The Tariff — How It Affects the Farmer.
I can not utter with my tongue or conceive with my heart the great grievances that the town and country for which I serve suffereth by some of these monopolies. It bringeth the general profit into a private hand, and the end of all is bondage and beggary to the subjects — Sir Francis Bacon, 1596.
Speech of Hon. Richard W. Townshend.
The House being in Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union and having under consideration the bill (H. R. [unknown number]) to reduce import dution and war-tariff taxes —
Mr. TOWNSHEND said:
Mr. CHAIRMAN I have chiefly two objects in view in addressing the committee on this subject: one of these is to show the effect of our present tariff system upon the interest of the farmer, and the other is to present the record of the Democratic party upon the purposes for which tariff taxes should be collected.
I will state one proposition in which all here will agree. It is this no one will deny that we can with safety to all interests involved reduce the large surplus revenue now flowing into the Treasury and that this ought to be done by reduction of taxation. Does any one deny that proposition? So far, then, we agree. But we divide when we reach the question of deciding upon what articles the reduction shall operate. Upon this question there are really but two sides — the one declares that reduction shall be made of the taxes on whisky and tobacco, so that the people shall have cheaper whisky and tobacco; the other side insists that the reduction shall come from the necessaries of life, so that the people shall have cheaper food to eat and raiment to wear, cheaper shelter to live under, and cheaper tools to work with.
The bill before us is aimed to accomplish the latter object. It does not go as far as I desire. In the first place, I would be glad to vote for a bill providing for a thorough revision of the tariff in detail. If I can not have that opportunity now and must take a horizontal reduction I would prefer that the rate of reduction should be 40 instead of 20 per cent. But, sir, the committee who have had this subject under consideration for along time have thought it best policy to commerce the work of tariff reform in the manner and to the extent here presented, and I obey a law of Democracy when I yield my individual opinion to the will of the majority of my party associates. As eager as I am for further reduction, I will not go home to the people who are oppressed by the present unjust and extortionate tariff system and say that I voted against all reduction and left their earnings in the clutches of their hard-hearted task-masters without any relief because I could not have my way about it. I will not say to them, You shall continue to be the prey of the plunderers, the example of the tariff barons, because I could not dictate the character of the bill. Until reduction can be obtained of the tax on the necessaries of life those of us who favor this bill insist the present tax shall remain on whisky and tobacco.
Since this bill has been under discussion I have received a letter from a young farmer inquiring: "What does tariff taxation mean? How, when, and for what purposes are they collected? Also, what does protection mean in this connection? Who do these questions most seriously affect, and how do they affect them? What has been the position of the two political parties on this question?" I now propose to answer these questions in their order.
I beg that the House may hear with me, for my answers may be somewhat tedious, as I desire to give the details in plain and unadorned language.
What is tariff? It is a tax. When we talk about the tariff we are talking about taxes. Tariff taxes are those which are laid on foreign articles imported into this country. They are paid in the first instance by the importing merchant and collected from the consumer, when the articles are purchased by him from the retail merchant or dealer. Who pays these taxes? Every persons pays a portion of them who buys anything for his use, and therefore every one in this broad land has a pecuniary interest in these questions. If tariff taxes are high, all manufactured articles purchased by him are high in proportion to the amount of the tax, and when the tariff is reduced. Of course a low tariff leaves more money in the pocket of the consumer than a high tariff.
We are in reality now engaged in determining how much shall be taken out of everyone's pocket-book by legislation. We are determining how much of the earnings of every laboring man shall be retained by him and how much he shall be forced to surrender for others and for other purposes than his own use. By this bill we are saying the rate of tariff taxes is too high and are seeking to reduce it 20 per cent, and thereby seeking to leave that much more money in the pockets of the people.
The great difference between the taxes paid by persons under the operations of the laws of the various States and Territories known as State, county, and municipal taxes, and those paid under the laws of Congress known as tariff taxes, consist mainly in the manner of collection and the purposes for which they are collected.
State taxes as all know are levied and collected by certain officers of countries or municipalities. When such taxes are paid a receipt is given to the tax payer specifying the exact amount of his taxes and the object for which it is to be used. These objects are confined exclusively to defraying the expenses of the State and local governments; but tariff taxes, known as customs dues, are levied and collected in an entirely different manner and for different purposes.
There are two kinds of taxes paid under the operation of the tariff laws. One kind is that which goes into the Treasury of the United States and are called revenue taxes; they are used for the maintenance of the Government, or purely for governmental purposes. The other kind goes into the pockets of American manufacturers and are called protective tariff taxes, and are used for the profit of manufacturers and those in interest with them. When the latter is the object it is a process by which wealth or money is without remuneration transferred from the pocket of one man into the pocket of another. This transfer is made from
5the poorest as well as the wealthiest in the land. No one is exempted from it.
This protective tariff system is established, as it is said, for the protection of the home manufacturer against competition with the manufacturers of other countries, and compels the consumers in this country to buy their goods at a much higher price than they would pay for them of no protective tariff laws existed. Those who advocate this bill say that these taxes ought to be reduced in order that the people may buy their goods cheaper, and insist that the present high rate of tariff is not needed for Government purposes. This is demonstrated by the fact that there is over one hundred millions of surplus now lying in the Treasury. On the other hand, those who oppose this reduction insist that the people shall pay higher prices for the necessaries of life in order that bounties may be provided for the home manufacturers.
This is protection pure and simple. Some regard this as a system of legalized robbery of the many under the forms of law for the benefit of the few. Each will form his judgment of the proper nature for this process according to his views of the moral law and the objects for which our Government was founded. As I have already said, the taxes which under the tariff go into the Treasury are collected by the custom house officer on goods as they come into the United States and are paid in the first instance importer. Those which go into the pockets of the manufacturers are collected in the first instance when the articles are sold by them to the dealer. All of them are finally collected by the retail dealer when the goods are sold to the farmer, mechanic, or other consumer.
A person may know exactly how much he pays for State county and municipal taxes by examining his tax receipts but the only way for him to ascertain how much tariff taxes is paid for revenue as well as for protection — for that which goes into the Treasury as well as that which goes to the manufacturer — is for him at the end of the year to add up all the sums he has paid out during the year on all the manufactured articles he has purchased for himself and family. He must take an inventory of every article he has bought for his personal wear, for his shelter, for every article in his house, on his farm, or in his workshop: every article of farm machinery, every article of woolen or cotton dress goods, every garment for himself or his family, from the oldest even to the youngest — though it be but a new born babe in the cradle — or some one who during the year has been shrouded and coffined for the grave: all the sugar, canned goods, and nearly every article of food except those which are produced with the help of God on the farm: for while there is protection for almost every other thing there is practically non for what the farm produces. Nobody protects or helps to protect the ordinary farmer, but he is forced by the tariff law to aid in the protection of the manufacturing classes.
