« PreviousContinue »
thropic impulse to extend the area of liberty and civilization. Colonies were planted for the purpose of raising up customers for home trade. It was a matter of business and speculation, carried on by joint stock companies for the benefit of corporations.
While our Revolution was in progress Adam Smith, when discussing and condemning the colonial system, declared that “England had founded an empire in the New World for the sole purpose of raising up customers for her trade.”
When the colonies had increased in numbers and wealth, the purpose of the mother country was disclosed in the legislation and regulations by which the colonies were governed.
Whatever did not enhance the trade and commerce of England was deemed unfit to be a part of the colonial policy.
Worse even than its effects on the industry of the colonies was the influence of this policy on political and commercial morality. The innumerable arbitrary laws enacted to enforce it created a thousand new crimes. Transactions which the colonists thought necessary to their welfare, and in no way repugnant to the moral sense of good men, were forbidden under heavy penalties.
They became a nation of law-breakers. Nine-tenths of the colonial merchants were smugglers. Nearly half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were bred to commerce, to the command of ships and to contraband trade. John Hancock was the prince of contraband traders; and, with John Adams as his counsel, was on trial before the admiralty court, in Boston, at the exact hour of the shedding of the first blood at Lexington, to answer for a $500,000 penalty alleged to have been incurred as a smuggler.
Half the tonnage of the world was engaged in smuggling or piracy. The war of independence was a war against commercial despotism; against an industrial policy which oppressed and tortured the industry of our fathers, and would have reduced them to perpetual vassalage for the gain of England.
In view of these facts, it is not strange that our fathers should have taken early measures not only to free themselves from this vassalage, but also to establish in our own land such industries as they deemed indispensable to an independent nation. The policy I have described prevailed throughout Christendom, and compelled the new Republic, in self-defence, to adopt measures for the protection of its own interests.
No one now fails to see that the European policy of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was as destructive of national industry as it was barbarous and oppressive. Political philosophers did not hesitate to declare that a general and devastating war among other nations was desirable as a means of enhancing the commerce of their own. The great Dryden, poet laureate of England, was not ashamed to begin one of his noblest poems, the Annus Mirabilis, by invoking the thunders of war on Holland for the sole purpose of reducing her commercial prosperity.
A better civilization has changed all this; has expanded the area of commercial freedom, and remanded the industry of nations more and more to the operation of the general laws of trade. But it must be borne in mind that the political millennium has not yet come, when all nations belong to one family, with no collision of interests and no need of distinct and separate policies. Until that happy period arrives, each government must first of all provide for its own people. Protection, in its practical meaning, is that provident care for the industry and development of our own country which will give our own people an equal chance in the pursuit of wealth, and save us from the calamity of being dependent upon other nations with whom we may any day be at war.
In so far as the doctrine of free trade is a protest against the old system of oppression and prohibition it is a healthy and worthy sentiment. But underlying all theories there is a strong and deep conviction in the minds of a great majority of our people in favor of protecting American industry. And now I ask gentlemen who advocate free trade if they desire to remove all tariff duties from imported goods? I trust they do not mean that. Do they not know that we are pledged, by all that is honest and patriotic, to raise $130,000,000, in gold every year to pay the interest on our public debt; and will they not admit the necessity of raising $20,000,000 more a year, in gold, as a sinking fund, to apply to the principal of the public debt? Will it be wise statesmanship to raise less than $150,000,000 in gold a year! If this be admitted we have the limit within which we may reduce the duties on imported goods.
Let us next inquire in what way this reduction may be so made as to give most relief to industry. And here let me say that, in my opinion, the key to all our financial problems, or at least the chief factor in every such problem, is the doctrine of prices. Prices exhibit all fluctuations of business, and are as sure indicators of panics and revulsions as the barometer is of storms. If I were to direct any student of finance where to begin his studies I should refer him to the great work of Thomas Tooke on the “History of Prices," as a foundation on which to build the superstructure of his knowledge.
But to make the study of prices of any value we must examine the elements which influence prices. Some of them lie beyond our control, while others are clearly within the reach of legislation. Among the most prominent influences that affect prices are seasons, crops, the foreign markets, facilities of transportation, and the amount and character of taxation and of the currency. All these combine to regulate and determine the prices that prevail in one country as compared with prices in others. “The early and the latter rain,” abundance and famine, war and peace in other nations and sometimes in our own are elements beyond our control. But we are responsible for the statutes which regulate trade, transportation, currency, and taxation. It is in our hands to place the burdens of taxation where they will impede as little as possible the march of industry, and least disturb the operation of the great laws of value, of supply and demand.
