« PreviousContinue »
ments of people, great increase of production, and a great enhancement of prices. Oblivious to the relation of the increase of the supply of gold to prices and the power of people to pay for and consume commodities, and of the effect of the settlement of the rich and remote states to which I have alluded, British statesmen ascribed the wonderfully increased demand for British goods and ships exclusively to their newly applied economic theories. They deceived themselves into the belief that England was invincible and would forever remain as she then was the workshop of the world and the mistress of the
We had then recently repealed the protective tariff of 1842, and were under the free-trade Walker tariff of 1846; and, if free trade were a specific for the relief of depressed people, our share of prosperity should have been relatively commensurate with that of England.
England. Indeed, many circumstances favored our growth and prosperity in a higher measure than that of England. The gold fields of California were ours, and she could obtain the gold we mined but by purchasing it from us.
Our mercantile marine was superior to hers, and London merchants paid a shilling more per chest for tea on an American clipper ship from Hong Kong to London than they would to a British ship. The potato rot devastated the fields of Britain and much of the Continent, and opened a large market for our cereals. During the decade from 1850 to 1860 we mined $1,100,000,000 of gold; but notwithstanding this, and that ocean freight charges were in our favor and not against us, as now, 1857 found the people and the Government bankrupt. Our banks were unable to redeem their notes; our Government unable to borrow money; our laborers idle, and our merchants and manufacturers in a condition almost as deplorable as they had been in 1840, when universal insolvency forced the adoption by Congress of a bankrupt law as the only means of redeeming from mortgage the future of a generation of business men.
If England's augmented prosperity was the result of her adoption of free trade, the history of that decade shows that it did not operate as favorably in this country as it did in that, and that it is therefore not a specific of universal application. Mr. Chairman, in contemplating the history of that decade I am forced to the conclusion that the Almighty, in pursuance of His beneficent purposes, had determined to compel the American people to develop and apply to the relief of suffering mankind the resources of the virgin continent to which He had led them; and to demonstrate to them by a series of grand events that to accomplish this work they must defend and protect against all competitors by whatever means might be required a people's right to supply their own wants when this could be done by the use of their own raw materials.
The protective tariff of 1842 had lifted us from the prostration to which we had been brought by the compromise tariff of 1832. It was succeeded by Mr. Walker's revenue tariff of 1846; and now in 1857, having mined and squandered on perishable foreign commodities more than a thousand millions of gold, we were again in the condition that 1840, 1841, and 1842 had found us, and in which we remained till the protective tariff of 1861 went into effect.
Since then the provisions of that tariff have defended our industries, our right to develop our resources, and, so far as our insufficient stock of machinery would permit, to supply our own markets. These are events the world must take heed of. In contemplating them it will behold the gradual loss by England of many of her markets; it will see that, to borrow the words of M. Léon Say, her “capital account” is being closed, and that her industry has entered on its decadence; that her people of moderate means in all ranks of life are flocking from the best portions of her farming land to better their fortunes in the wilds of America; and that her manufacturers are not only deserting her, but are bringing their capital, their arts and mysteries, their machinery, and their skilled and trusted workmen to enlarge our “capital account” and add to the wealth and prospective power of our country.
Samuel J. Randall [Dem.], of Pennsylvania, supported the bill.
I do not favor a tariff enacted upon the ground of protection simply for the sake of protection, because I doubt the existence of any constitutional warrant for any such construction or the grant of any such power. It would manifestly be in the nature of class legislation, and to such legislation, favoring one class at the expense of any other, I have always been opposed.
In my judgment this question of free trade will not arise practically in this country during our lives, if ever, so long as we continue to raise revenue by duties on imports, and therefore the discussion of that principle is an absolute waste of time. The assertion that the Constitution permits the levying
of duties in favor of protection "for the sake of protection” is equally uncalled for and unnecessary. Both are alike delusory and not involved in any practical administrative policy. If brought to the test I believe neither would stand for a day. Protection for the sake of protection is prohibition pure and simple of importation, and if there be no importation there will be no duties collected, and consequently no revenue, leaving the necessary expenses of the Government to be collected by direct taxes-for internal taxes would interfere with the protective principle, and when the people were generally asked to bear the burden of heavy taxation to sustain class legislation and the interests of a portion of our people at the expense of the great bulk of our population there would be an emphatic and conclusive negative. So, too, with free trade, there is hardly a man in public life who advocates it pure and simple. Nobody wants direct taxation, although it would bring taxation so near and so constantly before the people that Congress would hesitate long before it voted the sums of money it now does, if not for improper, at least for questionable purposes.
