Daniel Webster as An Economist

By Robert Lincoln Carey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
INTERNATIONAL TRADE

I. THEORY OF TRADE

MR. WEBSTER'S thoughts on the subject of foreign commerce involved a twofold aspect and were both critical and constructive. A vigorous and devastating attack upon the fallacies of Mercantilism was accompanied by a strong and clear defense of exchange on the basis of differential natural advantage. A masterly exposition of Webster's doctrines of international trade is found in the speech on the tariff delivered before the House in 1824, a discourse which must rank as one of his greatest achievements though less well known than others. With complete justice can Mr. Lodge hold the opinion that "this speech was one of great ability, showing a remarkable capacity for questions of political economy."1 That part of the speech devoted to trade theory brought out three distinct points; namely, a study of the "true nature of commerce," a criticism of the balance of trade doctrine, and an analysis of the consequences of specie exportation.

Taking these questions for consideration in the order mentioned, attention is first directed toward Webster's impressions about the "nature of commerce." The true origin of commerce was imputed to diversity in the world's climate, resources and soil, giving rise to reciprocal wants among nations and reciprocal means for the gratification of one another's wants. Commerce, described simply as the exchange

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1
Lodge, Daniel Webster ( New York, 1899), p. 164.

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