October 24, 1878
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, AND FELLOW-CITIZENS:
This society, whose annual meeting has gathered the large assemblage of people, has for its object the promotion of the interest of agriculture in this part of the United States. I am not unfamiliar with this County of Allegheny, this city of Cumberland and this region of our country. I know that while many of these citizens are engaged in agriculture, the largest interest of this section is coal, and therefore I suppose that to laborers in the field of agriculture and those in the mines I am to address myself to-day. But I am glad to be able to say to you that the main burden of the remark to be made on this occasion will devolve on the gentleman who has charge of the Treasury of the United States, hence I may be excused for not entering upon an elaborate speech, including in its scope the financial condition of the country.
I may, however, congratulate you on a change in the weather. You remember how yesterday we looked at the weeping skies and listened to the sweeping winds, and feared that they would not be propitious, but the storm has passed away, beginning at Florida and sweeping from the Atlantic to the southwest boundary of the United States, causing much suffering and destruction of property on sea and land. Now the sky is bright and the air is balmy, and we may hope that the pure and clear atmosphere will carry health to the fever-stricken communities of the South, thus relieving them from the pestilence which has so long afflicted them.
As in the material world we have storms which occasion so much disturbance and commotion, so with human affairs. When I first saw this picturesque scenery we were in the midst of a terrible conflict, upon which all men looked with the greatest apprehension, but fortunately peace came with its resulting blessings, and we at this time can direct our efforts for the benefit of the Nation, and that Nation a Nation of freemen and if, unhappily, there should be here and there some remnant of former bitterness, we should remember that the ways of Providence are slow but sure, and that as a Nation we are better off than we were five years ago, and that the wish is expressed everywhere that the Union and Constitution may be loved and the laws passed on pursuance of the Constitution may be observed by all the inhabitants of the country. If anywhere they are obstructed, the great sentiment of the country is wisely moderately, but [ ] expressed that they should be enforced, and communities which fail to obey the Constitution and laws passed in pursuance of that instrument, will regret the consequences of their act, for persons will not emigrate to sections where disturbances exist.We are, however, rapidly marching forward to a period when all sections are to have equal rights, the States equal rights under the Constitution, and all citizens equal rights, whether ignorant or wise, poor or rich—all, if whatever condition, under the constitution and laws. The storm is passing away. Five years ago there was a financial panic, followed by depression in business, and that, too, is passing away. The lesson it taught us is not without benefit to the country. Although times are temporarily bad, they are not without compensating blessings to the American people. Great changes have occurred during these five years of financial depression. The agricultural interests always suffer less by such depression, for in good and “flush” times the farmer is usually last to branch out, run into debt and go beyond his means. He certainly is caught with less debt than the manufacturer or commercial man. When prosperity comes back, the farmer heads off with good crops, and this makes business for railroads, steamboats and canals. It quickens and increases the products of factory and shop. But coal is at the bottom of all industries. On the sea it moves our ships, and on land supplies manufacturers with power. In every field of labor we begin to see that they are all caught by the favorable tide setting in. But if farmers are becoming better off—and Governor Carroll assures us they are—prosperity will extend to manufacturers and merchants. If agriculture is prosperous, every other interest and industry will be prosperous also. The last five or six years have made many changes. As compensation for our losses, hard times have brought to us a knowledge of exports, or what we send abroad to be paid back to the people in some way. If these exceed the imports, we receive the difference in cash. hat have sent abroad?
Take the article of corn: Six years ago we exported 34,000,000 bushels; now 85,000,000 bushels. Wheat, 26,000,000 bushels; now 72,000,000 bushels. Flour, 2,500,000 barrels; now 4,000,000 barrels. Cotton, 933,000,000 pounds; now 1,607,000,000 pounds. Bacon, 246,000,000 pounds; now 592,000,000 pounds. Fresh beef, 26,000,000 pounds; now 92,000,000 pound. Pork, 57,000,000 pounds; now 71,000,000 pounds. The total increase in six years is about $140,000,000. The price of labor has not been diminished purposely in order that we may increase our exports, though hard times have produced that result. Our facilities have been largely increased by machinery, and therefore, we are now able to undersell European countries in many things they have heretofore furnished to us.
An intelligent gentleman of Philadelphia, Lorin Blodgett, has furnished me a list of what Philadelphia manufacturers are sending abroad, and I learned some facts in this connection while at Pittsburg; among them, that the iron with which jackets for locomotives are made of was formerly procured from Russia. Now, we are sending such iron to Russia, instead of importing it from that country; and this fact shows that we not only have a home market, but are supplying foreign countries with that article.
Mr. Blodgett’s test of Philadelphia industries shows that manufacturers export three-fourths of their steel forks, hoes and rakes to England and Central Europe, and from Sheffield they are re-exported with English wares; also edge and other tools are sent thither; shovels, spades and coal-hods to South America and Australia; table cutlery, saws, flies, nails and spikes to South America and the West Indies; bolts, nuts and rivets to the countries of Europe, including England, and also South America; wire to South America and Australia; car wheels, to England and other countries; locomotives, (100 a year) to Russia, Brazil, &e. Besides these, are exported iron bridges, sheet roofing and architectural iron, cables, chains and gas and water pipe. The increase of our exports over imports enables us to get back our bonds so as to pay interest on them at home instead of abroad. I do not mean our United States bonds alone, but your Maryland and other State bonds. The conclusion from all this is that the Nation is becoming better off than it was. Unless something should be done to check this incoming prosperity our country will march on to good times again. It would be of advantage to follow in the path marked out by the framers of the Constitution, and not undertake new ways of paying old debts, thus checking a return of general prosperity.
A member of Congress (Mr. Potter), in a letter to the public, says it would be better for the business interests to abolish Congress. This gentleman has been in Congress for six years. I do not agree with him. The true thing is to say: “Let us place in position men who are well known, and who will intelligently attend to your affairs.” There are many things Congress can do. It is best to have the people’s representatives meet and take care of public matters. They should be taught their lessons through the people on the platform, in their resolutions, and in assemblages like the one before us. The work should be performed wisely and well.
I conclude by saying the good credit of the United States is valuable to every man in the United States engaged in any industry, because enterprises that give employment to labor can go forward only by capital, and capital can be lent out only on good credit. What we want is good dollars, and inducement to put them into business. If I know myself at all, my view is that as more human beings are engaged in labor with their hands than in any other way, they are chiefly to be considered in governmental affairs. That is my opinion all the time. In travelling, our safety depends on the honesty and fidelity with which common laborers perform their part. If on a railroad there be defective machinery or carelessness, our lives are endangered. So our National safety depends on honest labor. Therefore the best thing to do is to keep our credit and our currency sound and stable.