« AnteriorContinuar »
of them. Do these individuals complain of and denounce their Democratic allies of the North for voting for these high tariffs? No, sir. They embrace them most lovingly, stand shoulder to shoulder with them, like Siamese twins, and keep up a common struggle for political power. But they do denounce Mr. Clay and the Whigs because they are in favor of a moderate, steady tariff. The party is thus divided into two sections, which profess opposite principles, with a view of increasing thereby its political strength. In the South there is much opposition to the tariff, and on that account the Southern Democrats denounce it with great vehemence, with the expectation of chiming in with the prevalent feeling of the people there, and thus acquiring popularity for their party; while at the North, where the tariff policy is favored, their Democratic allies are warmly in favor of it, with a view of carrying the elections in that quarter. By thus manœuvring they expect that each wing will be able to bring a larger capital to the common stock, to enable them to get control of the offices and money of the country. The Whigs, on the contrary, being governed by principle, find that their representative, Mr. Clay, is denounced at the South as being too strongly in favor of the tariff, while at the North he is charged with not going far enough in support of the protective policy. Mr. Van Buren himself is a fitting representative of his party. While he votes for high tariffs, makes sheep speeches at the North, and writes letters to Indiana in favor of the protective policy, to Virginia he writes a letter strongly denouncing it. Do gentlernen intend to persevere in this system of deception? Or do they hope to be able to cheat the country longer by such barefaced double dealing? Why do they not show us on this floor what they are for? They know what the Whig tariff is, and why do they not let us see theirs? The Committee of Ways and Means have had the subject under consideration some three months, and why have we not had a report? What are you afraid of, sir? Is it that you cannot unite your party on any bill? You have a majority of nearly two to one on this floor; can you not bring them up to the mark? Show us your hand, and let the country know what you are for. Further concealment or shuffling is no longer practicable.
You know that we Whigs are for a tariff. [What sort of a tariff are you for? said Mr. Payne.] I will endeavor, Mr. Speaker, to tell the gentleman from Alabama what sort of a tariff I am for, and what I understand the Whig party to be in favor of. We are in favor of such a tariff as will produce all the revenue necessary to the support of the government, economically administered, without the money arising from the sales of the public lands. This latter fund we desire to see distributed among the States, to enable those States that are indebted to pay back to their creditors what they have borrowed, to remove the cloud which rests on the honor of some of them, and place American credit where it used to stand, and to furnish the States not indebted with the means of diffusing the benefits of education among every class of their citizens, so that our voters hereafter may understand their rights as inhabitants of this free Republic, and no longer be the victims of the arts of demagogues. And, in raising a revenue
by means of duties, we are not for adopting them on the principles of the horizontal tariff, for which a portion of the gentleman's party were voting early in the session. That is a system so absurd that it has not yet been adopted by any nation, and probably never will exist on the earth, however firm may be its resting place in the imaginations of some of its votaries.
Still less are we inclined to support such a tariff as that recommended in the last resolution offered, which received the support of the majority of the Democratic party on this floor, and which was so near being adopted, viz; adjusting the duties with reference to revenue alone, and making discriminations with that view only. In other words, so adjusting the duties as to raise the largest sum on each article.
That system, if carried out, would throw its burdens mainly on the necessaries of life, because they would come in at any price. Salt, for example, being an article of prime necessity, must be procured by everybody, no matter what might be its price; and the heaviest duty would therefore be imposed on it under this principle, so as to get the greatest amount of revenue; while jewelry, silks, and wines, being mere luxuries, which nobody is obliged to have, would be excluded by a high duty, and therefore must be admitted with a moderate one only. We are in favor of no such system as this; but we do advocate such a discrimination as, while it is so modified as not to be burdensome to any class of the community, may afford incidental protection to our manufacturers and artizans, to sustain our own industry against the oppressive regulations of others, and countervail, as far as practicable, the hostile restrictions of foreign nations. This last was a favorite principle of General Jackson, and I commend it to the attention of gentlemen on the other side. It was also a doctrine of Mr. Jefferson; in fact, he went so far at one time as to express the opinion, that we ought to imitate the Chinese, make everything we need at home, and have as little as possible to do with other nations. I may add, sir, that there has not been a single President, from Washington down to the present incumbent of the executive chair, inclusive, who has not sanctioned discrimination on these principles.
