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A feeling that there is great insecurity for property, and the stability of the means of living, extensively prevails.
The whole subject of the tariff, acted on for the moment, is at the same moment declared not to be at rest, but liable to be again moved, and with greater effect, just so soon as power for that purpose shall be obtained.
The currency of the country, hitherto safe, sound, and universally satisfactory, is threatened with a violent change; and an embarrassment in pecuniary affairs, equally distressing and unnecessary, hangs over all the trading and active classes of society.
A long-used and long-approved legislative instrument for the collection of revenue, well secured against abuse, and always responsible to Congress and to the laws, is denied further exist. ence; and its place is proposed to be supplied by a new branch of the executive department, with a money power controlled and conducted solely by executive agency.
The power of the Veto is exercised, not as an extraordinary, but as an ordinary power; as a common mode of defeating acts of Congress not acceptable to the executive. We hear, one day, that the President needs the advice of no cabinet; that a few secretaries, or clerks, are enough for him. The next, we are informed that the Supreme Court is but an obstacle to the popular will, and the whole judicial department but an encumbrance to government. And while, on one side, the judicial power is thus derided and denounced, on the other arises the cry, “ Cut down the Senate!” and over the whole, at the same time, prevails the loud avowal, shouted with all the lungs of conscious party strength and party triumph, that the spoils of the enemy belong to the victors. This condition of things, Sir, this general and obvious aspect of affairs, is the result of three years' administration, such as the country has experienced.
But, not resting on this general view of results, let me inquire what the principles and policy of the administration are, on the leading interests of the country, subordinate to the Constitution itself. And first, what are its principles, and what its policy, respecting the tariff? Is this great question settled, or unsettled ? And is the present administration for, or against, the tariff?
Sir, the question is wholly unsettled, and the principles of the administration, according to its most recent avowal of those
principles, are adverse to the protective policy, decidedly hostile to the whole system, root and branch; and this on permanent and alleged constitutional grounds.
In the first place, nothing has been done to settle the tariff question. The anti-tariff members of Congress who voted for the late law have, none of them, said they would adhere to it. On the contrary, they supported it, because, as far as it went, it was reduction, and that was what they wished; and if they obtained this degree of reduction now, it would be easier to obtain a greater degree hereafter; and they frankly declared, that their intent and purpose was to insist on reduction, and to pursue reduction, unremittingly, till all duties on imports should be brought down to one general and equal percentage, and that regulated by the mere wants of the revenue; or, if different rates of duty should remain on different articles, still, that the whole should be laid for revenue, and revenue only; and that they would, to the utmost of their power, push this course, till protection by duties, as a special object of national policy, should be abandoned altogether in the national councils. It is a delusion, therefore, Sir, to imagine that the present tariff stands, safely, on conceded ground. It covers not an inch that has not been fought for, and must not be again fought for. It stands while its friends can protect it, and not an hour longer.
In the next place, in that compend of executive opinion contained in the veto message, the whole principle of the protective policy is plainly and pointedly denounced.
Having gone through its argument against the bank charter, as it now exists, and as it has existed, either under the present or a former law, for near forty years, and having added to the well-doubted logic of that argument the still more doubtful aid of a large array of opprobrious epithets, the message, in unveiled allusion to the protective policy of the country, holds this language:
“ Most of the difficulties our government now encounters, and most of the dangers which impend over our Union, have sprung
from an abandonment of the legitimate objects of government by our national legislation, and the adoption of such principles as are embodied in this act. Many of our rich men have not been content with equal protection and equal benefits, but have besought us to make them richer by act of Con. gress. By attempting to gratify their desires, we have, in the results of
our legislation, arrayed section against section, interest against interest, and man against man, in a fearful commotion which threatens to shake the foundations of our Union. It is time to pause in our career, to review our principles, and, if possible, revive that devoted patriotism and spirit of compromise which distinguished the sages of the Revolution and the fathers of our Union. If we cannot at once, in justice to interests vested under improvident legislation, make our government what it ought to be, we can at least take a stand against all new grants of monopolies and exclusive privileges, against any prostitution of our government to the advancement of the few at the expense of the many, and in favor of compromise and gradual reform in our code of laws and system of political economy."
Here, then, we have the whole creed. Our national legislature has abandoned the legitimate objects of government. It has adopted such principles as are embodied in the bank charter; and these principles are elsewhere called objectionable, odi. ous, and unconstitutional. All this has been done, because rich men have besought the government to render them richer by acts of Congress. It is time to pause in our career. It is time to review these principles. And if we cannot at once MAKE OUR GOVERNMENT WHAT IT OUGHT TO BE, we can, at least, take a stand against new grants of power and privilege.
