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great body of the people to those who may be called the posses
sors of a large amount of wealth. Well, Sir, what sort of a bill
does the question now about to be taken show that this " great
democratic measure " is ? or what sort of a measure is this pop
ular democratic bill ? It purports to be an " act reducing the
duty on imports, and for other purposes." The title would not
describe the bill at all, if it did not indicate that there were other
purposes besides the mere reduction of duties ; and one of those
other purposes is to enhance duties. The true interpretation
of the bill, therefore, is, that it is an act for reducing certain
duties and enhancing certain other duties on articles of im

Now, Sir, let us see whether this is such a bill as is pretended,
a bill in favor of the masses, in favor of the people! Just
look at the question now submitted to the Senate ! This bill
does reduce duties, but on what ? Why, there may be some
articles on which the duties are reduced for the benefit of the
middling classes ; but the great reduction of duties is on such
articles as those of which I read to you yesterday a list from
the letter of Mr. Nichol. You reduce the duty on spirits of all
kinds to the great extent which I mentioned yesterday. You
reduce the duty on spices to the great extent which I mentioned
yesterday. You reduce the duty on imported tropical fruits and
other fruits. You reduce the duty on ready-made clothing.
You reduce the duty on rich and expensive carpets. You re
duce the duty on rich cut-glass. You reduce every one of these
duties, and you saw that this reduction keeps out of the treas
ury more than the whole of the duty laid upon certain other
articles. But these are your reductions, your main reductions.
They are all on articles of luxury, of extreme luxury ; spirits,
spices, silks, costly carpets, rich cut-glass, ready-made clothing;
articles which none of the middling classes are interested in, or
in the habit of buying or using. Now it is proposed to see
whether you will or will not, by the instructions to your com
mittee, continue the practice of freeing the raw material, upon
which all the manufacturing and laboring people of the country
earn a living, when they get it. That question is now distinctly
put to you, and put to this Senate. On the raw material,
which is to come here and furnish employment and occupation


to the manufacturers and artisans of the country, you have raised
the duty. Perhaps on all these raw materials, but certainly on
many of them, as I showed yesterday, you have raised the
duty above the standard of that tariff which you say is an ob
noxious Whig measure, and for the reduction of whose duties
you stand pledged. Now you have been asked to send the bill
to your committee, with instructions, in every case where the
duty on the raw material, as proposed by this bill, exceeds the
duty on the same raw material imposed by the Whig tariff of
1842, to take it off, and you won t do it ; you won t do it ! No.
You indulge in the luxury of taxing the poor man and the la
borer! That is the whole tendency, the whole character, the
\vhole effect, of the bill. One may see everywhere in it the de
sire to revel in the delight of taking away men s employment.
That is the character of this bill. And this is the question now
before the Senate.

Sir, I had hoped that the honorable gentleman* who spoke
yesterday with so much effect on the necessity of protecting the
mechanics and laborers, who dwelt with so much emphasis
on the very objectionable feature of taxing the raw material, I
had hoped that he would have held to his purpose. I say that
this bill holds a language that cannot be mistaken, that cannot
and will not be misunderstood. It is not a bill for the people.
It is not a bill for the masses. It is not a bill to add to the com
forts of those in middle life, or of the poor. It is not a bill for
employment. It is a bill for the relief of the highest and most
luxurious classes of the country, and a bill imposing onerous
duties on the great industrious masses, and for taking away the
means of living from labor everywhere throughout the land. It
cannot be disguised. You cannot mask its features. No man
is so blind as not to see what this bill is ; and the people will
not be so callous, I trust, as not to feel it. In this sense, and in
this view, the question now about to be put is a test question.
We shall have the voice of the Senate upon it. We shall know
who is for raising the duty on various articles to the prejudice,
and in many cases to the ruin, of our own countrymen, working
here at home as artisans and handicraftsmen, and who is at the
same time for reducing the duties on the highest luxuries. That is

* Mr. Benton.


