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equally liable to taxation upon every principle of equity and justice, anqunting to two hundred and eighty millions of dollars, which are not only entirely free from all Go. yernment impositions, but a large portion of which actual. ly receive Government bounties Šir, it is in vain for gentlemen to attempt to disguise this gross and monstrous inequality, under the vague notion that the ultimate burden of taxation falls exclusively upon the consumer. Even if this were true to the letter, it would not materially vary the case as to the unequal operation of the revenue laws upon the different sections of the Union. The complaint is, that upon less than seventy millions of the commercial exchanges of the country—principally belonging to the planting States—the whole of the federal taxes are levied, while upon commercial exchanges, equally liable to taxa. tion, belonging to the farming and manufacturing States, to the vast amount of two hundred and eighty millions of dollars, no imposition is laid at all by this Government. Now I challenge any gentleman to point out a single instance in the history of the world—I will not except the cruel exactions of the Roman Government from the conquered provinces—that can be compared with our own revenue system, for the injustice and inequality of the contri. butions it draws from the people of the southern and southwestern States. When all the States of this Union were Atlantic States, and were interested very nearly in an equal degree in the foreign exchanges of the country, no great injustice resulted from making these exchanges sustain the whole fiscal burdens of the Government. But even in 1790, the period to which I refer, Alexander Ha. milton, the putative father of the prohibitory system, deemed it unwise and inexpedient to carry the duties upon foreign merchandise j. than seven and a half per cent. How would he have been astonished if any one had pre: dicted that, in less than forty years, fourteen million eight hundred thousand dollars, out of a revenue of twentythree millions of dollars, would be raised by duties upon lit. tle, more than one-ninth part of the productive industry and commercial exchanges of the Union I am sure, if gentlemen did not permit themselves to be carried away by a mere distinction in names, this unequal distribution of the taxes would strike them more forcibl than it now does. If the whole revenue of the United States were raised by an excise, and, instead of levying an impost on the merchandise imported, an excise duty to the same extent were levied upon our cotton when sold to the merchant, and before it reaches the custom-house, the palpable injustice, the outrageous inequality of the system, would be apparent to every one. It could not then be disguised, thirt the Government was exacting an excise duty of forty per cent. from the cotton planters, while, upon the productions of other parts of the Union, standing upon precisely the same footing, and amounting to nine times the value of the cotton made for exportation, it exacted no duty at all. Now, as I have heretofore shown that an import duty is precisely equivalent to an export duty upon the same commercial exchange, it follows, from the same course of reasoning, that an excise duty paid upon cotton when it leaves the storehouse of the planter, is E.ely equivalent to an export duty paid at th. customouse. Both are equally taxes upon the productions of the planter, and operate precisely alike in all their bearings, whether we regard #: as throwing the burden of the tax upon the producer or the consumer. And I have no hesitation in saying that I would regard a law imposing an excise duty of forty per cent. upon all cotton sold by the planters in the United States, and providing at the *ame time that foreign merchandise received in exchange for it might be imported free of duty, as making not the slightest change in the burdens under which we now labor. How, then, let me ask—and I beg gentlemen to answer me the question, if with clear consciences they can— how would a law strike them, which provided, in terms, Vol. VI-107.