The sugar and rice planters and some few other producers are protected, but the cotton and tobacco planters, the wheat, corn, and other grain-growers, the beef and pork producers, &c., are without protection. It is true that in framing the tariff law, for the purpose of humbugging the farmer, they did go through the farce of putting some duty on the importation of these articles, but all know that no amount of
6duty can raise the price of these articles or protect them from foreign competition because these products are not imported into this country to any appreciable extent, but are exported, and their price is fixed in the European market, where they compete with the cheapest labor and cheapest producers in the world.
Now, after the consumer has added up all the sums of his purchases for the year, then he will be able to ascertain how much he has paid for tariff taxes by taking the tariff law made by the last Congress and ascertain the rate of the tax which he will find is there laid on every one of his purchases. For instance, he has paid on his rice a tax of 35 per cent glass, window and other glass, and average tax of 55 per cent on all articles manufactured of iron, and average of 37 per cent on paints, an average of 32 per cent cotton dress goods, and average of 37 per cent woolen dress goods, an average of 63 per cent flannels, an average of 53 per cent sugar, and average of 50 percent. But the list is too long for me to give them here.
It will be difficult for any one except an expert to ascertain fully the rate of taxation under the tariff laws. They are purposely made complex and complicated to conceal from the people the manner and extent to which they are fleeced in the interest of the protected classes. If the consumer has not the time nor the skill to make these computations, let him remember that the average of all the various taxes paid under the tariff law is about 42 per cent thereof. On the sum total of all he has bought he has paid a tax about 42 per cent being over two-fifths of the whole sum. For instance, our present average rate of tariff taxation is nearly 42 per cent. If a man has bought for himself and family five hundred dollars' worth of such articles during the past year he would have paid $210 in the way of tariff taxation, that being 42 per cent of the total of purchases. If, however, the average rate of taxation has reduced to 21 per cent, he would only have paid $105 in tariff taxes and would have $105 more money in his pocket today then he now has.
It will be seen, therefore, that this question deeply affects every man's pocket book.
Then if he wishes he may ascertain how much he has contributed out of this sum to the support of the Government, and what portion of his earnings has been contributed by him to the manufacturer by remembering that only one dollar of every five which he has been forced to pay under the operations of the tariff law goes into the Treasury; the other four go to the manufacturers or protected monopolists; and if he will compare the amount he has paid for State, county, and municipal purposes with what he has paid under the tariff law, he will be amazed at the comparative insignificance of the amount of the former and of the enormous amount of the latter, and if he will add together all the taxes he has paid for the local and national governments, and compare that sum with what he has paid to protect the monopolists, he will see that the amount which they have cost him is vastly greater than what he has paid for all other governmental purposes whatever.
Then if he is a thoughtful man and loves his family and his freedom better than he does the monopolies, he will ask himself what party has so framed the law which has made him the hewer of wood and the drawer
7of water for others — forged his chains which has enslaved him to the aristocratic few who own the manufacturing establishments. He will also ask himself the further question, what political party proposes to break his chains, abolish this slavery, and restore him and his children to freedom by reforming and reducing this tariff system. To learn that important fact he will only need to read the history of the two great political parties now before the country, and watch the course of the Representatives in Congress on this bill. I think that he will soon reach the conclusion that his own as well as his country's best interest demand that he should hereafter give his support to that political party which will reduce the tariff to a revenue basis. But before I go into the history of the parties upon this question I will endeavor to explain the cost of protection.
In a speech delivered by myself in the Tariff Commission. April 20, 1882, I made the following estimate of the cost of protection:
Let us for a while consider the nature and effect of our revenue laws. During the past nineteen years the Federal Government has collected from the people of this country the following amounts from customs duties and internal revenue taxes, which are in addition to all the other taxes annually collected:
|From customs receipts on imports||$3,012,750,929|
|From internal revenue||2,942,083,859|
|Total customs and internal revenue receipts||5,964,874,788|
In addition to this vast sum for the support of the Government the people have paid about five times as much into the private purse of the protected industries on manufacturers by reason of a protective tariff, being $15,063,754,643, making the grand total of the amount paid by the people for the support of the Federal Government and the protected manufacturers during the past nineteen years the astounding sum of $21,019,580,431, a sum about ten times as large as the public debt of the United States, nearly four times as large as the public debt of Great Britain, and within four billions as much as the public debt of all the nations of the world.
If this vast sum was now in the hands of the people and distributed equally among the 50,000,000 in this country, each man, woman, and child would have $420. Let us reflect for a moment as to where all this money has gone. Only about one-fourth has found its way into the national Treasury, while the remainder has found a lodgment in the pockets of the protected classes. This is the direct result or cost of nineteen years of protection. These figurers are obtained by adding together the customs and internal revenue receipts for the total taxes, and by multiplying the customer receipts by five for the profits of the protected classes, that being the proportion of revenue to the profits produced by the protective tariff, it being a well established fact that the domestic manufacturer usually adds the rate of tariff duties to the price of his products.
Since that date two years more of collections have increased this vast sum which has been taken from the pockets of the people under the operations of our Federal tax system to the enormous sum of nearly $23,000,000,000, of which sum over $16,000,000,000 went into the pockets of the protected classes.
Now the inquiry arises at once, who is benefited by this protective system? An examination of the statistics furnished by the census reports of 1880 will show that a very small proportion of the population of this country received any benefit from protection; indeed, the number of those engaged in manufacturing and protected mechanical pursuits are surprisingly small. To avoid the charge of partisan exaggeration I will give the figured and comment thereon of a Republican journal in very high standing with the members of that party. I read from the Chicago Tribune of February 27, 1883:
The census reports that if the fifty odd millions of our population there are
engaged in "gainful occupations" 17,302,099 persons. Of these but 3,837,112 are credited to manufacturing, mechanical, and mining pursuits. It is upon this class that the blessings of protection are focused, but it will be a surprise to most persons who have not looked into the matter for themselves to see the exact figures, that show that only a small minority of this small section of our industrial classes receive even the nominal advantages of the all comprehending taxes levied at the demand of employers.
