« PreviousContinue »
TAFT'S TARIFF VETOES.
They first attacked the wool problem and succeeded by midsummer, with the help of the Progressives, in compiling a bill that reduced the former average duty on wools from 44 per cent. to 29 per cent. This and the free list bill, which took the duty off many articles used by farmers, especially agricultural implements, were vetoed by the President on August 11, 1911, on the ground that both measures were loosely drawn, and that neither himself nor Congress had as yet adequate information as a guide to the real merits of any tariff measure. The only trustworthy data, he asserted, regarding the "difference in cost of production at home and abroad" and other necessary items, were being prepared by the tariff board, and he requested Congress to await with patience the report ordered to be made in December. Then, to prevent log-rolling, revision was to be taken up systematically, scientifically, schedule by schedule.
Whatever else may be said about these vetoes and their effect, the large fact seems to be that Mr. Taft had shut his eyes to the verdict of the country the previous year, which demanded, if it demanded anything, a general downward revision of tariff rates by a Democratic Congress, and could not see that the present mood of the public was one of quick impatience with a slow, "scientific "treatment of the subject by an academic board under Republican direction. Theoretically this was an ideal pro
cedure, and, in the lapse of years, might prove to be the only just and equitable basis for tariff building; but what the people demanded just at that moment was relief from burdens that added to the "higher cost of living." This phrase touched a very sore and painful spot not only in social and individual life but in the issues of the day.
On the same day that the two vetoes were written, another bill was completed and sent to the President, who promptly vetoed it on the same grounds as the previous bills, adding that experts had discovered ludicrous discrepancies which made the bill, as he afterward declared," impossible." This was the "cotton schedule " bill, which proposed much lower rates in cotton duties and included amendments reducing the iron and steel schedule, the chemical schedule, and the duties on all machinery used in cotton manufacture. This bill may have justified, more than the others had done, President Taft's insistence on a tariff board; but no one had claimed for any of these bills perfection or finality. All they were designed for was to meet a persistent public demand, although it cannot be denied that there was in them also an element of political play.
In December of 1911 the tariff board had made its report on the wool schedule, which was exhaustive and voluminous, going even into the details of sheep-raising and the manufacture of wools of all variety. The President
claimed that the report proved conclusively that the previous revision had been founded on insufficient data and, in particular, had not made accurate discriminations between grades of wool- the "washed " and " unwashed," for instance; and he strongly recommended a new revision of this schedule as also of cotton, on which the board made a report early in 1912. The Democrats, assisted by many
"Progressives," accordingly essayed revision on wool, cotton, chemicals, iron and steel, sending a wool bill and an iron and steel bill to the President who promptly vetoed them on the ground that their low rates would bring disaster to, or at least insufficiently protect, home industries. The House passed both these tariff-revision bills over the President's veto, but the Senate refused to do so.
Other important events of the year were on the plane of statesmanship rather than of politics - the reciprocity negotiations with Canada and an effort to arrange arbitration treaties with Great Britain and France. Both failed of direct results, but were moves in the right direction, and it is not improbable that the way has been paved for more successful attempts later.
Since the termination of the Canadian treaty in 1866,* several overtures looking to new tariff arrangements have come to us from Canada, but accomplished nothing, and the later effort to establish closer relations
For the history of this and other reciprocity treaties see that title in index.
may be said to have received its first impulse from the visit of Mr. Elihu Root, then Secretary of State, to Ottawa. The next step was taken at the
Albany Conference" of March 30, 1910, when President Taft, Earl Grey, Governer-General of Canada, and the Canadian Minister of Finance, Mr. W. S. Fielding, entered into a " gentleman's agreement" to open negotiations for the drafting of a reciprocity treaty. Duplicate drafts were sent to the Senate and Parliament in January of 1911. The failure of the Senate to pass the bill at the regular session was made an occasion by the President to call Congress in special session on April 4 of that year. The measure was pushed to a conclusion and was signed by the President in August, and the country waited with much interest and curiosity for the action of the Canadian Parliament.
Bitter as was the opposition in the United States, that aroused on the other side of the border was still more intense. In the United States the objections, though inherently political, were nominally economic, the claim being the betrayal of the principles of protection and the injury done the farmers by having to meet the competition of fertile farms worked by relatively cheaper labor, and, in New England and the States of the Northwest bordering on Canada, the chief opposition was against the free admission of Canadian wheat and grain. The admission of paper and wood pulp, which was not dependent upon
PEACE TREATIES WITH FRANCE AND ENGLAND.
the acceptance of the reciprocity agreement by Canada, aroused much antagonism in Congress, and for this and other reasons the measure did not receive the support of the Progressives.
In Canada the opposition to the measure, though in part economic, was imperialistic, for it was made to appear that the United States was seeking to weaken Canada's bonds to Great Britain with a view to future annexation, or at least such intimate union with her powerful neighbor as would detract from her economic loyalty to England. The result of this feeling was seen in an overwhelming vote on September 21 that elected a new Parliament oposed to reciprocity. But the bill passed by Congress and signed by President Taft is still in force, and there are not wanting signs of a gradual change of sentiment north of the border that may yet reverse previous action.
The bill provided for the free interchange of the natural products of both countries, especially of food, and the reduction of rates upon the manufactures of such products. Such food products were: wheat and other grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, fish, eggs, poultry, cattle, sheep, and other live animals. Agricultural implements imported from the United States met lower Canadian duties, and specified products that are now free in one country were to find admission to the other, as, for instance, cotton-seed oil going into
Canada and rough lumber coming into the United States.
