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The tariff of duties, fixed at the first session of Congress, was arranged with an explicit reference to the encouragement both of agriculture and manufactures. The debates on this subject are important, as showing distinctly the opinions entertained on this subject, and entertained unanimously, by the members of that illustrious body. Many of these men had taken an active part in the formation of the great charter, under which they were assembled. Many others had borne a share in the warm and full discussions, to which it had been subjected, in the convention of the States, by which it had been ratified. Must they not have been well qualified to judge of the nature and extent of the powers with which they were vested, and of the duties devolved . them? Certainly they must. It is impossible to conceive of circumstances more favourable to the formation of correct views, than those in which they were placed. And there is little reason to expect ever again to witness an assemblage of men more likely to avail themselves of the advantages they possessed; of men more wise to discern, or more honest to pursue, the path of duty. Yet there seems to have been in their minds not the shadow of a doubt, with regard to their right to legislate on this subject The doctrine so confidently promulgated at the present time, that the power to impose duties cannot be taken in any other sense than “as the means to a single end—and that end revenue,” seems to have been wholly unknown to these statesmen. It is a discovery of far more recent date. Not the slightest vestige of it is to be found in these debates. Not a solitary objection, so far as we can now discover, was made to the Tariff on this ground. . The opinion appears to have been perfectly unanimous, that the principle of laying imposts for the erpress purpose of protecting and encouraging domestic industry, was sound and constitutional. The expediency of including this or the other article in the regulations to be adopted; and the rate of duty proper to be imposed for their encouragement, formed the topics of debate. Pressing as were the wants of the Government at this time—with both a treasury and a credit to be created—the consideration of a revenue to be derived from the imposts to be laid, seems actually to have occupied their minds less than that of the protection they ought to afford to the great interests of agriculture and manufactures; those interests which it is now deemed “usurpation’ to foster.
How are these unquestionable facts to be accounted for? How, but on the supposition, that these men acted on the conviction, that the grant of powers to regulate commerce, carried with it, by necessay implication, a similar power in regard to manufactures?, That they did act on this conviction, is too clear to be disputed. Their language and their measures testify alike to this poist. No one pretends that there is any specific grant of power in the Constitution, in regard to these interests. Yet a doubt with respect to their right to exercise it, seems never to have entered their minds. The idea of either questioning or defending this right, is not once intimated in the course of the debate; though there were present individuals of both the great political par. ties—if parties they ought to be denominated; among who little of the spirit of party was yet to be found, which then divided the country —Federalists and anti-federalists; or, as they might now be characterized, the friends of the National and those of the State Gov. How happened it, that no one of the latter class, at least, perceive
that they were treading upon forbidden ground. Why was not this objection, fatal as it is now deemed to the whole tariff policy, suggested then, while the first step had not yet been taken, and a precedent so mischievous not yet established? There certainly must, on your principles, have been a strange blindness of mind, or a strange derelection of duty, on the part of these men. That Congress have not the right to impose duties for any other purpose than that of revenue, is now regarded by a certain class of politicians, as a maxim so plain, that “he who runs may read it.” Yet these men, who would naturally watch, and who certainly did watch, with no little jealousy, the first movements of a machine, which they regarded as fraught with danger, permitted the first steps of Government to be taken in open and direct violation of this maxim, without a single effort to arrest its course. I should be gratified to know what solution you could give of this procedure. They were not taken by surprise. The principle of protecting home manufactures by commercial restrictions, was either avowed or distinctly recognised, by every one who spoke on the subject. The remarks of Mr. MADison, quoted in a former number, in reference to another point, are too striking in themselves, and too pertinent to the present purpose, to be omitted. “The States,” he remarks, “by accepting this Constitution, have thrown the exercise of this power— the power to protect manufactures—into other hands. They must have done this with an expectation that those interests would not be neglected here.” “While they retained the power of regulating trade, they had it in their power to cherish these institutions”—that is to say JManufactures. These last expressions are very remarkable. While the States retained the power of regulating trade, they retained the power of protecting manufactures. It is impossible that any language could more clearly and unequivocally assert the doctrine for which I am contending, that the former power necessarily includes the latter. The same idea is implied in the former part of the quotation. By accepting the Constitution, the States had thrown the power of protecting their manufactures into other hands. How had they thrown this power into other hands, by accepting the Constitution? The Constitution is silent on the subject of protecting manufactures, unless indeed we are to make an exception in favour of your novel doctrine concerning patents. The term manufactures, is not to be found in the instrument. How then, I ask again, did this power pass from the States to the General Government? By implication, most assuredly; in Mr. MADison’s opinion, at least, and in the wnanimous opinion of the members of the first Congress. In retaining the power to regulate commerce, they retained this; by relinquishing that, they relinquished this. It is impossible that any other answer should be given. It may be, indeed, that these men were mistaken; both those who wished, and those who dreaded, to strengthen the hands of the Government. It may be, that they did not understand the true principles of the charter they had formed; and that the discovery of these was reserved for our times. Be this as it may, it is quite certain, that their construction of the Constitution in this respect, was widely different from yours. Which is the more likely to be correct, I am willing to leave for others to decide. I only add, at present, that, on this construction
of the Constitution, the Government has stedfastly and uniformly act
ed, from 1789 to 1826; nor, so far as I can discover, was the correct
ness of this construction ever called in question, prior to 1824. These facts speak for themselves.
