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   Chapter 139 No.139

Formation of the Union By Albert Bushnell Hart Characters: 3567

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


[Sidenote: Commercial treaties.]

[Sidenote: Woollen bill.]

In one respect Adams was successful; he negotiated almost as many commercial treaties as had been secured during the previous fifty years. Trade had sprung up with the Spanish American States. England had meanwhile begun to relax her system of protection, and encouraged manufactures by importing raw materials on very low duties; woollens were therefore so cheapened that they could again be sold in the United States in competition with American manufacturers. In October, 1826, the Boston woollen manufacturers asked "the aid of the government." A bill was accordingly introduced, which Adams would doubtless have signed, increasing the duties on coarse woollens. It passed the House in 1827, but was lost in the Senate by the casting vote of the Vice-President, Calhoun. His change of attitude is significant; it showed that the most advanced Southern statesman had abandoned the policy of protection, as he had abandoned the policy of internal improvements. The Boston petition marked another change. New England had at last settled down to manufacturing as her chief industry, and insisted on greater protection.

[Sidenote: Tariff agitation.]

The narrow failure of the Woollens Bill in 1827 encouraged a protectionist convention at Harrisburg, which suggested very high duties; but the main force behind the movement was a combination of the growers and manufacturers of wool, including many Western men. It is probable that Clay was glad to make the tariff a political issue, hoping thus to confound the anti-Adams combination.

[Sidenote: Tariff on raw materials.]

[Sidenote: The act passed.]

A new bill was reported, introducing the novel principle that the raw materials of manufactures should b

e highly protected; the purpose was evidently to frame a tariff unacceptable to New England, where Adams had his chief support, and to draw the votes of the South and West. The Western Jackson men favored it because it raised the tariff; and the Southern anti-tariff men expected to kill Adams with the bill, and then to kill the bill. They therefore voted for enormous duties: the duty on hemp was raised from $35 to $60 a ton; on wool from about thirty per cent to about seventy per cent. In vain did the Adams men attempt to reframe the bill: when it came to a vote, sixteen of the thirty-nine New England members felt compelled to accept it, with all its enormities, and it thus passed the House. Even Webster voted for it in the Senate, and his influence secured its passage. On May 24, 1828, Adams signed it. Throughout the debate the influence of the approaching campaign was seen. John Randolph said of it: "The bill referred to manufactures of no sort or kind except the manufacture of a President of the United States."

[Sidenote: Southern protests.]

Notwithstanding these political complications the South saw clearly that the act meant a continuance of the protective system. Five States at once protested in set terms against the law and against the passage by Congress of protective acts. Calhoun came forward as the champion of this movement, and he put forth an argument, known as the South Carolina Exposition, in which he suggested a convention of the State of South Carolina. "The convention will then decide in what manner they [the revenue acts] ought to be declared null and void within the limits of the State, which solemn declaration would be obligatory on our own citizens." The period of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions seemed to have returned.

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