The following list selects out of the entire enumeration made by the census those whose industry is so "to the manner born," or is so obviously injured by taxes which take but do not give, that they are to beregarded as the victims and not the beneficiaries of the tariff:
|Boots and shoes||194079|
|Brass founders and workers||11566|
|Masons, stone and brick||135315|
|Brick and tile makers||36052|
|Broom and brush makers||8479|
|Carpenters and joiners||373143|
|Carriages and wagons||54589|
|Lumbermen and woodshoppers||43382|
|Painters all kinds||128506|
|Saw mill operatives||77750|
|Tailors and milliners||419137|
This list of those who help pay the taxes to the protected homes without even ostensibly getting any benefit from it could be very much enlarged if the census went into any such detail that we could separate, for instance, the iron and steel industries into those which are original and subsidiary. If the Pennsylvania makers of pig iron are helped by the tariff, all the Cerivative manufactures of iron that must use taxed raw material are certainly hurt, just as the makers of agricultural implements are injured by the tax on steel. A large part of the 234,228 miners whom we have not included are as certainly victims of protection as any other class of the community. All the bituminous coal diggers in the West: all those employed in rich iron mines which, as the great iron miner. Mr. HEWITT, declared, need no help from the tariff: the copper miners, whom we of Pennsylvania, who are among the most wretched workers in this country; the gold and silver miners — all these should be subtracted. Of the 310,533 operatives in the cotton, woolen, and silk mills, a large proportion labor in branches that are native and could not be crushed out of existence. The Southern cotton mills are exporting their goods to South American and Asia.
We are far within the limits of fact in putting down the number of those who are included within the delusive circle of "protection" at less then 1,000,000 out of the total 3,837,112 reported as engaged in manufacturing, mechanical, and mining operations.
Industrially, then, the situation of this country:
Population to be supported 50,156,783.
Number to do the work, 17,302,000.
Of these, 1,000,000 tax eaters, produce a deficit that must be made good by taxation.
Proportion of victims to beneficiaries of protection, 50 to 1.
But how is this tribute money distributed which is coined by the brain and brawn of the millions who are without protection. It goes, as we have seen, to the 1,000,000 of the protected class — the owners of the manufacturing establishments, as well as the laborers employed therein.
Now what share does each of the protected classes receive? Computation based upon the census returns of 1880 show that the average return to the capital invested in manufacturing in that year was between 36 and 37 per cent., and yet with this large return the manufacturers only paid their employes, including clerks, superintendents, foremen, and all laborers, at the average rate of $1.16 per day.
The profits made by the owners of the factories actually exceeded the whole sum paid for all the labor employed in making the goods. Protection puts the lion's share of the spoils into the pockets of the few lords of the factories and the loom, while barely a crumb reaches the workingman. Thus it will be seen the claim that the tariff protects American labor is a false pretense, hypocritically used for the purpose of beguiling the working men into the support of this plundering scheme of injustice and inequality.
Now let us compare the profits of agriculture with the manufactures. For this purpose I will take the computations made by the eminent statesman from new York [Mr. S. S. Cox]. He said in a recent speech:
The estimate value of all farm products for the year 1879 is given in the census report at $2,213,302,564. Deduct from this cost of fertilizers, $28,586,397, and we have a gross return of $2,184,816,167 on the $12,104,081,430 capital invested in agriculture, which is equal to its per cent, on the latter sum. But I have not deducted for seed or wages. These items are not reported. As to wages, I assume that 50 cents a day, with board and lodging are at least equal on a farm to $1.16 a day in a manufacturing town where rents, fuel, and provisions are at climax rates. But I will, for the purpose of the comparison being drawn admit that the wages of farm labor were in the year 1879 at the rate of only 50 cents a day, with board and lodging, or 73 cents a day without board and lodgings. These average rates I consider better relatively than those paid to labor employed in manufacturing industries. At the rate of 75 cents a day or its equivalent, the amount paid to agricultural labor by our farmers for the year 1879 was $747,872,100. Deducting this sum from the $2,184,816,167 gross profits which accrued on farming capital that year, we reduce the latter to $4,436,944,067, which the return of 36 or 37 per cent which accrued on the capital employment in manufacturing.
If any error has occurred in Mr. Cox's figures it will found in over estimating farming profits. Enjoying such enormous profits on their investments, it is not surprising that the subsidized owners of the factories should oppose all efforts at reduction of their bounties; but it is surprising that those who are sent here to represent the people should aid in enforcing this unjust exaction upon their constituents to enrich this favored class.
There is no danger that legitimate manufacturing will suffer by a reduction of taxation. As long as we have such a public debt and pension list it will be necessary to collect the bulk of our revenue by tariff taxation, and a wise adjustment of the tariff duties will afford all the protection against foreign competition that will be necessary to develop and maintain American manufacturing interests.
The English manufacturers grow rich enough on 8 or 10 per cent profit
10on the sales of their capital invested, and the American farmer is compelled to content himself on 11 per cent or less.
Mr. Joseph Medill, of the Chicago Tribune, said in an address delivered before the American Agricultural Association, when alluding to their figures:
If our manufacturers would accept similar profits our tariff might be reduced more than half without requiring them to cut down the wages of their hands a single cent. It is quite clear that of every $4 "protection" adds to price of goods three foes into the pockets of the employing capitalists and only one to their workmen who fabricate the goods. And this accounts for the phenomena that the hotels of Washington and the Halls of Congress are filled to overflowing with a hired lobby, not only clamoring against any reduction of the present war tariff, but actually hounding and bulldozing the members of Congress to raise it still higher on the people.
In all ages the cunning few have sought to secure power and pelf at the expense of the many. The prerogatives and powers of kings and nobility and of the aristocratic classes were born of this desire. The struggle between the few seeking special privileges over the masses has continued from the earliest ages. It has existed between the ancient Israelite and the Egyptians, the bondage of the feudal ages, to serfdom in Russia, or the negro in the South of later years, but as the learned professor of a New England college, Professor W. G. Sumner, says:
A slave is a man who earns and another takes his earnings; therefore, a man who pays a double to an American manufacturer what he would pay another for goods is a slave.
As early as the reign of Elizabeth monopolies of a similar character were denounced as subjecting the people to bondage. In a Parliament of that reign brave old Sir Francis Bacon declared:
I can not utter with my tongue or conceive with my heart the great grievances that the town and country for which I serve suffereth by some of these monopolies. It bringeth the general profit into a private hand, and the end of all is bondage and beggary to the subjects.
As Christianity, civilization, and knowledge diffused their beneficent influences among men the ruder forms of slavery have given way but the wickedness and cunning of a class today have devised a new form of slavery, and have put it in operation in this land of boasted freedom. The late bloody war broke the shackles of the negro slaves in the South, but designing men devised a system of taxation which enslaves the whites and blacks of the whole land, so that now we have white as well as black slavery. The slavery of old was that of force; that of today is by the legerdemain of legislative enactments.
But let us consider some further evils growing out of our tariff system. Our present and greatest future danger is overproduction. In other words, we are making more manufactured articles and producing more agricultural products than we can consume in our own country or market abroad. Indeed, we are already suffering from this evil. The present stagnation in business is due to it, the low price of our grain and other agricultural products is caused by it. Many manufacturing establishments have reduced the wages of their laborers and reduced the number of their employes, while others have closed their factories and turned their wage people adrift without means of support.
11Many thousands of willing hands are idle today because more goods are in stock than can be sold.
