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try, and the cordial attachment of his friends, political and per

Those who indulge the hope of an augmentation to the ex
tent stated, from increase of exportations, seem to forget alto
gether, what is as common a truth as any other, that there can
be such a thing as over-production. But it has happened many
times within my experience in public life. There may be pro
duced in England and in this country more manufactured arti-

* Mr. Evans.


cles than both countries together, with all that they can sell to
the rest of the world, can consume or dispose of, and that creates
what is commonly called a "glut" in the market. Such instan
ces have been frequent. That there is an indefinite power of
consumption is necessarily assumed by all those who think that
an indefinite extent of importation may be expected. The hon
orable member from Maine stated with great truth and propri
ety, that the augmentation of imports, drawing after it, or sup
posed to draw after it, an augmentation of exports, went upon
the ground of an augmented consumption on both 4 sides. Now
be it ever remembered that there is a limit to the power of con
sumption, both on one side and the other. Over-production has
happened frequently. It may happen again, and therefore it is
that I hold it to be exceedingly uncertain and fallacious to rely
for revenue, in time of war, upon a matter so theoretical, as that
we shall have a vast augmentation of importations, with capa
city to pay for them, and a desire to consume them. I think
that, if such an importation should take place, which I do not
expect and cannot anticipate, we could not pay for it. Sir, what
are our means of paying for the importations of foreign manu
factured articles in this country ? They are two. They are our
exports, in the first place, and they are the earnings of freight, or
of navigation, in the second place. By carrying out our expor-
tations, we earn a freight. By bringing foreign commodities
home, we earn a freight. Our ability, therefore, to discharge for
eign debt incurred by importations, consists in the extent of our
exports, and of our earnings of freight. If there be a demand
for means beyond these, it must be met by a drain of the com
mon currency of the world, specie, to the extent that we possess
it, or so far as may be necessary. I take that to be the undoubt
ed truth.

Well, now I will say a word upon this matter of expected
importations, although I do not intend to go at any length into
the subject. I beg the attention of the honorable member at the
head of the Committee on Finance, and all others, to a consid
eration which I hope has been well weighed. Has it been con
sidered, or has it not, what will be the loss of revenue for the ,
ensuing quarter^ if this bill pass, by debenture and reexporta
tion ? There "is in the country a vast quantity of merchandise,
imported at high duties. After the first day of December next,


if this bill passes, all such commodities will come in at a greatly
reduced duty. It is now all liable to reexportation and deben
ture. Take the case of brandies, (and there are many others
mentioned in a memorandum furnished to me from a very re-
spectable source in New York, altogether friendly to the gov
ernment,) and look to probabilities. Brandies now pay one
dollar a gallon, having been purchased at fifty cents per gallon;
by the present bill, the duty is reduced to one hundred per cent.
ad valorem ; that is to say, to fifty cents. There is, then, fifty
cents to be made on every gallon of brandy in the United States,
if it can be carried out of the country now, and brought in on
the 1st of December next. Such being the case, it will go to
Cuba or to Canada, and be returned when December comes.
So of carpets, and many other articles. I beg to ask, Sir,
i whether the amount of losses on these articles, to be incurred in
this way, has been considered. I know that there has been a
general estimate of the treasury, as to what will be the amount
of revenue under this bill, and under the proposed deductions
from the rates of the bill of 1842 ; but I will ask, whether* it has
been known, and is now known, that on brandies, and on spices,
pimento, and articles of that sort, a loss of two or three millions
i will occur under this tariff? J have in my hand a calculation,
from good authority, showing the probability of such a loss.

