Louis E. (Louis Emory) McComas.

Protection vs. free trade. Speech ... in the House of Representatives, May 2, 1888 online

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Hon. Louis E. McComas,




MAY 2, 1888.





HON. Louis E. McCoMAs,


In the House of Representatives, May 2, 1888.

The House being in Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union, and having
under consideration the bill (H. R. 9051)


Mr. McCoMASsaid:

Mr. Chairman, if any article of common use
which our farmers can not profitably grow or
our miners or workmen produce is not al-
ready on the free list I will vote to put it on.

If any duty on any home product be higher
than the conceded higher wages rate of my
country I will vote to reduce it to the pro-
tective level, because I believe the tariff is
simply a question of wages. If it be clear
that any clause fosters only monopoly I will
vote to strike it out. If you frame a revenue-
reduction bill with an eye single to the re-
lief of the Treasury and the people from a
growing surplus I will vote with you.

If you who are the majority would suffer the
Republican minority to deal for one day only
with the problem of the surplus I believe we
would in that single day reduce our annual
revenues $70,000,000, by repealing the in-
ternal-revenue tax on tobacco, a burden on
the farms in sixteen hundred counties and
fifteen States; by repealing the internal-rev-
enue tax on alcohol used in the arts, manu-
factures, medicines and drugs, and by reduc-
ing the tariff on sugar to a minimum, yielding
revenue enough to pay bounties to home
producers of sugar from cane, sorghum, corn
and beets.

The reduction of the surplus is the pretext
but not the motive of this bill.

Who, for instance, to reduce a surplus of
$55,000,000 would put "curled hair for beds
or mattrasses" on the free list, which last
year yielded a revenue of $38.25 ?

It is not a surplus revenue but a protective
revenue; not a war tariff, but a protective

tariff, you gentlemen of the majority assail.
Mr. Cleveland's message and this foundling
now called the Mills bill have a common
purpose. Both use the surplus as the ful-
crum wherewith to apply the free trade
lever to dislodge the protective system.
Every free trader applauds both. Every
protectionist denounces both.

Why, in this debate, has every friend of
the Mills bill lauded the English free trade
tariff system, which only levies duties on
articles not produced at home?

Has any friend of this bill in this debate
uttered one sentence in favor of the Ameri-
can tariff system, which discriminates in
favor of the home producer and laborer?

I pause and will yield a half minute to any
member on the Democratic side to name the
sentence or the member's name who ut-
tered it.

Mr. HOOKER. No. There was no one, and
you won't hear any Democrat utter one.

Mr. McCoMAs. I have heard one eloquent
Democrat [Mr. Foran] defend the tariff and
labor, but he will not vote for this bill* I
am glad to hear the gentleman from Missis-
sippi declare for his party that no Democrat
has or can utter a word for protection of

Your purpose is the enlargement of the
free list and final opening of our markets to
the world. Why then discuss the revision
of the protective tariff with this majority
which would wipe it out as with a sponge?

The Democracy has under Cleveland after
forty years renewed its allegiance to Eng-
lish free trade. This fight is not over the
details of this bill but on the broad issue of

free trade or protection. Your tariff of 1846,
the contagion of Cobden's enthusiasm, re-
sulted in the bankruptcy of all industries,
wheat rotting in unthrashed stacks, and corn
burned for fuel on the Western farms. Said
Richard Cobden in 1844:

"You have no more right to doubt that the sun
will rise to-morrow than to doubt that in less
than ten years from this time, when England
inaugurates the glorious era of commercial
freedom, every civilized nation will be free
trade to the backbone."

It wtis to convert the world, and after forty
years no nation has adopted it!

Enterprise was to be paralyzed and inven-
tion stifled where free trade did not prevail.
It was to confer great benefits on its votaries,
and impose evils on those who rejected it!

Free trade to-day comes with 'the broken
promises, the disappointed hopes of its early
supporters and founders !

Protective France and Belgium rival Eng-
land, while Germany is surpassing her, ;md
after five years of protection Bismarck says,
"Germany fears nobody but God," while the
United States has far outstripped England in
enterprise and inventive industry. "Thirty-
nine fortieths of mankind repudiate free
trade to-day.