Can any one fail to trace the cause for this sad condition of things to our system of protection, which on the one hand fostered and stimulated manufacture until it has reached the point where the supply is greater than the demand at home, while at the same time it has begotten a feeling of unfriendliness toward out commerce abroad to such an extent that foreign countries are discriminating against us and closing their markets to our goods? We have so long maintained this barrier against their products that they have been provoked to a spirit of retaliation against us.
We are now sending but very few manufactured articles abroad. If it were not for our farm products, which constitute 77 per cent of our products, the balance of trade would be against us and we would soon become pauperized, notwithstanding we have every natural, advantage for manufacturing over any nation on earth.
Our total exports for the year ending June 30, 1883, amounted to $804,222,632. An analysis of these exports will show that agriculture products constituted $610,269,449 or 77 per cent of all this vast sum. The table I will now read shows how small in comparison are the exports of protection manufactures with unprotected agriculture.
|Mining, including mineral oils||51444857||6.40|
|All other commodities||5386807||.67|
We have all the raw materials in inexhaustible abundance within our own borders, the best and most intelligent workmen in the world in our midst, yet the little storm beaten island of England, 3,000 miles away, has outstripped us in all the markets of the world in the sale of ships to our ports. She buys cotton of our planters, transports in back to her shores, manufactures the raw material into articles of commerce, then comes right to our door and undersells us in Mexico, Central America, and South American; yea, even passes contemptuously beyond us to the other ocean, and wrest from us the trade of the Pacific. Why is it so? Is it because the Englishmen is more enterprising or energetic than the American? All the world knows that is not true. It is because she has established friendly commercial relations with the world, she has cast down all her barriers of protection and opened her market to the products of every country.
Seeing the stagnation in our own trade and the danger of overproduction upon us, I turned my thoughts as a legislator some time ago to the question of devising a policy for extending our markets abroad.
12My attention was directed, of course, to the rich countries that lie south of us, Mexico, Central America, and South America. It seemed to me that with such an advantage of position and juxtaposition we could control that grand market. We have now one railroad in operation and are building other lines, which will penetrate to the very heart of the ancient dominion of the Montezumas. The Boston merchant may ship his goods by rail without breaking bulk to the city of Mexico, exchange them if he will for the rich products of that land which are so much needed in this country: whereas the English merchant must brave the perils of the sea for 3,000 miles, then reship his goods by rail at Vera Cruz. Our communication with Central and South American is not as close and easy as that with Mexico, but it still far better than the communication with Europe.
The similarity of our political institutions naturally produces a greater desire on the part of those countries for trade with us than with the monarchies of the Old World. The products of the southern countries, in the main being different from our own, are just such as are needed by us, while our agricultural and mechanical products are equally as much needed by those countries. This makes it if mutual advantage they need. I have no doubt we ought to and can control that market to the exclusion of all other countries. An examination of the official statistics will show that the annual foreign commerce of these countries amounts in the aggregate of exports and imports to $653,701,000. They will further show that England imported into those countries $88,520,000: France imported $62,771,000, and that the share of the United States amounted to only $36,044,000; that even Germany's exports to those countries outstripped ours.
Now, why has England taken from us this trade is within our reach? The answer is easy. It is because commerce with England is free, while that with the United States is shackled and hampered by our accursed tariff system.
In order that we might reform this blight on our commerce and secure that market for the surplus of our own workshops and farms I introduced in January last a joint resolution of which the following is a copy:
Whereas the establishment of free commercial intercourse among the nations now existing upon the continent of American will promote the friendly political revelations, internal commerce and industry, and secure a more extensive market for the surplus products of each of said nations: Therefore.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled. That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, requested to invite the co-operation of the governments of the American nations is securing the establishment of a commercial league by and between the said nations, to be known as the Customs Union of America, the arrangement of a common basis of import duties from other countries than those which may compose said league, and that the commercial intercourse among the people of all the American States may be freed from the payment of any customs or other dues whatever: and that a common system of weights and measure may be also established for the purpose of facilitating such intercourse.
It will be seen that this joint resolution looks to the establishment of a customs union with a common basis of duties as against all other countries and the establishment of free trade among the nations on this continent. Such a propositions is no doubt acceptable to protected manufacturers as well as to the advocates of free trade in this country, for while it establishes the same freedom of trade with these countries that now exists among our own States, great advantage would flow to
13our manufacturers in having an exclusive market protected against competition from all other countries. Our own manufacturers surely can have no fear of competition with manufacturing establishments of any consequence located there. If that market could thus be secured then the danger of overproduction would pass away, and every mechanic and farm laborer who is idle today would find constant and remunerative employment. Thus would the marvelous resources of this continent be developed and the busy hum of propensity be heard on every hilltop and in every valley of our land. This joint resolution, if adopted would accomplish for the American nation what the customs union or Zollverin of Germany has accomplished for the prosperity and trade of the people of Germany.
If our present high protective duties are maintained greater evils than now exist will also be produced by increasing the unfriendliness of foreign countries toward our trade and commerce. If we continue to exclude by our tariff the products of other lands they will retaliate against us to a greater degree than ever before. Some of them have already commenced the work of retaliation. Germany and France have excluded our hog product. They have done this on the false pretense that it is diseased, but really because our tariff discriminated against their manufactured products. If England should pursue toward us the same course as Germany and France, what a deplorable calamity would befall the farming classes of this country.
England takes far more of our pork than either of the countries mentioned. If she should close her ports to it the price of our pork would fall so low that its production would cease to yield a profit to the producer. Suppose England should lay an average tariff duty of 42 per cent or even one-fourth as much on our wheat and other grains as we do on her articles she sends us, can any one fail to see the disastrous effects of such action to our farmers. The price of our farm products today is regulated by the market in Liverpool. Wheat is lower now than it has been for twenty four years. If England should feed us out of our protective tariff spoon and lay a tariff duty upon our wheat the many millions of bushels which we now send her annually would lie on our hands and rot in our granaries and its production would cease to be profitable. She is not forced to take our wheat, Russia, India, Australia, and other countries would soon be able, if they are not already to supply her demand for wheat.
Sir, this policy of protection is a standing menace to the welfare of the American farmer, a blight on his prosperity, a curse to him and his children. Whatever benefit there is in it flows into the pockets if the few constituting the manufacturing class; whatever evil in it falls upon the farmer. No man upon this floor who represents a farming constituency can vote to maintain this system and vote against a reduction of the tariff without betraying the interests of his constituency into the power of monopoly.
I will now present the record of the Democratic party on this great question as made by the declaration of its founders and the enunciation of its principals in its national and State platforms.
In the beginning of our Government when our fathers had just emerged from the despotism of England's rule which prevented the establishment
14of manufactures in the Colonies a justification existed, if any could ever exist, for laying duties with a view to protection. We had then no manufacturing interest of consequence. The antipathies to England were very great, and, together with the great necessity of building up our home manufactories, which were in reality in their infancy, the fathers had strong temptation to advocate protection.