The real question which is presented and in controversy is the revision of taxes, so we may hold the control of the markets of the world for the benefit of our excess of productions over the home consumption.
I favor what Mr. Jefferson declared to be “discriminating duties," what General Jackson described as “a judicious tariff, and what Silas Wright designated as “incidental protection.” To accomplish these ends wisely and well requires the greatest circumspection and the exercise of the most careful judgment.
I favor a commission "to take into consideration and to 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.”
It will, in my judgment, bring about a revision, absolutely essential, at an earlier day than in any other way now feasible. If I did not sincerely entertain this conviction, no member on this floor would be more opposed to the pending proposition than myself. I believe that the arrangement of our system of tariff duties should not rest upon any partisan policy regulated by existing parties, but that, on the contrary, it should in a measure be divorced from politics, and not be a bone of periodical contention in and out of Congress. It should occupy the higher level and command the best efforts of states
manship of every party. Mentchikof, one of the ablest as well as one of the most successful ministers of modern times, said: “Statesmanship is a practical knowledge of a state's resources.
We now really have only a choice between no action and this proposed commission. It was originally introduced into Congress by a Democrat. A bill for such a commission was passed during the last Congress by a Democratic Senate. It has again passed the Senate this year with the aid of Democratic votes. It was very generally approved “stump,” in my section, at least, during the recent presidential contest.
The Senate has shown at this session an indisposition to respond to any effort which might have been made in this House, for it has anticipated the House in the creation of a tariff commission by an overwhelming vote. It has been frequently charged in this debate that the object of this bill was delay. There is no justification, in my opinion, for such an assertion. Its inevitable tendency and effect must be in the nature of things to hasten a thorough and speedy final adjustment of all questions in dispute as to tariff amendment and reform.
The charge that we are improperly parting with our constitutional functions in the passage of this bill is invalid and should have no influence upon our deliberations and action.
The duties delegated to the commission do not extend be yond the power of recommendation. Yet I hope and believe their review when presented will be of so broad, comprehensive, and catholic a character as to command as a basis of action in reform of taxation the approval of thinking men of all parties.
The fourth section of the bill provides that the commission shall make its final report of the results of its investigation and the testimony taken in the course of the same not later than the first Monday of December, 1882, and it shall cause the testimony taken to be printed from time to time and distributed to members of Congress by the public printer, and shall also cause to be printed for the use of Congress 2,000 copies of its final report, together with the testimony.
Can language be more explicit to prevent delay? It means tariff revision, intelligent and just, at the earliest practical moment. I trust that after the passage of this act—of which at present there seems but little doubt-authority will be given to the Committee on Ways and Means by this House to enable
* Alexander Danielovitch Mentchikof (1670-1729), minister under Peter the Great, Catherine I, and Peter II.
it to assemble about the 10th day of November next, and proceed immediately to formulate a bill based upon the testimony taken, and which they will have with all other members received from time to time. Then at the opening of the session in December that committee will be ready to report forthwith its measure of relief to the House for action before the Committee on Appropriations will require the time for general appropriation bills.
Now, I might add that while I have no direct assurance of the fact, yet I am led to believe that the President will, in the composition of this commission, whether exclusively of civilians or only partially, select men who have given a lifetime to the study of the history and philosophy of tariff taxation.
It will not do for any public man to narrow his mind on such a momentous question as that which affects not only the integrity of the Government, but brightens or darkens the home of every citizen just as we shall legislate. Speculative philosophers have contrived the most fascinating forms of government, but wherever they have been subjected to the touchstone of practical operation they have gone most shamefully to pieces. It will not do for men to say, I have laid down this theoretical landmark and you must not go beyond it.
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
If Canute had not moved his chair upon the seashore the incoming tide would have overwhelmed him and his weak advisers under the mighty waves of the sea.
We are no longer a few scattered, isolated colonies of three millions of people, hugging the coast from Massachusetts to Georgia. In 1880 we were a united nation of fifty millions of inhabitants, with industries of the greatest diversity, and grown to such size and power as to contest the markets of the world, and with a military prestige that has surprised and kept in awe the most warlike nations.
In the year 1903 we are told that, according to the ordinary rate of increase, we will have one hundred millions of people. Is there any human mind that can foresee all the possibilities of a free republic of such vast proportions, leading the coming century in wise legislation? Is there one so foolhardy who will stand up and say he knows all about it, and that the wondrous ways of God shall bend to his peremptory dictation? If there be, he can vote against this bill. [Great applause.)