Prophecy has been falsified by history.
One year ago, outside of England, of all the
wise and thoughtful men in Europe and
America, no ruler or minister dared to pro-
pose free trade. After forty years of trial all
statesmen outside of England have united in
rejecting it as one of the "puerile doctrines
and illusions of mankind." The modern
statesmen we find all protectionists: Thiers,
Gambetta, Cleraenceaux, Grant, Garfield,
Bismarck, Sherman, and Blaine.

Wherever there is universal suffrage the
producers the world over have repudiated
free trade. When free trade won in Eng-
gl?ui(J the working people were excluded
from the suffrage.


We collect over two hundred millions from
customs under a protective tatiff.

land collects one hundred millions
from customs under a free trade tariff for rev-
enue only.

The campaign this fall is designed to bring
our tariff to the English model a free trade
tariff for revenue only.

Great Britain has 2,220 customs officials.
Her custom-houses are scattered everywhere.

On some imports Great Britain imposes a
duty of 400 per cent, or 500 per cent.; on
several a duty of 1,900 per cent.

By a tax of fi pence per pound on tea and
2 pence per pound- on coffee, Great Britain

wrests from the breakfast table of her people
$22,000,000 annually.

She has a tariff on chicory, cocoa, cocoa
husks, chocolate, currants, figs, raisins,
plums, prunes, chloral, chloroform, collodion,
tobacco, snuff, soap, ether, cordials, alcohol,
spirits, and other articles, which in 1886
yielded her a customs revenue of $99,086,435.

Besides, a free trade tariff compels heavy
direct taxation. While we collect our one
hundred and eighteen millions from internal-
revenue taxes, Great Britain in 1886 by in-
ternal taxes collected by licenses to auc-
tioneers, pawnbrokers, and peddlers, by
stamps on bankers' notes, on bills of exchange
and promissory notes, on checks, drafts, and
receipts, on deeds and instruments, by a tax
on dogs and guns, by a house duty, by a tax
on marine and life insurance, by a land tax,
a tax on legacies, by liquor taxes and licenses
by a tax on patent medicines, on property,
and licenses on refreshment houses, by a tax
on dealers and manufacturers of tobacco and
snuff, and by taxes on a hundred other vex-
atious items, from her people, the enormous
sum of 1291,573,490.


. Dare you now go home and tell the peo-
ple of our land how thirty years of a free
trade tariff for revenue only has prospered
Great Britain. Even after three years of
Democratic incompetent administration we
have nothing like the industrial distress
existing in England. There is a wolf at the
door of the English wage-earner and an
enemy at his fireside. There is the figure
of the laborer badly clad in Ijis hovel, living
in want and ignorance. England has a mil-
lion paupers, and seven million of people
there to toe the line of pauperism. Wages
all over England are low and decreasing.
Her industries are depressed by a competi-
tion some of them cannot survive. Eighty
thousand people are out of employment in
London alone. Women are sell ing their life-
blood working at a half-penny an hour in
nuiking cheap clothes, and lately the count-
less army of the unemployed crowded Hay-
market. Tens of thousands march through
London streets to Westminster Abbey call-
ing for "bread or work."


Learn from England, ye farmers of Amer-
ica, how free trade benefits agriculture.

There agriculture has reached a state of
collapse. Every farmer is 40 per cent,
poorer than he was twelve years ago. The
tenant farmers are now paying their rent
out of their capital. In ten years the loss

of income to owners of land was 30 per cent,
and to tenant farmers 60 per cent.

The farm laborer now works for 1 or, at
most, 2 shillings a day, a loss of 20 per cent,
of his wages.

The land is rapidly going out of cultiva-
tion, and free trade has made wheat grow-
ing unprofitable to the English farmer.
Within ten years 1,000,000 acres, one-fourth
of the whole wheat area of Britain, has gone
out of cultivation. Dairy farming is ex-
tinguished. The best of the farm population
is crowding into the great cities, no longer
customers, but competitors.

To the doctrinaires it is a pretty pastoral
scene; free trade England, a grass country
without gates, cropped-tail horses, and foxes
and hounds running on foreVer and ever.

