網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

was against a further continuation of the "American System "; for the Adams-Clay administration gave place to the Jackson-Calhoun régime. President Jackson, noting the rapid reduction of the national debt and the bitter spirit growing up in the South, molded his sentiments after the fatherly, compromising disposition of the early rulers.* He wished to combine the economical democratic policy of Jefferson with the equalprotection-to-all-interests of Washington, Adams and Monroe. With Calhoun as Vice-President, who stood second in popular favor with the people of the country, it would certainly appear that every one had just grounds for expecting that the immediate future of legislation would tend toward a reduction in the revenues. A bill looking to this end did pass in July, 1832, and was to take effect in March of the next year. But, the election over and Jackson being returned for a second term, the people declared themselves in favor of a general lightening of taxes and the abolition of the high protective system. The country demanded a more radical measure than the petty reduction of $3,000,000 in revenue. But the

system" had been saddled upon the North as firmly as the hideous institution of slavery was fixed upon the South. As had been noticed by Webster, the truth was now more than ever apparent that the energy, the industry, and the hardy genius of the North fitted it for manufactures; while the easier disposition and the slave labor of the South made it an agricultural section. To protect the North from the competition of foreign markets, Congress had closed those same markets to the products of the South. The institution of protection was as repugnant to the South, in a business way, as the institution of slavery was, in a moral sense, to many of the people of the North. In vain, during the four years from 1828 to 1832, had the Southern leaders in Congress and the legislatures of Virginia, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Mississippi sent forth their protests and breathed forth their threatenings. But although the infant manufactures of the North had already reached grand opulence, the cry now was, “ Remove the tariff, our protection, and you ruin us and the country. The South replied, “Do something of the kind, or we are ruined people.” The triumphant re-election of Jackson in 1832 determined the rash course of the agriculturist. South Carolina fired the first gun in the great conflict between the North and the South and proclaimed in her nullifying ordinance of November, 1832, that “the tariff must go." Addresses were issued by the South Carolina convention declaring for free markets and free trade, but setting forth the suicidal doctrine that any State had the right to oppose the General Government by force of arms

* See his inaugural of March, 1829.

should it attempt to carry out the laws which a majority of the people, through their representatives, had approved. President Jackson's proclamation of December set forth his just determination to enforce the laws and crush the heresy of nullification, and that stern and sensible state paper was warmly approved by Southern and Northern States alike. The South asked for a positive change in the tariff, by which the country should be made to bear merely the light burdens of peace; the North generally expressed a mild predilection for a reduction of existing duties, there being one marked exception to the rule. The fanciful politician of the present may find food for comment in the fact that in 1833 the State of Maine approached nearer to the standard of Free Trade than any other commonwealth of the North.* Although the President and every State in the nation had “shown their colors on the unsound and unsafe doctrine of nullification, there was an evident disposition in Congress both to conciliate Mr. Calhoun and the South and to meet the popular demands, as evinced by the late general election. Consequently a measure was introduced (the Verplanck bill) which proposed a reduction of $13,000,000 from the existing revenue and to bring the standard of taxation down to the light burdens of 1816. In February it was upon the point of passing, when suddenly, almost without notice, it was thrown aside and Mr. Clay's famous Compromise was rushed through during the last hours of the session; but as the measure received the support of Mr. Calhoun himself, it really seemed as if Mr. Clay was to be “the ministering angel visiting the troubled waters of political dissensions.” His bill provided for a series of annual reductions so as to reach twenty per centum on the value of all imported goods on the 30th of September, 1842. But the country provided no additional means of raising revenue, and the currency of the realm was probably

* On the first of February, 1833, the joint committee of her State Legislature appointed to draft resolutions on national affairs presented its views, which were afterward embodied and adopted in a series of formal resolutions that said : “ Viewing with the deepest feelings of regret the excitement which pervades our sister State, and the rash and presumptuous measures to which it has Led, and deprecating these measures as utterly inconsistent with the spirit of forbearance and compromise in which our Union had its origin, and by a perseverance in which it can alone be maintained, we cannot at the same time forget that this excitement, this disturbance of the public tranquillity, and all the dangers which this unnatural controversy threatens to bring upon the country, have for their origin and moving cause the policy of the protective system. Under this aspect of public affairs it has seemed to your committee the more useful course to respectfully interpose the voice of this State for conciliation and forbearance. There are none among us who would justify the untimely and ruinous resistance which South Carolina threatens against the existing laws of the United States, of whose injustice she complains. On the other hand a large majority of the citizens of Maine ever have entertained – they still entertain-the most undoubting convictions of the impolicy and oppression of high protective duties."

never more unstable than during Van Buren's administration. Speculation, over trading and rotten currency had their effect upon the public credit at home and abroad; so that although by 1842 there was a large deficit in the Treasury, it was impossible to borrow money, and the revenue from imports was already inadequate to the wants of the government, and according to the terms of the compromise, decreasing. A bill had already passed to distribute among the States the revenue derived from the sale of lands, provided the tariff should not be raised in 1842. But even that inducement and the binding nature of the compromise of 1833 could have little weight against the bankruptcy which stared the country in the face. To abide by the compromise under the circumstances, seemed sure death. Therefore Congress passed a tariff bill raising all duties twenty per cent., and made the land bill a dead letter.

