Joseph Norton Dolph.

The farmer and the tariff : speech of Hon. J. N. Dolph, of Oregon, in the Senate of the United States, Mar. 29, 1890 online

. (page 1 of 7)
Online LibraryJoseph Norton DolphThe farmer and the tariff : speech of Hon. J. N. Dolph, of Oregon, in the Senate of the United States, Mar. 29, 1890 → online text (page 1 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook















The Senate having under consideration the resolution submitted by the Sen-
ator from Indiana [Mr. VOORHKES] in regard to the depression of agricultural

Mr. DOLPH said:

Mr. PRESIDENT: The Kepublican party was restored to power at
the last Presidential election on account of its position upon the
tariff. It is pledged to a reduction of the revenues to an amount
sufficient only to meet the necessities of the Government, but in such
a manner as to insure the welfare of American industries. The issue
was squarely made between the protective system and tariff for reve-
nue only; between the Mills bill, which had passed the House and
was the embodiment of the theories of Mr. Cleveland and the free-trad-
ers for tariff for revenue only is nothing but free trade so far as wag
practicable for the Democratic House, with so many local interests,
some of them demanding protection, to embody those theories into a
bill, and the Senate bill, which was framed with the view to secure the
necessary reduction of the revenue without injury to the industries of
the country or abandoning the policy of protection to American labor
and American qapital.

The people decided for the national policy of protection, that the
present tariff policy should be continued, and that whatever revision
of the tariff was required should be made by its friends. It only re-
mains for the dominant party in Congress to execute the will of the
people and redeem its pledges. This it is proceeding to do with all
possible dispatch considering the magnitude and intricacies of the sub-
ject, and before the present session of Congress adjourns it is safe to say
that some measure not greatly dissimilar to the Senate bill of last ses-
sion will become a law.

As was to have been expected, the Democratic party has not profited
by defeat. The attitude of the two political parties towards the tariff
question has not changed. The contest is to be fought over again on
the same lines and with the same old arguments used by them in the
last Congress and in the Presidential campaign. The Mills bill, or a
measure substantially like it, is to be the proposition of the Democratic
party, with which the measure of the majority is to be antagonized.

The Democratic policy at the present session of Congress, as it was
at the last, is to continue heavy protection to Louisiana sugar, and to
place wool, lumber, salt, and vegetables and other farm products, and
the products of the mines and raw material generally on the free-list.

Having put their hands to the plow in this matter, the Democratic
leaders will not turn back. Having been committed by President

Cleveland to free trade, there is no retreat. His free- trade message was
the Rubicon, which once crossed was crossed forever. Recognizing this
the Democratic leaders, aided by the Cobden Club, are making her-
culean efforts to propagate free-trade theories. Taking advantage of
the overproduction of corn and th low price of farm products in the
Western States, they are industriously seeking to convince the farmers
of those States that the depression of the farming industry is caused
by the protective system, and to array them against the other indus-
tries of the country. Tons of free-trade literature are being circulated
among them, and it is hoped and apparently believed by the Demo-
cratic leaders that, aided by the discontent wliich naturally prevails in
times of business depression, Republican farmers can be brought to
adopt the Democratic theory of the tariff, or at least be induced to try
a change.

In accordance with this general policy, the senior Senator from Indi-
ana a few days ago made a speech, intended no doubt to have a wide
circulation, embellished with brilliant rhetoric and glittering general-
ities, in which his imagination was drawn upon, more than facts, to
show that the present depressed condition of the farming interests was
due to the protective policy, and to endeavor to turn the present dis-
content to the advantage of the Democratic party.

I do not propose to answer his speech, but in my humble way to at-
tempt to show that the protective tariff has in no degree contributed to
the depression, that the present condition of the farmer is far more
prosperous than it would have been under a system of tariff for reve-
nue only, more prosperous than it ever has been in this country when
the principle of protection was abandoned, and is far better than the
condition of the farmer in any fiee-trade country in the world.