The howling dervish of free trade, with
his epileptic froth over the mortgages on
Western farms, should remember that while
mortgages on farms here are 20 per cent, of
their value, the mortgages on English lands
were over 58 per cent, of their value (says
Mullhall) in 1876, and since then the value
and income of these lands has fallen off from
from 30 to 50 per cent. The number of
farming bankruptcies in Britain have in-
creased six times in ten years. Bills of sale
have multiplied ten times in five years.

1 was born upon a farm, its fragrant fields,
its meadows and clover bloom are redolent
of the memories of a happy boyhood. I
live among farmers and represent largely a
farming constituency. As I consider their
wants, their burdens, their troubles, God for-
bid I should ever vote to add to their pres-
ent evils by a dose of English free ttade
tariff for revenue only, the loss of their home
market, the farmer's main dependence for
the sale of his surplus products. [Applause.]

Free trade may cheapen a few of the
farmer's supplies; it will still more cheapen
the value of his farm and its products, de-
crease manufacturers and increase farmers.

When our people are all employed they
earn wages, and the more wages they earn
the more of the farmer's products they buy.
Free foreign trade may enrich the mugwump
importers of New York or Boston, but it is
home production and consumption that en-
riches the farmer. Foreign importation
enriches the few at the expense of the many
by gathering the profits in a few hands the
bankers, the merchants, the brokers, the
agents, the shippers, those who deal in
money and exchange. Home trade is ten-
fold more profitable than foreign trade.
Foreign trade profits individuals; home trade
profits the community, because the money
turned over onc in foreign trade is turned
over ten times in home trade.

While foreign trade enriches many middle

men, home trade enriches the producer. In
home trade both the buying and the selling
are done at home, and both transactions
bring profit to the community. In foreign
trade one transaction is done abroad and
does not benefit our country at all. Free
foreign commerce is a curse if it only dis-
places so much home commerce.

For the farmer foreign goods in exchange
for the farmer's grain and raw material are
far-fetched and dear-bought. The farmer
will not transfer prosperity from home man-
facturers to Northern importers, for the
manufacturer keeps the money at home,
while the importer sends it abroad. He
knows to-day that it is best to exchange his
produce at his own door, to have his neigh-
bor for his customer instead of his competitor,
quite as well as when a century ago ^ the
American farmers created the American
protective policy. He knows that the home
market his foresight fostered consumes more
than all of Britain's imports and exports
combined. He hails the tendency to bring
producers and consumers together by more
rapid transit and fewer middlemen.


Mr. Chairman, the American farmer has
for years heard the Democratic leaders de-
nounce the tariff as the bulwark of monopoly,
the enricher of a favored few whose products
ought to be on the free list. He will read
the Mills bill to find that the farmer is the
Robber Baron whose products now go to the
free list. The raiser of sheep and the grower
of wool is now the chief of sinners, and wool
must be made free. Cultivators of hemp,
flax, peas, beans, cabbage, potatoes, seeds,
and vegetables are monopolists; so these go
to the free list.

More than one-third of the free list in the
Mills bill is composed of the yield of the
field, forest and mine to the damage of the
lumberman, quarryman, farmer and miner.

With demagogic zeal salt which costs us 6
cents per capita is hurried to the free list,
while sugar which costs us $2.57 per capita
escapes lightly.

But I will not vex the House with figures.
Figures are good servants but bad masters.
This bill and the tables in the majority re-
port suggest that either ad valorem or per-
centage is the prince of liars.


Mr. Chairman, the speeches for this bill
are the extravagant speeches of forty years
ago. The necessaries and conveniences of
life were never BO plentiful or so cheap as

to-day. The wages of labor were never so
high in our country. The poor man's blanket
never was so cheap as now, but the poor
man's wages are the lowest in the States
where most of the members who support the
Mills bill hail from. During the past forty
years all over the world mechanical and
scientific appliances have transformed the
transporting and producing of commodities.
These have reduced and are still reducing
the labor required for both.

