Full Chisel Blog

February 20, 2009

Embargoes and Tariffs and American Toolmaking

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,The Trade,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 7:55 am

During colonial times those types of things weren’t around as the only trading ‘partner’ was England, we couldn’t manufacture anything here, new stuff had to be imported, colonial blacksmiths could repair but legally could not manufacture.

After the first war with England, those severe restrictions were gone and we were then able to import goods from England and other countries.  Then protectionism and and was some may call isolationism, began to become more common and restrictions on imports considered by the government.

 Madison working in the Jefferson administration developed an embargo against imported goods in an effort to punish England for their practice of ‘impressment’ of American sailors, ‘Once British…’.  And while tariffs were in existence earlier they continued in popularity until the American Civil War.

Now why a lesson on early American economics?  I think one of the main reasons that American Toolmaking started to grow and flourish was the fact that they couldn’t get cheap imports because of the embargoes and when stuff got through it was under a heavy tariff.

And America was expanding and needed more tools than could be imported and with unlimited natural resources, the only problem was labor.  But there was not an embargo on people, so talent from the continent began to migrate in great numbers to North America fueling the industry.

The tariffs did level the playing field by causing the inexpensive items produced in countries where labor was cheap to be more competitive with items produced in North America.  But the tariffs didn’t stop imports, just made them more expensive, still items like saws, plane blades, chisels and other tools made in England and considered superior to those made in North America.

Eventually we would have gotten around to making tools here, but the politics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century hastened our entry into the world of toolmaking out of necessity.



1 Comment »

  1. I have been saying for years that we need to impose duty and tariffs on foreign products. Japan has done this for years, in some cases charging 200% of the value of a product for the duty.

    If we could even out the playing field, it would give people an incentive to buy American for a change. If we all would buy more American products whenever we can, our economy might not be in the terrible situation it is in at the moment.

    I recently bought some Carhart jeans, only to notice they are not made in America anymore. It bothered me, but I found a place online that sells American made products, only, and they do have some Carharts. I took the made in Mexico pants back and bought them online. The surplus store I used to buy my Carharts at thought I was crazy for taking them back, but they did give me my money back. As a bonus I got a free made in America t-shirt with my order, and picked myself up a light utility jacket, also made in America.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could level out the playing field, so that products made in America were more attractive? (and so you could find them easier:-)

    Comment by Alan — February 24, 2009 @ 5:21 pm

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