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perfectly understood when the constitution was adopted, includes a right of discriminating, while exercising the power, and of laying some duties heavier, and some lighter, for the sake of encouraging our own domestic products, what authority is there for giving to the words used in the constitution a new, narrow, and unusual meaning? All the limitations which the constitution intended, it has expressed; and what it has left unrestricted, is as much a part of its will, as the restraints which it has imposed.
But these laws, it is said, are unconstitutional on account of the motive. How, sir, can a law be examined on any such ground? How is the motive to be ascertained? One house, or one member, may have one motive; the other house, or another member another. One motive may operate to-day, and another to-morrow. Upon any such mode of reasoning as this, one law might be unconstitutional now, and another law in exactly the same words, perfectly constitutional next year. Besides, articles may not only be taxed, for the purpose of protecting home products, but other articles may be left free, for the same purpose, and with the same motive. A law, therefore, would become unconstitutional from what it omitted, as well as what it contained. Mr. President, it is a settled principle, acknow. ledged in all legislative halls, recognised before all tribunals, sanctioned by the general sense and understanding of mankind,
that there can be no inquiry into the motives of those who pass laws, for the purpose of determining on their validity. If the law be within the fair meaning of the words in the grant of the power, its authority must be admitted until it is repealed. This rule, every where acknowledged, every where admitted, is so universal, and so completely without exception, as that even an allegation of fraud, in the majority of the legislature, is not allowed as a ground to set aside a law.
But, sir, is it true that the motive for these laws is such as is stated? I think not. The great object of all these laws is, unquestionably revenue. If there were no occasion for revenue, the laws would not have been passed; and it is notorious that almost the entire revenue of the country is derived from them. And as yet we have collected none too much revenue. The treasury has not been more exhausted for many years than at the present moment. All that South Carolina can say, is, that in passing the laws which she now undertakes to nullify, particular articles were taxed from a regard to the protection of domestic articles, higher than they would have been had no such regard been entertained. And she insists that, according to the constitution, no such discrimination can be allowed; that duties should be laid for revenue, and revenue only; and that it is unlawful to have reference in any case, to protection. In other words,
she denies the power of discrimination. She does not, and cannot, complain of excessive taxation; on the contrary, she professes to be willing to pay any amount for revenue, merely as revenue; and up to the present moment there is no surplus of revenue. Her grievance, then, that plain and palpable violation of the constitution, which she insists has taken place, is simply the exercise of the power of discrimination. Now, sir, is the exercise of this power of discrimination plainly and palpably unconstitutional? I have already said the power to lay duties is given by the constitution in broad and general terms. There is also conferred on congress the whole power of regulating commerce in another distinct provision. Is it clear and palpable, sir; can any man say it is a case beyond doubt, that under these two powers congress may not justly discriminate in laying duties for the purpose of countervailing the policy of foreign nations, or of favouring our own home productions? Sir, what ought to conclude this question for ever, as it would seem to me, is that the regulation of commerce, and the imposition of duties are, in all commercial nations, powers avowedly and constantly exercised for this very end. That undeniable truth ought to settle the question; because the constitution ought to be considered, when it uses well known language, as using it in its well known sense. But it is equally undeniable that it has been, from
the very first, fully believed that this power of discrimination was conferred on congress; that the constitution was itself recommended, urged upon the people, and enthusiastically insisted on in some of the states, for that very reason. Not, that at that time, the country was extensively engaged in manufactures, especially of those kinds now existing. But the trades and crafts of the seaport towns, the business of the artizans, and manual labourers, these employments, the work of which supplics so great a portion of the daily wants of all classes, all these looked to the new stitution as a source of relief from the severe distress which followed the war. It would, sir, be unpardonable, at so late an hour, to go into details on this point; but the truth is as I have stated. The papers of the day, the resolutions of public meetings, the debates in the conventions, all that we open our eyes upon, in the history of the times, prove it.
But, sir, let us go to the first congress; let us look in upon this and the other house, at the first session of their organization.
We see in both houses men distinguished among the framers, friends, and advocates of the constitution. We see in both those who had drawn, discussed, and matured the instrument in the convention, explained and defended it before the people, and were now elected members of congress to put the new government into motion, and to carry the powers of the con
stitution into beneficial execu- this occasion, was Mr. Madison. tion.
At the head of the government was Washington himself, who had been president of the convention, and in his cabinet were others most thoroughly acquainted with the history of the constitution, and distinguished for the part taken in its discussion.
If these persons were not acquainted with the meaning of the constitution; if they did not understand the work of their own hands, who can understand it, or, who shall now interpret it to us?
Sir, the volume which records the proceedings and debates of the first session of the house of representatives, lies before me. I open it, and I find that, having provided for the administration of the necessary oaths, the very first measure proposed for consideration is, the laying of imposts; and in the very first committee of the whole into which the house of representatives ever resolved itself, on this its earliest subject, and in this its very first debate, the duty of so laying the imposts as to encourage manufactures was advanced, and enlarged upon by almost every speaker; and doubted or denied by none. The first gentlemen who suggests this as the clear duty of congress, and as an object necessary to be attended to, is Mr. Fitzsimmons, of Pennsylvania; the second, Mr. White, of Virginia; the third Mr. Tucker, of South Carolina.