I have said, that our commercial system was formed, at first, on the avowed principle of affording protection to domestic industry. This is undeniable. I have already referred to the debates in the first Congress on this subject, but I must be indulged in some further quotations from the same quarter. Mr. CLYMER “ did not object to this mode of encouraging manufactures and obtaining revenue, by combining the two objects into one bill : he was satisfied that a political necessity existed for both the one and the other.” He “hoped gentlemen would be disposed to extend a degree of patronage to a manufacture, which a moment's reflection would convince them was highly worthy of protection.” Mr. CARRoll “moved to insert window glass. If the Legislature were to grant a small encouragement to this manufacture, it would be permanently established.” Mr. WADsworth, “by moderating the duties we shall obtain revenue, and give that protection to manufactures that is intended.” Mr. AMEs, speaking of the manufacture of nails, “hoped the committee would concur in laying on a small protecting duty in favour of this article. Mr. Fitzsimons “was willing to allow a small duty, because it was the policy of the States, who thought it proper in this manner to protect the manufactures.” Mr. HARTLEy, “I think it both politic and just, that the fostering hand of the General Government should be extended to all those manufactures, which will tend to national utility. I take it to be the policy of every enlightened nation, to give their manufactures the degree of encouragement necessary to perfect them.” Mr. WHITE, “in order to charge specified articles so as to encourage our domestic ones, it will be necessary, &c.” Mr. Boudinot was “in favour of adding such protecting duties as were necessary to support the manufactures established, &c.” Mr. SINNickson “was a friend to this manufacture, (Beer) and thought if a duty was laid high enough to effect a prohibition, the mahufacture would increase, &c.” It is surely unnecessary to extend this array of names further, though it might easily be done. The opinion entertained by these men with regard to their constitutional powers in relation to this subject, is too clear to admit the shadow of a doubt. We have, in the regulations adopted at this very session, their own authoritative comments on this part of the constitution; comments, which one may well be pardoned for regarding with some degree of deference and respect. For my own part, I confess there seems to me a stronger probability of their correctness, arising out of the peculiar circumstances of the case,
than can be claimed for the modern discoveries of BRUTUs and Doctor Cooper." The opinions of Gen. WASHINGToN, on this point, are notorious; and the same opinions have been entertained by each of his successors in office, to the present time. To these may be added the highest names that our own State can boast; I will mention but one. The late Mr. LowNDEs, of whose admirable character one of the finest traits was the perfect directness and simplicity of his intellect; his freedom from all those passions that discolour, and those prejudices which obscure, the mental vision, was Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means in 1816, and gave to the Tariff then adopted, the whole influence of his character and talents. In the course of the debate, he remarked, that “in his opinion the manufacture of woollens, and especially of blankets, required a decided present protection.” “So PELHAM thought—think better if you can.” Had this lamented statesman been spared till the present time, he might not, indeed, have been in favour of the alterations in the Tariff now proposed; but, surely, he would not have opposed them on the ground of their being unconstitutional. His opinions, at least, on great questions of political law, would not have been determined by the Calendar. It is worthy of particular observation, that during the whole course of the debate on this subject, in 1816, the constitutional objection was never raised. The bill was opposed on other grounds; but this argument was reserved for the penetration of more recent times to discover. Here the case might safely be rested. One would think this view were sufficient to settle the question forever. Higher authority, a more powerful array of names, cannot be adduced in support of any point whatever. And, in addition to this, we have the uniform and settled practice of the Government. This, it cannot be too often repeated, cannot be wrong. It is right, for this very reason, that it is uniform and settled. There is no paradox, nor sophistry, in the proposition. It rests on a firm principle, as well of political as municipal law; that it is more im
portant that a rule "... than that it be abstractly correct. But this
