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A Woolly Assertion

A Woolly Assertion image
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The wool growers of ühio met in convention at Columbus, recently, and issued an appeal to the people. In this appeal the following assertion is used: "Full and adequate protection for the wool industry would soon increase our 45,000,000 sheep to a required 110,000,000, furnishing 650,000,000 pounds of wool annually - all needed - and we would import none." Let this assertion be examined in the light of past experience for its valué as a guide for the future. Since 1816, a period of seventyeight years, wool has never been without protection, until it was placed on the free list by the present law. If, therefore, "full and adequate" protection has anything to do in increasing the number of American sheep and bringing the domestic wool clip near to the total amount consumed, some progress should have been made in the period named. What are the facts? In 1840, the official statistics show that the proportion of foreign wool in our total consumption was 21.5 per cent. In 1850 this had increased to 26.3 per cent; in 1860, to 30.6 per cent; in 1864, to 42.6 per cent. In 1868 it dropped to 11.9 per cent, again increasing in 1872 to 45.3 per cent. In 1890 it was 27 per cent; in 1891, 3Ó.8 per cent; and in 1892, 33.1 per cent. These figures do not seem to lend probability to the predictions of the Ohio wool growers. They show that under the McKinley act which was the ideal "full and adequate" protective tariff of these wool growers, since its schedules were dictated by them, the percentage of foreign wools consumed was larger than under the tariffs of 1840, 1850, 1860, and at different periods under the Morrill tariff and greater also than under the tariff of 1883. The 30.6 percent, under the "free trade" tariff of 1860, increased to 42.6 in 1864 under the Morrill tariff. In 1868 under the same tariff it dropped to 11. 9 percent. In 1867 these Ohio wool growers got together and fixed up a schedule which was designed to furnish "full and adequate" protection. Before this schedule was fairly inoperation, the percentage of foreign wools consumed here went to the lowest point ever reached. Under the new law, however, which furnished all the protection that even these Ohio wool growers dared to ask, the foreign wools consumed, in 1880, advanced to 34.9 per cent of the entire amount consumed in this country. Since that time the highest percentage of foreign wools consumed occurred in 1892, under the McKinley act, when it reached 33.1 per cent. The long period of protection to American wool carne to a close in 1894 with the passage of the Wilson bill. The percentage consumption of foreign wools at the end of the period was far greater than in 1840. These facts tend to discredit the assertions of the Ohio wool prophets, and prove, if they prove anything, that protection does not prevent the importation of foreign wools. Nor is there any more evidence that the American wool industry is in the least endangered by the policy of free trade.


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