that an excise duty of forty per cent. should be levied upon all the productions of the Southern States, whereas, of the immense amount of the productions of the northern, middle, and western States, only twenty millions should be subject to a similar excise, and the remaining two hundred and eighty millions expressly exempted from any imposition at all 1. Would such a law bear inspection? Would not such an invidious and unjust distinction shock the moral sense of every man in the community And yet, sir, the law I have supposed would do nothing more than express, in words, what actually exists at this moment in the revenue laws of this Government, wrapped up and disguised in the indirectness of their operation, and the generality of the terms in which they are expressed. I have been recently looking into a British production of high reputation, which speaks in strong terms of the intolerable weight of British taxation. As a conclusive argument in favor of a reduction of the taxes, the writer asserts that they amounted, including the corn laws and poor rates, to a tax of thirty-three and one-third per cent. upon the income of every individual in the kingdom. This he regarded as being so very oppressive, that no people could possibly endure it. Now, sir, every cotton planter in the United States pays a tax of at least thirty-three and onethird per cent. upon #. income to sustain the Federal Government, in addition to his contribution to the revenue of the State in which he resides. Indeed, as almost the whole of his income is derived from the exchanges of foreign commerce, the tax he pays upon the annual amount of that income cannot be estimated at much less than the rate of the duty which is indirectly laid upon the productions of his industry. And thus it is, that while we are vainly and ignorantly boasting of our freedom from taxation, the people of a portion of the Union are subject to a more oppressive burden than the most heavily taxed people on the face of the earth. Thus far, I have confined myself to the consideration of the mere fiscal operations of the Federal Government, and have attempted to show the unequal action of your revenue system upon different parts of the Union, without reference to the protection afforded by the impost duties to certain branches of domestic industry. It now becomes my duty to trace the operation of what has been very inappropriately denominated the protecting system; and to ascertain, if ible, how far it contributes to increase the inequality of the burdens imposed by the Federal Government upon the people of the staple-growing States. And, sir, let it be remembered that a revenue system, ly and palpably unequal in itself—a o which, un. the most favorable modification, would levy the entire amount of the federal taxes from one fifth part of the productions of the Union, while the other four-fifths are entirely o from all manner of imposition—let it be remembered, I say, that this is the substratum upon which has been reared this monstrous and iniquitous superstructure—the protecting system. It did not satisfy the manufacturers and their confederates, that the whole expense of supporting the Federal Government should be sustained by those branches of domestic industry which make up the foreign commerce of the country—it did not satisfy them, that they themselves were not only exempted from all impositions of the Government, but actually received an indirect bounty from the imposts laid upon other branches of industry for the purposes of revenue. No, sir; all this did not satisfy them; they are now making a sure and steady, and, for any thing that can be done here, an irresistible progress in the system of legislative warfare, by which will be ultimately swept from the face of the ocean a large and valuable branch of foreign commerce, exclusively belonging to the staple-growing States, and which now actually contributes two-thirds of the revenue of this Government. And, this, sir, is what they are pleased to denominate a system of protection.
This system, which has been gradually built up, as far as it has gone, by successive acts of Congress, on the ruins of southern commerce, has now become, in the estimation of some gentlemen, an object of idolatry too sacred to be touched without profanity. When at an earl period of the session, I had the honor to introduce a § to modify the existing tariff by a very moderate reduction of the duties, a very extraordinary excitement was manifested. A gentleman from Pennsylvania rose in his place, and, as if some great indignity had been offered against the majesty of the protecting system, approaching to the ilt of treason, the measure was unceremoniously conemned, and strangled at the very threshold, without the common forms of parliamentary proceeding. The gentleman to whom I allude, [Mr. RAMSEY] as an excuse for a course so unusual and uncourteous, stated that he had no idea of having the repeal of the tariff of 1828 discussed or agitated, until we had ascertained, by experience, whether it was really as injurious as it had been represented. I should be very unwilling to permit an ignorant physician, wholly unacquainted with my constitution and habits, to indulge in experimental quacker , at the imminent hazard and almost certain sacrifice of my life. For the same reason, I cannot consent that the vital interests of my constituents should be put to hazard upon the result of an experiment in political quackery, which can only end in the ruin of those interests. The gentleman says, give it a trial; not reflecting that, when the result is ascertained, the patient may be dead. What has taken place, forcibly reminds me, sir, of the mode of trial adopted in times not quite so enlightened as the present, for ascertaining the guilt or innocence of certain venerable old women, charged with the dreadful crime of witchcraft. In the dark ages of jurisprudence, these predestined victims were subjected to a species of trial, denominated, I believe, the water ordeal. The mode of trial was very simple, and, as it was no doubt supposed, perfectly fair and equitable. A large stone was tied around the neck of the person accused, and