I stand now where I have always stood since I have been a member of this House. I take the liberty of quoting, from the Congressional Globe of 1866, the following remarks which I then made on the subject of the tariff :
“We have seen that one extreme school of economists would place the price of all manufactured articles in the hands of foreign producers by rendering it impossible for our manufacturers to compete with them; while the other extreme school, by making it impossible for the foreigner to sell his compeiing wares in our market, would give the people no immediate check upon the prices which our manufacturers might fix for their products. I disagree with both these extremes. I hold that a properly adjusted competition between home and foreign products is the best gage by which to regulate international trade. Duties should be so high that our manufacturers can fairly compete with the foreign product, but not so high as to enable them to drive out the foreign article, enjoy a monopoly of the trade, and regulate the price as they please. This is my doctrine of protection. If Congress pursues this line of policy steadily, we shall year by year approach more nearly to the basis of free trade, because we shall be more nearly able to compete with other nations on equal terms. I am for a protection which leads to ultimate free trade. I am for that free trade which can only be achieved through a reasonable protection.'
While in 1871 the tariff question was again agitated no legislation was enacted. During the following year revenue was decreased, first, by removing the taxes on tea and coffee on May 1, and, second, by admitting large classes of manufactures to a reduction of ten per cent. on June 6.
During this session of Congress the tariff was discussed to a great extent. Among the most notable speakers in the debate in the House were Job E. Stevenson [O.] and Samuel Shellabarger [O.]. Stevenson was, with the possible exception of Samuel S. Cox [N. Y.], the most powerful exponent of “tariff reform,” which was clearly indicated as a leading issue in the presidential campaign that was just beginning, and Shellabarger, who, though recognized as the strongest and most thorough-going advocate of Republican principles, had heretofore kept out of the tariff discussion, was led to come forward in support of his party, and to demolish the arguments, not only of Stevenson, but of the great economist, David A. Wells, who had recently made an exhaustive report on the tariff.
It was understood that Mr. Wells had also inspired the plank in the platform of the new Liberal Republican party, which, inviting Democratic and Republican free trade adherents to the support of Horace Greeley, a protectionist, declared in favor of taking the tariff out of partisan politics.
PROTECTION AND POLITICS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, MAY 1-16, 1872
On May 1 Mr. Stevenson spoke on the inconsistency of protectionists.
The great obstacle to reform is the "hostility” of prohib itory protectionists to moderate measures. These propagandists appear to consider every effort at relief as an attack of an enemy which they are justified in repelling by all means in their power; hence they discard candor and fair dealing, and act upon the maxim that “all is fair in war.” With such antagonists there is no possibility of agreement. They use every weapon of logic and fallacy, fact and fiction. They are ready to assert whatever is denied, to deny whatever is asserted, and no proof satisfies them. They maintain contradictory statements and theories in the same speech, if not in a breath, as combatants fight before and behind, at the right hand and the left, caring only to defend themselves or offend their assailants. Inconsistent as are the arguments of those who advocate the exclusive policy, their practices are more contradictory.
Here the speaker dwelt at length on the contradictory policies of the States favoring the national exclusive theory. Pennsylvania, for instance, in her internal taxation system, laid special taxes on manufactures.
Mr. Stevenson continued :
If we accept the claim of "protection" as the giver of wealth, and begin to cast accounts with favored interests and States to see what they have gained by the policy, its advocates turn about and indignantly deny that it increases the price of protected articles, and denounce those who assert or assume the fact.
If the opposite theory be true, then how can the reduction or the repeal of duties on imports injure domestic manufactures? And why do manufacturers come to Congress on every rumor of a change of duties? What fills our committee rooms and lobbies and this hall with interested men! What prevents our proceeding at once to adjust the tariff to a revenue standard? If duties do not aid the American producer, surely we should consult the wishes of consumers and the interests of the treasury.
On May 16 Mr. Shellabarger replied to Mr. Steven
I venture to copy the words of my most excellent colleague, Mr. Stevenson, who leads the “revenue reformers” of our party from Ohio in Congress, and say as he said in the great debate of March, 1870, to General Schenck:
“We are much nearer together than you think we are.'
Now let us see if our differences go deeper than to the mere surface, the “incidentals,” the matters of differences as to how best we shall get at what we all want—the things "tentative" -and as to which experiment, trial, experience, will, by their teachings, bring us quickly together.
First. Who in the Republican party does not revolt at the idea of making a law that shall confessedly tax out of one man's earnings parts of them and give it to another without giving to the taxed man a pecuniary equivalent of some sort? There is no such man.
Second. Neither is there an intelligent man in the country