Hamilton to the House: Report on Manufactures, Flax and Hemp

Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America’s first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.

Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America’s first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury.

Alexander Hamilton: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Volume 4

Industry and Commerce, Manufactures, Flax & Hemp: Hamilton to the House of Representatives, December 5, 1791. Part Nine.

Flax and Hemp

Manufactures of these articles have so much affinity to each other, and they are so often blended, that they may, with advantage, be considered in conjunction. The importance of the linen branch to agriculture, its precious effects upon household industry, the ease with which the materials can be produced at home, to any requisite extent, the great advances which have been already made in the coarser fabrics of them, especially in the family way, constitute claims of peculiar force to the patronage of government.

This patronage may be afforded in various ways; by promoting the growth of the materials, by increasing the impediments to an advantageous competition of rival foreign articles, by direct bounties, or premiums upon the home manufactures.

1st.—As to promoting the growth of the materials.

In respect to hemp, something has been already done by the high duty upon foreign hemp. If the facilities for domestic production were not unusually great, the policy of the duty on the foreign raw material would be highly questionable, as interfering with the growth or manufactures of it. But making the proper allowances for those facilities, and with an eye to the future and natural progress of the country, the measure does not appear, upon the whole, exceptionable.

A strong wish naturally suggests itself, that some method could be devised, of affording a more direct encouragement to the growth both of flax and hemp; such as would be effectual, and, at the same time, not attended with too great inconveniences. To this end, bounties and premiums offer themselves to consideration, but no modification of them has yet occurred, which would not either hazard too much expense, or operate unequally, in reference to the circumstances of different parts of the Union; and which would not be attended with very great difficulties in the execution.

2d.—As to increasing the impediments to an advantageous competition of rival foreign articles.

To this purpose an augmentation of the duties on importation is the obvious expedient, which, in regard to certain articles, appears to be recommended by sufficient reasons.

The principal of these articles is sail-cloth—one intimately connected with navigation and defence, and of which a flourishing manufactory is established at Boston, and very promising ones at several other places.

It is presumed to be both safe and advisable to place this in the class of articles rated at ten per cent. A strong reason for it results from the consideration that a bounty of two pence sterling, per ell, is allowed in Great Britain, upon the exportation of the sailcloth manufactured in that kingdom.

It would likewise appear to be good policy to raise the duty to seven and a half per cent. on the following articles: Drillings, osnaburgs, ticklenburgs, dowals, canvas, brown rolls, bagging, and upon all other linens, the first cost of which, at the place of exportation, does not exceed thirty-five cents per yard. A bounty of twelve and a half per cent. upon an average, on the exportation of such or similar linens from Great Britain, encourages the manufacture of them in that country, and increases the obstacles to a successful competition in the countries to which they are sent.

The quantities of tow and other household linens, manufactured in different parts of the United States, and the expectations which are derived from some late experiments, of being able to extend the use of labor-saving machines, in the coarser fabrics of linen, obviate the danger of inconvenience from an increase of the duty upon such articles, and authorize a hope of speedy and complete success to the endeavors which may be used for procuring an internal supply.

3d.—As to direct bounties or premiums upon the manufactured articles.

To afford more effectual encouragement to the manufacture, and at the same time to promote the cheapness of the article, for the benefit of navigation, it will be of great use to allow a bounty of two cents per yard on all sail-cloth which is made in the United States, from materials of their own growth. This would also assist the culture of those materials. An encouragement of this kind, if adopted, ought to be established for a moderate term of years, to invite to new undertakings, and to an extension of the old. This is an article of importance enough to warrant the employment of extraordinary means in its favor.

Posting the entire Works of Alexander Hamilton is a project of Steven Montgomery. I’m posting these as a way to read and digest the works of Alexander Hamilton. The reader could profit by following along daily.


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