construction of the Constitution is both. I have shown, as I think, that it is correct in itself; and it is settled in the practice of the Legislature. This practice constitutes a series of precedents that cannot be set aside. They must stand, and be regarded as constitutional law, in all time to come. r In every point of view, then, I contend it is too late to call this principle in question. The ground it occupies is no longer debateable land. Succeeding Legislatures may exercise their discretion with regard to pursuing this course. They may, if they think the public good requires it, repeal, and sweep away the whole system of our tariff regulations—but, not because it is unconstitutional. It will not do to bring forward a doctrine, at this time of day, which goes to nullify the legislation of forty years. Heaven shield us from such principles of reform as these. They would throw the whole course of affairs into utter confusion, and render the Constitution worse than useless. They would make it the mere sport of the prevalent passion, or caprice of the day. Instead of a beacon to guide, it would be a meteor-light to mock and bewilder our pursuit. The course pursued—the doctrines inculcated, by you, and others, who are stirring the public mind on this subject, appear to me most strange and unintelligle. You first lay down a principle of construction, which would nullify the powers which you acknowledge to be correct. A principle, which would render any efficient legislation on the subject of commerce itself impracticable. You next admit, that the practice of the Government prior to 1816, was correct and ‘judicious,’ though in the teeth of this principle ; and then again merely on the ground of a wider extension of this practice—a mere question of more or less—you pronounce its subsequent course to be “usurpation and tyranny’—not as the abuse of a principle sound in itself—this were intelligible—but as ulterly unsound in principle, as well as incorrect and oppressive in practice. And these are the doctrines offered us as the practical dictates of wisdom and political philosophy. These are the profound discoveries of this,' age of reason.” These the enlarged and statesman-like views of our modern oracles. In defence of these, we are ready to assume the attitude of menace and defiance ; to throw down the gauntlet, and rush into mortal strife with the Government of the Union. It were well, I think, to have “grounds more relative,” ere we commence the struggle. Let us, at least, know what we are to contend about ; and on which side of the line we are to arrange ourselves. Let us, at least, be able to make out a consistent manifesto of our wrongs. We cannot well have both sides of the question. We cannot well resist the General Government on the ground of their pursuing a principle which, at the same time, we acknowledge to be correct. And it is demonstrable, that on the score of principle, there is not the slightest shade of difference between the practice of the Government prior to 1816, and since that time. If the former was right, the latter cannot be wrong. If it was right to encourage manufactures, prior to 1816, by means of commercial regulations—by means of imposts on foreign articles, laid for the express purpose of giving to similar articles of home production an advantage in the market, then it is right to foster our native industry by the same means now. If this course is unconstitutional now, then it has ever been so. You may take which side of the alternative you please. But you must make your election, and abide by it. It is really time that this clamour about the unconstitutionality of the tariff system, were brought to an end. There is no solid reason why it should ever have been raised. The right of the General Government to cherish the interests of Agriculture and Manufactures, in thus way, is unquestionable. Else, nothing that concerns their power is so. Any undue exercise of this right then, ought to be opposed as unwise, as inexpedient. This is the ground to be taken. This is the single consideration to be taken into view, in deciding on any proposed alterations in the commercial code. If they are injudicious ; if they are injurious to the true interests of the community, they ought not to be adopted. But, if their manifest tendency will be, to cherish industry ; to open new sources of wealth ; to promote the general diffusion of intelligence, skill and enterprise ; to render us less dependent on other nations for the means of improvement, or enjoyment; and less liable to be affected by the fluctuations of the commercial, or the shocks and convulsions of the political world; it were a dereliction of duty, as well as a want of wisdom, on the part of the Government, not to adopt 12 -