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IS THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES, ON THE TARIFF BILL.
MAY 9, 1828.
Mr. President,—This subject is surrounded with embarrassments, on all sides. Of itself, however wisely or temperately treated, it is full of difficulties; and these difficulties have not been diminished by the particular frame of this bill, nor by the manner hitherto pursued of proceeding with it. A diversity of interests exist, or is supposed to exist, in different parts of the country. This is one source of difficulty. Different opinions are entertained as to the constitutional power of Congress; this is another. And then, again, different members of the Senate have instructions which they feel bound to obey, and which clash with one another. We have this morning seen an honorable member from New York, an important motion being under consideration, lay his instructions on the table, and point to them, as his power of attorney and as containing the directions for his vote.
Those who intend to oppose this bill, under all circumstances, and in all or any forms, care not how objectionable it now is, or how bad it may be made. Others, finding their own leading objects satisfactorily secured by it, naturally enough press forward, without staying to consider, deliberately, how injuriously other interests may be affected. All these causes create embarrassments, and inspire just fears that a wise and useful result is hardly to be expected. There seems a strange disposition to run the hazard of extremes; and to forget, that in cases of this kind, measure, proportion, and degree are objects of inquiry, and the true rules of judgment. I have not had the slightest wish to'discuss the measure; not believing that, in the present state of tiiings, any good could be done by me, in that way. But the frequent declaration that this was altogether a New England measure, a bill for securing a monopoly to the capitalists of the north, and other expressions of a similar nature, have induced me to say a few words..
New England, sir, has not been a leader in this policy. On the contrary, she held back herself and tried to hold others back from k, from the adoption of the constitution to 1824. Up to 1324, she was accused of sinister and selfish designs, becanse she discountenanced th« progrets of this policy. It was laid to her charge, then, that having established her manufactures herself, she wished that others should not have the power of rivalling her; and, for that reason, opposed all legislative encouragement. Under this angry denunciation against her, the act of 1824 passed. Now, the imputation is precisely of an opposite character. The present measure, is pronounced to be exclusively for the benefit of New England; to be brought forward by her agency, and designed to gratify the cupidity of her wealthy establishments.
Both charges, sir, are equally without the slightest foundation. The opinion of New England, up to 1824, was founded in the conviction that, on the whole, it was wisest and best, both for herself and others, that manufactures should make haste slowly. She felt a reluctance to trust great interests on the foundation of government patronage; for who could tell how long such patronage would last, or with what steadiness, skill, or perseverance it would continue to be granted? It is now nearly fifteen years since, among the first things which I ever ventured to say here, was the expression of a serious doubt whether this government was fitted, by its construction, to administer aid and protection to particular pursuits; whether, having called such pursuits into being by indications of its favor, it would not afterwards desert them, when troubles come upon them, and leave them to their fate. Whether this prediction, the result, certainly, of chance, and not of sagacity, will so soon be fulfilled, remains to be seen.
At the same time it is true, that from the very first commencement of the government, those who have administered its concerns have held a tone of encouragement and invitation towards those who should embark in manufactures. All the Presidents, I believe without exception, have concurred in this general sentiment; and the very first act of Congress, laying duties of import, adopted the then unusual expedient of a preamble, apparently for little other purpose than that of declaring, that the duties which it imposed were imposed for the encouragement and protection of manufactures. When, at the commencement of the late war, duties were doubled, we were told that we should find a mitigation of the weight of taxation, in the new aid and succour which would be thus afforded to our own manufacturing labor. Like arguments were urged, and prevailed, but not by the aid of New England votes, when the tariff was afterwards arranged, at the close of the war, in 1816. Finallv, after a wh"le winter's deliberation, the act of 1824 received the sanction of bnth houses of Congress, and settled the policy of the country. What, then, was New England to do? She was fitted for manufacturing operations, by the amount and character of her population, bv her capital, by the vigor and energy of her free labor, by the skill, economy, enterprise, and perseverance of her people. I repeat. What was she. under these circumstances, to do? A great and prosperous rival in her near neighbourhood, threatening to draw from her a part, perhaps a great part, of her foreign commerce: was she to use, or to neglect, those other means of seeking her own prosperity which belonged to her character and her condition? Was she to hold out, forever, against the course of the government, and se« herself losing on one side, and yet make no effort to sustain herself on the other? Ho, sir. Nothing was left to New England, after the act of 1824, but to conform herself to the will of others. Nothing was left to her, but to consider that 1ho government had fixed and determined its own policy; and that policy was prohction.
