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of other States and other climes—the products which more prolific soils and more genial skies, and less skilled labor contribute to the commerce and the arts of the world.
William H. Seward [N. Y.] supported the House bill.
It seems to me, Mr. President, that the difficulties we have to contend with, in attempting to reach a proper solution of this question, arise from taking a view of the subject either too broad or too narrow. Some of the gentlemen who have engaged in the debate would draw us into a whirl of political speculation, when it is very certain that the vote of not a single Senator will be governed by any partisan considerations whatever. It is simply a practical question, upon which no party, as such, has expressed any opinion or adopted any policy. Other Senators would draw us from this practical question into one of the metaphysics of finance, and engage us in abstruse researches into so much of the science of political economy as is involved in the subject of revenue. Other Senators would seem disposed to draw us into a consideration of the importance of protecting or defending certain special interests, without sufficient consideration of the importance of maintaining other interests established or growing up in the country.
I have not looked at it in any such light. If it shall come to be regarded as a partisan question, if it shall come to be regarded as a general question of protection or free trade, or if it shall come to be regarded as a question of discrimination between different branches of industry, I am certain it will find no wise solution at this stage of the session. But, sir, the light in which I have chosen to regard the question is simply this: it is not wise, it is not just to draw from the pockets of the people into the treasury of the country an amount of money greater than the current expenses of the treasury require.
Now, if we can find any plan by which six or ten, or even fifteen millions of dollars can be withdrawn from the treasury, or prevented from going into it, without disturbing any one of the agricultural, or commercial, or manufacturing interests of the country, that is the plan, under present circumstances, to adopt. In looking through the different plans with reference to that object, I find myself prepared at once to dispense with, and lay out of view as measures which cannot receive my support, all those plans which seek a horizontal reduction of the tariff, because it would be absurd to suppose a horizontal reduction which should disregard the special condition of the different systems of the production of the country could be made without sacrificing some of those systems, and giving at the same time unequal and undue advantages to others which do not need any protection.
The same consideration brings me also to the conclusion that the bill of the honorable Senator from Virginia, which, however, he has now offered in the shape of an amendment, is objectionable, though less so than that which is offered by the committee over which he has the honor to preside.
I find that, so far as it goes, the bill of the House of Representatives avoids all the objections which I have thought essential; and, although in some of its details it seems to me to be very injudicious, yet, at the same time, regarding it as a compromise, I am satisfied that it is a bill which is worthy of our approval and our acceptance. I do not say that it might not be advantageously modified. That bill proceeds upon the ground of certainly diminishing the revenues by transferring to the free list articles which are now paying duty. It has been remarked, as wisely as laconically, by the honorable Senator from Vermont (Mr. Collamer] that the removal of all duties on any articles imported will operate simply as a bill to effect a reduction of the revenues. I recognize also in the bill which comes from the House of Representatives the principle that, by transferring to the free list those foreign articles which are raw materials employed in the manufacture of our own country, we discriminate in favor of manufactures. In transferring to that list dyestuffs and other articles which cannot be produced in this our country at all, we encourage manufactures without injuring the agricultural or mineral interests of the United States. If by thus increasing the free list we shall effect a sufficient diminution of the revenue, then I shall be willing to stop there, and I should insist on stopping there.
Robert Toombs [Ga.] opposed the protection on wool, stating that the true policy was to encourage manufactures.
I happen to represent a constituency who get nothing at all but taxation. We ask no advantage—we claim none. You give us no protection on our productions. Cotton is in the free list; rice is in the free list; lumber is in the free list, by the reciprocity treaty. These are the chief products of my own people. We have neither sought nor asked any bounty; therefore we are impartial judges between the grower and the manufacturer of wool. It is not a Southern question. It is a question among you gentlemen who are seeking the advantages of the Government. You raise a quarrel, and I am afraid the result will be to leave us to pay taxes to a government that does not want them. You levy $20,000,000 a year, which everybody says you do not want. You say now it is going to produce a commercial revulsion, and derange your currency. If that shall be the effect, it will be a just punishment to those who levy burdens on the people without public necessity. I thank God that there is an avenging Nemesis that follows in the train of false theories in politics and wicked legislation, and teaches communities the folly of wickedness.