But the great leader, sir, on
Was he likely to know the intention of the convention and the people? Was he likely to understand the constitution?
At the second sitting of the committee, Mr. Madison explained his own opinions of the duty of congress, fully and explicitly. I must not detain you, sir, with more than a few short extracts from these opinions, but they are such as are clear, intelligible, and decisive.
"The states," says he, "that are most advanced in population, and ripe for manufactures, ought to have their particular interest attended to, in some degree. While these states retained the power of making regulations of trade, they had the power to cherish such institutions. By adopting the present constitution, they have thrown the exercise of this power into other hands; they must have done this with an expectation that those interests would not be neglected here."
In another report of the same speech, Mr. Madison is represented as using still stronger language; as saying that the constitution, having taken this power away from the states, and conferred it on congress, it would be a fraud on the states and on the people, where congress to refuse to exercise it.
Mr Madison argues, sir, on this early and interesting occasion, very justly and liberally in favour of the general principles of unrestricted commerce. But he argues also, with equal force and clearness,
for certain important exceptions to these general principles.
The first, sir, respects those manufactures which had been brought forward under encouragement by the state governments. "It would be cruel," says Mr. Madison, "to neglect them, and to divert their industry into other channels, for it is not possible for the hand of man to shift from one employment to another without being injured by the change." Again: "There may be some manufactures which, being once formed, can advance towards perfection without any adventitious aid; while others, for want of the fostering hand of government, will be unable to go on at all. Legislative provision, therefore, will be necessary to collect the proper objects for this purpose; and this will form another exception to my general principle." And again: "The next exception that occurs is one on which great stress is laid by some well informed men, and this with great plausibility; that each nation should have, within itself, the means of defence, independent of foreign supplies; that in whatever relates to the operations of war, no state ought to depend upon a precarious supply from any part of the world. There may be some truth in this remark, and therefore it is proper for legislative attention."
In the same debate, sir, Mr. Burk, from South Carolina, supported a duty on hemp, for the express purpose of encouraging its growth on the strong lands of South Carolina. "Cotton," he
said, "was also in contemplation among them, and if good sced could be procured, he hoped might succeed." Afterwards, sir, the cotton seed was obtained, its culture was protected, aud it did succeed. Mr. Smith, a very distinguished member from the same state, observed, "It has been said, and justly, that the states which adopted this constitution expected its administration would be conducted with a favourable hand. The manufacturing states wished the encouragement of manu. factures; the maritime states the encouragement of ship-building; and the agricultural states the encouragement of agriculture."
Sir, I will detain the Senate by reading no more extracts from these debates. I have already shown a majority of the members of South Carolina, in this very first session, acknowledging this power of protection, voting for its exercise, and proposing its extension to their own products. Similar propositions came from Virginia; and, indeed, sir, in the whole debate, at whatever page you open the volume, you find the power admitted, and you find it applied to the protection of particular articles, or not applied, according to the discretion of congress. No man denied the power-no man doubted it; the only questions were, in regard to the several articles proposed to be taxed, whether they were fit subjects for protection, and what the amount of that protection ought to be. Will gentlemen,
sir, now answer the argument but, as far as I remember, or drawn from those proceedings have understood, without the of the first congress? Will they slightest opposition founded on undertake to deny that that con- any supposed want of constitugress did act on the avowed tional authority. Certainly principle of protection? Or, if South Carolina did not doubt it. they admit it, will they tell us The tariff of 1816 was introduhow those who framed the con- ced, carried through, and esstitution fell, thus early, into this tablished, under the lead of great mistake about its meaning? South Carolina. Even the miniWill they tell us how it should mum policy is of South Carolina happen that they had so soon origin. forgotten their own sentiments, and their own purposes? I confess I have seen no answer to this argument, nor any respectable attempt to answer it. And, sir, how did this debate terminate? What law was passed? There it stands, sir, among the statutes, the second law in the book. It has a preamble, and that preamble expressly recites, that the duties which it imposes are laid "for the support of government, for the discharge of the debts of the United States, and the encouragement and protection of manufactures." Until, sir, this early legislation, thus coeval with the constitution itself, thus full and explicit, can be explained away, no man can doubt of the meaning of that instrument.
Mr. President, this power of discrimination, thus admitted, avowed, and practised upon, in the first revenue act, has never been denied or doubted, until within a few years past. It was not at all doubted in 1816, when it became necessary to adjust the revenue to a state of peace. On the contrary, the power was then exercised, not without opposition as to its expediency,
Sir, it is no answer to say, that the tariff of 1816 was a revenue bill. So are they all revenue bills. The point is, and the truth is, that the tariff of 1816, like the rest, did discriminate: it did distinguish one artible from another; it did lay duties for protection. Look to the case of coarse cottons, under the minimum calculation; the duty on these was sixty to eighty per cent. Something besides revenue certainly was intended in this; and, in fact, the law cut up our whole commerce with India in that article. It is, sir, only within a few years that Carolina has denied the constitutionality of these protective laws. The gentleman himself has narrated to us the true history of her proceedings on this point. He says that, after the passing of the law of 1828, despairing then of being able to abolish the system of protection, political men went forth among the people, and set up the doctrine that the system was unconstitutional. "And the people," says the honourable gentleman, "received the doctrine." This, I believe, is true, sir. The people did then receive the doctrine;