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"the debt, rather of justice than gratitude, to the surviving warriors of the Revolutionary "War," was again pressed upon the attention of the members of both Houses; together with other points relating to the judiciary, the militia system, etc.
During the present session, much and earnest attention was devoted to the tariff question, and the friends and op ponents of protection exerted their best abilities in defence and in condemnation of the whole "American system." Conventions were held on the subject during the summer; at Harrisburg, by the friends of Mr. Clay and the necessity of the tariff to the interests of the country; and at Columbia, in South Carolina, by those who opposed and denounced protective duties as beneficial to the capitalists at the north, but "a grievance not to be patiently submitted to, and but too well calculated to bring on the dangerous inquiry, in what manner are the southern states benefited by the Union?" This engrossing topic occupied the House almost exclusively, from the 1st of February to the 22d of April when a bill passed, much altered from that reported by the committee, but by no means conformable to the wishes of the advocates of the protective system; ayes, one hundred and five; noes, ninety-four. In the Senate, it passed on the 13th of May; ayes, twenty-six; noes, twenty-one; with various amendments, not essentially altering its general character, which were concurred in by the House. All the southern states voted against the bill, as did Maine and New Hampshire,
Massachusetts, with Connecticut and Rhode Island, being divided. By this act, as Mr. Pitkin says, the minimum system was extended generally to woolens; different qualities of woolen fabrics being charged ad valorem duties of forty-five or fifty per cent., upon the minimum of their estimated value. Unmanufactured wool was also subjected to a duty of four cents per pound, and forty per cent. ad valorem. Additional duties were also laid upon iron, hemp, flax, and molasses; and the minimum price of cottons was raised to thirty-five cents the square yard. The policy of this act was questioned by many of the merchants of this country, and its constitutionality by most of the people of the southern states. Unfortunately, it was a compound made up by its enemies as well as its friends, and was not satisfactory to either.
Mr. Benton, in his "Thirty Years' View," has a chapter devoted to the subj ect of a revision of the tariff. Speaking of it as a measure concocted by manufacturing capitalists and politicians, and as freshly recurring about the time of every presidential election, Mr. Benton goes on to remark: "the south believed itself impoverished to enrich the north by this system; and certainly a singular and unexpected result had been seen in these two sections. In the colonial state, the southern were the rich part of the colonies, and expected to do well in a state of independence. They had the exports, and felt secure of their prosperity: not so the north, whose agricultural resources were few, and who expected privations from the loss of British favor. But in the first half
century after independence, this expectation was reversed. The wealth of the north was enormously aggrandized; that of the south had declined. Northern towns had become great cities: southern cities had decayed, or become stationary; and Charleston, the principal port of the south, was less considerable than before the Revolution. The north became a money-lender to the south, and southern citizens made pilgrimages to northern cities, to raise money upon the hypothecation of their patrimonial estates. And this in the face of a southern export since the Revolution, to the value of $800,000,000! —a sum equal to the product of the Mexican mines since the days of Cortez! and twice or thrice the amount of their product in the same fifty years. The southern states attributed this result to the action of the federal government— its double action of levying revenue upon the industry of one section of the Union, and expending it in another— and especially to its protective tariffs. To some degree this attribution was just, but not to the degree assumed; which is evident from the fact, that the protective system had then only been in force for a short time—since the year 1816; and the reversed condition of the two sections of the Union had commenced before that time. Other causes must have had some effect; but for the present, we look to the protective system; and, without admitting it to have done all the mischief of which the south
| complained, it had yet done enough to cause it to be condemned by every
| friend to equal justice among the states, —by every friend to the harmony and
stability of the Union,—by all who detested sectional legislation,—by every enemy to the mischievous combination of partisan politics with national legislation. And this was the feeling with the mass of the democratic members, who voted for the tariff of 1828, and who were determined to act upon that feeling upon the overthrow of the political party which advocated the protective system; and which overthrow they believed to be certain at the ensuing presidential election."