But all losses of revenue caused by reduction of duties are to
Pbe made up, it is expected, by the increased amount of our im
portations. I will only say, in answer to this view, that we have
no means of paying for this expected increase of importation,
but by exports and freight. Now, how are we to increase our
exports ? Not in manufactured goods, which now constitute a
considerable part of our exportations, because this bill is an axe
laid to the root of that productive tree. It seeks to strike down
at once the main interest which sustains these exportations.
It is not, therefore, from manufactured goods that we can expect
this increase. Well, then, from what can we expect it ? Why,
we have some national articles of export; cotton, tobacco, and
some others of the nature of raw materials, or raw products.
Now does any body suppose that twenty, thirty, or forty mil
lions of augmented exportation of cotton and tobacco can pos-
sibly take place ? Allow me to put the question to those con
cerned, those practically concerned, in this great interest. As the


product of cotton increases, the tendency in the price is down
wards ; therefore, non sequitur, that, if we produce so many >*
more million pounds of cotton, just in that extent do our means
of importation increase. The question is, whether there is any |
reasonable expectation whatever, that we shall so increase our,
exports bf cotton, as that the value of the cotton exported shall
amount to twenty, thirty, or forty millions of dollars additional ?
Does any man believe it ?

"We are in our policy, as is supposed, falling into a conform
ity with the proposition offered in the English Parliament for
the repeal of the corn laws. We are greatly to increase, it is
said, our exportation of wheat and Indian corn to England. On
that point it will be more convenient for me to speak in another
part of my remarks. But now as to the freight, which, as I \
have said, constitutes one of our means of paying for foreign
commodities ; what chance is there for the increase of freight,?
Why,, the effect of this bill is to diminish freights, and to affect
the navigating interests of the United States most seriously,
most deeply ; and therefore it is that all the ship-owners of -the
United States, without an exception so far as we hear from
them, oppose the bill. It is said to be in favor of free trade and*-
against monopoly. But every man connected with trade is
against it ; and this leads me to ask, and I ask with earnestness,
and hope to receive an answer, At whose request, at whose rec
ommendation, for the promotion of what interest, is this meas
ure introduced ? Is it for the importing merchants ? They all
reject it, to a man. Is it for the owners of the navigation of the
country? They remonstrate against it. The whole internal in
dustry of the country opposes it. The shipping interest opposes ^
it. The importing interest opposes it. Who is it that calls for
it or proposes it ? Who asks for it ? Has there been one single
petition presented in its favor from any quarter of the country ?
Has a single individual in the United States come up here and
told you that his interest would be protected, promoted, and ad
vanced by the passage of a measure like this ? Sir, there is an
imperative unity of the public voice the other way, altogether
the other way. And when we are told that the public requires
this, and that the people require it, we are to understand by the
public certain political men, who have adopted the shibboleth
of party for the public, and certain persons who have symbols,


ensigns, and party flags, for the people ; and that s all. I aver,
Sir, that is all. I call upon any man who is within these walls
to stand up and tell me what public interest, what portion of
men of business; who, amongst all those who earn their living
on the sea or on the land, in the field of agriculture, or in the
workshop of the artisan ; who, amongst them all, comes up here
and asks for such a measure as this? Not a man. If there are
any persons out doors in favor of this bill, why, then, Sir, I can
only say that silence is contagious, and its friends out doors are
as mute as its friends in doors.

It does appear to me, then, that we are to make this altera
tion in our whole system of revenue, we are to bring this great
change over all the departments of private life, we are to produce
unknown effects on all the industrial classes of the community,
upon a mere theory, an assumption, which suggests tnat all the
interests of the country are severely taxed to maintain the man
ufacturer^) I must say, Sir, that the notions which prevail in
the Treasury Department and in the executive government ap
pear to me to be almost insane. We were told, at the early
part of the session, that the taxed portion of the community paid
fifty millions to the manufacturers; it has now got up to ninety-
four millions ! Mr. President, if intelligent men, of patriotic
purposes, good intentions, and great respectability in many
walks of life, private and public, ever were seized with a mono
mania, that disease has taken a strong hold of those who come
to us with such statements and sentiments as these. How else
can we account for such a zeal for over-importation; a Seal
which looks for a paradise on earth, if we can only be surround
ed with British manufactures without stint and without. count?
The love of importation has become a sort of passion with those
at the head of affairs ; an unthinking, headlong passion. I re-
peat, Sir, there is no public demand or public desire manifested
for this bill. Then, since it is not called for by any exigency in
the government, (for nobody will deny that the government will
go on quite as well without it, if not better,) since it is not
called for by any demand of the people, can we justify ourselves,
by any one single fact or consideration, for making all the
change in the revenue and the business of the country which
this bill evidently must introduce ?
fin submitting my views on this subject to the Senate, I pro-


pose, Sir, in the first place, to consider the bill as a measure for
making all duties on imported goods ad valorem duties.