I listened, in entire accord with him, to his eloquent laudation of the
farmer. Agriculture in some form is the oldest of the occupations of
man, and is still the most important. There are probably more persons
engaged directly in farming and dependent upon the earnings of the
farmer than are engaged in or dependent upon all the other industries
of the country. I hope I shall be credited with equal sincerity with
him when I say that all laws, whether State or national, ought to be
so framed as to promote the interests of the farmer in common with the
interests of all other citizens engaged in honorable and useful occupa-
tions, and so as to prevent all combinations, monopolies, and specula-
tions which have a tendency to control the supply of and demand for
farm products; that whenever any existing law can be shown to operate
unjustly upon any class of citizens I will be as ready to vote for its re-
peal as he; and that whenever any measure is proposed which in my
judgment is calculated to benefit the farmers of this country, without
injustice to other equally deserving classes, my voice and my vote will
be found in favor of that measure.

Every impulse of my nature is in full sympathy with the men who
till the soil and labor with their hands iu every useful occupation.
Labor is honorable and the source of all wealth. Idleness is a curse to
the individual and the community. I first saw the light on a farm and
from necessity passed through an experience which has made me familiar
with all phases of farm life. But when we come to discuss the remedies
proposed for the existing depression of the agricultural interests, the
Senator and myself, on some of them, are as far apart as the poles. He
would endeavor to array the farmer against all other classs of producers,
while I believe that the interests of the farmer are intimately connected

with the weal of every other producing class, and that the adjustment is
so delicate and sensitive that a blow to one injures the whole. If the
manufacturers are not prosperous, farming languishes; if farming is
not prosperous, manufactures are depressed. In fact, the surest way to
destroy the farmer would be to first destroy the manufactures, which
would destroy the home market for farm products and drive the opera-
tives to the cultivation of the soil and to competition with the present
farming class.

Employment, not cheapness, is the true basis of all national pros-
perity. The way to make a nation prosperous and the people happy
and contented is to give every one an opportunity of being employed.
The measure of our prosperity as a nation is the value of the fruits of
labor, of the wool we grow, the cattle and horses, the wheat and corn,
wid other agricultural products we raise, of the articles we manufac-
ture, and of the useful and precious metals we mine. When all our
diversified industries are profitably carried on together, when the soil,
the mines., and the forests are all laid under contribution to add to our
wealth, when the hill-sides, which are not well adapted to cultivation,
are profitably devoted to the raising of sheep, when the cattle industry
is fairly remunerative, when wheat and corn bring a fair price, when
there is a demand for the products of our mills and our factories which
keeps them in operation, every one is prosperous; and individual pros-
perity makes a prosperous whole.

But let the price of wool be low, lot there be a partial failure of the
wheat crop, or, as now is the case, the corn crop be in excess of the
demand, or the factories and mills compelled to shut down, and pros-
perity is at once checked, other industries suffer, and hard times are
threatened. Let noone suppose fora momentthatone class, or the class
interested in one industry, is not interested in all the others. All are
intimately connected. The destruction of the wool industry and the
throwing of several thousand men out of employment would be an in-
jury to every man, woman, and child in the United States. The man
thrown out of employment by the destruction of that industry would
be obliged to crowd into some other. The lands now profitably used
for grazing purposes would many of them be idle and unproductive.

Whatever hurts Maine hurts Texas, and what hurts Massachusetts
hurts Oregon. The people of the entire Union are interested in the pros-
perity of every part. Massachusetts manufactures Oregon wool, but to do
so she buys the wool and helps to make a home market for it, and she
also buys the food products of other States to feed the operatives in her
factories and her mills. The Senator from Indiana and the party to which
he belongs two years ago thought they could single out and strike down
the wool industry; but the people of this country understood that one
industry could not be stricken down without injury to all the rest, and
they made common cause with the wool-grower.


