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Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 4440

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Increase of duties.]

[Sidenote: Jefferson's attitude.]

The protection controversy had hardly appeared in Congress since the memorable debate of 1789 (Section 76). From time to time the duties had been slightly increased, and in 1799 a general administrative tariff act had been passed. The wars with the Barbary powers had necessitated a slight increase of the duties, known as the Mediterranean Fund, and this had been allowed to stand. Up to the doubling of the duties in 1812 the average rate on staple imports was only from ten to fifteen per cent, and the maximum was about thirty per cent. The whole theory of the Republican administration had been that finance consisted in deciding upon the necessary expenses of government, and then in providing the taxes necessary to meet them. This theory had been disturbed by the existence of a debt which Jefferson was eager to extinguish; and he therefore permitted the duties to remain at a point where they produced much more than the ordinary expenditure of the government.

[Sidenote: The manufacturers.]

[Sidenote: The West.]

A change had now come over the country. The incidental protection afforded by the increase of duties, and then by the war, had built up manufactures, not only in New England, but in New York and Pennsylvania. In these strongholds of capital and trade there was a cry for higher duties, and it was much enforced by the attitude of the Western members. There were a few staple crops, particularly hemp and flax, which could not be produced in the face of foreign competition, and for which Western States were supposed to be adapted. Hence a double influence was at work in behalf of a protective tariff: the established industries pleaded for a continuance of the high duties which had given them an opportunity to rise; and the friends of young industries asked for new duties, in order that their enterprises might be established.

[Sidenote: Dallas's tariff bill.]

[Sidenote: Opponents.]

[Sidenote: Advocates.]

Accordingly, in February, 1816, Secretary Dallas made an elaborate report in favor of protective duties. John Randolph, who still posed as the defender of the original Republican doctrine, pr

otested. "The agriculturist," said he, "has his property, his lands, his all, his household gods to defend;" and he pointed out what was afterward to become the most effective argument against the tariff: "Upon whom bears the duty on coarse woollens and linens and blankets, upon salt and all the necessaries of life? Upon poor men and upon slaveholders." Webster, representing the commercial interest of New England, decidedly opposed the tariff, especially the minimum principle, and succeeded in obtaining a slight reduction. One of the strongest defenders of the tariff was Calhoun. Manufactures, he declared, produced an interest strictly American, and calculated to bind the widespread republic more closely together. The chief supporter of the system was Henry Clay of Kentucky, the Speaker of the House. His argument was that the country ought to be able to defend itself in time of war, It was not expected at this time that a protective tariff would become permanent. In a few years, said a committee of the House, the country would be in a condition to bid defiance to foreign competition.

[Sidenote: Protective policy.]

[Sidenote: The minimum.]

The act as passed April 27, 1816, had favorable votes in every State in the Union except Delaware and North Carolina. The opposition was strong in the South and in New England. Madison signed the bill and accepted the policy, and even Jefferson declared that "We must now place the manufacturer by the side of the agriculturist." The act imposed duties of twenty-five per cent upon cotton and woollen goods, and the highest ad valorem duty was about thirty per cent. In addition, no duty was to be less than six and a quarter cents a yard on cottons and woollens: hence as improvements in machinery caused a rapid lowering of the cost of production abroad, the duty grew heavier on coarse goods, in proportion to their value, till it was almost prohibitory. The act was accepted without any popular demonstrations against it, and remained in force, with some unimportant modifications, until 1824. One purpose undoubtedly was to show to foreign governments that the United States could discriminate against their trade if they discriminated against ours.

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