"Twice within the last twelve months the President of the United States has sketched out a step in advance more momentous than any one thing that any statesman in his position has ventured to say before." These are the words of Sir Edward Grey, British Secretary of Foreign Affairs, regarding an act of the highest statesmanship, for which the administration of President Taft will undoubtedly be most celebrated in history. It was the successful termination of long negotiations for the arrangement of "peace treaties" with Great Britain and France. These provided for arbitration through the usual channels of all "justiciable disputes that might arise between the United States and either of the other countries, and arranged that, in case of doubt as to whether any particular grievance was or was not justiciable, a joint high commission should be named to pass upon the question. The treaties were signed on August 3, 1911, on the part of the United States by Philander C. Knox, Secretary of State, and on behalf of England and France by their respective ambassadors, James Bryce and Jean Jules Jusserand. The promulgation of these treaties aroused great public interest in the three countries concerned.
When signed, the treaties were sent to the Senate, whose members, always sensitively jealous of anything that
looked like infringement upon senatorial dignity and " rights," began to take exceptions. The treaties were in two divisions, the first containing the ordinary provisions for bringing before the Hague Tribunal all justiciable questions arising between the respective countries, even "those of vital interest and national honor." It was this point that occasioned a parting of the ways for many public men, including Mr. Roosevelt. The second part of the treaties contained detailed provisions for a joint high commission to decide, when disputes arose, whether any specific action was justiciable and so subject to arbitration. Although the Senate was safeguarded by its "consent " to the appointment of the United States portion of the commissioners, as well as to every subsequent action of the tribunal, the fear that the joint high commission might prove to be a usurpation of senatorial treaty-making privileges aroused jealous antagonism. The following amendment was therefore made and incorporated in the treaty, on March 5, 1912, to the effect that this country
"Would not authorize submission to arbitration of aliens into the United States, or the admission of aliens to the educational institutions of the several States, or the territorial integrity of the several States or the United States, or concerning the question of the alleged indebtedness or moneyed obligation of any State of the United States, or any question which depends upon or involves the maintenance of the traditional attitude of the United States concerning American questions commonly described as the Monroe doctrine or other purely governmental policy."
Another matter arose in our foreign relations that was of more than ordinary importance. It concerned Russia, which has long discriminated not only against certain classes of her own population but against members of these classes bringing passports from other countries. So many Jews from the United States designing to travel in Russia have been denied the right, that the matter finally reached the diplomatic stage in 1911, and although, early in that year, announcement was sent out from St. Petersburg that more liberal treatment would hereafter be accorded to Jewish travelers, formal protest was made to Russia that her autocratic claims and discriminations were contrary to the terms of the treaty of commerce and navigation of 1832. This treaty stipulated that the inhabitants of both the United States and Russia should mutually have liberty to enter the ports, places and rivers of the territory of each party wherever foreign commerce is permitted. On the announced contention of Russia that her hesitation to admit American Jews was due to the fact that she would not extend to Jews of other countries rights and privileges which she denied to Jews of her own country, a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives and promptly passed, calling for a revision of the treaty of 1832. But the wording of the bill was so radical as to receive a formal intimation that it was offensive to Russia; whereupon President Taft diplo
OTHER MEASURES AND POLICIES.
matically sent a message to the Senate on December 18, 1911, notifying that body that, owing to Russia's construction of the treaty, the instrument was regarded by this Government as without effect, thus, by executive action, giving the stipulated one year's notice of its final abrogation. The Senate on the following day ratified his action without a dissenting vote, and the next day the House adopted the Senate's resolution.
These are the great overtopping measures and policies tariff revision, prosecution of the trusts, the Mann-Elkins bill, Canadian reciprocity overtures, and negotiations of the peace treaties-that will be associated with the Administration of President Taft. These formed the backbone of achievement or well-intentioned attempts toward accomplishment to which he pointed as a "record" during his campaign for reëlection. Yet there were many others of less importance, not so conspicuously in the public eye-homely "everyday measures, like the bills for parcels post and postal savings banks, that may, after all, be found to be of large, practical utility, to which any administration might "point with pride." The public lands act was also beneficent, by which the President was authorized" at any time at his discretion to temporarily withdraw any of the public lands of the United States, and reserve the same for water power sites, irrigation and other public purposes. The with
drawal remains effective until revoked by the President or Congress, but the lands withdrawn are open to exploration and to the purchase of minerals other than coal, oil, gas and phosphates." The Administration will be favorably remembered, too, for its sincere efforts to economize in administrative lines, and much real progress was made in greater efficiency and economy in the work of the departments, many millions of dollars being saved thereby. Among other achievements, the post-office deficit was, for a year, transformed into a surplus. The cause of civil service was advanced by an executive order placing the fourth-class postmasters under the classified service. Perhaps more open to question, though of undoubted patriotic purpose, was the increase of 20 per cent. in pensions over the previous budget of $160,000,000. As commendable measures of administrative policy were the establishment of a Bureau of Mines under the oversight of the Interior Department; the creation, in the Department of Commerce and Labor, of a Children's Bureau whose province was defined
to be " investigating and reporting upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of children and child lifeinfant mortality, the birth rate, physical degeneracy, orphanage, juvenile courts, desertion, dangerous occupations, accident and disease, employment and legislation affecting children;" and a much desired concentration of responsibility in a single