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propriation” bill it is not a privileged bill. Instead of proposing to raise funds for the Government it proposes, as I understand, to pay nine gentlemen ten dollars a day and expenses.
Another view is that instead of being a bill to raise revenue it is simply a bill to raise a commission to make suggestions to this body. It seems to me analogous to a resolution calling on one of the departments for its opinion upon certain subjects, and is therefore entitled to no precedence over other bills.
The Chairman (George D. Robinson [Mass.]) sustained the point of order. In his statement of the reason for his decision he incidentally gave a summary of the provisions of the bill.
The Chair finds on inspection of the bill, in the first instance, that it provides for a commission called the “tariff commission"; that in the second section it gives the number of such commissioners, provides for their salaries, and the payment of such officers and assistants as may be provided. In the third section the duty of such commission is prescribed. It is to take into consideration and thoroughly investigate all the various questions relating to the agricultural, commercial, mercantile, manufacturing, mining, and industrial interests of the United States so far as the same may be necessary to the establishment of a judicious tariff, or a revision of the existing tariff; and for the purpose of fully examining the matter which may come before it such commission in the prosecution of its inquiries is empowered to visit such different portions and sections of the country as it may deem advisable. The fourth section provides that the commission shall make to Congress final report of the result of its investigation at certain times prescribed in the bill.
The bill in due order came again before the Committee of the Whole on March 28.
Mr. Kasson spoke in its support.
This proposition, Mr. Chairman, needs but very little debate. I know of very few people in the United States who admit they have no complaint to make against some part of the details of the present tariff. Whether you are free-traders or prohibitory tariff men, protective tariff men, or advocates of a tariff for revenue only, I take it for granted that you all agree that in some manner the present tariff should be reviewed and more or less modified,
For the last twenty years, subject to some slight partial modifications, this country has been conducting its business under the present tariff laws. The interests of the country havə become greatly modified and in some respects radically changed in the course of these twenty years.
The free-trader denounces the whole tariff system in principle and detail, and demands revision for his destructive purposes. I may assume, then, sir, I think without dispute, that there is common consent on both sides of the House that there should be a revision of the tariff. It being admitted that a revision is necessary, the next question is as to the manner of the revision. Three methods are proposed. One of them is the ordinary method of the action of your Committee on Ways and Means reporting a bill to the House and obtaining action on that bill. The second is a proposition to combine members of the two Houses of Congress with civilian experts, and thus make a commission for the revision of your tariff; and the third mode is the selection of commissioners, civilian experts, if you please, who shall devote their whole attention to the subject, investigate the facts, the relation of one industry to another, the relation of raw material to the manifold forms of its finished product, its relation to the manufacture of the same things abroad; and, having completed that investigation, shall put it in compact and logical form, and so give us the facts upon which we shall revise and adjust the tariff. That is the third proposition, and it is the one presented by this bill. The Committee on Ways and Means, by a majority, considered the latter mode the best mode; and I think the House, upon candid consideration, will agree with them that the first mode, which involves a report simply from your Ways and Means Committee, is not the one that will bring us to union and harmony in the action of the House. Later experience is against it.
During the last three Congresses, as well as in many instances before in previous Congresses, all your efforts by the Ways and Means Committee to procure a revision and procure action upon your tariff have utterly failed and the House has accomplished nothing in the way of results. Now, sir, what is the reason of that? I think we can all perceive it. We in the Ways and Means Committee go to our work upon that subject with fixed opinions and prejudices sharpened by political contact and fastened to a great extent upon us by the articles of the platforms of the respective parties. We are always antagonizing politics with the business of the country, so that everything that we report to you is more or less colored by the
allegation that it results from our party affiliations and our partisan feeling. The House divides itself in that way. in addition to that there come up special interests that the committee has failed to get hold of. This is a great country in territorial extent and in the character of its industries. Will any member of the Ways and Means Committee rise in his place here and say he knows all of these vast industries and their relations to each other and to their foreign rivals? Is any man vain enough to say that he is master of all the labors and all the industries of this continent or even of this Union ?
I affirm that politicians as we are, with here and there rare exceptions, we are not enough practically acquainted with the industrial interests of the country to be able to tell the House and to satisfy the country that we have adjusted their relations and their taxation in the right way.
When you come to detailed questions there is but one safe source of action, that is the practical knowledge of practical men. Gentlemen may ask, do we not get this in the Committee on Ways and Means by summoning witnesses? I answer yes, partially, but only partially. The richest manufacturers come to us, those who perhaps least need protection. The poorer manufacturers do not come to us. Every man who comes to us voluntarily, all the way from the seat of his own industry, which is usually limited within a certain radius from Washington—every such man comes here for the purpose of taking care of his own interest, not the interests of the whole country.