When Cobden triumphed with the cry of
"the cheap loaf the trouble was the scarcity
and dearness of the necessaries of life. To-
day the struggle is for work enough to give
the bulk of population money enough to buy
these necessaries of life now so cheap and

Without employment, increasing masses
of people must pass a miserable existence in
the midst of plenty. Industries must con-
stantly grow and diversify to give full and
well-paid employment. From the difficulty
of supplying adequate employment in the
midst of commodities cheap and plentiful
has resulted the reconversion of the civilized
world to protective tariffs.

Employment, not cheapness, is the main-
spring of national contentment. Internal
production and internal consumption are the
best tests of national prosperity.

Cheap blankets and cheap salt are a
mockery if labor is cheaper still. Free trade
means untaxed foreign competition. It
cheapens a few things the workman con-
sumes, but cheapens everything that he pro-
duces. Protection raises the price of a few
things the workman consumes, but raises the
price of everything he produces, and higher
wages for what he produces means a higher
standard of life for home, wife and children.

Free trade means cheapness to the few
rich idlers with fixed incomes, but longer
hours, lower wages, harder work to the
workers, who are many. Goods are too
cheap for us when they are cheaper than we
can make them. Competition with long
hours and low wages will bring us to long
hours and low wages. "Competition for
cheapness becomes competition in cheap
labor, and competition in cheap labor means
competition in flesh and blood."

To-day every old soul-driver of the South
is a free trader. Free trade is against the
poor man and in favor of the rich man when
it lets the rich man buy what he wants
abroad and employ the foreign workers at
lower wages in place of the American pro-
ducer who stands ready with his capital, the
workman's skill, his practical knowledge, his
industry, his strength, his health. In this
country to-day the workingman has the
ballot to defend him against the competition

of underpaid workmen and plethoric capital
in Europe, and Coolie and Chinese labor in
Asia, for all of them by cheap ocean freights
are now brought near our door. [Applause.]


When you tell the farmer, if he will
slaughter his sheep, free wool will enable our
manufacturers to control the foreign market,
he retorts that cotton has always oeen free.
Free cotton has not given our spinners con-
trol of the foreign market, but with free
wool a million flock-masters must seek other

Since all foreign countries save England
have adopted the protective system, free
trade for us can not open a single port or
market not now open to us, but simply opens
our market to all foreign wares. We would
fall before the combined efforts of protective
tariffs abroad and foreign competition at

The depressed and overcrowded market
of England is already open to us, and all the
markets of the continent of Europe
are protected. How then will these
markets give us continuing employment?
Besides, if ten million workers in glass,
woolens, cotton, and silk in Germany,
France and Belgium are working 72 hours
a week, including Sunday, at 50 per cent,
less wages, and send their products free to
New York and Boston or Baltimore, at a
lower rate of freight than it costs workmen
working 48 hours a week here, then these
ten million workmen are competing as if
they were all here alongside of our work-
men. Instead of free trade let us rather
make more stringent our immigration laws.


Mr. Chairman, it amazes me to hear Mr.
Mills, who hails from Texas, claim that the
tariff has nothing to do with wages, because
wages are higher in some States than in
others. The tariff wrought its best fruit in
New England and the enterprising North
and West. Wages are lower in Arkansas
and Louisiana and South Carolina, because
slavery condemned the black and poor white
people to ignorance; and after the war under
the inherited system it was too long dis-
graceful to labor.

The wages of her men and women are not
much more than half the wages paid in New
England. It is amazing to near Represen-
tatives from the Southern States unite to de-
nounce the tariff, when the South most
needs protection. New England and Penn-
sylvania, rich with the fruits of a general
system of manufactures, may well smile at

the folly of these Southern leaders blinded
by prejudice.

The United States Government was
formed in part for the creation and promo-
tion of manufactures. The confederate
States government was formed to stimulate
agriculture alone and to import manufact-

Will the old South never recant this clause
of the confederate constitution ?

"But no bounties shall be granted from the
treasury, nor shall any duties or taxes on im-
portations from foreign nations be laid to pro-
mote or foster any industry."