Another topic which occupied a good deal of the time and attention of Congress, was that of retrenchment, a favorite topic of aspiring politicians, and one which will always attract the notice of the people. Mr. Chilton, of Kentucky, moved first in the business, and a committee was appointed on the subject. Much time was spent in the investigation, and the majority of the committee brought in a report adverse to the economical and prudent conduct of affairs by the administration. On the other hand, Messrs. Everett and Sergeant, a minority of the committee, and the only two on it who were friendly to the government, brought in a counter report, which, of course, took an opposite view of the subject, and claimed that the financial affairs of the nation had been managed with economy and sound judgment. The whole movement was almost purely political, the object of the opposition being to bring discredit upon, and to annoy the administration, and the design of the friends of the government being to demonstrate the economy with which public affairs were carried on.
With a view to remedy certain difficulties in the mode of proceeding in the federal courts, in the states which had been admitted into the Union since 17 89, a bill, after much discussion, passed the Senate, and with little amendment (the exception of Louisiana being the chief alteration made,) was accepted by the House, and finally became law. Among the appropriations, one was at last made for the pensions of the Revolutionary veterans;* and another for carrying on the Cumberland Road. The principle and constitutionality of internal improvements were, as usual, copiously discussed; but, it must be confessed, that the honorable members seemed to have in view their standing with their constituents, and the political effect of what they might say and do, far more than the endeavoring to fix upon some wise and judicious measures for the settlement of this important topic.
Other subjects which came before Congress, we need not enter into; as the question of the navigation of the St. Lawrence: the north-eastern
boundary; the claims of American citizens for spoliations by the French on our commerce; etc. The session was brought to a close on the 26th of May, and the members dispersed to their several sections of the country, to enter into the fierce contest which was already begun with reference to the presidency.f
* It was on this topic, in April, 1828, that Daniel Webster made one of his most effective speeches. It will well repay the reader who may not yet have made himself acquainted with its contents.
t General Brown, who held the position of commander-in-chief, died on the 24th of February, 1828.
It was a battle of unprecedented excitement, in which every engine known to political warfare was vigorously set in motion, and in which the shameless abuse of private character, and the slanderous imputations of every thing unworthy and disgraceful, were enough to disgust all candid truth-loving minds, and make them almost tremble for the result of unscrupulous party movements and measures. The result was what the democratic party confidently expected; General Jackson receive^ one hundred and seventy-eight of the two hundred and sixty-one electoral votes; and John Quincy Adams received only eightythree, less than half the number of those which were given to his successful competitor. Mr. Calhoun was again elected vice-president.
The second session of the twentietli Congress began on the 1st of December, J.828, and the president's message was received on the same day. Like his former messages, this, which was his last, was long and full of details on all those points which it was the duty of the executive to bring to the notice of Congress. Foreign affairs were spoken
General Scott and General Gaines, who had received their commissions on the same day, had equal claims to succeed General Brown; but the government, unwilling to decide between the two, appointed General Macomb, the senior brigadier, to this honorable post Attempts were made to abolish the office of major-general; the bill passed the House, but failed in the Senate. General Scott resented the course of the war department, claiming that he was not justly treated; and refusing to obey orders from General Macomb, he waa suspended. During his suspension, he visited France, where he saw Lafayette, and soon after, by his advice, resumed his position in the army. On General Macomb's death, in 1841, Scott became commander-in chief of the army of the United States.
of at large in the first half of the message. The war which had broken out between Kussia and Turkey was mentioned; hopes were expressed that the French government would yield to the claims of justice in regard to the spoliations on American commerce; the king of the Netherlands had been selected as umpire on the subject of the northeastern boundary; commercial relations with Great Britain had not yet been satisfactorily arranged; but with other powers there was a good state of feeling and sentiment existing on these and kindred points. A very favorable account was given of the condition and prospects of the revenue; the receipts of the year were $2,000,000 more than had been estimated, but the expenditure had exceeded them by about $1,500,000; above $9,000,000 of the public debt had been paid off; and more than $5,000,000 were expected to be in the treasury at the end of the current year. At the end of the year, he stated, the public debt would not much exceed $58,000,000.