The plain meaning of all this is, that our protecting laws are founded in an abandonment of the legitimate objects of government; that this is the great source of our difficulties; that it is time to stop in our career, to review the principles of these laws, and, as soon as we can, MAKE OUR GOVERNMENT WHAT IT OUGHT
No one can question, Mr. President, that these paragraphs, from the last official publication of the President, show that, in his opinion, the tariff, as a system designed for protection, is not only impolitic, but unconstitutional also. They are quite incapa. ble of any other version or interpretation. They defy all explanation, and all glosses.
Sir, however we may differ from the principles or the policy of the administration, it would, nevertheless, somewhat satisfy our pride of country, if we could ascribe to it the character of consistency. It would be grateful if we could contemplate the President of the United States as an identical idea. But even this secondary pleasure is denied to us. In looking to the pub
lished records of executive opinions, sentiments favorable to protection and sentiments against protection either come confusedly before us, at the same moment, or else follow each other in rapid succession, like the shadows of a phantasmagoria.
Having read an extract from the veto message, containing the statement of present opinions, allow me to read another extract from the annual message of 1830. It will be perceived, that in that message both the clear constitutionality of the tariff laws, and their indispensable policy, are maintained in the fullest and strongest manner. The argument on the constitutional point is stated with more than common ability; and the policy of the laws is affirmed in terms importing the deepest and most settled conviction. We hear in this message nothing of improvident legislation; nothing of the abandonment of the legitimate objects of government; nothing of the necessity of pausing in our career and reviewing our principles; nothing of the necessity of changing our government, till it shall be made what it ought to be. But let the message speak for itself.
“ The power to impose duties on imports originally belonged to the several States. The right to adjust those duties with a view to the encouragement of domestic branches of industry is so completely incidental to that power, that it is difficult to suppose the existence of the one without the other. The States have delegated their whole authority over imports to the general government, without limitation or restriction, saving the very inconsiderable reservation relating to their inspection laws. This authority having thus entirely passed from the States, the right to exercise it for the purpose of protection does not exist in them; and consequently, if it be not possessed by the general government, it must be extinct. Our political system would thus present the anomaly of a people stripped of the right to foster their own industry, and to counteract the most selfish and destructive policy which might be adopted by foreign nations. This surely cannot be the case; this indispensable power, thus surrendered by the States, must be within the scope of the authority on the subject expressly delegated to Congress.
“In this conclusion I am confirmed, as well by the opinions of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, who have each repeatedly recommended the exercise of this right under the Constitution, as by the uniform practice of Congress, the continued acquiescence of the States, and the general understanding of the people.
“ I am well aware that this is a subject of so much delicacy, on account of the extended interests it involves, as to require that it should be touched with the utmost caution; and that, while an abandonment of the policy in which it originated, a policy coeval with our government, pursued through successive administrations, is neither to be expected nor desired, the people have a right to demand, and have demanded, that it be so modified as to correct abuses and obviate injustice.”
Mr. President, no one needs to point out inconsistencies plain and striking as these. The message of 1830 is a well-written
, paper; it proceeded, probably, from the cabinet proper. Whence the veto message of 1832 proceeded, I know not; perhaps from the cabinet improper.
But, Sir, there is an important record of an earlier date than 1830. If, as the President avers, we have been guilty of improvident legislation, what act of Congress is the most striking instance of that improvidence ? Certainly it is the act of 1824. · The principle of protection, repeatedly recognized before that time, was, by that act, carried to a new and great extent; so new and so great, that the act was considered as the foundation of the system. That law it was which conferred on the distinguished citizen, whose nomination for President this meeting has received with so much enthusiasm, (Mr. Clay,) the appellation of the “Author of the American System.” Accordingly, the act of 1824 has been the particular object of attack, in all the warfare waged against the protective policy. If Congress ever abandoned legitimate objects of legislation in favor of protection, it did so by that law. If any laws now on the statute-book, or which ever were there, show, by their character as laws of protection, that our government is not what it ought to be, and that it ought to be altered, and, in the language of the veto message, made what it ought to be, the law of 1824 is the very law which, more than any and more than all others, makes good that assertion. And yet, Sir, the President of the United States, then a Senator in Congress, voted for that law! And, though I have not recurred to the journal, my recollection is, that, as to some of its provisions, his support was essential to their success. It will be found, I think, that some of its enact
, ments, and those now most loudly complained of, would have failed, but for his own personal support of them by his own vote.
After all this, it might have been hoped that there would be, in 1832, some tolerance of opinion toward those who cannot