It is time, Mr. Speaker, that we should take a common sense practical view of this question. We have had theory and parade enough on it.
I tell gentlemen that I am not at present inclined to support any tariff bill which they are likely to bring forward at this session. In making this declaration, I speak only for myself. The tariff of 1842, which is now in operation, may have defects, for what I know. Some of the duties may be too high, and others too low. But, sir, it has thus far disappointed all the predictions of its enemies. They told us that the duties were so high that they would be prohibitory; that we should get no revenue under it, and therefore be obliged to resort to direct taxation to support the government. But facts, as daily developed, directly refute this prediction. The revenue under it has been rapidly increasing; and if it should continue for the balance of the year as it has been coming in for the last three months, it would
amount to some fifty millions of dollars. Though I do not, of course, anticipate, in fact, that amount, yet I am quite sure that if the present tariff were permitted to remain undisturbed, it would not only afford us all the means necessary to support the government, but enable us, in a short time, to pay off the whole of our national debt. This favor able state of our finances has been produced thus far without any practical injury having resulted to any section of the country. Not only cotton, but all of our other productions, command a better price than they did before the passage of the tariff; while foreign articles, which we import and consume, are generally cheaper, I believe I might say invariably so. But even if it were otherwise, I would be willing, as an individual, and I know my constituents are patriotic enough to feel willing too, to submit to a temporary inconvenience for the sake of seeing this government once more free from the debt left by Mr. Van Buren, and able to support itself without borrowing, or resorting to the land money, so that the latter fund might be distributed among the States. We might thereby relieve the National and State governments from embarrassment, and place American character and credit on their former basis. But when these results are about to be produced by a tariff that is actually conferring benefits instead of burdens on the community, is it not something worse than folly to repeal it?
To illustrate my view still further, Mr. Speaker, allow me to put a case to the member from Ohio, (Mr. Duncan) which I have no doubt he will understand and feel the force of. From the manner in which he lectured us on the entrails of the coon, I take it that he is a doctor. Is it not so? [Mr. Duncan was understood to nod an assent.] Then, suppose he had been practicing on an individual for four years, and that under his administration of medicines the disorder of the patient had increased daily; that he had become more and more feeble, until his dissolution seemed at hand. When thus on the brink of the grave, he is advised to change his physician; he does so, and at once begins to recover, regains his strength and spirits, and is able to return to his former business. The gentleman then meets him, and tells him that he is about to be ruined; that the medicines he has been taking are too strong, have cured him too suddenly, and thereby destroyed his constitution; and recommends him to return to his prescription. Would the gentleman expect the patient to follow his advice? He does not think proper to answer my question. I will answer it, by telling him that I am not willing to trust him and his party, who brought the country into such difficulty. We expect to elect Mr. Clay, and get into power again in some twelve months; and if, after a trial till then, we find the tariff needs alteration, those who originally made it can modify it.
Having thus, Mr. Speaker, shown that the several fragments of the Democratic party have no common principles in relation to the tariff, I shall proceed still further to support my original position, that they are kept together solely by the love of office, by adverting to another question which has occupied more of our time than any other during the present session, viz: abolition, or the proper mode of treating
abolition petitions. The gentleman declared that the Whigs were Abolitionists, but he did not think it worth while, it seems, to offer any proof on the point, contenting himself with making a wholesale charge. [Mr. Duncan here rose to explain.] Mr. Speaker, I have but a single hour to answer the gentleman's two hour's speech, and I cannot consent to give up any part of it to explanations. The gentleman's own course affords a fair illustration of that of his party on this question. At the beginning of the session, when the famous 21st rule was under consideration for the first time, he dodged the vote on it. A good deal having been said in the papers about his so doing, he came in a few weeks afterwards, and made a long speech against the rule, showing that it was unconstitutional, inexpedient, and utterly mischievous. On Tuesday of last week, however, when the House was voting on it, he dodged the question again; but on the next day, upon the last vote taken, he came in and voted in favor of the rule. He has thus, during the present session, been once against the rule, once in favor of it, and twice has he dodged the vote.