The former messages of the president had been complained of by his own friends, and not a little wondered at by his opponents, because they contained no reference to the tariff, or its protective principle. He compensated on this final occasion for his former silence respecting them. Holding up the commercial policy, pursued at that time by Great Britain, as an example, he laid it down as the duty of the government to act upon the principle sanctioned by the tariff act of the preceding session, and he expressed the hope, that to it—one of the principles,
"upon which the Constitution itself was formed"—he hoped and trusted the authorities of the Union would adhere. The remainder of the message was taken up with the condition of the Indians dwelling within the territories of the United States; the need for fortifying the sea coast, and increasing the navy; the desirableness of educating the officers of the army, for the purpose of increasing the usefulness of that arm of the service; and the necessity for making provision for taking the fourth census of the country, and of obtaining more complete and specific returns of the ages of the population. And, in conclusion, the president assured Congress of his continued earnest desire for the adoption of the measures he had before recommended; and of his cordial concurrence in every constitutional provision which might receive their sanction during the session, and which tended to the general welfare. But he made no allusion to the fact, although it was then fully known, that this was the last time he should be called upon to address them in the capacity of president of the United States.
This being the short session, and the present administration being also near its close, hardly any thing more was done than was absolutely requisite to carry on the government. Bills encouraging the shipping interest, by allowing certain drawbacks on exported goods, passed both Houses, and became law. A tonnage bill, proposing to repeal that duty on all American vessels, and on those of other nations placed by treaty on the same footing, was rejected in the Senate. Liberal appropriations were made for the promotion of internal improvements of various kinds; and the principle was once more largely debated, and at length affirmed by considerable majorities, both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives. The continuation of the Cumberland Road, and the conditional cession of it to the states through whose boundaries it passed, occupied much of the time devoted to this section of public business. These are the principal matters which engaged the attention of Congress now; other bills, and amongst them some originating with the retrenchment committee, expired with the session, not having been able to get through all the stages necessary to constitute them laws.
On the 3d of March, 1829, the twentieth Congress expired, and at the same date John Quincy Adams's administration reached its close. Owing to a rather unpleasant correspondence with some of the principal men of Boston, growing out of the course pursued by Mr. Adams, when he thought that he perceived an intention on the part of the federalists to attempt a dissolution of the Union, (see p. 108), the ex-president preferred to remain in the capital, which was his home for some time afterwards.
In briefly reviewing the administration of the sixth president, it is to be borne in mind, that, attempting to do without a party, and to rise above mere party, it was assailed by its opponents with more vigor and activity than any one which had preceded it. In the
House, the majority was against it, and nearly one half of the Senate arrayed themselves in opposition to its measures. Whatever may have been its faults and failings, it cer tainly was conducted with purity and uprightness; and in respect to ability. it compared favorably with those which had gone before. Mr. Adams himself was above reproach, in the blamelessness of his life and the patriotic devotion of his best energies to the good of his country. But he did not, at any time, possess the popular favor; he was not a man of the stamp to win popular applause; his learning, his talents, his ability, his glowing patriotism, never produced the effect which it might be supposed they would upon the community; and it need excite no surprise, that, when the contest came between him and a man such as Andrew Jackson was, with every thing nearly to attract the mass of the people, and to lead them to admire his dashing boldness, his unflinching energy, his prompt decision, and the like, John Quincy Adams should fail of receiving votes sufficient to re-elect him to the office he had held during the past four years. The future years of Mr. Adam3 demonstrated the purity of his principles, and his willingness to serve his country in any position for which they deemed him worthy; and we believe that it may be asserted now, without fear of dissent, that he was one of the noble band of patriots of whom the United States may justly be proud, and may hold up to the admiration of succeeding generations.