From that time on for many years the general tendency of legislation was toward a reduction in duties. During fifteen years succeeding the establishment of the tariff of 1842 the country was racked with internal commotions-boundary disputes with Great Britain, annexation schemes, war with Mexico, the admission of new States, conquests of southwestern territory, etc“ but the color line" run through all the tumults of that period, and daily threatened to become red with blood, as the South saw the free territory extend and crowd her toward the sea. The patriots of the country North and South vainly endeavored to suppress discussion on the slavery question. Henry Clay at last came forth with his Compromise which Whigs and Democrats agreed to regard as the final settlement of the whole matter. But in the meantime around the positive leaders of the controversy there were forming little knots of independent thinkers and workers. First there was a liberal party, then a Garrison party. Next a few Whigs and Democrats commenced to fall away from their organizations. Finally the different factions left the dead issues behind them, forgot that they had been aught but brothers, and the living party of Republicanism absorbed the Free Soilers, most of the Whigs and many of the Democrats. It arose as a grand moral agent, a glorious “oneidea” party, and found blankly opposed to it a party with two ideas, slavery and free trade. Republicanism was destined to one more defeat before entering upon a long career of glorious achievement. Compromises were of no more avail, and happily Henry Clay did not live to see the day when the North and the South became rent asunder. It would appear that, for the present, those who were in authority did not dare to urge upon the South both high protection and anti-slavery measures ; so that, as stated, legislation tended toward a low tariff.

A few years previous to the panic of 1857 the exodus to the West was at its height, and internal improvement was the rage. The country was flooded with paper, upon which foundation rested pioneer railroads and canals. But the people at length came to their senses, and the financial crash of 1857 was the result. Confidence at home and abroad was almost destroyed. Imports decreased, exports decreased, business of all kinds decreased. Clouds of war threatened to drift to us from abroad, rotten currency poisoned the channels of trade, political dissensions interfered with home industries, the foundations of the nation trembled with the coming revolution.

All these disturbing elements combined during the fifteen years preceding the great panic of 1857 to check the country's prosperity, despite her greater freedom of trade.

By the latter part of 1860 it became evident that the soul of Henry Clay on the tariff question was still marching on, and that a bill was to be introduced which was the beau ideal of high protection. As a war measure it was a masterly stroke of statesmanship on the part of the North; for it was a declaration of war! In December South Carolina seceded from the Union. In March the constitution of the Confederacy was adopted, making a revenue tariff one of its cardinal principles.*

Most of the Southern representatives having withdrawn, the Morrill tariff bill became. law April 1, 1861. It aroused a storm of indignation, not only in the South but in England, and undoubtedly it hastened the war. During the next four years several high tariff bills were passed by the Federal Government as war measures.

Up to 1858 the record of “ tinkering" which marked legislative history on this question is long and tedious. It is enough to the present purpose to say that the Morrill spirit permeated it all. In 1870 a slight

duction commenced. A ten per cent. reduction followed in 1872, which was restored in 1875. The average percentage up to March, 1883, when the last tariff bill was passed, equaled about 42 per cent. According to a report of the Chief of the Bureau of Statistics, made in April, 1884, the act of the previous year caused a reduction on the average ad-valorem rate of duty on imports of about six per cent.

It is not to the present purpose to discuss in detail the recent attempt made at a horizontal reduction of the tariff. It is well known, however,

* Article 1, Section 8, provides that Congress "shall lay and collect taxes, imposts and excises for revenue necessary to pay the debts, provide for the common defense and carry on the goverment of the Confederate States ; but no bounties shall be granted from the treasury, nor shall any duties or taxes on importations from foreigu nations be laid to promote or foster any branch of industries.”

that in May, 1884, the form of protection under which the country now suffers, was nearly overthrown. The split on the question was far more marked between Eastern and Western Democrats than between Eastern and Western Republicans. But the Republicans, as a party, assumed the aggressive in the succeeding campaign, smothered the tariff issue, and having no other live matter at home upon which to stand, called upon foreign countries for relief, and again revived the old Federal idea of a grand naval establishment and a “brilliant foreign policy." Whether or not its leaders were inspired with true American patriotism in marking out this policy, it is quite certain that it would effectually dispose of that “surplus revenue” which is now a standing protest against the continuation of the present protective duties.

With the exception of this proposed grand naval establishment there were few marked points of difference between the Republican and Democratic platforms. They both declared against the importation of

cheap labor," and although the Republicans issued a high sounding manifesto against the imposition of duties “ for revenue only," it is quite singular that, though one platform stood for economy and the other for glory, they both solemnly bound themselves to arrange the tariff so that labor and capital should be equally satisfied. The Democratic platform, in its endeavor to compromise between the protectionists of the East and the free traders of the West, may have actually relegated the tariff issue to secondary importance for the time. The party certainly showed its cowardice by failing to definitely declare itself in answer to the specific requests made by its million of would-be supporters within the pale of the labor organizations. Assuredly, in trying to bind the party together, its statesmen, of whom much was expected, too closely followed the lead of the Republicans. The platform, in a word, was a grievous disappointment, and was wholly dishonest, because it was purposely indefinite. In marked and refreshing contrast to it was the minority report presented by Benjamin F. Butler, unfortunately not in rapport with the general spirit pervading the Chicago convention. But the declaration of principles which he presented in so able a manner, clothed in such direct and forcible language, was labeled “General Butler's Platform,” and consequently buried out of sight. It was quite certain, as the matter stood, that the campaign would be fought upon personal grounds, and be decided by the strength of individual following which the party leaders might draw to themselves. Thus it has been up to date. The demand of the Republican party that their leader must be a man of “personal magnetism,” was charged with great political wisdom. The Democratic party also has

VOL. XII.-No. 6.-34

« 上一頁繼續 »