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Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Prose Works. 1892.

III. Notes Left Over

11. Who Gets the Plunder?

THE PROTECTIONISTS are fond of flashing to the public eye the glittering delusion of great money-results from manufactures, mines, artificial exports—so many millions from this source, and so many from that—such a seductive, unanswerable show—an immense revenue of annual cash from iron, cotton, woollen, leather goods, and a hundred other things, all bolstered up by “protection.” But the really important point of all is, into whose pockets does this plunder really go ? It would be some excuse and satisfaction if even a fair proportion of it went to the masses of laboring men—resulting in homesteads to such, men, women, children—myriads of actual homes in fee simple, in every State, (not the false glamour of the stunning wealth reported in the census, in the statistics, or tables in the newspapers,) but a fair division and generous average to those workmen and workwomen—that would be something. But the fact itself is nothing of the kind. The profits of “protection” go altogether to a few score select persons—who, by favors of Congress, State legislatures, the banks, and other special advantages, are forming a vulgar aristocracy, full as bad as anything in the British or European castes, of blood, or the dynasties there of the past. As Sismondi pointed out, the true prosperity of a nation is not in the great wealth of a special class, but is only to be really attain’d in having the bulk of the people provided with homes or land in fee simple. This may not be the best show, but it is the best reality.