Secondly, to consider its effects on certain interests supposed
to be protected by former and now existing laws.

Thirdly, I propose to consider its effects upon the navigation
and commercial interests of the country^ a topic of very deep in
terest, which has not as yet been fully considered in this discus

Fourthly, I propose to consider its effect on the great indus-
trial employments and labor of the people.

I must be permitted to say, with great respect for gentlemen
on the other side, that I enter upon this discussion under some
disadvantages : We do not hear from them. We hear no defence
of this bill. An honorable member from South Carolina * has
said, that " the bill vindicates itself." That is so far true as this,
that if it do not vindicate itself, it is not vindicated at all. No
body here stands sponsor for it. Nobody here answers the objec
tions which are urged against it. I see on the opposite side, Sir,
gentlemen of the highest character in this country and of the long
est experience in this government, gentlemen who have debated,
questions, great and small, for thirty years, gentlemen properly
considered as being amongst those from whom selection is to
be made for the highest honors in the gift of the people ; and
yet on this question, as important, I will undertake to say,
as any which has been discussed in Congress from the forma
tion of the Constitution, we hear from those gentlemen not a
word, not one single word. They hear us patiently. They ap
pear to be attentive and thoughtful. But they have " charac
tered " in their memories at least one of the precepts of Polo-
nius, " Give thy thoughts no tongue ! " They " give their
thoughts no tongue." I trust they will remember the next,
"nor any unproportioned thought his act," They are obedient
to the instructive adage, " Be checked for silence, but never
taxed for speech." They do not mean to be taxed for speech,
whatever else they may be taxed for.

Now, it is not for me to put it to those gentlemen, it is a con
sideration which, if it arise at all, must arise in their own
bosoms, whether they can stake their reputation on this meas-

* Mr. McDuffie.

VOL. V. 15


ure, indorsed, as it is, by them, and yet make no defence of it ?
Are they willing that their votes should go forth without their
reasons ? That they must decide for themselves. But I may
well ask this. We are, in the contemplation of the Constitution,
all here holding common counsel. We come hither to co nfer, to
exchange ideas, to be instructed and informed, if we may, by an
interchange of sentiment. But we have no consultation, no
conference, no exchange of ideas. Our friends on tlie other side
will neither adopt our reasons nor offer their own. We speak,
but they remain dumb. But if they see grounds upon which
they can vote for this bill with propriety>and safety, why will
they not state those grounds to us ? If, to all that is urged
against this measure on our side, answers arise spontaneous in
their breasts, why not give them audible expression ? We state
our reasons ; we ask for theirs ; we get no reply. We say, hav
ing offered our own sentiments :

" Si quid novisti rectius istis,
Candidas imperti; si non, his utere mecum."

But they will not impart their clear perceptions to us. The
superior light that illuminates their own breasts, and enables
them to see that the bill is safe for the country and proper for
the occasion, sheds no rays upon us. They are as silent as they
will be fifty years hence.