On this charter of free trade and slave
labor the South based the fabric of a com-
mercial alliance with England the ex-
change of cheap manufactures from cheap
foreign labor for unlimited cotton from
cheap slave labor. The war cry of the old
South was slave labor and " free trade.
Slavery has gone, but these leaders of the
old South here on this floor fight for the
English alliance and free trade once more.
Free trade is still the dream of the old
South, whose corner-stone was the planta-
tion idea wide lands, an accomplished few
enriched by the ignorant many toiling for
bare subsistence.

The old South, whose old master class can
forget with magnanimity the bitterness of
the war, but can not forget the enfranchise-
ment of their slaves.

The old South, which, appalled at the
rule of the ignorant majority, resorts in
turn to violence or fraud, convinced that if
ever the small white minority yields at the
ballot-box to the growing black majority
then will be the doom in the cotton States
of public and private rights.

The old South, which, bewildered by the
gravest problem of civilization, blindly
keeps solid the black vote by outside pres-
sure, by the denial of full citizenship, which
excuses the fraudulent denial of a fair poll
or count in communities where there is a
black majority, by reason of color, ignor-
ance, and poverty, convinced that fraud af-
fords the only escape from the supremacy
of the poor and ignorant mass.

The old South, which passionately forbids
massed black ignorance to be counted
against its own intelligent white minority,
but with shameless inconsistency believes it
right to count this uncounted black vote
wherever the South needs an offset to as
many intelligent workingmen's votes ac-
tually cast in the North and West, believes
it right to thus quadruple the power of the
white minority of the cotton States at an
election for President and Congress.

This old South, whose old confederate

leaders on this floor now seek by free trade
and the English alliance to readjust the old
plantation idea to raw products of mines and
fields with cheap peasant labor.

The young men of the South begin to
realize, though slowly, that when the white
minority stoops to fraud upon the poll or
count, it controls the massed majority at the
cost of its own civic virtue and debasement
of the moral sense of the community.

There is hope in the new South with her
exultation in her new-found treasures, her
inexhaustible mines of coal and iron, her
mountains of iron and salt, her copper, lead,
her granite, her fire-clay, her cement and
lime-rock, all imperiled by this bill.

The new South, with its nascent industrial
fire, its gleams of wealth through whirling
spindles and looms and molten glass.

The new South, with its growing impa-
tience with the plantation idea, the growing
belief that the Northern township system
will be potential, and that peasant labor can
not sustain "Southern booms."

The new South by slow degrees learning
that the healthful growth of Southern towns
and cities must be grounded upon the educa-
tion of the whole mass of the people, by the
free consent of all under a local self-govern-
ment with equal civil rights as citizens.

The new South, conscious of the value of
its free black labor, beginning dimly to see
that this labor robbed of its dues for two
centuries must be educated if the South
would rival Northern labor, if it wants the
factory to raise the value of the farms, and
around the shops to grow a village.

The new South, which believes it must
lift its labor above the level of Europe, and
that like the North it must eventually pay
its skilled workers in metal, glass, wool, and
cotton 50 per cent, more than the old world
if it would transform its towns into cities
and diffuse prosperity over countless small

Upon this new South, thrilling with
mighty enterprises, developing her mines,
founding her cities, Mr. Cleveland's message
against a protective tariff fell like some un-
welcome bell knelling a departed friend.

This cry of free raw materials is the de-
vice whereby to drive the new South back
to free trade before her transformation weds
her to the tariff which made New England
great. In this spirit John Eandolph said
he would go a mile out of his way to kick a
sheep. He hated the animal which made
the farmers protectionists.

Like another Tannhauser, the new South
has just broken a<?ay from the toils of
slavery. It has awakened to the industries
of the earth. Just as it has made paths
in the trackless forest, just when it is ex-


ploring the seams of earth to extract its
ores, just as it stands by the mouths of its
new-made coal-pits, the President's message
and the Mills bill summon the new South
again to slumber, that the vines may cum-
ber the forests, that bats and owls may in-
habit the shafts of deserted mines, that spi-
ders may weave their webs over the mouths
of the coal-pits, that the grass may grow
again in the village streets. [Applause.]

Like another Tannhauser, this last cry


Online LibraryLouis E. (Louis Emory) McComasProtection vs. free trade. Speech ... in the House of Representatives, May 2, 1888 → online text (page 1 of 2)