The low prices of corn and wheat in the West are producing a de-
pression of agricultural interests in the principal corn and wheat-grow-
ing States. The advocates of free trade charge that the fall in prices
is caused by the protective system; but fortunately the cause for the
decline in prices is neither obscure nor difficult to understand. The
price of corn is fixed by the same law that fixes the prices of all other
commodities: the law of supply and demand, in connection with the
cost of transportation from the States of production to the places of
consumption. But the free operation of this law is often interrupted by

combinations of middle-men. The States which produce 5 surplu*
of corn, and therefore are sources of commercial supply, are Ohio, In-
diana, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. Owing largely
to climatic causes, the crop of corn last year was the largest ever pro-
duced in the United States and the largest in the rate of yield since
1880. From a table contained in a report of the statistician of the
Agricultural Department, issued in March of this year, I extract the

The production of corn in 1887 was 1,456,000,000 bushels; in 1888,
1,988,000,000 bushels; in 1889, 2, 113, 000, 000 bushels; showing a very
large increase of the crop during the last two years, and that it has now
reached the surprising proportions of over 2, 000, 000, 000 bushels.

From the same table I learn that up to March 1 of this year there
had been consumed and distributed a greater amount, with one excep-
tion, than in any previous year up to the same period. The amount
consumed and distributed up to March 1, 1889, of the crop of 1888 and
of the surplus of previous years, was 1,201,000,000 bushels, and the
amount consumed up to March 1, 1890, of the crop of 1889 and of the
surplus of previous years, was 1,443,000,000 bushels,

These figures show that the demand and consumption have not de-
creased, but that the supply has largely increased, and that the present
unmarketable surplus and low prices are caused by overproduction,
and that alone. The freight rates for the transportation of corn and
other farm products are in many cases too high, but the rate of trans-
portation is not the cause of the present low price of corn. When the
question is examined it will be found that rates of transportation have
been from time to time reduced, and that by some transportation lines,
notably the Union Pacific, greatly reduced, upon corn to meet the pres-
ent emergency; but the situation has not improved, as it could not be;
the market has been supplied. There is no legitimate demand for the
surplus for present consumption, and if bought at all, must be bought
by operators who speculate as to the future demand and therefore buy
at their own price. The home market is the principal market; and
when the production is largely in excess of the demand for home con-
sumption a fall in prices is inevitable.

On a former occasion I discussed in the Senate the cause of the de-
cline in the foreign market of the price of wheat and presented elabo-
rate tables to show the value of our exports and imports, the amount
of agricultural products exported, the amount of wheat and flour ex-
ported through a series of years, the amount of the production and
distribution, the growth of the production of wheat in India, the ag-
gregate importation of wheat and flour in Great Britian and the countries
from whence imported. The latter tables were taken from the report
of General Bonham, consul-general of the United States at Calcutta.
Referring to these tables I summed up the matter as follows:

The facts stated in this report fully justify the views of Judge Bonham, that
India is to become a formidable competitor with the United States in the wheat
markets of Europe, and in my judgment explain the cause of the decline of
wheat in Europe in recent years. The table showing the aggregate imports of
wheat and flour into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from
the several countries named is especially instructive. It shows that while the
Imports into Great Britain, although some what fluctuating, have not materially
Increased since 1881-'82, the imports from Russia have increased from 4,089.308
centals in 1881-'82 to 11,986,350 centals in 18S5-'86; the imports from India have
Increased from 7,337,924 centals in 1881-'82 to 12,101,963 centals in 1885-'86, and
that the imports from other countries, not including the United Sttes, have in-
creased from 12.229.230 centals in 1881-'82 to 17,083,501 centals in!885-'86; while
the imports from the United States have decreased from 43,776,662 cental* in


1881-'82 to 36,007,187 centals In 1885-'86, and that the export of wheat from India
has Increased from 299,385 centals in 1867-' 68 to 21,060,519 centals or 35,100,869
bushels in 18S5-'86, a period of nineteen years. These figures show that we ar
already engaged in a ruinous competition with Russia and India, which must
continue to grow greater as the production of wheat in those countries increase*
to crowd the American product out of the European markets ; and yet the free-
traders tell us to let our home markets go, buy our manufactures in England,
and raise more wheat.

