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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
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5035. MANUFACTURES, Jefferson's views in 1816.—
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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5035. MANUFACTURES, Jefferson's views in 1816.—

You tell me I am quoted by
those who wish to continue our dependence
on England for manufactures. There was a
time when I might have been so quoted with
more candor, but within the thirty years
which have since elapsed, how are circumstances
changed! We were then in peace.
Our independent place among nations was
acknowledged. A commerce which offered
the raw material in exchange for the same
material after receiving the last touch of industry,
was worthy of welcome to all nations.
It was expected that those especially to whom
manufacturing industry was important, would
cherish the friendship of such customers by
every favor, by every inducement, and, particularly,
cultivate their peace by every act of
justice and friendship. Under this prospect
the question seemed legitimate, whether, with
such an immensity of unimproved land, courting
the hand of husbandry, the industry of
agriculture, or that of manufactures, would
add most to the national wealth? And the
doubt was entertained on this consideration
chiefly, that to the labor of the husbandman a
vast addition is made by the spontaneous
energies of the earth on which it is employed;
for one grain of wheat committed to the earth,


Page 533
she renders twenty, thirty, and even fiftyfold,
whereas to the labor of the manufacturer
nothing is added. Pounds of flax, in
his hands, yield, on the contrary, but pennyweights
of lace. This exchange, too, laborious
as it might seem, what a field did it
promise for the occupations of the ocean;
what a nursery for that class of citizens who
were to exercise and maintain our equal rights
on that element? This was the state of
things in 1785, when the “Notes on Virginia
” were first printed; when, the ocean
being open to all nations, and their common
right in it acknowledged and exercised under
regulations sanctioned by the assent and
usage of all, it was thought that the doubt
might claim some consideration. But who, in
1785, could foresee the rapid depravity which
was to render the close of that century the
disgrace of the history of man? Who could
have imagined that the two most distinguished
in the rank of nations, for science
and civilization, would have suddenly descended
from that honorable eminence, and
setting at defiance all those moral laws established
by the Author of nature between
nation and nation, as between man and man,
would cover earth and sea with robberies and
piracies, merely because strong enough to do
it with temporal impunity; and that under
this disbandment of nations from social order,
we should have been despoiled of a thousand
ships, and have thousands of our citizens reduced
to Algerine slavery? Yet all this has
taken place. One of these nations [Great
Britain] interdicted to our vessels all harbors
of the globe without having first proceeded
to some one of hers, there paid a tribute proportioned
to the cargo, and obtained her
license to proceed to the port of destination.
The other [France] declared them to be lawful
prize if they had touched at the port, or
been visited by a ship of the enemy nation.
Thus were we completely excluded from the
ocean. Compare this state of things with
that of 1785, and say whether an opinion
founded in the circumstances of that day can
be fairly applied to those of the present? We
have experienced what we did not then believe,
that there exists both profligacy and
power enough to exclude us from the field of
interchange with other nations; that to be independent
for the comforts of life we must
fabricate them ourselves. We must now
place the manufacturer by the side of the
agriculturist. The former question is suppressed,
or rather assumes a new form. Shall
we make our own comforts, or go without
them, at the will of a foreign nation? He,
therefore, who is now against domestic manufacture,
must be for reducing us either to dependence
on that foreign nation, or to be
clothed in skins, and to live, like wild beasts,
in dens and caverns. I am not one of these;
experience has taught me that manufactures
are now as necessary to our independence as
to our comfort; and if those who quote me as
of a different opinion, will keep pace with me
in purchasing nothing foreign where an equivalent
of domestic fabric can be obtained, with
out regard to difference of price, it will not
be our fault if we do not soon have a supply
at home equal to our demand, and wrest that
weapon of distress from the hand which has
wielded it. If it shall be proposed to go beyond
our own supply, the question of 1785
will then recur, Will our surplus labor be then
most beneficially employed in the culture of
the earth, or in the fabrications of art? We
have time yet for consideration, before that
question will press upon us; and the maxim
to be applied will depend on the circumstances
which shall then exist; for in so complicated a
science as political economy, no one axiom
can be laid down as wise and expedient for all
times and circumstances, and for their contraries.
Inattention to this is what has called
for this explanation, which reflection would
have rendered unnecessary with the candid,
while nothing will do with those who use
the former opinion only as a stalking horse
to cover their disloyal propensities to keep us
in eternal vassalage to a foreign and unfriendly
people. [319]
To Benjamin Austin. Washington ed. vi, 521. Ford ed., x, 8.
(M. Jan. 1816)


Mr. Austin asked Jefferson's permission to publish
the letter containing the foregoing extract. Jefferson
wrote in reply: “I am, in general, extremely
unwilling to be carried into the newspapers, no matter
what the subject; the whole pack of the Essex
[Junto] Kennel would open upon me. With respect,
however, to so much of my letter * * * as relates
to manufactures, I have less repugnance, because
there is, perhaps, a degree of duty to avow a change
of opinion called for by a change of circumstance,
and especially on a point now becoming peculiarly