A Democratic-Republican Critique of the SUM Charter

Nov 10, 1791

Copy of a letter from a gentleman in New-Jersey, to his friend in the Legislature of that State, now sitting in Trenton.

I received your letter dated the 4th instant, and I am to acknowledge the favor you did me in your candid relation of the demands of the gentlemen who mean to establish manufactories in this state, and as I know you wish to be informed of the sentiments of some of your constituents, I think it a duty I owe to my fellow-citizens, to give you my opinion on these matters, referred by them to our Legislature, and I will endeavor to give it in the best manner my time and small abilities will admit, being conscious they are far from being adequate to the subject which I trust will be clearly and honestly discussed by the superior genius of the gentlemen of our Legislature.

Charters are generally restricted in England and in this country, binding the incorporated bodies to certain specific articles-but if these gentlemen have it in their option, generally to prosecute any mechanical business they think proper they will bear down by their large capital, all the mechanical branches of the same species in the United States; this in time will have a very fatal effect on the revenue of the public; as the mechanics are at present a very large and valuable part of the community; and raise large sums in the import and government taxes, which, when they are crushed, must fall on the landed interest. But let us turn our eyes to the kingdom of France, and we will see the most enlightened philosophers, statesmen, and patriots, perhaps that ever graced the universe, who are truly the guardians of the rights of man:-that by their united study for more than two years, have, by their constitution, utterly and forever abolished all incorporate bodies whatsoever, as being injurious to the public weal.

Lottery is a species of gaming that wise men have written against and have laid it down, as having a fatal tendency on the morals of the community, and that they should not be granted, but on the greatest emergencies to the public at large, it leeks up for a time the circulating cash, stagnates trade, prevents just debts being paid, and is hurtful to the families of the poor adventurers.

That cutting canals, to facilitate navigation, is a most noble intervention and ought to be prosecuted wherever there is a prospect of effecting the end of cheapening transportation; but if any such matter is contemplated, why should it

not be the property of the United States, or the state of New-Jersey, to which the gentlemen apply for unbounded right to cut canals, where they please. Suppose they were empowered to cut a canal from Sandpink to the head of the South river or to the Millstone, and open an inland navigation from Philadelphia to New -York, which is thought practicable; would not this destroy hundreds of acres of good meadow on the Sandpink? By cutting a canal of twenty feet wide for miles together, would it not ruin many of our worthy fellow-citizens without proper compensation? Its course might necessarily go through several good farms, orchards, gardens, &c. and all this to be under the sanction of a law, made for the purpose of individuals, who want to aggrandize their property by a perpetual toll, and after this state had granted them a lottery to raise thirty thousand pounds on the public. This request really appears to be laughable, as they must suppose our Legislative body to be extremely good-natured.

Suppose their stock to be a million and a half of dollars, which I have been informed by the rapid and large subscription it is likely to amount to, which by their request may be used in any lucrative branch of manufactory if they are not restricted; This sum is perhaps greater than the united capital of all mechanics in America, which, by being divided into many thousands of small sums, in the hands of honest, industrious men, for the subsistence of their families, enables them to pay their taxes cheerfully and consume great quantities of dutiable articles; but these gentlemen come forward with their aggregate stock and modestly ask an exemption from all taxes. O heaven! Can the human mind be so blinded and callous through avarice?

Many of the mechanics suffered great losses in the late war, paid heavy taxes and served faithfully in the militia, and have been obliged through necessity, to sell their hard earned certificates for half a crown in the pound, to some of the very men who now come forward with them at more than twenty shillings. Among them, I would include the brave continental soldier, who is now returned to this trade for a scanty subsistence. I would ask why they suffered every species of misery to establish the present government, but to enjoy an equal share of its privileges and immunities with their fellow citizens, which they will not do, if at any time a part of the community are exempted from taxes in the same branches of manufactory they follow and they are taxed. If such a law should be made in any state, I think it would have a tendency to shake the pillar thereof to its centre.

I wish not, Sir, to be understood that I am against reasonable encouragement being given to the company. I think under proper restraint they may be very useful to the community to general and out to be encouraged, as far as reason and good policy may admit.


Philadelphia General Advertiser, 24 November 1791.