« PreviousContinue »
effectually accomplished the purposes of fraud and ambition as if achieved by the dagger or the fagot.
Mr. Chairman, this country was never perhaps, except in time of war, in a higher degree of excitement. We hear of meetings at the North ; indeed, very large ones have lately been gotten up to dictate to the House the course it must pursue; we hear of legislatures pursuing the same course, and saying the protecting system shall not only not be repealed, but it shall not be relaxed; we hear of the presses saying that even the measures of compromise suggested, with the best intentions, by the Administration, for the sake of peace, will be resisted by “a million of musket-bearing people.” Now, sir, when the South acts or talks thus, it is treason! She must suffer, and, if she complains in a tone anything above the strain of supplication, she is rebuked for insolence, and charged with a design to dismember the Union.
Such a charge I fling back in the teeth of our accusers. What! the South disaffected to the Union! The South that suffered so much in the Revolutionary War from the common enemy, from savages on her frontier, and Tories, worse than savages, in her very heart! The South, that so gallantly opened her purse and shed her blood in the last war with the British and Indians, when in another quarter
But I forbear. It cannot be believed that the South is disloyal. Who were the supporters of Jefferson, and Madison, and Monroe? And who, more than Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, were the defenders of those republican principles which moved, directed, and consummated the Revolution of '76, and were happily laid at the foundation of the Federal Government? Did the South keep back when the North refused to give up a sacrifice rightfully necessary to support and defend the principles of the Constitution? No, sir; it is a slander to whisper the slightest suspicion of disloyalty against the South.
MR. LEWIS.—Mr. Chairman, the crisis has at length arrived when this question must be settled on a permanent basis. The Southern people have looked with delight to the payment of the public debt, as a period when they might expect some alleviation of their burdens. There is no longer an excuse or pretext for continuing the present rate of duties, except for the single purpose of making the South tributary to the North. We have borne, patiently, our unequal burdens in discharging a debt incurred in our common defence, and we now demand of you to lessen our taxes to the amount annually paid in the discharge of that debt. Partaking in the common feeling of our countrymen, in satisfaction at an event which has freed the Government from pecuniary obligation, we call upon you to adjust your revenue to the legitimate wants of the Government. Sir,
, do we ask too much in calling for a reduction of our taxes to the fiscal demands of the Government? The subjects of European despotism would have at least this claim on the humanity of their sovereign. Sir, I will state that nothing short of a practical abandonment of the principle of protection can or ought to satisfy the wounded feelings of the South. The repeal of the duties on the unprotected articles which forms the basis of the present bill will never be considered a fair adjustment of this question. It has been no part of our complaint that revenue duties should be levied on those articles which are not manufactured in this country. Such articles are mostly luxuries consumed by the rich, and are the most legitimate subjects of revenue, because the duties on them are borne equally by all who consume them. Our complaint has been that protecting duties have been levied on those articles which are manufactured in one portion of our country, for the purpose of raising the price of manufacturing labor; and that, while those duties operate as a tax on the South, they operate as a bounty on the North. This is the sum and substance of the whole controversy; and if you take the duties off of wines, silks, teas, spices, and such other luxuries, and throw the whole burden of the revenue on salt, iron, cotton, and woolen goods, and such other necessaries of life as are consumed by the South and manufactured by the North, you not only relieve that section from the whole burden of taxation, but you make the labor of the South tributary to the North.
Mr. Chairman, the Southern people will abandon the Union only in the last struggle for their rights; and when it is gone they will have no cause to upbraid themselves. They have not asked, nor will they ask, any favors, or bounties, or privileges at your hands; they claim but the right to enjoy the proceeds of their honest labor. In their name, I invoke you, by the blood of our common ancestors, by the independence which they struggled to achieve, by the emblems of liberty which surround us, by the stars and stripes of our national banner, suffer us to remain in the Union, not as slaves, but as freemen, paying no other tribute than that which we owe to our common country. CHAPTER VI
THE TARIFF OF 1833
Gulian C. Verplanck [N. Y.] Introduces Bill to Reduce the Tariff to the
Act of 1816—The Clay Compromise Bill, Which Provides for Gradual Reduction Through Successive Years, Is Substituted— Debate in the Senate: in Favor, Henry Clay (Ky.), John C. Calhoun [S. C.]; Opposed, John Forsyth [Ga.], Daniel Webster (Mass.] Bill Is PassedIts Subsequent Expiration.