the test, and no man can escape it. No man will escape that

Now I shall vote to keep this proposition in the hands of
the committee. The committee has not tried whether it can
obey the instructions of the Senate. Last night they were in
structed to do their duty, and at a very early hour this morning
they say they have made up then* mind. Was ever the like
heard before ? The chairman asks to be discharged. I don t
believe they were convened on this matter for ten minutes. I
doubt whether they have been together at all. What is the dif
ficulty of ascertaining the amount of duty on the general list of
raw materials, and reducing the rates of this bill to those of the
act of 1842 ? There is not a gentleman who could not do it in
two hours. If they had been disposed, the committee could
have obeyed your instructions before meridian this day. I am
rather inclined to think, Sir, that they did not fatigue themselves
by examining this matter. I am rather inclined to think it
was their opinion that the best way was to take a short cut and
move to be discharged, in the hope that some occurrence or
other would enable them to carry that motion. I do not be
lieve that they have opened a book, or looked at any list of raw
materials. I am disposed to think, Mr. President, they are as
raw on the whole subject as they were yesterday.

I repeat, Sir, that this bill has a face and front, so that, when
it is held up to the country, no man need write at the bottom
of it whether it is a democratic bill or an aristocratic bill.
When it shows to all the laboring portions of this community,
that their daily labor and daily bread are directly interfered with ;
that, wherever it can be done, a tax is laid upon the raw mate
rials upon which they work and earn their living ; when they
see at the same time, in the next line, the duties on those high
classes of luxuries, spirits, silks, expensive carpets, rich cut-glass,
and the rest of them, are reduced, will they ask any body to tell
them what that bill is ? Will they need any one to give a name
to it ? Sir, it names itself. It has the face and front of an
aristocratic bill, oppressive of the poor and working man ; and in
every respect it corresponds to its face and front.

Some remarks were now made by Mr. McDuffie of South Carolina, in
which reference was had to resolutions adopted in Boston in 1820,
against the tariff bill commonly known as " Mr. Baldwin s bill," which


resolutions, at the request of Mr. McDuffie, were read at the Secretary s
table. After some explanations between Mr. Webster and Mr. McDuffie,
Mr. Webster continued as follows :

A word, Sir, about these resolutions of 1820. I remember
the state of things very well. The commercial people of New
England in 1820 were in a considerable state of alarm. They
had business all over the world. They thought that a policy
had been begun at Washington which would interfere with
their commerce, and it was of that they were afraid. How
was this great evil, of which they had become afraid, fastened
upon them ? By the minimums introduced into the tariff law
of 1816, by South Carolina, in order to cut off the trade of the
United States with India. The minimum principle, so odious
now, was moved in Congress by a most respectable and dis
tinguished member from South Carolina, not now living.* It
was carried by South Carolina, against every vote of Massachu
setts. I do not think there was a vote of Massachusetts, not
one, in favor of the measure. It is not, then, because the min
imum principle is bad in itself, that it is now opposed. Why,
Sir, minimum is now spoken of here as if it were a Pawnee In
dian, or one of the Camanches, that eats up and destroys every
body and every thing.

MR. McDuFFiE. So it does.

Well, bad as it is, it was introduced by South Carolina,
against every vote of Massachusetts.

Well, then, in 1820, an eminent member of Congress from Penn
sylvania introduced a high protective tariff, bearing, among certain
other things, especially upon iron. I refer to Mr. Baldwin, after
wards judge of the Supreme Court. That tariff went to protect
every thing out of New England. Thus was New England be
tween the upper and nether mill-stone, between the South Car
olina tariff, with its minimums on cottons, which cut off the
India trade, and the Pennsylvania tariff, which looked mainly to
that State. Is it to be wondered at that we were alarmed ?