But, sir, in the first Congress that assembled under the Constitution in 1789, Mr. Madison, who has been quoted by some gentleman as favoring the doctrine of protection defined his position, which is decidedly antagonistic to every principle of the heresy of modern protection. It is as follows:
In the first place, I own myself the friend to a very free system of commerce and hold it as a truth that commercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive, and impolitic. It is also truth that if industry and labor are left to take their own course they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out. Now do I think the national interest is more promoted by such restrictions than that the interest of individuals would be promoted by legislative interference directing the particular application of its industry.
For example, we should find no advantages in saying that every man should be obliged to furnish himself, by his own labor, with those accommodations which depend on the mechanic arts, instead of employing his neighbor who could do it for him on better terms. It would be of no advantage to the shoemaker to make his own clothes to save the expense of procuring them from the shoemaker. It would be better policy to suffer each of them to employ his talents in his own way. The case is the same between the exercise of the arts and agriculture — between the city and the country, and between city and town — each capable of making particular articles in abundance to supply the other; thus all are benefited by exchange and the less this exchange is cramped by Government the greater are the proportions of benefit to each. The same argument holds good between nation and nation, and between parts of the same nation.
Who can doubt if Madison was sitting with us today he would not denounce the present system of protection and vote to reduce our protective duties?
The farthest verge in the direction of protection to which Mr. Jefferson ever went, and this was in the infancy of our manufacturing industry, was when he said:
Agriculture, manufacturers, commerce, and navigation are the most thriving when left most free to individual enterprise. Protection from casual embarrassments, however, may sometimes be reasonably interposed.
Jefferson wrote to Mr. Giles in 1825:
Under the power to regulate commerce they —
The Federalists —
assume indefinitely that also over agriculture and manufactures, and call it regulation to take the earnings of one of these branches of industry and that too, the most depressed, and put them into the pockets of the other, the most flourishing of all.
Now let us see how Andrew Jackson stood on this question. In his eighth message, at a time like the present when a large surplus existed in the Treasury, that apostle of Democracy declared:
The influence of an accumulating surplus upon the legislation of the General Government and the States, its effects upon the credit systems of the country, producing dangerous extensions and ruinous constructions, fluctuations in the price of property, rash speculations, idleness, extravagance, and a deterioration
of morals, have taught us the important lessons that any transient mischief which may attend the reduction of our revenue to the wants of the Government is to be borne in preference to an overflowing Treasury.
Again he said:
The safest and simplest mode of obviating all the difficulties which have been mentioned is to collect only revenue enough to meet the wants of the Government, and let the people keep the balance of their property in their hands to be used for their own profit.
In his farewell address (1837) the Sage of the Hermitage, as his parting advice, said:
The taxes which it —
The United States —
lays upon commerce — being concealed from the real payer in the price of the article, they do not so readily attract the attention of the people as smaller sums demanded from them directly by the tax gatherer. But the tax imposed on goods enhances by so much the prices of the commodity to the consumer, and as many of these duties are imposed on articles of necessity which are daily used by the great body of the people, the money raised by these imports is drawn from their pockets.
Mr. Polk is sometimes charged with being a protectionist. Read his declarations and see how shamefully he has been slandered.
The attention of Congress is invited to the importance of making suitable modifications and reductions of the rulers of duty imposed by our present tariff laws. The object of imposing duties on imports should be to raise revenue to pay the necessary expenses of Government. Congress may undoubtedly, in the exercise of a sound direction, discriminate in arranging the rules of duty on different articles, but the discriminations should be within the revenue standard, and be made with the view to raise money for the support of Government.
I will now ask the attention of the House while I read an extract from President Pierce's annual message, December 4, 1854:
I therefore renew my recommendation for a reduction of the duties on imports. The report of the Secretary of the Treasury presents a series of tables showing the operation of the revenue system for several successive years; and as the general principle of reduction of duties with a view to revenue and not protection may now be regarded as the settled policy of the country. I trust that little difficulty will be encountered in settling the details of a measure to that effect.
My time is too limited for further quotations from Democratic leaders. I will now invite your attention to the creed of the party, to its articles of faith as found in its national and State platforms.
The first declaration of principles which can be called a platform for the party was that of a Congressional caucus, which was known as Republican at that day as distinguished it from Federalist, adopted at Philadelphia, on which Jefferson was first elected to the Presidency. It was declared for —
6. Free commerce with all nations, political connection with none and little or no diplomatic establishments.
The next Democratic platform was that of 1838, adopted by our first national convention for nominating candidates for the Presidency and vice presidency. It was the platform on which Van Buren was elected. It declared —
Hostility to say and all monopolies by legislation, because they are violations of the equal rights of the people.
The true foundation of republican government is the equal rights of every citizen in his person and property and its management.
The next Democratic platform was that of 1840, adopted by the Presidential convention at Baltimore, which contains these resolutions:
4. Resolved, That justice and sound policy forbid the Federal Government to foster one branch of industry to the detriment of another, or to cherish the interests of one portion to the injury of another, or to cherish the interests of one portion to the injury of another portion of our common country.
5. Resolved, That it is the duty of every branch of the Government to enforce and practice the most rigid economy in conducting our public affairs, and that no more revenue ought to be raised than is required to defray the necessary expenses of the Government.
The Democratic convention of 1844 reaffirmed the fourth and fifth resolutions of the convention of 1840.
Resolved, That the fruits of the great political triumph of 1844 have fulfilled the hopes of the Democracy of the Union, in the noble impulse given to the cause of free trade by the repeal of the tariff of 1842, and the creation of the more equal, honest, and protective tariff of 1846, and that in our opinion it would be a fatal error to weaken the hands of a political organization by which these great reforms have been achieved and risk them in the hands of their known adversaries, with whatever delusive appeals they may solicit our surrender of that vigilance which is the only safeguard of liberty.
The Democratic convention of 1852 —
Resolved, That it is the duty of every branch of the Government to enforce and practice the most rigid economy in conducting our public affairs, and that no more revenue ought to be raised than is required to defray the necessary expenses of the Government and for the gradual but certain extinction of the public debt:
Resolved, And to sustain and advance among them constitutional liberty by continuing to resist all monopolies and exclusive legislation for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many.
In 1856 the Democratic national convention —
Resolved, That justice and sound policy forbid the Federal Government to foster one branch of industry to the detriment of another, or to cherish the interest of one portion of our common country.
It also repeated verbatim the first resolution quoted above of the convention of 1852, and then it —
Resolved finally, The time has come for the people of the United States to declare themselves in favor of free progressive free trade throughout the world.
In 1860 both the Douglas and Breckinridge platforms reaffirmed the resolutions of 1856, quoted above.