she was cast into deep water, under the very natural belief, that if she was really guilty of dealing Vo the devil, he would not permit her to sink. While, therefore, humanity, cried out for the rescue of the struggling and sinking victim, the stern justice of the times replied, “let her alonel let her alonel if she really be a witch, she certainly will not sink.” I need hardly state to this enlightened audience the final issue of the trial. The innocence of the accused was most conclusively established; but, unfortunately for the poor old woman, it was not ascertained until after she was consigned to a watery grave, and placed beyond the hope of resuscitation. And such, sir, will be the inevitable fate of that branch of our foreign commerce which is the rightful and almost exclusive property of the planting States. I have no idea of indulging gentlemen in these witchcraft ordeals with the rights and interests of the whole southern and southwestern portions of this Union. I am not unaware, sir, of the prevalence of an idea that the Government stands pledged to maintain the system of high and prohibitory duties, from the mere circumstance of having once enacted it. Nothing can be more utterly fallacious, than the idea that the faith of the Government is concerned in the maintenance of an unjust and oppressive system, simply because it has been adopted. It assumes that the Government is some ideal being at Washington, who has persuaded the manufacturers and others concerned to invest their capital in certain pursuits, by giving them the assurance that, the high duties ...? É. maintained. Now, sir, what is the Government by which this pledge has been given to the manufacturers? Is it not composed of the representatives of these very manufacturers, and of the interests associated with them, making together that interested and despotic majority, by which the most undoubted rights and interests of the minority have been
sacrificed! And, sir, is it to be endured that these men should gravely get up and ". their own acts of injustic: and oppression as creating a pledge to maintain and extend their encroachments upon the rights of the minority : Sir, I protest against a doctrine which thus sanctifies and con: secrates to-day, what was admitted to be injustice and oppression yesterday. hat, then, let us briefly inquire, is the tendency, and what has been the effect, of the high duties imposed for the purpose of protecting manufactures and other domestic productions? It is too plain to admit of argument; indeed, it has been candidly admitted by the chairman of the Committee on Manufactures, in former discussions, that domestic productions can only be protected by Pro hibiting the foreign articles that would come in compete tion with them. He openly avowed that he aimed at Prohibition, and it would have been folly to have aimed at less, if he really meant to give protection. No duty can give any protection to any domestic fabric, which does not exclude a similar foreign fabric; and, in the very nature of things, the amount of protection cannot exceed the amount of prohibition, though it may, and generally does, fall short of it. You cannot create a demand, for example, for any domestic manufacture, by legislation, otherwise than by excluding a similar foreign manufacture; and as your legislation is calculated to enhance the price of the article, you certainly cannot create by it a demand for a greater amount of the domestic fabric than you exclude of the foreign. It may be confidently assumed, therefore, that whatever may be the amount of iron and salt, and manufactures of cotton, wool, iron, and hemp, which have been brought into existence in the United States by the system of high protecting duties, at least an equal amount of foreign rival productions has been excluded by those duties. "It will not be deemed an extravagant estimate to suppose that the protecting system has caused to be produced, annually, articles of these various kinds, to the amount of twelve millions of dollars, which would not have been produced, but for the protection given them. It follows, then, as a corollary, that at least an equal amount of these articles of foreign production must have been excluded. But these are the very articles which we receive from Great Britain, France, and Holland, in exchange for our agricultural staples. By excluding twelve millions of such articles, therefore, we necessarily diminish the foreign demand for our staples, and principally cotton, to that amount. There is scarcely any limit to the consumption of our cotton in Europe, but that which is im b our refusal to take manufactures in exchange for it. If therefore, we were permitted to import the twelve millions of dollars worth of manufactures that have been excluded by our commercial restrictions, or, rather, if they had never, been excluded by those restrictions, it cannot be reasonably doubted that we should now have a demand in Europe for four hundred thousand bales of cotton, beyond the existing demand. Even, therefore, if we grant, what is not the fact, that the whole of the domestic demand for cotton has been produced by the prohibitory effect of our tariff, it will follow that we have gained a market for one hundred and fifty thousand bales, by sacrifieing one for four hundred thousand. From this estimate, it will be seen that the prohibition of foreign imports has resulted in curtailing the entire demand for cotton in the markets of the whole world, including our own, two hubdred and fifty thousand bales. In addition, then, to the annual burden he bears in paying the duties upon the imports he is still permitted to bring into the country, the planter sustains an annual loss of seven million five hundred thousand dollars, being the value of the cotton for which he has lost a market, in consequence of the unjust restrictions imposed upon his lawful commerce by the suicidal policy of his own Government. I think I have by this time satisfied the eommittee that
I have not exaggerated the burdens of the southern planters in stating that a duty of forty per cent upon the amount of
, their exports may be taken as the measure of these burdens.