New England, poor, in some respects, in others, is as wealthy as her neighbours. Her soil would be held in low estimation, by those who are acquainted with the valley of the Mississippi and some of the meadows of the south. But in industry, iu habits of labor, skill, and in accumulated capital, the fruit of two centuries of industry, she may be said to be rich. After this final declaration—this solemn promulgation of the policy of the government, I again ask, What was she to do? Was she to deny herself the use of her advantages, natural and acquired? Was she to content herself with useless regrets? Was she longer to resist, what she could no longer prevent? Or, was she, rather, to adapt her acts to her condition; and seeing the policy of the government thus settled and fixed, to accommodate to it, as well as she could, her own pursuits and her own industry? Every man will see that she had no option. Every man will confess that there remained for her but one course. She not only saw this herself, but had, all along, foreseen, that if the system of protecting manufactures should be adopted, she must go largely into them. I believe, sir, almost every man from New England who voted against the law of 1824, declared, that if, notwithstanding his opposition to that law, it should still pass, there would be no alternative but to consider the course and policy of the government as then settled and fixed, and to act accordingly. The law did pass; and a vast increase of investment in manufacturing establishments was the consequence. Those who made such investments, probably entertained not the slightest doubt that as much as was promised would be effectually granted; and that if, owing to any unforeseen occurrence, or untoward event, the benefit designed by the law, to any branch of manufactures, should not be realized, it would furnish a fair case for the consideration of government. Certainly, they could not expect, after what had passed, that interests of great magnitude would be left at the mercy of the very first change of circumstunces which might occur.
As a general remark, it may be said, that the interests concerned in tie act of 18'24, did not complain of their condition under it, excepting only those connected with the woollen manufactures. These did complain; not so much of the act itself, as of a new slate of circumstances, unforeseen when the law passed, but which had now arisen to thwart its beneficial operations, as to them; although in one respect, perhaps, the law itself was thought to be unwisely framed.
Three causes have been generally stated, as having produced the disappointment experienced by the manufacturers of wool, under the law of 1824.
First, it is alleged, that the price of the raw material had been raised too high, by the act itself. This point had been discussed at the time, and although opinions varied, the result, so far as it depended on this part ol the case, though it may be said to have been unexpected, was certainly not entirely unforeseen.•
• Extract from Mr. Webrtrr'i Speech, on the Tariff of 1824.—" Thia bill propom, tbo, a ttr] hifb duty upon iinuoruxl wool J mod aa tar as 1 can learn, a majority of the mnnufac
ployed. It is an unproductive business, and they are not poor enough to be obliged to follow it. If we had more of poverty, more of misery, and something of servitude, if we had an ignorant, idle, starving population, we might set up for iron makers against the world.
The committee will take notice, Mr. Chairman, that, under our present duty, together with the expense of transportation, our manufacturers are able to supply their own immediate neighbourhood; and this proves the magnitude of that substantial encouragement which these two causes concur to give. There is little or no foreign iron, I presume, used in the county of Lancaster. This is owing to the heavy expense of land carriage; and, as we recede farther from the coast, the manufacturers are still more completely secured, as to their own immediate market, against the competition of the imported article. But what they ask is to be allowed to supply the seacoast, at such a price as shall be formed by adding to the cost at the mines the expense of land carriage to the sea; and this appears to me most unreasonable. The effect of it would be to compel the consumer to pay the cost of two land transportations; for, in the first place, the price of iron, at the inland furnaces, will always be found to be at, or not much below, the price of the imported article in the seaport, and the cost of transportation to the neighbourhood of the furnace; and to enable the home product to hold a competition with the imported in the seaport, the cost of another transportation downward, from the furnace to the coast, must be added. Until our means of inland commerce be improved, and the charges of transportation by that means lessened, it appears to me wholly impracticable, with such duties as any one would think of proposing, to meet the wishes of the manufacturers of this article. Suppose we were to add the duty proposed by this bill, although it would benefit the capital invested in works near the sea, and the navigable rivers, yet the benefit would not extend far in the interior. Where, then, are we to stop, or what limit is proposed to us?