In 1872 the Democratic convention (so called) at Baltimore — which was, in fact, a Greeley, and not a Democratic convention at all — did not adopt any Democratic resolutions, but indorsed the platform of the Liberal Republican convention held at Cincinnati, which contained the following curious declaration, making the tariff "a local issue." "We remit the discussion of the subject (protection and free trade) to the people in their Congressional district and the decision of Congress therein, wholly free from executive interference or direction."
This is the only hiatus in the chain of assertions by the Democratic party of the doctrine of a tariff for revenue only. It resulted in the shameful defeat of a candidate supported by the party in defiance alike of principle and of policy.
In 1876 the Democratic convention spoke with no uncertain voice:
We denounce the present tariff, levied upon nearly four thousand articles, as a masterpiece of injustices, inequality, and false pretense. It yields a dwindling not a yearly rising revenue. It has impoverished many industries to subsiding a few. It prohibits imports that might purchase the produce of American labor. It has degraded American commerce from the first to an inferior rank on
the high seas. It has cut down the sales of American manufacturers at home and abroad and depleted the returns of American agriculture — an industry followed by half our people. It costs the people five times more than it produces to the Treasury, obstructs the processes of production, and wastes the fruits of labor. It promotes fraud, fosters smuggling, enriches dishonest official, and bankrupts honest merchants. We demanded that all custom house taxation shall be only for revenue
In the Democratic platform of 1880 the old doctrine was tersely reproclaimed:
Home rule, honest money, consisting of gold and silver and paper convertible on demand; the strict maintenance of the public faith, State and national, and a tariff for revenue only.
Now read the platforms of the Democratic conventions in the States, and I call the special attention of certain Democrats in some of those States who have not only departed from the faith of the fathers on this great question but also from the authoritative declarations of the national Democratic conventions and of the conventions of their own States. We will begin with Maine.
Maine. — 1869: "We reaffirm our adherence to the doctrine of free trade." 1870: "Free trade is the right of the people." 1875: Tariff for revenue.
New Hampshire. — 1876: "We favor a tariff for revenue only." 1878: — Simple revenue.
Vermont. — 1876: "A tariff for the purpose of revenue only."
Massachusetts. — 1870: "Except so far as the legitimate wants of the Government may require, free trade is the true policy of the country." 1871: "We demand a tariff for revenue only." 1877: Saint Louis platforms. 1884: Reaffirms Cincinnati platform 1880. Believing that the present enormous surplus in the national revenues is demoralizing and dangerous; that it should be cut down without further delay, not by increasing public expenditures, but by lessening the burden of taxation; that the burden should be removed from the necessaries of life and not from whisky and tobacco, and that the policy of taxing imports, not for the purpose of raising revenue but of obstructing trade, is unsound and must ultimately be abandoned."
Connecticut. — 1870: "A tariff for purposes of revenue only." 1871: Denounced the Republican party "because it has failed to reform the abuses of the tariff, permitting still the principle of protection and favoritism to override the idea of revenue." 1874: Declare it was "opposed to unjust and unequal systems of taxation, which tend to favor one class at the expense of other classes of the people," and to all monopolies, which operate to the benefit of privilged persons and classes. 1876: "The tariff law should be adjusted for the purpose of revenue only." 1884: "Call for Democratic convention, issued by Connecticut State central committee, April 2, 1884, "who are opposed to the process of ring combinations and the continuance of a war tariff in time of peace, by which the people are plundered, are cordially invited to act with the Democratic organization in the selection of delegated and the election to follow."
Rhode Island. — 1876: "Tariff for revenue." 1878: Saint Louis platform of 1876.
New York. — 1871: "Government should lay no tax on imports except for revenue purpose." 1874: "Federal taxation for revenue only." 1876: "We are in favor of a tariff for revenue only." 1877: "A tariff for revenue only." 1880: "A tariff for revenue only."
New Jersey. — 1871: "Taxation upon luxuries and the abolishment of taxes upon the necessaries of life." 1875: "Tariff for revenue." 1876: "Tariff for revenue." 1877: Saint Louis platform of 1876.
Delaware. — 1876: "Tariff to raise revenue and not to favor special classes."
Maryland. — 1873: "Revenue alone." 1875: "Only a sufficient revenue for general uses." 1877: Saint Louis platform of 1876.
South Carolina. — 1876: Saint Louis platform of 1876.
West Virginia. — 1880: Indorsed Cincinnati platform of 1880.
Ohio. — 1869: "A tariff based upon revenue principles alone, upon the closest possible approximation to free trade." 1870: "No candidate for congress nor for any other office is worthy of support who is not in favor of a low revenue tariff which closely approximates to free trade." 1871: "We are in favor of a strictly revenue tariff." 1875: "A tariff for the sole purpose of raising revenue." 1876: "We are in favor of a tariff for revenue only." 1877: "A tariff for revenue only."
Indiana. — 1870: "We are in favor of a tariff for revenue only."
Illinois. — 1871: "Taxes should be levied solely for the support of Government." 1878: "Revenue only." 1880: "No tariff for protection."
Michigan. — 1874: "We demand a tariff for revenue only." 1882: "Aggressive revenue reform in the direction of free trade."
Iowa. — 1877: "A tariff for revenue only." 1878: "A tariff for revenue only." 1883: "A tariff for revenue only." 1884: Saint Louis platform of 1876, and Cincinnati platform of 1880.
Minnesota. — 1874: "A tariff for revenue only." 1876: "A tariff for revenue only." 1883: "Revenue only."
Wisconsin. — 1871: "A tariff for revenue only." 1876: "A tariff for revenue only."
Kansas. — 1878: "A tariff for revenue only."
Nebraska. — 1874: "A tariff for revenue only." 1878: "Perfect commercial freedom, wherein we may sell where we can sell the highest and buy where we can buy the lowest."
Nevada. — 1878: "A tariff for revenue only."
Oregon. — 1872: "We are in favor of a tariff to raise money only for the necessary expense of the Federal Government." 1882: "A strict revenue standard."
California. — 1876: "A tariff for revenue only."
Colorado. — 1878: "Opposition to all monopolies and class legislation."
Missouri. — 1874: "A tariff for revenue only." 1878: "A tariff for revenue only."
Kentucky. — 1876: "A tariff for revenue only."
Louisiana. — 1876: Saint Louis platform of 1876.
Arkansas. — 1878: "Revenue alone."
Alabama. — 1880: Denounced protective tariff. Favors a "simple revenue tariff."
Tennessee. — 1870: "No candidate is worthy of support who is not in favor of a low revenue tariff which closely approximates free trade." 1874: "Solely with a view to collection of the necessary revenue."
Texas. — 1882: "A tariff for revenue only."
Thus it will be seen that thirty two of the thirty eight States have declared for a revenue tariff and against protection.
