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Federal legislation. Since that time it has gone on increasing. When once it had been started, it could hardly avoid doing so. What one party fancied to be its life, was in no fancy, but in reality, the death of the other. The former, the Protectionist party, was perhaps the strongest at first, and its strength was continually increased. The people among whom it existed had a hereditary character for being hard, selfish, intolerant, and merciless beyond probably any other that has existed on the face of the earth. They had known too little adversity to have learnt moderation, and been fed too long upon bunkum to have learned modesty. They would not yield an inch out of respect for the rights and feelings of others, and if they had an advantage, would not refrain from pressing it to the uttermost. There will be people in every state who will do this ; and it is the duty of governments to keep them from encroaching too much. But this duty the Government of the United States could not perform. In the first place, it has not the power. In the second, it was ingeniously contrived so as to foster the evils which it ought to have prevented, to an extent which no other constitution ever devised has been able to approach ; for no other government has ever provided such a machinery for disturbance as the quadrennial election of the President. Not only does it excite passions, but it invites the repetition of factious pledges. At every recurrence of that event, the support of the Northern voters had to be bought by promises of higher and yet higher protective duties. If it had not been for this, it is conceivable that even New England might at length have been satisfied. Had the legislature and the government been permanent, they might have exacted a pretty high tariff, if nothing less would serve them, and been content to let it remain. But if there is a grand upsetting of everything every four years, and if at every recurrence of that period the party wirepullers come forward, bidding for support for their respective nominees, by trying which can make the highest promises, to be fulfilled at the expense of their neighbours, it is hardly in human nature—it certainly is not in New England natureto resist the temptation of trying to make a profit out of the circumstance.
I have represented this tariff question as entirely the result of the criminal selfishness of the North, worked upon, for their own factious purposes, by a set of clever though ignorant dealers in politics, considered not as a science but as an article of trade. And I mean so to represent it. The honest Protectionists of this country, who prefer a high tariff on necessaries, on its own merits, and as a matter of public policy, have few parallels in the American Union. The question has been viewed there, simply as a question between North and South, as a question as to how much hard cash the free and enlightened citizens of the former can get out of the pockets of the latter. I hardly suppose that any one who believes the account I have given of the way things are managed, will require much proof of this. If he does require one, here it is for him.
The very first act of Federal legislation on this subject was in 1816 ;* and part of that measure consisted in a reduction of tariff. The particular department of native industry from which, to a certain extent, protection was removed, was indigo. I think that this in itself was a good thing ; for certainly the indigo duties were high, and probably ought to have been reduced. But the point of the matter is this. Indigo was as entirely a Southern production as cotton is now; and along the whole coast of the Atlantic, from the frontier of Pennsylvania to the frontier of Florida, it was a staple of great importance. It occurred to the New Englanders that, at the same time that they secured heavy bounties for their own shipping and woollens, they might pay their homage to the doctrines of Adam Smith, which were also those of Hamilton, and do it out of the
* That is, as Protection: customs duties had been levied before, but only for revenue.
pockets of the Southerners, by cutting down the indigo duties ; and they managed to succeed in doing so. I do not know whether the Southern representatives made much of a fight on the subject : whether they did or not, they accepted the reduction as a fact, and acquiesced in it. But it became a little too strong, when they found that the Northerners, who were so anxious to be free-traders at their expense, would do nothing on behalf of that doctrine at their own; and not only would they not diminish the duties from which they themselves derived a profit, but they kept on increasing and increasing them. As regularly as the Presidential elections came round—that is to say, every four years—the tariffs (not on indigo, but on what the North produced) were raised, in fulfilment of pledges given to buy Northern votes.
At last, in 1828, when, after the tariff had been altered to please New England three times, it was proposed to alter it again in the same interest, the South, which had been vainly struggling against the incoming tide of Protection all this time, resolved to make an attempt to save herself in another way than by dead opposition. She had reason. Under the government of the Northern majority she was rapidly approaching the verge of ruin. In spite of the large exports which her industry enabled her to make, amounting (in four staples alone) to the value of eight hundred million dollars during the half century which had elapsed since the Revolution—in spite of this she was sinking lower and lower. “A universal pressure for money—not enough for current expenses
—the price of all property down—the country drooping and languishing—towns and cities decaying—and the frugal habits of the people pushed to the extreme of universal self-denial, for the preservation of their family estates. . . . . It is Federal legislation which has worked this ruin. Under this legislation the exports of the South have been made the basis of Federal revenue. The amount annually levied upon imported goods to defray the expenses of the Government, are deducted out of the price of their cotton, rice, and tobacco, either in the diminished price which they receive for these staples in foreign ports, or in the increased price which they pay for the articles which they consume at home. Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, may be said to defray three-fourths of the annual expense of supporting the Federal Government; and of this great sum annually furnished by them, nothing, or next to nothing, is returned to them in the shape of Government expenditure. That expenditure flows in an opposite direction—it flows northward in one uniform, uninterrupted, and perennial stream. This is the reason why wealth disappears in the South and rises up in