Daniel Webster as an Economist

By Robert Lincoln Carey | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

BEFORE turning to the general summary of Webster's economic ideas it may be of some value to comment briefly on three topics, partly political and partly economic in nature, concerning which Webster expressed some opinion. They are mentioned in the conclusion because they stand somewhat apart from the material discussed in each of the four preceeding parts. One of these subjects related to the commercial policy of government upon which Webster discoursed at great length at different times. Only a brief summary of his position is given here. He believed the state should negotiate trade treaties containing precise stipulations in order to eliminate the policy of retaliation between nations. In 1843, he explained that equitable reciprocity of trade is essential to general prosperity.1 He did not look with favor upon most of the "supposed reciprocity treaties," as he called them, partly because they included the "most favored nations" clause and partly because he did not think they did justice to American shipping. He condemned the commercial treaty of 1830 with Great Britain and the treaty of 1827 with the free Hanseatic republics on these grounds. He opposed the "most favored nation" principle because he thought it to be a meaningless generalization and, according to him, generalizations in commercial treaties lead to quarrels and confusion.2 The "true principle" of commercial policy, he asserted, was as old as Cromwell and decreed that while

____________________
1
Speech at Baltimore before the Baltimore merchants on behalf of American shipping, May 18, 1843, Writings and Speeches, vol. xiii, p. 153 et seq.
2
Ibid., p. 163.

-193-

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