail to secure a victorious position in the great industrial struggle which all civilized States are now compelled to wage for existence.


From the very dawn of her history, America has been a powerful factor in the solution of many great European problems. In the early days of her settlement she offered a welcome refuge from the oppression and poverty of the Old World. Her assertion of independence inflamed the impulses which were preparing the French Revolution with all its unforeseen and incalculable consequences, and hastened the coming of that tremendous occurrence. Throughout the half century of struggle by which Europe vindicated her freedom, it was a constant stimulus to patriot effort to know that, beyond the sea, there was a country where men were at liberty to prosecute their own welfare unimpeded by the restraints which despotism imposes. A constant light was thrown by American experience upon the questions which agitated Europe. Men accustomed to be told that they were unfit to bear any part in the government of their country, saw men such as they themselves were enjoying political privileges in America, and governing a continent to the general advantage. Men accustomed to be told that State support was indispensable to the existence of the Church, saw religion becomingly upheld in America by the spontaneous offerings of the people. Methods of government altogether unlike those of Europe were practised in America; and Europe had constant opportunity of judging how far these methods surpassed or fell short of her own. Europe lived under a system of government which scarcely regarded individual rights, and cared supremely for the interests of the State – meaning ordinarily by that the interests or caprices of a very few persons. In America the State was an organization whose purpose was mainly the protection of individual rights. On the eastern shores of the Atlantic the belief still prevailed that in every nation the Almighty had conveyed to some one man the right to deal as he pleased with the lives and property of all the others. On the western shores of the Atlantic a great nation acted on the theory that national interests were merely the interests which the aggregated individual citizens had in common,1010
  “This country with its institutions belongs to the people who inhabit it.” —President Lincoln.

and that government was nothing more than an association of persons whose duty it was to guide those interests in conformity with the public desire. The American doctrine extended into Europe, and contributed in no inconsiderable degree to the growth of liberal ideas and the overthrow of despotism. The sustained exhibition upon a scale so vast of freedom in thought and action, with its happy results in contentment and prosperity, could not fail to impress deeply the oppressed nations of Europe. Here were a people who made their own laws, who obeyed no authority which was not of their own appointment, to whom decrees, and ukases, and all the hateful utterances of despotism were unknown. Here were millions of men enjoying perfect equality of opportunity to seek their own welfare; here was life free from the burden of a class inaccessibly superior to the great mass of the people. The daily influences of American life sapped the fabric of privilege, and helped the European people to vindicate the rights of which they had been deprived.

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