Mr. Seward to Mr. Goodrich.
Sir: Your despatch of June 12 (No. 3) was received. I notice in that paper, as I have observed in others received from you, the statement that Mr. Rogier dwells on our high tariff as being very unacceptable to the Belgian government. We cannot doubt that it is so unacceptable to the manufacturing countries of Europe, and the governments of those countries ought not to doubt that we seriously regret it.
How shall the inconvenience be remedied? We cannot decide this question without considering the cause of the inconvenience.
For half a century we maintained a low tariff on foreign imports. Why? Our slaveholders employed themselves and their slaves in producing surplus cotton for exportation, and a low tariff enabled European manufacturers to purchase that surplus, while we received payment for it in their productions.
A year ago the slaveholders abandoned these peaceful practices of producers of cotton, relinquished the cultivation of it and devoted all their own energies, with the labor of their slaves, to civil war, designed to overthrow this government and betray the country to the rule of foreign powers. As a military policy they destroy the cotton already in hand and cover their fields with Indian corn instead of cotton. Of course we can send much less, practically no cotton to Europe. How then could we pay for European products? Certainly only in gold and grain. We do this cheerfully, but we acquire the ability to do it only by manufacturing whatever we can make for ourselves. We need increased revenues to maintain the public defence. Besides direct taxes, we must raise revenue by a tariff on imports. The increase of duties is, therefore, a purely revenue measure, enforced upon the government by the new attitude of the former producers of cotton. When that attitude was assumed the European governments were warned that a new revenue policy must be adopted and maintained unless the civil war could be arrested, and we applied ourselves to arrest it. No one will now say that we have been deficient in energy and self-sacrifice in that respect.[Page 658]
The interests of the manufacturing and maritime powers of Europe on that occasion were identical with our own. They wanted the war arrested. But while desiring that end they, in spite of our remonstrances, have taken the very means calculated to stimulate and prolong it. They declare themselves indifferent between this country and the aforesaid producers of cotton who assail it, and they give to the latter, prematurely and unnecessarily, the privileges and advantages of a public belligerent, privileges and advantages which continually encourge them to expect armed alliances and interventions. Thus the European states have morally upheld the slaveholders in the destruction of the whole system upon which the policy of low tariffs in this country was built. What explanation of this can there be but that Europe prefers political ends to commercial interests? What remains now for the European stats to do? Either to continue their indirect favor to the slaveholders or to change their relations towards this country in that respect. If they continue these, a servile war will follow, and that will completely extirpate the cotton culture in America. If they change these, the insurrection will decline and society return, so far as is now possible, to the habits it heretofore pursued. You may submit these views to Mr. Rogier, and may say to him, further, that in our view Providence is just and impartial; that if, as all the world seems to have agreed, slavery is a crime against humanity, and its continuance here a reproach, it is nevertheless a crime which other nations have encouraged and by which they have profited as well as the United States; and that those nations seem to us to have erred in supposing that they, having thus profited, could expect exemption from suffering and be altogether relieved from the necessity of adopting wise and prudent counsels in regard to the emergency, now when slavery refuses longer to perform its accustomed peaceful functions and turns to rend these nations as well as our own country.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Aaron Goodrich, Esq., &c., &c., &c., Brussels.