I wish the gentleman had dwelt a little more, in his address
to the chair, on the effect of this bill upon the iron and coal of
Pennsylvania. But I agree that, whether it be owing to change

* Mr. Lowndes.


of opinion, wrought by circumstances, by a change in the con
dition of things in the country, or otherwise, I agree, that, in the
present state of things, which has existed since 1824, there is
no going back from that principle of protection which was then
established. The law of 1824 did not pass with the consent
of Massachusetts. It received but one vote, I think, from the
entire delegation from Massachusetts, in both Houses of Con
gress. As I said the other day, New England had been addict
ed to commerce. But she supposed the time had come when
she must conform herself to the law of the country, and invest
her capital, for her labor was her capital, and employ her in
dustry, in such pursuits as the country had promised to protect
and uphold. Now, Sir, if there be any thing inconsistent in that,
I admit the inconsistency. I still agree to every word of the
resolution of Faneuil Hall of 1820. But in the present state of
things there is an essential importance, an absolute moral neces
sity, for maintaining those habits, pursuits, businesses, and em
ployments into which men entered twenty-two years ago, upon
the faith of the declared sentiments and policy of a majority of
both houses of Congress.

Now, Sir, in regard to the assessment of duties, the great meas
ure proposed by this bill, I confine myself to the substance of the
instructions given to the committee yesterday, and from which
it is now proposed to relieve them, that is, raw material. The
honorable member says that in most cases this imposition is
small, only five per cent. Well, what is that ? Why, five per
cent, is enough to put an end to a great many of the employ
ments of the United States. If they had not competition from
abroad, it would be a different thing. But when you tax the raw
material and admit the manufactured article free, or at a lower
rate of duty, if any body will go into the manufacture under
these circumstances, it will very soon be found that the tax on
the raw material of five per cent., which the honorable member
from South Carolina considers a small matter, a very small mat
ter, is enough to decide the competition between the American
and English manufacturer. England lets in the commodity free.
She is full of skill and capital. Money can be got at a much
lower rate of interest than here, and labor at less than half price.
How, then, can you expect the American manufacturer to be
able to compete with England, when, with all these disadvanta-

VOL. v. 21


ges against him, you tax his raw material and admit the com
modities of his rival at a low rate of duty ? How is he to con
tend, not only against cheaper capital and cheaper labor, but al
so against a tax on his raw material ? He cannot do it. Now
the gentleman says, and he has a right to the opinion, that the
laboring man will be benefited by the cheaper price of such cot
ton as he wears. He stated the other day that he thought there
would be an importation of ten millions of that sort of cotton.
If that should happen, there would be a very singular sight ex
hibited upon the ocean. For the statistical tables show that, in
the course of last year, the United States exported, carried out of
the country, and sold, four and a half millions of the same sort
of cotton.

MR. McDuFFiE. The coarse article ?

Essentially the same. The article costing seven cents a yard
in Boston. Now if an article costing six or seven cents in
Boston, like the article expected to be imported, is exported in
such quantities, is there any reasonable foundation for the opinion
that ten millions of the same goods would be imported ? This is
a matter of opinion. I will not say that the expectation is ground
less, because I will always treat the honorable member s opin
ions with the highest degree of respect. But it appears to me
perfectly plain, that the descriptions of articles alluded to by him,
since they are exported in such quantities, cannot be expected
to be imported to such an extent as he seems inclined to anti

Sir, the honorable member has expressed the opinion, that the
farmers, by which term I suppose he means the persons employed
in agriculture at the North, (we usually distinguish between
farmers and planters,) will be greatly benefited by the bill. He
supposes that they are now taxed for the benefit of their neigh
bors, the mechanics and manufacturers. Now, Sir, the question
being asked, the answer will be decisive, Were prices ever low
er? Were they ever lower to the farmers than they are now?
Is it a well-founded opinion, that manufactured articles could be
produced, and brought here from England, below the present
rates in this country ? The Senator stated a very strong case
apparently, the case of the daughter of an Illinois farmer, who
was clad in cotton cloth not worth over four or five cents a yard.