Protection to industry by creating a diversity of employment and increasing;
the number of those who are not engaged in farming, but must depend upon
the farmer for the means of subsistence, gives him a steady remunerative market
for breadstuffs and creates a market for crops which can not be profitably ex-
ported. The foreign market for our wheat is mainly created by England, and
is growing every year more uncertain and unsatisfactory. The amount of our
corn and wheat required by England depends in the first place upon the crop*
of Europe, which usually supply from two-thirds to three-fourths of what la
needed; then upon the yield in Russia and India; so that the American farmer
first takes the chances of his own harvest, and then of a scarcity in Europe, and
in late years the further chance of having the price of wheat fixed by the com-
petition of Russian and Indian wheat. And still free-traders assert that the tra
principle is to buy where you can buy the cheapest, and say that if our manu-
facturing industries can not successfully compete with cheap capital, organized
industries, and pauper labor of England, our people should turn their attention
to something else that is, to farming destroy our home markets, and lead our
farmers to depend apon a foreign market for the sale of their surplus products.

They propose that we shall increase our exports to pay for our increased im-
ports, and in endeavoring to do so that our farmers shall enter the field in com-
petition with the miserable ryots of India, who live on a lew-cents a day. If
it were proposed to import into the United States several millions of the Indian
ryoto or of Chinese for agricultural laborers, to enable us to compete with India
in producing wheat, every white laborer in the United States could see that
American labor was threatened. How does the case differ when it is proposed
to drive several millions of Ameriean laborers from the manufactures into agri-
culture and then to force them into competition with the Indian ryots by in-
creasing our surplus wheat crop, which we will be compelled to get rid of by
underselling Indian wheat?

In the report of the statistician of the Agricultural Department, al-
ready referred to, the cause of the present depression of agriculture ia
admirably stated. Mr. Dodge shows that the low price of corn and
wheat is due to overproduction ; that the farmers of this country can
not successfully compete with the wheat-growers of India, Russia, and
other countries; that other industries should be encouraged and main-
tained in order to create a home market forfarm products and em-
ployment for our people, and that farmers should engage in diversified
farming and produce all the products we now import. He says:


There is almost universal complaint among farmersof all nations of the prev-
alence of low prices. The agricultural depression of Great Britain has proba-
bly been more severe than that of any other nation. A potent cause in this cam
is the competition from all parts of the world, unrelieved by any taxation of
imports. France and Germany are somewhat disturbed by similar complaints
of unremunerative rural industry. Italy has also had occasion to make official
investigation of the causes of agricultural depression, Other countries are vo-
cal with similar cries of dissatisfaction with the proceeds of agricultural labor.
So the trouble appears to be general in monarchies and republics, whether th
monetary circulation is gold or silver or paper, and under the influence of vari-
ous and diverse economic systems.

Not all countries are In the same depths of distress. In ours farmers and
farm laborers are doubtless better fed and clothed, able to maintain a higher
tyle of living, and enjoy more of the benefits of civilization and culture than
those of any other country. It may be said with absolute truth that In thirty
years the scale of living has advanced Immensely in this country, not equally
inall sections, but manifestly everywhere. There is a tendency to extravagance
in town life that has been imitated in rural circles, and the natural ambition
for progress and precedence, when generally aroused, will express itself in dis-
satisfaction with prevailing conditions and a determination to overpower all
obstacles to advancement. This is a hopeful sign. It is an indication of eon-
cious dignity. It Is a prophecy of progress.

k While, therefore, our own country feels the effect of agricultural depression


iu than almost any other in the world, the reduction in prices of most staples,
and in domestic animals and their products, forces a disagreeable comparison
with agricultural values at their highest, compels reduced expenditure to keep
outgo subordinate to income, increases the number of unfortunates who can
not make "both ends meet," and reduces the profits of the enterprising and
killful who are still able to strike a balance in their favor. Retrenchment is
not an agreeable alternative, and is therefore delayed until its compulsion is
Imperative and perhaps destructive. "The times" are universally regarded as
"hard " in comparison with more prosperous eras of the past.