Mr. President, I now proceed to that branch of the subject to
which I propose first to call the attention of the Senate. The
principl^ of this bill is to collect all duties and customs by a
universal ad valorem assessment; not an equal assessment, it is
true^, but still a system of ad valorem duties, entirely. Now that
has not been the practice of the government at any time since
its organization. In every administration, from that of Wash
ington down, a contrary system has always prevailed. And the
desire of those who have successfully formed and administered
the laws in this respect has been, uniformly, to carry the prin
ciples of specific duties as far and as fast as circumstances
allowed. That I take to have been the policy of the govern
ment from the first ; and it has been the sentiment of all con
nected with the government, so far as I know. I ought, per
haps to make an exception in the case of Mr. Clay. I said here,
the other day, that I had never heard a public man advocate a


system of ad valorem duties. The newspapers say (perhaps
correctly) that I was mistaken; that Mr. Clay made remarks
favorable to that idea in the year 1842. I was not in the Sen
ate at that time, and I did not know that such sentiments had
ever been expressed by him ; and if they are correctly reported,
I am very sorry that such was the case.

Mr. Crittenden here said, " Will the Senator pardon me while I inter
rupt him for a moment, in order to offer an explanation ? Mr. Clay s
remarks had reference solely to home valuation."


Ah! that explains the whole matter, and it is a great relief to
my mind. I am very much obliged to the honorable Senator.
Mr. Clay s proposition, then, was, " If you will bring the article
here, and value it here, independent of the foreign invoice, why
then I will take that system of valuation." Well, that proposi
tion and this are wide as the poles apart. That qualification of
the principle makes it sensible, at least, and far less objection
able, as a revenue measure. A home valuation, by judges of
our own appointment here, is one thing ; but a valuation found
ed on foreign invoices and the statements of foreign cost, and
on foreign oaths, is another and quite a different thing. I am
glad to find, therefore, that Mr. Clay s authority stands exactly
where it should stand on such a question as this, in strict con
formity with his knowledge, his experience, and his character.

Sir, in the same year (1842), the present Secretary of State,
in a speech in the Senate, reasoned in the strongest language
upon the necessity, the absolute necessity, of carrying the prin
ciple of specification in laying duties as far as possible. Stand
ing here in his place, Mr. Buchanan said :

" I am not only opposed to any uniform scale of ad valorem, but to
any and all ad valorem duties whatever, except where, from the nature
of the article imported, it is not possible to subject it to a specific duty.
Our own severe experience has* taught us a lesson on this subject which
we ought not soon to forget. I cannot refrain from adverting to some
of my reasons for this opinion.

" Our ad valorem system has^ produced great frauds upon the reve
nue, whilst it has driven the regular American merchant from the busi
ness of importing, and placed it almost exclusively in the hands of the
agents of British manufacturers."- The American importer produces his
invoice to the collector, containing* the actual price at which the imports


were purchased abroad, and he pays the fair and regular duty upon this
invoice. Not so the British agent. The foreign manufacturer, in his
invoice, reduces the price of the articles which he intends to import into
our country to the lowest possible standard which he thinks will enable
them to pass through the custom-house without being seized for fraud.
And the business has been hitherto managed with so much ingenuity as
generally to escape detection. The consequence is, that the British
agent passes the goods of his employer through the custom-house, on
the payment of a much lower duty than the fair American merchant is
compelled to pay. In this manner he is undersold in the market by the
foreigner, and thus is driven from the competition, whilst the public rev
enue is fraudulently reduced.

"Again, ad valorem duties deprive the American manufacturer of
nearly all the benefits of incidental protection where it is most required.
When the business of the country is depressed, as it is at present, and
when the price of foreign articles sinks to far less than their cost, your
duty sinks in the same proportion, and you are also deprived of revenue
at the time when it is most needed.

" Our own experience, therefore, ought to have convinced us that,
whenever it is possible, from the nature of the article, we ought to sub
stitute specific for ad valorem duties. These continue to be the same
upon the same articles, notwithstanding the constant fluctuations in
prices. They afford a steady revenue to the country, and an equally
steady incidental protection. When commodities are usually sold by
weight or by measure, you may always subject them to a specific duty ;
and this ought always to be done.

" Let us, then, abandon the idea of a uniform horizontal scale of ad
valorem duties ; and whether the duties be high or low, let us return to
the ancient practice of the government. Let us adopt wise discrimina
tions : and, whenever this can be done, impose specific duties."

