Front Page Titles (by Subject) 194.: THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE EXAMINER, 13 JAN., 1833, P. 19 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
Return to Title Page for The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
194.: THE PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE EXAMINER, 13 JAN., 1833, P. 19 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The online edition of the Collected Works is published under licence from the copyright holder, The University of Toronto Press. ©2006 The University of Toronto Press. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form or medium without the permission of The University of Toronto Press.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THE PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE
In one of his rare early comments on the United States, Mill discusses Andrew Jackson’s Fourth Annual Message of 4 Dec., 1832, reported in The Times, 2 Jan., 1833, p. 3, where all the quotations will be found. This item, headed as title, appears in the “Political Examiner.” It is described in Mill’s bibliography as “An article headed ‘The President’s Message’ in the Examiner of 13th January 1833” (MacMinn, p. 24). In the Somerville College set of the Examiner, where it is listed as title, it is enclosed in square brackets, with two corrections: at 544.5, “busy” is altered to “losing”, and at 545.6 “prepared” is altered to “proposed”.
happy will it be for britain when the annual address of her first Magistrate on calling together her Parliament, shall be like that of the American President—an argumentative review of all the great political questions of the time, a full and clear, though condensed statement of the views of the head of the Government on every subject likely to come before the Legislature during the session, and particularly of the grounds of all the amendments which he deems requisite in every branch of the national institutions.
On the present occasion one of these amendments is no less than the entire abandonment of what is called the Tariff system, in other words the “protection” of domestic industry. General Jackson condemns the “American system” in toto, and proposes that the idea of forcing manufactures by means of duties should be given up, except with regard to articles for which it would be dangerous to depend on foreigners: (what these are, he does not specify.)
It was not too soon for Congress to begin repealing their absurd commercial laws. The Union was on the verge of civil war. The Southern States, having no manufactures, but exporting an immense quantity of raw produce, suffered in a twofold manner by the Tariff; first, by being compelled to buy dear and bad manufactures in New England, when they could have cheap and good ones in Europe; and, secondly, by the consequent limitation of the European market for their own commodities. The Legislature of one of the greatest of these States, South Carolina, has recently passed an Act, declaring that Congress has exceeded its powers in enacting the Tariff, being authorized by the Constitution to impose taxes for revenue only, but not for protection; and that, consequently, the Tariff laws are inoperative, and ought not to be obeyed.1
The President, in his message, comments in very measured terms on this bold proceeding;2 but there is no doubt that the Federal Government will be too strong for this single State, as none of the other anti-Tariff States are showing any disposition to follow the example. Let us hope, at least, that this act of resistance will draw universal attention to the iniquity of taxing the whole American people to enable a few manufacturers to carry on a losing trade; and that in this, as in so many other cases, intemperate violence may procure the redress which was denied to gentle remonstrance.
Another of the President’s suggestions appears to us of far more questionable policy, or rather decidedly and grossly impolitic. He declares himself in favour of giving up the revenue hitherto accruing to the United States from the sale of unoccupied lands; and proposes that the price be henceforth limited to an equivalent for the expence of surveying the land and granting a title. It is curious enough that the American Government should think of abandoning their own more rational mode of disposing of land and adopting ours, at the very time when our Colonial Office is abandoning its own and adopting theirs; the very time, too, when Mr. Wakefield’s admirable pamphlets have so clearly demonstrated that the great source of rapid growth and prosperity in a new colony is concentration, whether produced by natural causes, or by means artificially employed to promote it.3
The rent of land being a mere Godsent, coming into the possession of individuals by mere occupancy, and increasing as population and wealth increases, without any exertion on the part of the owner, ought, in all new countries, to be reserved in the hands of the State, as a fund which would in time be sufficient to supersede the necessity of taxation. But if for an immediate consideration the State chooses to dispose of this invaluable resource, it should at least put as high a price upon grants of land as it can get. If the United States adopt the President’s recommendation, they will give up a revenue, which costs nothing, to any body, and which must be replaced by taxes on industry or on the profits of capital; while they will add still further to their greatest social evil—that rapid dispersion of the inhabitants, which keeps the people of the more recently settled territories in a state of semibarbarism, and is prejudicial even to what alone it can ever have been supposed to promote—the increase of the national wealth.
Half the revenue of the last year has been applied to the liquidation of debt; and the National Debt of the United States is now almost entirely paid off. The small remainder consists chiefly of stock not redeemable for two or three years to come, which however it is proposed to buy up at the market price. The United States will then present the unique phenomenon of a great nation entirely free from debt. Several indeed of the State Governments have debts, but these were mostly contracted for productive purposes, such as the construction of canals and roads. Such debts are not like those of a spendthrift, but like those of a wealthy manufacturer or merchant, with whom to be in debt is merely to have the use, for profitable purposes, of other men’s capital as well as his own. The more he is in debt the greater are his gains. Such debts make the debtor rich instead of making him poor.
[1 ]“An Ordonnance to Nullify Certain Acts of Congress of the United States, Purporting to Be Laws, Laying Duties and Imposts on the Importation of Foreign Commodities,” No. 2557 (24 Nov., 1832), in Statutes at Large of South Carolina, 1814-1838 (Columbia, S.C.: State Legislature, 1839), Vol. VI, p. 456.
[2 ]On 11 Dec. Jackson added to what he had said in his Address by issuing a proclamation denouncing the ordinance passed by the State of South Carolina on 24 Nov., 1832.
[3 ]Edward Gibbon Wakefield (1796-1862), a constant proponent of colonization schemes based on the sale rather than the gift of land to settlers, had published by 1833 Sketch of a Proposal for Colonizing Australasia, &c. &c. &c. (London: printed Dove, ); A Statement of the Principles and Objects of a Proposed National Society, for the Cure and Prevention of Pauperism, by Means of Systematic Colonization (London: Ridgway, 1830); Plan of a Company to Be Established for the Purpose of Founding a Colony in Southern Australia, Purchasing Land Therein, and Preparing the Land so Purchased for the Reception of Immigrants (London: Ridgway, 1831); and Proposal to His Majesty’s Government for Founding a Colony on the Southern Coast of Australia (London: Nicol, 1831).