CHAPTER I. BACKGROUNDS
This British policy brought to the front the issue of protection in America. It not only worked against a return by New England from manufacturing to commerce, but it soon brought into the ranks of protectionists a northern and western agricultural element that had been accustomed to sell surplus products to West Indian planters seeking cheap food-stuffs for their slaves. This new protectionist element was as yet not crystallized into a clamour for "home markets" for agriculture, but the pressure of opinion was beginning to be felt, and by 1820 the question of West Indian trade became one of constant agitation and demanded political action. That action was taken on lines of retaliation. Congress in 1818 passed a law excluding from American ports any British vessel coming from a port access to which was denied to an American vessel, and placing under bond in American ports British vessels with prohibition of their proceeding to a British port to which American vessels could not go. This act affected not merely direct trade with the West Indies, but stopped the general custom of British ships of taking part cargoes to Jamaica while en route to and from the United States. The result was, first, compromise, later, under Huskisson's administration at the British Board of Trade, complete abandonment by Britain of the exclusive trade basis of her whole colonial system.
The "retaliatory system" which J.Q. Adams regarded as "a new declaration of independence," was, in fact, quickly taken up by other non-colonial nations, and these, with America, compelled Great Britain to take stock of her interests. Huskisson, rightly foreseeing British prosperity as dependent upon her manufactures and upon the carrying trade, stated in Parliament that American "retaliation" had forced the issue. Freedom of trade in British ports was offered in 1826 to all non-colonial nations that would open their ports within one year on terms of equality to British ships. J.Q. Adams, now President of the United States, delayed acceptance of this offer, preferring a treaty negotiation, and was rebuffed by Canning, so that actual resumption of West Indian trade did not take place until 1830, after the close of Adams' administration. That trade never recovered its former prosperity.
Meanwhile the long period of controversy, from 1806 to 1830, had resulted in a complete change in the American situation. It is not a sufficient explanation of the American belief in, and practice of, the theory of protection to attribute this alone to British checks placed upon free commercial rivalry. Nevertheless the progress of America toward an established system, reaching its highest mark for years in the Tariff Bill of 1828, is distinctly related to the events just narrated. After American independence, the partially illegal status of West Indian trade hampered commercial progress and slightly encouraged American manufactures by the mere seeking of capital for investment; the neutral troubles of 1806 and the American prohibitions on intercourse increased the transfer of interest; the war of 1812 gave a complete protection to infant industries; the dumping of British goods in 1815 stirred patriotic American feeling; British renewal of colonial system restrictions, and the twelve-year quarrel over "retaliation" gave time for the definite establishment of protectionist ideas in the United States. But Britain was soon proclaiming for herself and for the world the common advantage and the justice of a great theory of free trade. America was apparently now committed to an opposing economic theory, the first great nation definitely to establish it, and thus there resulted a clear-cut opposition of principle and a clash of interests. From 1846, when free trade ideas triumphed in England, the devoted British free trader regarded America as the chief obstacle to a world-wide acceptance of his theory.
The one bright spot in America, as regarded by the British free trader, was in the Southern States, where cotton interests, desiring no advantage from protection, since their market was in Europe, attacked American protection and sought to escape from it. Also slave supplies, without protection, could have been purchased more cheaply from England than from the manufacturing North. In 1833 indeed the South had forced a reaction against protection, but it proceeded slowly. In 1854 it was Southern opinion that carried through Congress the reciprocity treaty with the British American Provinces, partly brought about, no doubt, by a Southern fear that Canada, bitter over the loss of special advantages in British markets by the British free trade of 1846, might join the United States and thus swell the Northern and free states of the Union. Cotton interests and trade became the dominant British commercial tie with the United States, and the one great hope, to the British minds, of a break in the false American system of protection. Thus both in economic theory and in trade, spite of British dislike of slavery, the export trading interests of Great Britain became more and more directed toward the Southern States of America. Adding powerfully to this was the dependence of British cotton manufactures upon the American supply. The British trade attitude, arising largely outside of direct governmental contacts, was bound to have, nevertheless, a constant and important influence on governmental action.