For many of the quotations from Democratic leaders and State platforms I am indebted to the advanced sheets of the forthcoming work on Caucuses, Conventions, Platforms, and History of Tariff Legislation,
19by General Duncan S. Walker, a son of the late Robert J. Walker, whose labors upon this subject while Secretary of the Treasury and in the United States Senate distinguished him as one of the ablest of American political economists and statesmen.
The position of the vast majority of the Democratic party on this floor is in harmony with the principles announced in the foregoing platforms and declarations.
We do not believe the Constitution has conferred on Congress the power to lay taxes for any other than for public purposes, that the object of all taxes should be revenue, and that when you raise a tax above the revenue, and that when you raise a tax above the revenue point it transcends the constitutional limit; but we do not believe that absolute free trade is practicable while we have a large public debt and such a long pension roll, nor do we believe that direct taxation is wise or proper, therefore we are in favor of most of the revenue being collected by duties on foreign importations, and also if the tariff duties can be so adjusted as to aid and encourage our domestic industries without increasing the burdens of the people beyond what would otherwise be necessary, then to that extent we believe such incidental protection is admissible, and we believe such a policy wisely exercised will afford all the protection that any legitimate industry will require.
The position of the Republican party, is as it was defined in my speech delivered in the last Congress, which I will beg leave to repeat:
The policy of protection has indeed been favored by the Republican party since its organization, but, as I have intimated, its leaders have never been so hold and open in its advocacy as within the past few years. They formerly concealed their real purpose behind the mask of friendship for American labor, to raise revenue and other hypocritical pretenses, but now, obeying the behest of the late conventions of protectionists at Chicago and New York, the more advanced leaders announce that they are for protection for the sake of protection, and that the protection of labor and the raising of revenues are but incidents to the main and primary object. For this reason we have heard the declaration made during this debate that if no tariff was required for revenue at all, still a tariff for protection pure and simple would be advocated.
Some Democrats on this floor from the States of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and California have declared it to be their purpose to vote against this bill, and while they deny they are protectionists, yet they advocate the same doctrine under another term, which they call discrimination in favor of the manufacturing classes.
Protection is simply a process by which one man is forced to surrender a portion of his earnings for the enrichment of another.
This doctrine of discrimination as insisted upon by these gentlemen, when boiled down to its essence, is virtually the same thing. They would lay taxes so as to discriminate in favor of those who engage in and are dependent upon manufacturing. Now, when you discriminate by laying taxes in favor of somebody, you must discriminate against? Why, of course all those who pay such discriminating taxes. And who are they? They are all those who are not so employed. These are the farmers and farm laborers and those in interest with them, who constitute a majority of the people as well as every one interested in manufacturing. The law of discrimination is at their expense, for it causes
20them to pay higher prices for their manufactured articles than they would play if they were left free to buy them from those who will sell them the cheapest:
The census of 1880, as I have said before, shows that there were 50,000,000 in this land, and that of this vast number only about 1,000,000 were engaged in pursuits that were protected by the tariff. Now, sir, can it be said that a law so unjust to the vast majority is in the interest of the people at large? If it is not, is it constitutional? Is it Democratic? Is it just? Is it honest? I for one answer, no. If such be Democracy, then I have been deluded all my life, for I have always been a Democrat and have always entertained the belief that the principles of that party taught that legislation should operate for the equal advantages of all and that no enactment should be made exclusively in the interest if any special class.
But some of these gentlemen assert that this doctrine of discrimination was the doctrine of Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, and Polk. Shade of the great departed! What desecration of their memory and patriotic labors among men! Sir, therein gentlemen are wrong. the cardinal principles taught by those great men in governmental affairs was that the greatest was that the greatest good to the greatest number should be the aim of all legislation, and when they laid the foundations of this Government they made that principle its corner stone. And now while these gentlemen advocate the system which spoliates the vast majority of the people for the benefit of the few, they still claim the right to lead the Democratic party.
Where will their leadership on that line land us? Will it not be into the camp of the enemy, where class legislation is the quintessence of the creed and monopoly the object of worship? God deliver us from such leadership!
Today, sir, the issue will be presented which will test their sincerity for reductions of the burdens now lying so heavily upon the people. How will they lead us in this contest? Will they stand with us and resist the assault against reduction which the Republican leaders advertise us will be made? Notwithstanding all they have said in criticism of this bill I hope they will not ally themselves with the enemy. I trust their love of Democracy will cause them to scorn the position of followers of Republican leadership. What will be the issue today? It will be the question whether we shall stop the accumulations of the hard earnings of the people which are to become the prey of subsidy seekers and jobbers, or whether we will go back to the people and say we failed to reduce your taxes because certain Democrats followed the leadership of Republicans and killed with one fell blow the only bill upon which we could vote that was presented to us for the purpose of reduction.
Let me warn these gentlemen that they are departing from the faith of the Democratic fathers, the solemn declarations of their party in national and State conventions, on this question.
In 1870 that brave, patriotic Democrat of Connecticut — Governor English — was elected governor of that State on a State platform which declared for "a tariff for purposes of revenue only." That same gallant leader of the Democracy of Connecticut but a few days ago announced in uneqivocal terms that he was in favor of this bill, which has been so bitterly denounced by a Democratic member from that State.
In 1874 Ingersoll, Democrat, was elected governor of that State on a
21similar platform. And in 1876 Hubbard was elected governor by the Democracy of Connecticut on a platform of the same character. The call for a Democratic convention in that State, which was issued by the proper authorities about one month ago, shows that the heart of the Democracy of Connecticut is with those of us who are struggling for the passage of this bill.
Those Democrats who oppose this bill say they are opposed to the agitation of this question at this time. They think it unwise while approaching the Presidential election. When do they expect to agitate it? Do they imagine that the position of our party can be concealed by ignoring discussing the most vital issue of the day — and issue uppermost in the public mind? Sir, we were defeated in 1880 by just such a policy as they advocate. Our enemies very cunningly pursued the policy of silence in the prairies of the West and in the localities where they knew the majority of the people were plundered by protection. In those localities they avoided it and endeavored to arouse prejudices over false war issues, and when these failed resorted to their last and surest reliance, the corruption of the ballot box with money furnished to a great extent by the monopolies protected by the tariff which we desire to reform. But, sir, in localities where the protected classes were in the majority they forced the fight on the tariff issue and made the people believe it was about the only issue involved in the election. Sir, silence and non action on this question would be unwise, would be suicidal.
But suppose we could conceal our position by holding our tongues, would it be manly for us to do so? We all believe that protection for the sake of protection is unconstitutional; that it is an iniquity; that it is robbery.