And why ? And why, Sir ? That only advances the discussion
one stage. The evident answer to that question is, because
there was no market of consumption for the grain on her fa
ther s farm. That is the proximate cause. Flour is now two
dollars a barrel in Missouri ; and under the repeal of the corn
la\vs we have reason to believe that good flour at St. Louis
will, as a correspondent in that part of the world writes me,
not be above a dollar and a half a barrel. Well, if the gentle
man is right in supposing that these agricultural products will
rise up to a great price in consequence of any recently occur
ring event, he may hold very well to the other opinion, that the
introduction of English commodities at such a rate of duties as
will bring them in here in great quantities should be encour
aged. I can only say in respect to this, that in my judgment-
it is a great fallacy. I do not doubt that the repeal of the corn
laws may have a beneficial effect in extending liberal senti
ments and a liberal spirit amongst nations. But that it is to
relieve the American market of its surplus grain, I do not be
lieve. The people of England will not consume more bread.
England is annually increasing her agricultural products. Ag
riculture is improving. The English landlords are improving
their stock with a profusion of expenditure almost incredible
in this country. Last year one of these proprietors expended
a hundred thousand dollars in draining his estate in order to
increase the product of wheat. If you look, Sir, to Pennsylva
nia, to New York, to Maryland, as well as the New England
States, you will find that the farmer looks for remunerating
profit in the sale of his products among the mechanics and
manufacturers of the towns and villages. Look to the statistics,
and you will see how much of agriculture goes with every prod
uct of manufacture in the United States. Of that, England
herself is an example. An honorable member from Pennsylva
nia of the other house has gone into that with perfect accuracy
and precision, so that I need not dwell on it. I will not ex
tend these remarks. But with regard to my proposition, you
must submit to a great loss of revenue on the luxuries I have
mentioned, at the same time that you reduce the wages of la
bor by taxing the raw material. " Look here upon this picture,
and on this," and let the country decide.


MR. PRESIDENT, I shall occupy the attention of the Senate
but a few moments on the measure now before it. Before,
however, I proceed to do this, I feel it a duty to call the attention
of the honorable Senator from Alabama f and the other mem
bers of the Senate to what I see stated in the official journal of
the last evening in regard to another matter which has lately
received the action of this body. And I do so in order to pre
vent an erroneous impression from going abroad as a matter of
fact. I find in " The Union " of last evening the following
paragraph :

" Much has been said of false invoices, as if the importer had only to
falsify his invoice, and so pay under the ad valorem system as little duty
as he chose. The fact is, that the value of the goods taxed is to be
settled, not by the importer s invoice, but by competent and skilful ap
praisers. They are to appraise the goods at their actual market value in
our ports, in New York or Philadelphia ; not at Canton or Manchester.
In this point of view, the appraisers, whose duty it will be to understand
the state of our markets, will give only such regard to the importer s in
voice as it may seem entitled to. They may, if they please, take the
invoice as prima facie evidence of the actual cost of the goods, and so
approximately of their actual worth in our markets. But it is only
primd facie evidence. The appraisers must value the goods upon
their own judgment, after all. Yet the importer is obliged to present an
invoice ; and one provision of the new law goes far towards making this

* Remarks in the Senate of the United States, on the 1st of August, 1846,
on the Third Reading of the Bill " to provide for the better Organization of the
Treasury, and for the Collection, Safe-keeping, Transfer, and Disbursement of
the Public Revenue."

t Mr. Lewis.


invoice a true exponent of the value of the goods ; for the law provides,
that if the value placed upon the goods by the importer, on entering them
at the custom-house, is less by ten per cent, than the value at which
they are subsequently appraised, then twenty per cent, additional duty
upon the appraised value is to be levied and collected."

Now, a more enormous error than this was never put forth to
the world. The law of the land, as it now stands, requires that
the value fixed upon goods by the United States appraisers
shall be the value, not here, but at the place of exportation.
This is a fact which all business men well know, and which
the chairman of the Committee on Finance will himself confirm.

Mr. Lewis here nodded assent.

Those who indulge themselves so much in remarks (not al
ways very courteous) on the course of others, should be cau
tious first to understand subjects themselves. Here is an asser
tion of an alleged fact, while the very opposite is true.