I have not the slightest doubt that I have greatly under-estimated those burdens, looking to the operation of your impost duties in the double aspect of a system of revenue and a system of protection. Having now, sir, made out the case of the southern planters—having demonstrated the grossly unequal and †. operation of your whole tariff system upon the productions of their lawful industry, I will now proceed to the consideration of the principal ground upon which the advocates of this system have attempted to rest it, as a measure of justice, and expediency. It is almost universally j by all the supporters of the protecting policy, from Alexander Hamilton down, that if all other nations would throw off the restrictions they have im: posed upon commerce, it would be wise in the United States to pursue the same policy, but it is contended, that, as long as other nations continue to impose restrictions upon the free importation of our productions, it is expedient and necessary that we should countervail their re gulations, 'g imposing similar restrictions upon their productions. ow, sir, if I am not greatly deceived in the view. I have taken of the matter, this is the capital error which lies at the foundation of the whole protecting system. And nothing will, perhaps, tend more clearly to exÉ. the true genius and character of that system, than a
rief examination and exposure of this error. I waive, for the present, as belonging to another branch of inquiry, the policy of countervailing regulations, calculated and designed to induce other nations to abandon their restrictions. No one pretends that ours are of that character, either as to their design or tendency. As a mere question of political economy, then, I maintain that the restrictions which foreign nations impose upon the importation of any production of ours, in pursuing their established policy, furnish not the slightest ground, upon the score of interest or expediency, for imposing similar restrictions upon any of the productions of these foreign nations. I will illustrate my view by considering the operation of the British corn laws upon the commerce of the United States. Let it, then, be granted that Great Britain has absolutely prohibited the importation of foreign grain. No one pre: tends that she has not an undoubted right, under the }. of nations, to do so. We have no just cause to complain of it. Indeed, her policy in this respect is not only imitated, but applauded by the advocates of the restrictive system here. Then, sir, the exclusion of our grain from Great Britain is simply a fact to be considered by this Government, without any regard to the causes that have pro
duced it. It is precisely the same thing to the grain grow
ers of this country, as if the increased fertility of Great Britain, resulting from a newly discovered manure, had enabled the farmers of that country to produce grain as jo', as it can be produced in Kentucky or Ohio. There could be no more effectual exclusion . our grain than would result from this. And yet I can hardly suppose there is a man in the world who would be so absurd as to contend that these agricultural improvements in Great Britain would furnish any colorable ground for excluding her manufactures; or, in other words, for prohibiting the free exchange of those of our productions which she might still require, for such of her own as she could most advantageously give us for them. Now, it seems impossible for human ingenuity to draw any substantial discrimination between the case I have supposed and that of the British corn laws. In both instances, we lose a market for our grain, in the one from natural and in the other from artificial causes; and the question which arises upon this state of facts, is simply this: would it be wise in us to deprive ourselves of our remaining commerce with Great Britain, beeause circumstances beyond our control have deprived us of a portion of it? The value of what remains, and the
importance of preserving it, are certainly, not diminished by what we have unavoidably lost. On the contrary, the inducements to preserve and extend it are rather increas: ed than diminished; and if a common interest pervaded the whole Union, a doubt would not be entertained on the subject. To exemplify this, sir, I will suppose the whole United States to be the property of a single individual. Would the owner of this vast estate be guilty of the consummate folly of refusing to carry on a free and unrestricted trade in cotton, tobacco, and rice, because his customer either would not purchase or could not purchase his grain also Such absolute fatuity cannot be ascribed to any individual having the common use of his faculties. And yet, sir, such is the wisdom that governs the affairs of nations, this Government is now actually exhibiting the very infatuation which cannot be imputed