Now let me say, Sir, that it is proper for us, before we go on
this new and untried system, to consider the opinions of wise
and experienced men who have gone before us.

On the 28th of February, 1817, the House of Representatives,
on motion of Mr. Ingham of Pennsylvania, resolved, " that the
Secretary of the Treasury be directed to report to Congress,
at the next session, such measures as may be necessary for the
more effectual execution of the laws for the collection of the
duties on imported goods, wares, and merchandise."

In pursuance of this resolution, Mr. Crawford, at that time
Secretary of the Treasury, addressed the following circular to
the collectors of the customs throughout the country.



" Treasury Department, November IliA, 1817.

"SiR, The House of Representatives having, by resolution, re
quired the Secretary of the Treasury to report to Congress, at the next
session , v such measures as may be necessary for the more effectual exe
cution of the laws for the collection of the duties on goods, wares, and
merchandise, I have to request that you will inform me whether, in the
discharge of your official duties, any important defects have been de
tected in the existing provisions.

"As it is only by experience that any system of revenue can be
brought to approximate to a state of perfection, it is important to collect
into a general mass the practical experience of the intelligent officers
employed in superintending the immediate execution of the system.

" You will therefore have the goodness, in pointing out existing de
fects, to present to the department the provisions best calculated, in your
opinion, to effect the object contemplated by the national legislature.
" An early attention to this subject is requested.
" 1 am, respectfully, &/c.,


In obedience to the resolution of the 28th of February, 1817,
Mr. Crawford, at the next session of Congress, after having rec
ommended various new provisions for the prevention of fraud,
said :

" Whatever may be the reliance which ought to be placed in the effi
cacy of the foregoing provisions, it is certainly prudent to diminish, as
far as practicable, the list of articles paying ad valorem duties.

" The best examination which circumstances have permitted has re
sulted in the conviction that the following list of articles, now paying
ad valorem duties, may be subjected to specific dutiesj"

Then follows the list, amounting to seventy-one in all. Here,
then, in answer to the call of the House, as to what measures
ought4o be adopted by Congress for the greater security of the
public revenue, Mr. Crawford, at the end of a series of sugges
tions, amounting I think to twenty-two, adds, that, after all, the
true course is, to go as far as possible on the line of specific

Having received the foregoing intimation of Mr. Crawford s
opinion, Mr. Ingham, on the 20th of April, 1818, moved another
resolution as follows :

" Resolved^ That the Secretary of the Treasury be directed to report


to Congress, at their next session, what further improvement it may be
practicable to make in the tariff of duties upon imported goods, wares,
and merchandise, by charging specific duties upon articles which are
now charged with duties ad valorem."

Jn order to gather materials for the execution of this resolu
tion, Mr. Crawford addressed the following circular to the col
lectors of the customs.

" Treasury Department, May 25th, 1818.

u SIR, As the revenue of the United States is now exclusively de
rived from imports and tonnage, and from the sale of the public lands,
it is extremely important to render both systems as perfect as the nature
of human institutions will permit.

" The certainty with which specific duties are collected gives them a
decided advantage over duties laid upon the value of the article. It is
probable that the most important change which can be made in the sys
tem will be the substitution of specific for ad valorem duties upon all
articles susceptible of that change.

" Sensible of the importance of this change, the House of Represent
atives, at the close of the last session, adopted a resolution directing
the Secretary of the Treasury to report to Congress, at their next ses
sion, what further improvement it may be practicable to make in the
tariff of duties upon imported goods, wares, and merchandise, by charg
ing specific duties upon articles which are now charged with duties
ad valorem. _

" In complying with this resolution, I must avail myself of the expe
rience which you have acquired in the discharge of your official duties.

" To place this department, as well as the House of Representatives,
in a situation to judge of the propriety of making the change upon such
articles as you may suppose to be susceptible of it, I will thank you to

Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 17 of 53)