But, not to detain the Senate longer on a matter of this sort,
I will make an observation or two on the bill now pending, and,
as I presume, soon to become a law.

I have always been opposed to this system of a " constitu
tional treasury," or " independent treasury," or " sub-treasury,"
which is the old name for it. The evils of such a system are
insurmountable, and of various kinds. But I shall now briefly
point out what I consider its evil consequences on the operations
of the government, without adverting to its effect on the general
business of the country. I shall preface what I have to say with
a very short history of this scheme. Owing to an unhappy con
troversy between a former President of the Union * and the late
Bank of the United States, the custody of the national funds
was withdrawn from the national bank and committed to cer
tain selected State banks. As soon as the money was deposited
in their vaults, the then Secretary of the Treasury f instructed
the directors of those banks to be very free and liberal in mak
ing discounts to merchants on the money in their vaults. The
banks complied with this order, and the result was, that in 1837
they generally stopped payment. In consequence of this state
of things, President Van Buren called a special session of Con-

* General Jackson. f Mr. Taney.



gress in September, 1837, and this project of the independent
treasury was then brought forward for the first time. It failed,
however, at that time, and again at a subsequent Congress ; but
in 1840 it passed into a law. Such, however, was found to
be its practical working, that it was not suffered to continue in
operation a year, but was repealed in 1841.

Now, there might have been at least some plausible reason
for resorting to a new system in the keeping of the public treasure
in 1837, for the national bank had ceased to exist, and the State
banks had all broken down. The public money must be kept
somewhere, and the government thereupon resolved to try " the
untried experiment" of keeping the public funds in vaults of its
own. For the last five years we have been under a system of
which this formed no part. Now the first question which I
wish to put to gentlemen who advocate this bill is this : Do they
not all admit that the public moneys are now safe ? Do they
harbor any fear that there will be public defalcations ? Is there
any apprehension of the loss of the public treasure if this bill
shall not be adopted? For my own part, I think the public
deposits are perfectly safe where they are. The banks to which
they are intrusted have given us the most ample security, and
that security for the most part is in stocks of the United States.
If our own stock is adequate security, then the banks are in fact
for the most part creditors of the United States, instead of being
its debtors. They hold more of our stock than they do of our
funds. Under such circumstances, none can say that the public
money is unsafe, and no danger, therefore, will be incurred in
that respect from the postponement, or even the rejection, of this
bill. The banks have acted with very great prudence and pro
priety ; they have not indulged in any excess of discounts ;
but, feeling the responsibility under which they were placed,
they have proceeded with discretion, and have ever been ready
to accommodate the government in any manner not inconsist
ent with their duty to the stockholders and to the country. If
gentlemen admit that the condition of the public money is at
present as safe as we can make it, then what is the benefit
which they seek from this bill, or where is the necessity of
passing it ?

Considering it as a measure of the administration, it appears
to me that it is likely, instead of proving of any benefit to the


government, only to arrest or thwart the operations of the treas
ury. To me it is most clear that the bill will become, in its
practical effect, a clog on the administration. I refer gentlemen
to the twenty-first and twenty-second sections of the bill as it
now stands. Let them examine the probable working of these
portions of the law, and then say whether the bill will not prove,
not only of no assistance to the fiscal operation of the govern
ment, but, on the contrary, a great embarrassment.

I can readily understand that, if the amendments which were
proposed to the twenty-first section had prevailed, much facility
might have resulted to the treasury from the use of treasury
drafts, placed in the hands of disbursing officers to be paid out
to the creditors of the government. But the Senate, by a large
majority, rejected those amendments. In its present state, the
bill subtracts from the facility which would otherwise have at
tended the operation of these treasury drafts. As the law now
stands, if a man comes to the treasury with a demand for
money, he gets a draft to the desired amount, which he in
dorses, and which is then a transferable security, and may pass
through as many hands as may be necessary or convenient to

Online LibraryDaniel WebsterThe works of Daniel Webster (Volume 05) → online text (page 24 of 53)