to any individual, however ignorant and stupid. The great misfortune is, sir—and it gives us the true key to the whole system—that, while this Government is an undivided and indivisible unity, the country over which it extends is divided into various and—disguise it as we may —diametrically adverse interests. Hence, it results, that the law which throws a restriction upon the commerce of the southern States, to the great and obvious injury of the planter, is obviously calculated, and professedly intended, to promote the interest of the northern manufacturer. If the manufacturer can gain ten per cent. by the restriction, it is his interest to adhere to it, though it impose a burdeu of forty or fifty per cent, upon the planter. Hence it is that the majority of this House are pursuing a policy with regard to the interests of the whole Union, which no human being would pursue in regard to his own interest. It is worth while, sir, to trace the operation of this policy a little more in detail. Great Britain, it is alleged, will not, or, which is the same thing, does not, in fact, purchase the grain of the northern, middle, and western States, and, consequently, those States have nothing wherewith to urchase British manufactures. This is the complaint. R. sir, if this be true, the wisdom of man could not more effectually exclude British manufactures, or give a more complete protection to domestic manufactures, in those States. If they have nothing to give in exchange for British manufactures, what earthly necessity is there to exclude them by law The domestic manufacturer is absolutely secured against foreign competition by the single fact, that the British manufacturer will not take any thing in exchange for his fabrics, which the people of those States have to give. What, then, is the real object of the restrictions which the tariff States are so anxious to throw about our foreign commerce : It is not, sir, be assured, to prevent those States from importing British manufactures, who have nothing to give in exchange for them. That would be impotent and gratuitous legislation. The true object—disguise it as gentlemen may—is to prevent those States who have the means of paying for British manufactures, and who have a deep .# vital interest in preserving that branch of commerce, from importing those manufactures, in order to promote the interest of those States who have not the means of paying for British manufactures, and who really have, or believe they have, a deep and vital interest in destroying that branch of commerce. Twist and turn it as you may, “to this complexion it must come at last.” Hence it is, that to the gross inequality of the revenue system of the United States, the majority of Congress have superadded the intolerable burdens of the prohibitory system. Will any gentleman from Maosachusetts, or Rhode Island, or Vermont, have the bardi: hood to maintain that the duties imposed on cotton and woollen manufactures, varying from forty to sixty percent. are equally a burden upon his constituents as they are up. on mine Will any gentleman from Pennsylvania Assert that the enormous duty upon iron imposes an equal bur: den upon the people of Pennsylvania and upon those of
South Carolina? On the contrary, do not these gentlemen distinctly and openly avow that the duties which throw a grievous and oppressive burdeu upon the people of the southern States, operate as a beneficial and sustaining bounty to the people of the northern and eastern States? I do firmly believe, that, if the proceeds of the public lands would defray the whole expenses of the Government, or if the staple growing States would assume the responsibi. lity of paying those expenses out of revenues raised by themselves, there are certain States in this Union—I allude to those emphatically denominated tariff States—that would not consent to a repeal of the impost duties. No, sir, they gain much more than they lose, by the aggregate effect of the duties imposed, and the disbursements made, by this Government, regarding the †. in the light of a mere pecuniary speculation. If a foreign invention were made, by which the operations of Government could be carried on without the expenditure of a single dollar, those States would regard it as a nuisance, and prohibit its importation by as rigorous penalties as are now proposed in regard to foreign manufactures. A greater calamity could scarcely happen to the interests of northern capital, confederated in favor of the protecting system, than would result from an entire suspension of the fiscal operations of this Government, including both taxation and disbursement. This extraordinary, but undoubted fact, that those who control the legislation of Congress have a decided pecuniary interest in the increase and perpetuation of the burdens of taxation, brings me to the consideration of a