Now, what is desired above all things is that there shall be men selected who will advise in the general interests of our whole country, not those of an individual manufacturer or the manufacturers of a single article in the market. The advantage of the system proposed is that it directs the commissioners to visit the places where these industries are carried on. It gives them power to call men before them as well as to hear those who come voluntarily. They have their whole time to pursue this inquiry and to reach a result in harmony with the prosperous development of all our diversified labor.
I venture to say that not a tariff bill could be presented here by any number of men upon this floor now getting together and preparing such a bill that would not call forth complaints of the country that some interest had been omitted, injuriously affected, others destroyed, and still others unduly benefited. That would be inevitable, because the information we get in ordinary forms is partial and the result of personal interests in contradistinction to national interests.
What would you gain if, as proposed by some gentlemen, we should combine with this expert commission, so called, a representation of the Senate and the House, having three members of the House, two Senators, and four civilians ? The same objections exist, because the majority of the elements of the commission would be subject to the same prejudices and the same political influences as our own committees are here, and their action would not advance us a step in the revision beyond that of the civilian commission.
An additional reason for our objection to both the first and the second methods which I have named is this: our congressional election comes off this year. How many members of this House are willing to devote their entire time from now till December next in the pursuit of these inquiries? How cool and persistent would they be in that pursuit during an exciting electoral contest involving their own political fortunes ? Sir, every day of the vacation is required for the commission to reach results. Your Committee on Ways and Means devotes three hours a week to the consideration of this question.
But a commission selected from civilians would give fortyeight hours a week to its consideration, where we now give but three hours, and they would thus arrive at the result we desire vastly sooner than it could be arrived at by the Committee on Ways and Means or by a mixed commission, part of whom must absent themselves during the political contest. You cannot successfully get your work done by the first Monday in December next, except through an independent and free commission.
Gentlemen have often said to us, “Oh, you do not mean anything by this tariff commission except delay; you do not want to touch the tariff or modify it at all; you have held this policy before us for one, two, or three years for no other purpose than to shield the manufacturers against a revision of the tariff.” Mr. Chairman, I take this occasion to say that this allegation does not come with the proper grace from our friends on the other side, who had it in their power in the last Congress to have allowed that bill to be taken from the Speaker's table and acted upon, as was desired by every member on this side of the House. Had that been done, then by January of this year a report would have been before you, a bill would have been prepared, and your revision of the tariff would have been now in full progress.
It must be evident that if we can do anything at all in this Congress it must be through this bill, and by the aid of a commission including neither Senators nor Representatives, but only men who can give their whole time to the subject and who can visit the seats of our great industries.
This method is not new-the method of inquiring by commission. Frequently it has been had by the House of Commons in England, by royal commission, on various subjects. Everywhere except here on this floor and at the other end of the Capitol governments recognize the advantage of consulting their own people, consulting practical business interests, before they adopt legislation that may sweep industries out of existence and convert the prosperity of the country into equally great adversity by the destruction of its vital interests.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I admit that there is one class of men who may justly protest against any delay in the revision of the tariff in order to obtain trustworthy information by a commission or otherwise. Those gentlemen who care for nothing but
revenue only” are justified in asking immediate action. If you do not care what effect your action has upon the business interests of this country, then you want no commission. You may take your tables of returns in the treasury, find how much each article has yielded under the tariff, make your estimates as to how much revenue you want, and grade your rates of duty accordingly. If, on the other hand, you believe that there is such a thing as a national system, that there is such a thing as protection, whether absolute or incidental, and that national industries are worth preserving, then you must be careful what you do; it is then your duty to consult the interests that are to be affected by your action.
Here Mr. Kasson replied at length to the general arguments for free trade. He said in conclusion:
Let others sing the theoretical beauties and blessings of free trade. Enough for me that I find the sure path which has led to the prosperity, the greatness, and the glory of my country. Lend your ears if you will to the melody of free trade, which is like the scholar's story of the music of the spheres, never yet heard by mortal sense. The American patriot will rather incline his ear to that music which is made by the blade that cuts the waving grain, by the hum of the spindle, the sharp ring of the anvil, the whistle of the plane, the crash of the great roller upon masses of iron and steel, the blow of hammers, the rush of machinery, and the whir of the railroad trains which exchange food and manufactures in an unceasing stream among our people. As fire and water, light and heat, electricity and