Oliver Ellsworth: Landholder XIII
The attempt to amend our federal Constitution, which for some time past hath engrossed the public regard, is doubtless become an old and unwelcome topic to many readers, whose opinions are fixed, or who are concerned for the event. There are other subjects which claim a share of attention, both from the public and from private citizens. It is good government which secures the fruits of industry and virtue; but the best system of government cannot produce general happiness unless the people are virtuous, industrious and economical.
The love of wealth is a passion common to men, and when justly regulated it is conducive to human happiness. Industry may be encouraged by good laws; wealth may be protected by civil regulations; but we are not to depend on these to create it for us, while we are indolent and luxurious. Industry is most favourable to the moral virtue of the world; it is therefore wisely ordered by the Author of Nature, that the blessings of this world should be acquired by our own application in some business useful to society; so that we have no reason to expect any climate or soil will be found, or any age take place, in which plenty and wealth will be spontaneously produced. The industry and labour of a people furnish a general rule to measure their wealth, and if we use the means we may promise ourselves the reward. The present state of America will limit the greatest part of its inhabitants to agriculture; for as the art of tilling the earth is easily acquired, the price of land low, and the produce immediately necessary for life, greater encouragement to this is offered here than in any country on earth. But still suffer me to enquire whether we are not happily circumstanced and actually able to manage some principal manufactories with success, and increase our wealth by increasing the labour of the people, and saving the surplus of our earnings for a better purpose than to purchase the labour of the European nations. It is a remark often made, and generally believed, that in a country so new as this, where the price of land is low and the price of labour high, manufactories cannot be conducted with profit. This may be true of some manufactures, but of others it is grossly false. It is now in the power of New England to make itself more formidable to Great Britain by rivaling some of her principal manufactures, than ever it was by separating from her government. Woolen cloaths, the principal English manufacture, may more easily be rivaled than any other. Purchasing all the materials and labour at the common price of the country, cloths of three-quarters width, may be fabricated for six shillings per yard, of fineness and beauty equal to English cloths of six quarters width, which fell at twenty shillings. The cost of our own manufacture is little more than half of the imported, and for service it is allowed to be much preferable. It is found that our wool is of equal quality with the English, and that what we once supposed the defect in our wool, is only a deficiency in cleaning, sorting and dressing it.
It gives me pleasure to hear that a number of gentlemen in Hartford and the neighboring towns are forming a fund for the establishment of a great woolen manufactory. The plan will doubtless succeed; and be more profitable to the stockholders that money deposited in trade. AS the manufacture of cloths is introduced, the raising of wool and flax, the raw materials, will become an object of the farmer's attention.
Sheep are the most profitable part of our stock, and the breed is much sooner multiplied than horses or cattle. Why do not our opulent farmers avail themselves of the profit? An experience would soon convince them there is no better method of advancing property, and their country would thank them for the trial. Sheep are found to thrive and the wool to be of good quality in every part of New England, but as this animal delights in grazing, and is made healthy by coming often to the earth, our sea-coasts with the adjacent country, where snow is of short continuance, are particularly' favourable to their propagation. Our hilly coasts were designed by nature for this, and every part of the country that abounds in hills ought to make an experiment by which they will be enriched.
In Connecticut, the eastern and southern counties, with the highlands on Connecticut river towards the sea, ought to produce more wool than would cloath the inhabitants of the state. At present the quantity falls short of what is needed by our own consumption; if a surplusage could be produced, it would find a ready market and the best pay.
The culture of flax, another principal material for manufacturing, affords great profit to the farmer. The seed of this crop when it succeeds will pay the husbandman for his labour, and return a better ground-rent than many other crops which are cultivated. The seed is one of our best articles for remittance and exportation abroad. Dressing and preparing the flax for use is done in the most leisure part of the year, when labour is cheap, and we had better work for sixpence a day and become wealthy, than to be idle and poor.
It is not probable the market can be overstocked, or if it should chance for a single season to be the case, no article is more meliorated by time, or will better pay for keeping by an increase of quality. A large flax crop is one most certain sign of a thrifty husbandman. The present method of agriculture in a course of different crops is well calculated to give the husbandman a sufficiency of flax ground, as it is well known that this vegetable will not thrive when sown successively in the same place.
The nail manufacture might be another source of wealth to the northern states. Why should we twice transport our own iron, and pay other nations for labour which our boys might perform as well? The art of nail-making is easily acquired. Remittances have actually been made from some parts of the state in this article; the example is laudable, and ought to be imitated. The sources of wealth are open to us, and there needs but industry to become as rich as we are free.