view of this subject deeply interesting to the people of the southern portion of this confederacy, and involving the highest principles of constitutional liberty. The southern States, actuated by that uncalculating F. for which they have always been distinguished, ave submitted without a single murmur, to a system of taxation which has drawn from the productions of their industry, at least double the amount of their just contribution to the federal treasury. But, sir, when they find an interested majority, “which feels power and forgets right,” steadily aiming the imperial ban of the prohibitory system at the absolute annihilation of that very branch of commerce which has so largely and disproportionately contributed to support the expenses of the Federal Government—when they find that majority, confident in the strength of numbers, openly and boldly avowing the unjust, and, I had almost said, nefarious and piratical pure of sweeping from the very face of the ocean a lawful ranch of trade, which almost exclusively belongs to the people of these States—it is time for them to rise up in the majesty of their rights, and demand, in the name of the principles of eternal justice and of constitutional liberty, "by what authority do you commit this monstrous outrage f" - - - Sir, I never have been an advocate of strict limitations or technical refinements, in construing the constitution. I have always interpreted that instrument as I would any other, by its plain sense and obvious intention, having regard both to the letter and spirit. Taking these for my guide, I utterly deny that Congress has the constitutional power to carry on a legislative warfare, either open or disguised, against any branch of foreign commerce, with a view to the advancement of any other branch of national industry. I know, sir, that I shall be asked if Congress have not the power of laying impost duties for the puroses of raising revenue, and also the power of “reguting commerce with foreign nations; and to these questions I answer in the affirmative. I shall be then asked, how it would be possible for the Supreme Court to pronounce a law of Congress unconstitutional, which purports, upon the face of it, to be a revenue measure, or a measure for the regulation of commerce. To this I answer, that the Supreme Court could not, and would not, pronounce such a law unconstitutional, because they can
not look into the motives of the Legislature. But, sir, a law, or a system of laws, calculated and designed to destroy commerce, or any branch of it, is not the less unconstitutional because the Supreme Court cannot pronounce it to be so. It is not a question of which that court could take cognizance. It turns upon great political principles, which would be entirely out of place in a mere technical argument before a judicial tribunal, but which this body is under the most solemn obligations to regard in all its proceedings. As no one now pretends that these prohibitory duties are o: for the purpose of raising revenue, I shall proceed to inquire how far they can be justified by the clause of the constitution which authorizes Congress “to regulate commerce with foreign nations.” What, then, was the object of the convention in clothing Congress with this power to regulate foreign commerce f I put it to the conscience of every member of this body, upon the high responsibility under which he is acting, to answer me the question, whether this power was not vested in Congress for the sole and exclusive purpose of preserving, protecting, and defending the very commerce which it proposes to regulate. No one, I am sure, can seriously believe that there is any other legitimate object for which this power can have been conferred, or for which it can be rightfully exercised. By constituting Congress the guardian of our foreign commerce, the constitution has imposed upon that body the high duty of extending its protecting arm equally and impartially to every lawful branch of that commerce. No restriction, therefore, can be lawfully and constitutionally imposed upon the foreign trade of any part of this Union, that has not for its object the preservation, security, or improvement of the very branch of trade upon which it is imposed. Any man who will look into the history of the times which immediately preceded the Federal Convention, will be satisfied that the great object of convoking that assembly, and of creating this Government, was to provide for the security of our foreign commerce. What language then can be used strong enough to characterize those prohibitory regulations of Congress which are inevitably calculated, and openly and avowedly intended, not only to suspend for an indefinite time, but utterly to abolish and destroy, forever, a great branch of commerce belonging to eight sovereign States of this confederacy There is nothing, sir, either