N accordance with a suggestion of President Andrew
Jackson in his message of December 4, 1832, to re
duce the tariff substantially to the act of 1816, a bill was introduced in the House early in the session of 1832-33 by Gulian C. Verplanck [N. Y.]. Within a week of the close of this session Robert P. Letcher (Ky.] proposed as a substitute a bill offered in the Senate by Henry Clay [Ky.]. This was afterward designated a “horizontal reduction” bill. It provided for the gradual reduction of the tariff through successive years until 1842, after which the highest duty levied should not exceed 20 per cent. Senator Benton said of this bill, in his “Thirty Years' View":
It was offered in the House, without notice, without signal, without premonitory symptom, and just as the members were preparing to adjourn. The Northern Representatives from the great manufacturing States were astounded, and asked for delay, which, not being granted, Mr. John Davis (Mass.], one of their number, thus gave vent to his amazed feelings :
"THE SOUTH's COMPLAINT DEEPER THAN THE TARIFF”
JOHN DAVIS, M. C. I do not object to a reasonable adjustment of the controversies which exist. I am in favor of a gradual reduction on
protected articles; but it must be very gradual, so that no violence shall be done to business; for all reduction is necessarily full of hazard. But I do object to a compromise which destines the East for the altar. No victim, in my judgment, is required, none is necessary; and yet you propose to bind us, hand and foot, to pour out our blood upon the altar, and sacrifice us as a burnt offering, to appease the unnatural and unfounded discontent of the South; a discontent, I fear, which has deeper root than the tariff, and will continue when that is forgotten.
The substitute bill passed in the House by a vote of 105 to 71, and in the Senate by 29 to 16. The debate in the Senate on the bill which Clay had previously offered, afterward known as the “Compromise Bill,” called forth speeches in its favor from Senator Clay and John C. Calhoun [S. C.], and in opposition from John Forsyth (Ga.] and Daniel Webster [Mass.].
THE COMPROMISE TARIFF
SENATE, FEBRUARY 12, 1833
SENATOR CLAY.-I believe the American system to be in the greatest danger; and I believe it can be placed on a better and safer foundation at this session than at the next. Put it off until the next session, and the alternative may, and probably then would be, a speedy and ruinous reduction of the tariff, or a civil war with the entire South.
It is well known that the majority of the dominant party is adverse to the tariff. Judging from the present appearance, we shall, at the next session, be in the minority. How, then, I ask, is the system to be sustained against numbers, against the whole weight of the Administration, against the united South, and against the impending danger of civil war?
I have been represented as the father of this system, and I am charged with an unnatural abandonment of my own offspring. I have never arrogated to myself any such intimate relation to it. I have, indeed, cherished it with parental fondness, and my affection is undiminished. But in what condition do I find this child? It is in the hands of the Philistines, who would strangle it. I fly to its rescue, to snatch it from their custody, and to place it on a bed of security and repose for nine years, where it may grow and strengthen, and become acceptable to the whole people. I behold a torch about being applied to a favorite edifice, and I would save it, if possible, before it was wrapt in flames, or at least preserve the precious furniture which it contains.
Senator Clay advanced another reason for his bill: the desirability of separating the tariff from politics and elections. This wish, says Senator Benton, being afterward interpreted by events, was supposed to be the basis of the coalition with Mr. Calhoun, both of them having tried the virtue of the tariff question in elections, and found it unavailing either to friends or foes. Mr. Clay, its champion, could not become President upon its support. Mr. Calhoun, its antagonist, could not become President upon its opposition. To both it was equally desirable, as an unavailable element in elections, and as a stumbling-block to both in the future, that the tariff should be withdrawn for some 'years from the political arena; and Mr. Clay thus expressed himself in relation to this withdrawal:
I wish to see the tariff separated from the politics of the country, that business men may go to work in security, with some prospect of stability in our laws, and without everything being staked on the issue of elections, as it were on the hazards of the die.
Senator Forsyth replied to Mr. Clay.
The avowed object of the bill would meet with universal approbation. It was a project to harmonize the people, and it could have come from no better source than from the gentleman from Kentucky: for to no one were we more indebted than to him for the discord and discontent which agitate us.
The Senator from Kentucky says the tariff is in danger; aye, sir, it is at its last gasp. It has received the immedicable wound; no hellebore can cure it. The confession of the gentleman is of immense importance. Yes, sir, the whole feeling of the country is opposed to the high protective system. The wily serpent that crept into our Eden has been touched by the spear of Ithuriel. The Senator is anxious to prevent the ruin which a sudden abolition of the system will produce. No one desires to inflict ruin upon the manufacturers; but suppose the South