Now, if we are sincere in these professions, will we deserve the confidence of the people, will we deserve victory, when we cowardly stand by and see the people wronged and plundered without any effort on our part to change it, and possessing as we do the power in this House to reform this great evil, when we go back to those who sent us here and should confess that we did not have the courage to right these wrongs, will they meet us with the gladsome tidings, "Well done, thou good and faithful servants?" Sir, the pathway of duty lies plainly before us, and if the party has the courage and integrity to walk in it, as sure as the sun will rise again it will lead us to victory.
Gentlemen! ignore this issue as you may, this great question will not down. It will continue to press to the front until it absorbs public attention. All others will pale into insignificance before it. The Democratic party has ever been the champion of the rights of the people, and as its champion it has now a great mission to perform. It is to emancipate them from the slavery of protection. We can never gain power by pandering to the protected monopolies. They will have no confidence in any professions we may make. They know the Republican party is their best friend. I tell you plainly that one reason why I am a Democrat is because I am an enemy to all forms of monopoly. If I did not believe that my party when in power would reform the great abuses occasioned by this infamous tariff system which so grievously afflicts the people I should be deeply aggrieved.
22The great work of reform can only be accomplished by agitation. It was only after years of agitation that Cobden and Bright and the English reformers freed England from the bondage of protection and made her the queen of the world's commerce. Agitation will also free us from this bondage, and then will we wrest this accepter from England. With the declaration of political independence our young Republic conquered England on the bloody field of battle and established the greatest political power on earth. Now with a declaration of commerce and supplant the flag of Britain with the flag of the Republic in every sea. But the first great victory must be fought here at home. Scatter the seeds of truth: they will take root. Let us marshal our forces in this line.
The enemy will be a powerful one, well organized and well supplied with the sinews of war. They will do all that cunning can devise. All that money supplied by monopolist, contractors and office holders can accomplish. But our quarrel is just, and thus are we thrice armed. With constant agitation we will make known the truth. Let us be true to ourselves, be true to the people, and they will give us victory.
Twice in the history of this country have the fruits if victory been snatched from the people by the trickery and jugglery of packed juries. One was the so called electoral tribunal and the other was the Tariff Commission.
The first was when by a quarter of a million of majority the people had elected a reform President who threatened a war upon monopoly and thievery and who would no doubt have relieved the people of the oppression of monopoly and the village of thieving officials. A packed jury was organized to try his title to the Presidency, although it was as clear and indisputable as any which had ever been held since Washington's day. Misguided Democrats fell into the snare spread by the cunning leaders of the Republican party and the right of suffrage was thus most shamelessly and foully stricken down.
Afterward, sir, when under Democratic leadership public sentiment had demanded the reform of our unconstitutional and unequal tariff system another packed jury was formed to protect monopoly and thwart the will of the people. And again some misguided Democrats fell into the snare spread by the cunning enemies of the people, and the work to reform was suppressed. When the scheme for relegating this question to a commission was presented in 1882 I then denounced it as an evasion of this great living issue. Reference to my speech of April 20, 1882, will show that I then said:
This dodge to take the issue of tariff reform out of the next election will fail of its purpose. The people will discover the hollowness of this makeshift, and they will put your party on trial in the next election for its unfaithfulness and dereliction of duty in this regard.
The people at that election did put that party on trial, and, as I had predicted, convinced it of dereliction of duty and supplanted it with the present Democratic majority in this House. This result was mainly due to the agitation of the tariff issue in the last Congress. Shall we now obey the will of the people and faithfully discharge the duty for which we were intrusted with power? Let each answer for himself when the roll is called, and he makes a record which will last as long as the archives of the Government are preserved.
When I embarked in the Government it was with a determination to intermediate not all with the legislature and as little as possible with my co-departments. The first and only instance of variation from the former part of my resolution I was duped into by the Secretary of the Treasury and made a tool for forwarding his scheme, not then sufficiently understood by me; and of all the errors of my political life this has occasioned me the deepest regret. If what was actually doing begat uneasiness in those who wished for virtuous government, what was further proposed was not less threatening to the friends of the Constitution. For in a report on the subject of manufacturers (still to be acted on) it was expressly assumed that the General Government has a right to exercise all powers which may be for the general welfare; that is to may, all the legitimate powers of Government, since no government has a legitimate right to do what is not for the welfare of the governed.
There was indeed a sham limitation of the universality of this power to cases where money is to be employed? Thus the object of these plans taken together is to draw all the powers of Government into the hands of the general Legislature, to establish means for corrupting a sufficient corps in that Legislature to divide the honest voter, and preponderate by their own the scale which suited, and to have that corps under the command of the Secretary of the Treasury for the purpose of subverting step by step the principles of the Constitution, which he has so often declared to be a thing of nothing, which must be changed.
DEAR SIR: I wrote you a letter yesterday, of which you will be free to make what use you please. This will contain matters not intended for the public eye, I see, as you do, with the deepest affliction, the rapid striders with which the Federal branch of our Government is advancing toward the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the States, and the consolidation in itself if all powers, foreign and domestic; and that, too, by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power.
Take together the decisions of the Federal court, the doctrines of the President, and the misconstructions of the constitutional compact acted on by the legislature of the Federal branch, and it is but too evident, that the three ruling branches of that department are in combination to strip their colleagues, the State authorities of the powers reserved by them, and to exercise themselves all functions, foreign and domestic. Under the power to regulate commerce, they assume indefinitely that also over agriculture and manufacturers, and call it regulation to take the earnings of one of these branches of industry, and that too the most depressed, and put them into the pockets of the other, the most flourishing of all. — Memoir, Correspondence, Inc. volume 4 page 431.
The Democratic House of Representatives, in 1877, resolved
That the Committee of Ways and Means be instructed to so review the tariff as to make it purely and stately a tariff for revenue, and not for protecting one class of citizens by plundering another.
Voted for by 60 Democrats and 7 Republican. Voted against by 12 Democrats and 64 Republicans. December 1, 1877.
May 6, 1882. — Mr. MILLS moved in the House of Representatives to recommit the bill to the Committee on Ways and Means with instructions to report within thirty days a bill framed in compliance with the following instructions:
1. That no more money should be collected than is necessary for the wants of the Government economically administered.
2. That no duty be imposed on any article above the lowest rate that will yield the largest amount of revenue.
3. That below such rate discrimination may be made descending in the scale of duties, or for imperative reasons the article may be placed on the list of those free from all duty.
4. That the maximum revenue duty should be imposed on luxuries.
5. That all specific duties should be abolished and ad valorem duties substituted in their place, care being taken to guard against fraudulent invoices and undervaluation and to assess the duty upon the actual market value.
6. That the duty should be so imposed as to operate an equally as possible throughout the Union, discriminating neither for nor against any chass or section.
Voted for by 74 Democrats and voted against by 21 Democrats and 137 Republicans.
The foregoing are the principles for revising the tariff suggested by Robert J. Walker when Secretary of the Treasury in 1845.