in history or fable, that can be compared with this most unnatural and monstrous perversion of power The very commerce which this Government was created to preserve, and which it is under the clearest and most solemn constitutional obligations to protect and defend against all foreign outrage, is actually destroyed by the Government which was created to preserve it, and professing to act under a power o conferred for no other purpose ! Yes, sir, and to add mockery to the outrage, Congress very modestly claims the title of a parental and protecting government, for the very act of sacrificing that commerce which it is bound to preserve, to build up on its ruins a distinct branch of industry—domestic manufactures—which the constitution has not committed to the guardianship of the Federal Government in any respect whatever. The monster which should devour his own offspring, would not commit a greater outrage against nature, than this body is thus perpretating against the constitution under which it assumes to act, and from which only it can derive any legitimate authority. . The only cause which can justify Congress in imposing restrictions and prohibitions upon commerce, is the violation, by foreign powers, of those principels of international law which are the guaranty of our commercial and other sovereign rights as a nation; and the only constitutional object to which these restrictions and prohibitions cau be directed, is to induce or constrain for reign powers to repeal the regulations, or abandon the
course of action by which our national rights are violated. This Government was principally designed by its framers to concentrate the whole power of the confederacy, for the purpose of resisting the aggressions of foreign nations upon our rights on the ocean. If no such aggression has been committed, if all our rights of commerce and navigation are secure under the protection of the law of nations, even from appreheuded encroachments, then, sir, I maintain that the case has not occurred, in which this Government may rightfully interpose its power to vindicate the sovereign rights of the confederacy, either by military force or legislative restrictions and prohibitions. I will now illustrate my views on this subject, by a brief examination of the embargo of 1807, a measure too memorable to have been forgotten, and with the history of which, I take it for granted, every member of the committee is familiar. It is a well known fact, that an entire political party, constituting a decided majority of the people of New England, and headed by men of very distinguished talents and great political experience, denounced the measure in question as an unconstitutional perversion of the power to regulate commerce. I believe, sir, that every public functionary, from the chief Executive downwards, and every department of the Government in almost every New England State, solemnly pronounced the embargo law unconstitutional. There never was a political party arrayed against this Government with more unanimity upon any question, than were the federal party of New Eugland upon the unconstitutionality of i. measure. Now, sir, what was the ground upon which it was contended that the embargo was unconstitutional; I have recently heard that ground stated, from high authority, in a speech delivered not far off, in which the idea seemed still to be maintained. The ground was this: that the embargo law contained no limitation upon its face, and was, therefore, an indefinite suspension of commerce. To suspend commerce indefinitely, is to destroy it; and the power to regulate commerce does not confer the right to destroy it. Such, sir, was the argument, as I understand it. Though it is certainly a plausible and imposing argument, I do not think it a sound one. It entirely overlooks the cause which induced Congress to the embargo law, and the object to accomplish which it was enacted, both of them considerations essential to the correct determination of the question of constitutionality. Let it be remembered that the belligerent powers of Europe had committed a series of outrages upon our national and commercial rights, in open violation of the clearest principles of the law of nations. Here, then, was an undoubted case for the constitutional interposition of the power of the Federal Government. The casus faderis of the constitutional compact had evidently occurred. The rights of the citizens were violated by foreign powers, and this Government, having in charge the foreign relations of the country, was not only authorized to vindicate those rights by commercial restrictions, but even by war itself— the last resort of injured nations. Indeed, the embargo was a war measure in all its material characteristics, viewed in reference either to its causes or its objects. And what, sir, was the end, the final end, which Congress proposed to accomplish by the embargo? Was there a man in America at the time—is there a man in America at present, so far gone in the delusions of . prejudice, as to believe that Mr. Jefferson, in recommending the embargo, or Congress in adopting it, aimed at the permanent destiuction of commerce, or of any branch of it, as the ultimate and final end of that measure ? It will hardly be doubted, at this day, that the sole and exclusive object which the Government had in view, in this temporary sus. pension of foreign commerce, was to compel the bellige: rent powers to relieve that very commerce from the shackles and restrictions which they had thrown around it, contrary
