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FREE TRADE, FASHION AND CENTRALIZATION.
Liberty and political economy beget and encourage free trade, as well between different localities and different nations, as between individuals of the same towns, neighborhoods or nations.
The nations possessed of most skill and capital, and commercial enterprise, and cunning, gradually absorb the wealth of those nations who possess less of those qualities. The effect of international free trade, aided by the facilities of the credit system, of the mail, and speedy steam communication, is to centralize wealth in a few large cities, such as New York, Paris and London; and of social free trade to aggregate wealth in a few hands in those cities. Theoretically, the disparities of shrewdness, of skill and business capacity, between nations and individuals, would, in the commercial and trading war of the wits, rob the weak and simple, and enrich the strong and cunning. The facts of history, and of the increasing inequalities of social, individual and national wealth, under the system of free trade, stimulated by political economy, correspond with the theory. Every month brings
forth its millionaire, and every day its thousands of new paupers.
New York and London grow richer rapidly on the fruits of a trade that robs the less commercial and skillful people who traffic with them.
But the worst effect of free trade is, that it begets centres of opinion, thought and fashions, robs men of their nationality, and impairs their patriotism by teaching them to ape foreign manners, affect foreign dress and opinions, and despise what is domestic. Paris, as the centre of thought and fashion, wields as much power, and makes almost as much money as“ London, by being the centre of trade and capital. An American or Englishman will give five prices for an article because it is made in Paris. Thus the want of true self-respect in America and England, makes labor produce more in Paris than elsewhere. A Virginian thinks it a disgrace to be dressed in home-spun, because homespun is unfashionable. The Frenchman prides himself on being a Frenchman; all other people affect the cosmopolitan.
The tendency of all this is to transfer all wealth to London, New York and Paris, and reduce the civilization of Christendom to a miserable copy of French civilization, itself an indifferent copy of Roman civilization, which was an imitation, but a falling off from that of Greece.
We pay millions monthly for French silks, French
wines, French brandy, and French trinkets, although we can and do make as comfortable articles for dress, and as good liquors, at home. But we despise ourselves, and admire the French, and give four hours of American labor for one of French labor, just to be in the fashion. And what is our fashion ? To treat whatever is American with contempt. People who thus act are in a fair way to deserve and meet with from others, that contempt which they feel for themselves. The little States of Greece each had its dialect, and cultivated it, and took pride in it. Now, dialects are vulgar and provincial. We shall have no men like the Greeks, till the manners, dress, and dialect of gentlemen, betray, like the wines of Europe, the very neighborhood whence they come. So thought Mr. Calhoun, and talked South Carolina dialect in the Senate. But for all that, it was the best English of the day. Its smack of provincialism gave it a higher flavor.
We of the South teach political economy, because it is taught in Europe. Yet political economy, and all other systems of moral science, which we derive from Europe, are tainted with abolition, and at war with our institutions. We must build up centres of trade, of thought and fashion at home. We must become national, nay, provincial, and cease to be imitative cosmopolitans. We must,
especially, have good colleges and universities, where young men may learn to admire their homes, not to despise them.
The South feels the truth of all this, and after a while will begin to understand it. She has been for years earnestly and actively engaged in promoting the exclusive and protective policy, and preaching free trade, non-interference of government and let alone. But she does not let alone. She builds roads and canals, encourages education, endows schools and colleges, improves river navigation, excludes, or taxes heavily foreign show-men, foreign pedlars, sellers of clocks, &c.; tries to build up by legislation Southern commerce, and by State legislation to multiply and encourage industrial pursuits. Protection by the State Government is her established policy—and that is the only expedient or constitutional protection. It is time for her to avow her change of policy and opinion, and to throw Adam Smith, Say, Ricardo & Co., in the fire.
We want American customs, habits, manners, dress, manufactures, modes of thought, modes of expression, and language.
We should encourage national and even State peculiarities; for there are peculiarities and differences in the wants and situations of all people, that require provincial and national, not cosmopolitan, institutions and productions. Take language, for instance. It is a thing
of natural growth and development, and adapts itself naturally to the changes of time and circumstance. It is never ungrammatical as spoken by children, but always expressive, practical and natural. Nature is always grammatical, and language, the child of nature, would continue so, but for the grammarians, who, with their Procrustean rules, disturb its proportions, destroy its variety and adaptation, and retard its growth. They are to language what dentists are to teeth: they more often injure it than improve it.
Grammar, lexicography, and rhetoric, applied to language, destroy its growth, variety and adaptability-stereotype it, make it at once essentially a dead language, and unfit for future use; for new localities, and changes of time and circumstances, beget new ideas, and require new words and new combinations of words. Centralization and cosmopolitanism have precisely the same effect. They would furnish a common language from the centre, which is only fully expressive and comprehensive at that centre. Walking and talking are equally natural, and talking masters and walking masters equally useless. Neither can foresee and provide for the thousands of new circumstances which make change of language, or varieties of movement necessary. Nature is never at a loss, and is the only reliable dancing master and grammar teacher. She is always graceful and appro