Page images

incident was closed. But Seward seemed not to realize the significance of what had taken place, for a letter written a few days later contained these sentences:

"The President is determined that he will have a compound Cabinet, and that it shall be peaceful, and even permanent. I was at one time on the point of refusingnay, I did refuse, for a time, to hazard myself in the experiment. But a distracted country appeared before me, and I withdrew from that position. I believe I can endure as much as any one; and may be I can endure enough to make the experiment successful. At all events, I did not dare to go home, or to England, and leave the country to chance."

1 2 Seward, 518.



SEWARD'S prominence in antislavery politics and in diplomacy has caused his opinions on other questions to be overlooked. In mental qualities, education, and experience he ranked high among the Senators best fitted for the serious business of legislation.

His career in New York had indicated that he was a stanch federalist and protectionist. He believed that one of the chief functions of government was directly to stimulate national development by legislation. The principal support of such a system must be a high tariff, for in no other way can the necessary revenues be obtained. He maintained that where there were many resources, but where industry was applied to only a few staples, three great interests were neglected: natural resources were unimproved; labor was unemployed; and internal exchanges, which a diversity of industry would render necessary, were undeveloped. He held that foreign commerce, based on a narrow system of production, compelled a nation to sell its staples at prices reduced by competition in foreign markets, and to buy fabrics at prices established by monopoly in the same markets. The application of industry to a large number of objects rested upon these "impregnable grounds, viz.: first, that the use of indigenous materials does not diminish, but on the contrary increases, the public wealth; second, that society is constituted so that individuals


voluntarily classify themselves in all, and not in a few, departments of industry, by reason of a distributive congeniality of tastes and adaptation of powers; and that while labor so distributed is more profitable, the general contentment and independence of the people are secured and preserved, and their enterprise is stimulated and sustained." He held that it ought not to be less profitable to supply ourselves from our own resources with copper, iron, glass, and paper than with flour, sugar, and gold. If mining and manufacturing were profitable in England, they could be made so here. To the objection that labor was cheaper in that country, he replied: "Yes, because you leave it there. If you offer inducements, it will come here just as freely as agricultural labor now comes. The ocean is reduced to a ferry." In his opinion the theory that the encouragement given to the industry of one class of citizens is partial, and is injurious to that of other classes, could not in any just sense be true, "since the prosperity and vigor of each class depend in a great degree on the prosperity and vigor of all the industrial classes. But all experience shows that if government do not favor domestic enterprise, its negative policy will benefit some foreign monopoly, which, of all classes of legislation, is most injurious and least excusable." "


In 1853, when one of the appropriation bills was under consideration, Mason, of Virginia, offered an amendment to repeal the duty on iron imported for rails to be laid upon railroads in the United States. Douglas desired to have the duty abolished for three years. Hale estimated, without being contradicted, that only about one-tenth of the railroad iron used in the United States was manufactured in this country;

14 Works, 154, 155.

3 Globe, 1852-53, 906.

24 Works, 156, 157.

that a duty of three million seven hundred thousand dollars would be paid in order to benefit our few furnaces one-tenth of that amount; and, therefore, that railroad building was taxed nearly four million dollars, merely in their interest.'

Seward defined his position with startling frankness: "Sir, I have voted land by the square league across the continent, and twenty millions of dollars out of the public treasury for railroads. I will not vote one dollar out of the iron mines of my country, at the cost of the owner, and of the miner who is engaged in drawing its wealth to the surface." This seemed somewhat inconsistent, but it was not so for a sincere protectionist. Seward fully understood the practical importance of all protectionists standing together:


"We know that it [protection] requires the co-operation, the concerted action of all the industrial classes, and of capitalists of every description, to adjust and render equal, to procure the establishment of a system of imposts, with any view whatever, direct or indirect, to the protection and encouragement of American industry.


"Mr. President, the whole manufacturing interest of the country is in danger; and it is in danger because we, who are its friends, are demoralized and divided." "In the very next session of Congress they will come with arguments equally insidious, and equally forcible, and then the manufacturers of Lowell may look to the safety of their spindles, and the sugar and the cotton-growers of the South may look to the safety of their sugar and their cottonfields; and the wheat-grower of Maryland, and the corngrower of Ohio and Illinois, may look to the safety of their special interests."*

Of free-trade he said:

"I can understand the proposition of free-trade. It is an intelligible theory, and at some future period down the vista of years, it is probable that the world will come to understand that universal free-trade is the wisest and most

1 Globe, 1852-53, 910.

* 3 Works, 633.

2 3 Works, 667.

beneficent system of fiscal administration for any government and for all governments; and so far as that forms the principle on which this measure proceeds, I hail the introduction of it here. But free-trade involves not one only but two principles, not only absence of imports, but direct taxation to support the government. I call, then, upon those who support this measure of free-trade to defend it upon that principle-to carry it out on that principle, by bringing in a bill for direct taxation to an extent which will replace revenues surrendered."

However, Seward in 1854 voted for the reciprocity treaty with Canada, which was a liberal measure.*

The exigencies that compelled the revision of the tariff in 1857 were not such as to bring into bold contrast the principles of protection and free-trade. The tariff of 1846 had so encouraged importations that there was a surplus of about twenty millions of dollars in gold in the treasury. This growing surplus both invited extravagant appropriations and seriously lessened the volume of currency in circulation. The first aim, therefore, was to reduce the revenue. Two means were proposed. The House bill was designed to decrease the income of the government chiefly by transferring to the free list articles not produced here or that were necessary to our manufactures. This left the tariff on articles coming into competition with American products; and to that extent it recognized the principle of protection. The Senate amendment proposed what is popularly called a horizontal reduction on most articles and a free entry for those demanded only by manufacturers. This, it was held, would preserve and extend the freetrade principle. Seward naturally preferred the House bill, for he was opposed to reducing the duty on raw materials produced here, such as iron and wool.


13 Works, 659.


3 Globe, 1856-57, Apdx., 328 ff.


24 Works, 30.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »