One of the very first acts of Congress was the passage of the Tariff Act of 1789. President George Washington signed it into law on July 4, 1789, commemortating the young nation’s Declaration of Independence.
“A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies,” Washington said in his first address to Congress six months later.
The United States could not depend on merely importing inventions from other nations, Washington said, but must take measures to produce goods at home.
“But I cannot forbear intimating to you the expediency of giving effectual encouragement, as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertion of skill and genius in producing them at home,” he told Congress.