The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.XXI. Political Writing Since 1850
§ 24. William G. Sumner
Equally notable was the influence of William G. Sumner, Professor of Political and Social Science in Yale College. In classroom and before the public, by lecture, pamphlet, and book, he assailed the protectionist system as “an arrant piece of economic quackery,” masquerading “under such an air of learning and philosophy” as deserved only “contempt and scorn, satire and ridicule.” No one did more than he to lay the basis of new thought concerning our national economy. To the manufacturing and commercial classes protectionism was a fetish, essential to American prosperity; and whoever rejected it or even questioned it could not be a patriot. It is not surprising, therefore, that Wells was accused of sympathy for the “lost cause” of the Confederacy, even of being bribed by British gold to advance free trade principles, and that there was a demand that Professor Sumner be removed from his position at Yale. However, the increasing surplus in the national treasury and the demand for tariff reform by the Democratic party relieved antiprotectionism of its opprobrium. The campaign of 1888 was notable, for both political parties sought to inform the voter on the tariff issue by book and pamphlet, as well as by speech and editorial. Wells, in his Relation of Tariff to Wages, pointed out that higher wages in the United States are the results of the productiveness of labour rather than of the protectionist policy. Sumner’s Protectionism answered in simple but bellicose language the stock arguments of the protectionists. Half a dozen other works, about equally divided in defence and criticism of the existing tariff policy, were issued during the campaign, and the presidential campaign four years later was also notable for a similar tariff literature. The results on public opinion were favourable to the anti-protectionists; ever since the criticism of protection has steadily increased and the more scholarly writings on the tariff have been with a few exceptions unsympathetic toward the principle of protection.