When we look abroad over the country, Mr. Speaker, how does his party stand on this question? Why, he knows very well that, even in his own State, Morris, a late Democratic Senator in Congress, and Tappan, the present Senator, elected by the same party, are Abolitionists. And in Massachusetts, Marcus Morton, their standing candidate for Governor and the only man they have ever been able to elect in that State, is an ultra Abolitionist; and for that very reason selected by them to secure the votes of the Abolitionists. You remember, sir, what a shout of joy was raised by the whole Democratic party, when it was ascertained that he had gotten in by a single vote. And, sir, the very resolutions from Massachusetts, which created such excitement at the beginning of the session-the resolutions, I mean, proposing to abolish slave representation in this House, were passed by the first, and indeed the only, Democratic legislature that the party ever have had in that State-and that, too, by a unanimous vote. Yes, sir, their party signalized their first triumph in the State of Massachusetts by passing these resolutions, which, if carried out would at once dissolve the Unton. But the Southern members of the Democratic party on this floor, especially my colleague, (Mr. Saunders) endeavor to divert public attention from that fact, by making patriotic speeches against the Hartford Convention. They say that the very proposition of these resolves had its origin in that famous convention, and was one of its leading recommendations. Sir, I have no objection to this measure being traced for its origin to that convention. That was a justly odious body; and I should be pleased to see all propositions to dissolve this Union traced to such a parent. But, taking all this to be true, they cannot thus get out of the difficulty in which they are involved. The Hartford Convention produced this great political monster, as they denounce it to be; and, after it had existed for more than a quarter of a century, and its deformity had thereby become. manifest to all the world, their party, as soon as they came into power, eagerly embraced, adopted it and made it thus their own.
Let us look a little further. Garrison and Leavitt, editors of the leading Abolition papers at the North, as I am informed, attend the Van Buren meettngs, get resolutions passed denouncing Mr. Clay as a slaveholder, and are esteemed good Democrats.
Why, sir, what have we witnessed on this floor during the present session? The leading speech against the twenty-first rule, as it is commonly called, was made by a gentleman from New York, (Mr. Beardsley) generally understood all over the North to be high in the confidence of Martin Van Buren, and supposed to represent his views; and the Democratic papers in New York and elsewhere claim great credit on this account for their party, saying that this Democratic Congress is opposed to the gag rule of the Whig Congress. Though our opponents have two to one on this floor, yet when we get them to a direct vote, the rule is defeated by a large majority. Out of nearly eighty Democratic members on this floor from the free States, with all possible coaxing, they can get only thirteen to vote in favor of the rule. How is it with the Southern wing of the party? Its members make most vehement speeches in favor of the rule, declare that the Union will be dissolved if it is abolished, and charge as high treason all opposition to it. Do they complain of their Northern allies for deserting them on this all-important question? No, sir; there is too good an understanding between them for this. But, in their speeches made for home consumption, they give it out that this all-important rule is likely to be defeated, because half a dozen Whigs from the South are against it. They are especially vehement in their denunciation of me, and desire to make the impression that its loss, if it should be rejected, is mainly to be attributed to my speech against it. I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, to have an opportunity of alluding to this topic, because, after set speeches had been made against me daily for two months, the party refused to allow me a single hour to reply.* The game which they have been playing off is seen through by everybody here, and it is getting to be understood in the country. There was a time when gentlemen, by giving themselves airs and talking largely of Southern rights in connection with this subject, were able to give
* I consider it as due to myself to state that I have long been thoroughly convinced that opposition to the reception of Abolition petitions, one form of which is the twenty-first rule, had its origin in a political manœuvre some eight or ten years since. A certain prominent Southern politician, seeing that his course had rendered him unpopular generally, seized upon this question, to create excitement between the North and Sonth, and unite the South thereby into a political party, of which he expected to be the head. There are also individuals at the North who, though professing opposition to the rule, are, in my opinion, really desirous of its continuance, as a means of producing agitation in that quarter. A portion of them entertain the hope that the excitement there may attain a sufficient height to enable them successfully to invade the institutions of the South; but the larger number are simply seeking to produce a strong prejudice in the popular mind in the free States against Southern institutions and men, on which to base a political party strong enough to control the offices of the country. Had an opportunity been afforded me, it was my purpose to have adverted to some facts in support of these opinions. Entertaining, myself, no doubt whatever of their correctness, there was but one course for me to take with respect to the existence of the rule.