It matters not that the prices of implements, utensils, and fabrics, of goods
desired by the farmer, have been reduced proportionally ; his interest account,
if he has one, is unreduced, and his mortgage is a greater burden to lift. He
aijjhs for the good old days of high prices, though they may have been war or
famine prices, necessarily temporary, and though they may have been the
source of extravagant views, unnecessary expenditure, and the foundation of
his present indebtedness. He naturally resents and deplores low valuation of
farm products. What are the causes of low prices? They may be various, but
the prime cause is the operation of the inexorable law of supply and demand.
Abundance leads inevitably to low prices ; scarcity to high prices. .With either
iihere is fluctuation, a see-saw of prices which increases cost and reduces profit.
Medium and uniform values are therefore best for the farmer.

There has been an increase of production in this country even more rapid than
Uhe increment of population. America has long been the synonym of plethora.
Her people probably consume more than those of any other nation, and have
< larger surplus for foreign needs. Immigration has been heavy and unre-
stricted; railroad building has been stimulated until an empire of new and
productive lands have been opened ; and these lands have been given ad libUum
to settlers of native or foreign birth. Speculation first, and profitable utiliza-
tion afterwards, have been the motive for settlement and development which
have astonished the world and caused overproduction and low prices. The foU
lowing statement shows the increase in thirty years in certain products of the
&rm, as reported by the census :






Oats .

._ do

592, 071, 104
100, 485, 944
146, 584, 179
65, 797, 899
13, 838, 642

173, 104, 924
172, 643, 185
19, 083, 896

287,*T45, 626
282, 107, 157
3, Oil, 996

1,754, 581, 67
459, 483, 137
407, 858, 999
5, 755, 359


... bales...



If we extend the comparison to the present date, we find that the co rn crop
exceeds 2,000,000,000 bushels, wheat approximates 500,000,000, oats exceed 700,-
000,000, and hay and potatoes have Increased in similar proportion. While the
pnoduct may be three or four times as large, the population is less than three
times as much, though the proportion of workers engaged in agriculture wa*
larger than now.

During the forty years from 1850 to the present time the cotton product in-
creased from a little over 2,000,000 bales to more than 7,000,000 bales. Cattle hav
also increased very rapidly ; cows from between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000 to about
16,000,000; other cattle from scarcely 12,000,000 to more than 36,000,000. WhiU
heep have doubled in n umber, the wool production has quadrupled. While the
milch cows are almost three times as many, their average rate of yield of milk
has probably doubled. The improvement of other cattle, through breeding and
feeding, has reduced the time required for maturity and increased the weight
of carcass to such an extent that the amount of beef produced annually in pro-
portion to numbers of animals kept is immensely increased. Relative numbers,
In comparison with the past, in all kinds of domestic animals, have far less sig-
nificance than improvement in weight and quality, in thriftiness and early ma-

It is difficult to force a market abroad for a surplus of any product. Every
nation is seeking to produce its own food, and as far as possible its raw material*
for extension in all forms of industrial production. The instinct of self-preser-
vation eompels the adoption of such a policy. This furnishes the motive for
the corn laws of France and Germany and other continental countries, and th
laws of European nations prohibiting the introduction of our pork product*.
We ean not sell our crops abroad, as a rule, except to fill the gaps in supply that
Are made by bad seasons or other results of the inevitable or inexorable.

In wheat overproduction has destroyed the grower's profit. Wheat growing
has become a philanthropic mission for supplying cheap bread to Great Britain
and encouraging her manufacturers to keep wages on a low plane. The North-
western missionaries are still diligently sowing their seed and floating their

1 3 4 5 6 7

Online LibraryJoseph Norton DolphThe farmer and the tariff : speech of Hon. J. N. Dolph, of Oregon, in the Senate of the United States, Mar. 29, 1890 → online text (page 1 of 7)