With Walt Whitman in Camden, by Horace Traubel
© Copyright 1996 by Fellowship of Friends. All Rights Reserved.

On Protectionism

Sunday, November 7, 1891

He asked cost of book, and when I said, "A dollar twenty-five--35 cents discount," he seemed surprised. And when I further said all books were nowadays discounted at published prices, he seemed to regard it as a seriously-merry subject of jest, and said, "That is another exhibition of protectionism, Harrisonism. Fictitious statements, prices. A show of something, and all unnatural. Protectionism is as if one fellow in a crowd mounted on a chair, and then another, and then a third, and then a fourth and a fifth. And so on and on, till at last all are mounted on chairs--all are on artificial heights. As long as one stood there alone, or even two or three, he, they, enjoyed a sort of eminence. But when all were up, the novelty was gone, even appearance gone, and all could realize what a sham fame they enjoy. That is protectionism. And of course you know I am against all that. You know me, 'Leaves of Grass,' bitter fighters to the end of the fight. We do not stop short of the world, of absolute human solidarity--no false elevations, depressions--the grand, great average, rather, and all it brings with it, good and evil."

From Walt Whitman's Birthday, May 31, 1891 - Appendix II of Volume 8

"...I had a dispute with Thomas Dudley some years ago. His theory was, that our main thing in America was to look out for ourselves--for the fellows here. Well, in response I said, rather incidentally (but I felt it at the bottom of my heart), that the theory of the progress and expansion of the cause of the common bulk of the people is the same in all countries,--not only in the British islands, but on the continent of Europe and allwheres,--that we are all embarked together like fellows in a ship, bound for good or for bad. What wrecks one wrecks all. What reaches the port for one reaches the port for all. And it is my feeling, and I hope I have in ≥Leaves of Grass≤ expressed it, that the bulk of the common people, the torso of the people, the great body of the people all over the civilized world,--and any other, too, for that matter,--are sailing, sailing together in the same ship. And that which jeopardizes one jeopardizes all. And in my contest with Thomas Dudley, who is a thorough "protectionist" (in which I thoroughly differ from him), my feeling was that the attempt at what they call "protection," and all that goes to boost up and wall up and wall out and protect out (doubtless I tread on the corns of a good many people, but I feel it deeply, and the older I live to be the stronger I feel it) is wrong, and that one feeling for all, extreme reciprocity and openness and freetradeism, is the policy for me. And I not only think that it is an important item in political economy, but I think it is the essential social groundwork, away down; and to me nothing will do eventually but an understanding of the solidarity of the common people, of all peoples and all races. And that is behind 'Leaves of Grass.'"