of the United States. I am decidedly of the opinion, therefore, that the embargo was a constitutional measure; but I am very far from believing that it was a wise one. Let us now see how the prohibitory acts, of 1824 and 1828 will stand a comparison with the embargo of 1807, in regard to the two essential requisites of a constitutional regulation of commerce. I mean a sufficient cause, and a justifiable object. What, then, was the cause of these two F.". acts Was it pretended that any foreign power ad violated our rights, by imposing restrictions upon our eommerce, not warranted by the law of nations So far from this being the case, the only measures of a foreign power, which has been alleged as a motive for a prohibi. tory tariff on, our part, is the prohibition of foreign grain by Great Britain; a measure as highly applauded as it was unwisely imitated by the advocates of the prohibitory system in this country. It was not to vindicate any vio. lated right, then, that the acts of 1824 and 1828 were passed, and thus far they want the justifying cause that existed in the case of the embargo. What, then, is the object, the final end, which these acts purpose to accomplish Are they intended to compel any foreign power to abandon restrictions injurious to our commercial rights, or even detrimental to our commercial interests This will searcely be Ho! The only foreign restriction which has been alleged as an interference with our commerce, is that imposed by the British corn laws. Now, will it be seriously argued that the manufacturers of the United States are anxious to induce or constrain Great Britain to repeal her corn laws? Will any man in this House hazard the assertion, that the prohibitory duties imposed by Congress were designed to produce such an effect? Nothing, sir, was more remote from the wishes of those by whom these duties were imposed. When the subject of negotiating a commercial treaty with Great Britain, providing for a reciprocal free trade between the two countries, was agitated some months ago in the public journals, in what tone and temper was it denounced by the advocates of the manufacturing interest ? And when a bill was reported a few days ago by the Committee on Commerce, proposing to effect the same object, in a partial degree, by legislation, what an electric terror seemed to run through the ranks of the tariff party in this House ! No measure could be adopted by any foreign Government, and particularly by that of Great Britain, that would be more earnestly deprecated by the friends of the protecting system in this country, than an unconditional repeal of aii commercial restrictions. If the "British Parliament were about to abolish the corn laws, the manufacturers of the United States, if there was any disguise in which they could present themselves, would pray for a continuance of those laws as devoutly as the British landlords. Their repeal, sir, would be the most fatal blow that could be inflicted on the manufacturers in this country, next to the repeal of our own prohibitory duties. What would be the effect of this repeal upon the competition between the British and American manufacturers? While it would diminish the price of grain one-half in Great Britain, and produce a corresponding reduction in the price of labor, and consequently in the cost of manufactures, it would produce an effect almost precisely opposite in the United States. It is an established principle of political economy in Great Britain, founded upon the actual condition of the laboring classes, that every rise or fall in the price of grain produces a rise or fall in the price of labor, o exactly equal to increased or diminished cost of food for the laborer. This results from the fact, that the laborer is reduced to the minimum of human subsistence. His employer will not give him more, and cannot give him less. * reduction in the price of corn, therefore, from two dollars to one dollar a bushel—an effect which would probably result from the repeal of the British corn laws—would reduce the price
to the law of nations, and in violation of the sovereign rights
of labor twenty-five per cent, and the cost of producing ma