Report on the Subject of Manufactures

Alexander HAMILTON

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Item#: 127452 price:$37,000.00

Report on the Subject of Manufactures
Report on the Subject of Manufactures


HAMILTON, Alexander. Report of the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, on the Subject of Manufactures. Presented to the House of Representatives, December 5, 1791. Dublin: Re-printed by P. Byrne, 1792. Octavo, modern half brown calf, brown morocco spine label, marbled boards. $37,000.

The rare second edition of Hamilton's famous report urging Congress to promote manufacturing, "one of the great American state papers, 'the Magna Carta of industrial America'" (Howes). This was Hamilton's most innovative report, "a remarkably modern economic vision based on investment, industry, and expanded commerce."

After Washington was elected President in 1789, "the first thing he had to do was to get the national finances in order. That meant appointing Hamilton the first Secretary of the Treasury, and giving him a free hand to get on with the job. The financial mess… was a result of the Revolutionary War and the subsequent failure to create a strong federal executive… by the beginning of 1790 the federal government's debt had risen to $40.7 million domestic and $13.2 million foreign… The debt-funding was the first of Hamilton's policies to be put forward because it was the most urgent. But he followed it with three other reports to Congress, on the excise, on a national bank, and on manufactures… [In his report on manufactures,] Hamilton, building on Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, but going well beyond it, proposed that the federal government should deliberately and systematically promote the industrialization of the United States. Smith had opposed such state interference in the free-enterprise, capitalist economy as a throwback to mercantilism. Hamilton did not disagree in general, but thought that 'priming the pump' was necessary for a small, new nation, overshadowed by the manufacturing power of its former imperial ruler, Great Britain. He intended such help to be temporary, until American industry could stand on its own feet. Jefferson and his friends protested against the scheme not on grounds of economic theory but for much more fundamental reasons. He believed that the new republic would flourish only if the balance of power within it was held by its farmers and planters, men who owned and got their living from the soil. His reasoning was entirely emotional and sentimental… Farmers, he believed, were somehow more virtuous than other people, more staunch in their defense of liberty… Hamilton scoffed at such (to him) puerile reasoning. But many important politicians, especially in the South, agreed with Jefferson" (Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, 211-215).

"Hamilton's 'Report on Manufactures' (1791) is a classic document of U.S. economic policy… Hamilton made a broad-ranging and powerful case for the government promotion of manufacturing. The report opened by attacking the then influential French physiocratic doctrine that agriculture is the ultimate source of all wealth. Hamilton argued that manufacturing is no less valuable or productive than agriculture and, indeed, had many specific economic advantages, such as the increased productivity that comes from enhancing the division of labor, the use of machinery and technical skills, and the added diversity of employment opportunities offered workers… [Hamilton then] argued that 'the incitement and patronage of government' was required in order to overcome the inhibitions that prevented the start of manufacturing production… [D]omestic manufacturers not only had to contend with the 'natural disadvantages of a new undertaking,' but also 'the gratuities and remunerations which other governments bestow' on their own producers. After discussing the current conditions in the United States in relation to manufacturing, particularly the high price of labor and the scarcity of capital, the report shifted to the means by which government could promote domestic manufactures. Hamilton analyzed various trade measures, including import duties, pecuniary bounties (subsidies), patents, and other government policies… Finally, Hamilton's report turned to specific proposals regarding a long list of itemized commodities… The report was not just a visionary document about the economic advantages of manufacturing, but also a policy document that made specific and concrete proposals for government action" (Douglas A. Irwin, The Aftermath of Hamilton's "Report on Manufactures").

"Hamilton offered a remarkably modern economic vision based on investment, industry, and expanded commerce. Most strikingly, it was an economic vision with no place for slavery. Before the 1790s, the American economy, North and South, was tied to a trans-Atlantic system of slavery. A member of New York's first anti-slavery society, Hamilton wanted to reorient the American economy away from slavery and trade with the slave colonies of the Caribbean" (Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Online Archive). This Dublin printing is the second edition of this important report, preceded only by the extraordinarily rare (and virtually unobtainable) 1791 first edition, printed in Philadelphia by Childs and Swaine. Ford, Bibliotheca Hamiltoniana 202. See Howes H123.

Light scattered foxing, faint dampstaining to preliminary and final leaves. A very good copy. Exceptionally rare.

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