I would enlarge the free list on the principles I have stated, but first I want a reduction on general taxation. Take off the public burdens by reducing duties upon all articles of general consumption all over the country and among all classes. This will be beginning at the right place. Why shall you tax Maine for the benefit of sheep growers in Vermont? In this dispute between the manufacturer and the grower, I think the argument is with the manufacturer. He has my sympathies; but I hope I have equal sympathy for all my countrymen. If I could settle this dispute on any just principle, I should be glad to do so; but I believe it is irreconcilable one or the other must go. The idea of protecting both—the wool manufacturer and the wool grower-presents one of those problems that cannot be worked out. The more you try it, the worse it will be. If you give to woolen manufacturers and to raw wool a protection of one hundred per cent., it is quite certain, even then, that you would not drive out foreign competition. It would certainly injure both interests. Its operation could only be temporary. It is futile to think of building up both interests together by equal duties, no matter what they may be. The best protection to the wool grower is to multiply and strengthen the woolen manufacturers. I believe it to be the only mode of permanently benefiting them. On no sound principle of political economy can equal duty on both which you will lay harmonize them. If woolen manufactures and wool-growing can succeed together without duty, they will succeed if you go on taxing them pari passu; but, if either requires a duty, neither can succeed on any such basis as I have stated. We have not the same difficulty as to cotton manufacturers, because we raise our own cotton; and we do not raise sufficient wool for the home consumption. The great complaint of the woolen manufacturers is that they have to pay a large duty on the cheap wools of South America. They are now working at a disadvantage, because the English manufacturer takes the wool from Buenos Ayres, .where wool costs but little, and brings it cheaply to England- duty free, while they pay thirty per cent. ad valorem. The result is that the duty on wool and on woolen manufactures at pres. ent being the same, our manufacturers of wool are driven out of foreign markets, and struggle hard for their own. I do not think that system is wise. In laying my duties I would protect a branch of industry which, in my judgment, will be able to support itself within a short time, and be a permanent advantage to the country.
Andrew P. Butler [S. C.], an advocate of free trade, supported horizontal reduction as a step in that direction.
I know that my State expects me to take a part in this debate, because I believe there is no State in the Union that has made as many issues on free trade as South Carolina. As to the theory which she entertains and has promulgated, I may say, without any vanity as far as I can speak of her doctrines, that she has not spoken in vain, although she was threatened with the sword for speaking. I might be considered as going very far if I were to say that I should be perfectly willing to have no custom houses at all. That is my opinion; but I know I cannot have that. I go so far as to say that, in a commercial point of view, the custom houses must necessarily, in the form of tariffs, make discriminations; and in a war point of view I know we must retain the power of discriminating, in order to protect iron or any other material which must be protected as an element of war. I have no idea now of being able to reduce the tariff to anything like the level to which the South Carolina doctrine would reduce it.
Sir, for myself, I want no tariff. I say to this Confederacy that I am perfectly willing to be placed in the original position of constituencies to pay for carrying on this Government. I am not, however, to be drawn into a discussion on that subject, for I know that anything which is untenable is a matter not to be discussed, or at least its discussion is fruitless.
We have $70,000,000 of revenue-$35,000,000 more than enough. The burden of this taxation is upon the poor and middle classes of the people, for the rich are well able to contribute their share. The persons who pay these taxes are the consumers—the humble milkmaid who pays for her calico, the humble mechanic who pays for the coat in which he works, the humble farmer who pays for the plow he uses twenty per cent. more than he ought to pay. If you could bring to the mind of the people that these classes are paying more than they are bound to pay, they would resist; but as long as you delude them with this disguised form of taxation you make this a Government more irresponsible, in my opinion, than any, as far as I have read history-I say the most irresponsible Government on earth, so far as regards the collection and disbursement of revenue. You collect it sometimes on wool, sometimes on this article, sometimes on that; but you always take it from the industrial portion of the community. They pay it, and they do not know that they pay it. It is so diffused that they never know it. If you take off the taxation in the form proposed here, you will have prosperity, particularly in my portion of the country. Cotton would rise to twenty cents to-morrow, I believe, if we had no tariff. I believe, if you let all the world compete with the manufacturers here, we should raise the raw material; that would be the result.
I desire it to be understood that your taxation comes out of delusive and fraudulent legislation in some respects, and unwise legislation in all respects. What right have you to build up the iron interest, the woolen interest, or any other interest, through the money contributed to this treasury for the benefit of the common objects of government!
I do not undertake to discriminate between my friends from Ohio, Virginia, and Georgia. If it were a matter of mere taste, I would rather go for the man who cultivates his land and feeds his sheep, and prepares the great element. But what right, in reality, have we to assume jurisdiction over matters of this kind, except to raise revenue? And in raising revenue it ought to be just. Who is to decide? Discretion. What is discretion ? Interest. What is interest? Power. What is power? It is the combination of different influences; and that makes up the whole concern, so far as regards the regulation of the industrial concerns of this country. I shall vote for the amendment of the committee, and will take the best scheme I can get; but for myself I want no tariff. I would obliterate the whole concern.
The Senate adopted the substitute measure of Senator Hunter by a vote of 33 to 12. The Senate bill was accepted by the House on March 3, and approved by President Franklin Pierce upon the same day.