The freight of iron has been afforded from Sweden to the United States as low as eight dollars per ton. This is not more than the price of fifty miles land carriage. Stockholm, therefore, for the purpose of this argument, may be considered as within fiftv miles ) of Philadelphia. Now, it is at once a just and a strong view of this case, to consider, that there arc, within fifty miles of our market, vast multitudes of persons who are willing to labor in the production of this article for us, at the rate of seven cents per dav, while we have no labor which will not command, upon the average, at least five or six times that amount. The question is, then, shall we buy this article of these manufacturers, and suffer our own labor to earn its greater reward, or shall we employ our own labor in a similar manufacture, and make up to it, by a tax on consumers, the loss which it must necessarily sustain.
I proceed, sir, to the article of hemp. Of this we imported last year, in round numbers, 6,000 tons, paying a duty of $30 a ton, or $180,000 on the whole amount; and this article, it is to be remrmbered, is consumed almost entirely in the uses of navigation. Th« whole burden may be said to fall on one interest. It is said we c*n produce this article if we will raise the duties. But why is it not produced now; or whv, at least, have we not seen some specimens? for the present is a verv high duty, when expenses of importation are added. Hemp was purchased at St. Petersburg, last year, at $101 67 per ton. Charges attending shipment, kc. $14 25. Freight may he stated at ft.'W per ton, and our existing duty is £30 more. These three last sums, being the charges of transportation, amount to a protection of near 75 per cent, in favor of the home manufacturer, if there were any such. And we ought to consider, also, that the price of hemp at St. Petersburg is increased by all the expense of transportation from the place of growth to that port; so that probably the whole cost of transportation, from the place of growth to our market, including our duty, is equal to the first cost of the article; or, in other words, is a protection in favor of our own product of 100 per cent.
And since it is stated that we have great quantities of fine land for the production of hemp, of which I have no doubt, the question recurs, why it it not produced? I speak of the water rotted hemp, for i t is admitted that that which is dew rotted is not sufficiently good for the requisite purposes. I cannot say whether the cause be in climate, in the process of rotting, or what else, but the fact is certain, that there is no American water rotted hemp in the market. We are acting, therefore, upon a hypothesis. Is it not reasonable that those who say that they can produce the article, shall at least prove the truth of that allegation before new taxes are Jaid on those who use the foreign commodity? Suppose this bill passes: the price of hemp is immediately raised £ 14 80 per ton, and this burden falls immediatelv on the ship builder; and no part of it, for the present, will go for the benefit of the American grower, because he has none of the article that can be used, nor is it expected that much of it will be produced for a considerable time. Still the tax takes effect upon the imported article; and the ship owners, to enable the Kentucky farmer to receive an additional £ 14 on his ton of hemp, whenever he may he able to raise and manufacture it, pay, in the meantime, an equal sum per ton into the Treasury on all the imported hemp which they are still obliged to use; and this is called " protection!" Is this just or fair? A particular interest is here burdened, not only for the benefit of another particular interest, but burdened also beyond that, for the benefit of the Treasury. It is said to be important for the country that this article should be raised in it; then, let the country bear the expense, and pay the bounty. If it be for the good of the whole, let the sacrifice be made by the whole, and not by a part. If if be thought useful and necessary, from political considerations, to encourage the growth and manufacture of hemp, government has abundant means of doing it. It might give a direct bounty, and such a measure would, at least, distribute the burden equally; or, as government itself is a great consumer of this article, it might stipulate to confine its own purchases to the home product, so soon as it should be shown to be of the proper quality. I see no objection to this proceeding, if it be thought to be an object to encourage the production. It might easily, and perhaps properly, be provided, by law, that the Navy should be supplied with American hemp, the quality being