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PEPEAL OF TIIE SALT TAX.
and for which I still have the affections which ernments work alike on the imposition and ronone but the wicked ever lose for the land of their lease of taxes-easy to get them on in a time of birth: and I felt as they did in all that relates necessity-hard to get them off when the necesto the tariff-except their remedy. But enough sity has passed. So of this first war tax on for the present. The occasion will come, when salt. The "speck of war with France, visible we arrive at the nractical application of the mo- above the horizon in ’98, soon sunk below it; dern nullification doctrine, to vindicate the con- and the sunshine of peace prevailed. In the stitution from the political solecism of containing year 1800-two years after the duty was raised within itself a suicidal principle, and to vindi- to its maximum—the countries were on the most cate the Virginia resolutions, and their authors friendly terms; but it was not until 1807, and (and, in their own language), from the “anarchi- under the whole power of Mr. Jefferson's adcal and preposterous" interpretation which has ministration, that this temporary tax was abolbeen put upon their words.
ished; and with it the whole system of fishing bounties and allowances founded
it. In the war of 1812, at the commencement of the war with Great Britain, it was renewed, with its concomitant of fishing bounties and
allowances; but still as a temporary measure, CHAPTER XLV.
limited to the termination of the war which induced it, and one year thereafter. The war ter
minated in 1815, and the additional year expired A tax on Salt is au odious measure, hated by in 1816; but before the year was out, the tax all people and in all time, and justly, because was continued, not for a definite period, but being an article of prime necessity, indispensable without time-on the specious argument that, to man and to beast, and bountifully furnished if a time was fixed, it would be difficult to get it them by the Giver of all good, the cost should off before the time was out: but if unfixed, it not be burthened, nor the use be stinted by gov- would be easy to get it off at any time: and all ernment regulation; and the principles of fair agreed that that was to be soon-that a tempotaxation would require it to be spared, because rary continuance of all the taxes was necessary it is an agent, and a great one, in the develop- until the revenue, deranged by the war, should ment of many branches of agricultural and me- become regular and adequate. It was continued chanical industry which add to the wealth of on this specious argument—and remained in full the country and produce revenue from the ex- until General Jackson's administration-and, in ports and consumption to which they give rise. part, until this day (1850)—the fishing bounPeople hate the salt tax, because they are obliged ties and allowances in full: and that is the workto have the salt, and cannot evade the tax: gov- ing of all governments in the levy and repeal of eruments love the tax for the same reason-be- taxes. I found the salt tax in full force when I cause people are obliged to pay it. This would came to the Senate in 1820, strengthened by seem to apply to governments despotic or mo- time, sustained by a manufacturing interest, and narchial, and not to those which are representa- by the fishing interest (which made the tax a tive and popular. But representative govern- source of profit in the supposed return of the ments sometimes have calamities-war for exam- duty in the shape of bounties and allowances): ple—when subjects of taxation diminish as need and by the whole American system; which took for revenue increases: and then representa- the tax into its keeping, as a protection to a tire governments, like others, must resort to the branch of home industry. I found efforts being objects which will supply its necessities. This made in each House to suppress this burthen has twice been the case with the article of salt upon a prime necessary of life; and, in the sesin the United States. The duty on that article sion 1829–30, delivered a speech in support was carried up to a high tax in the quasi war of the laudable endeavor, of which these are with France (1798), having been small before; some parts: and then only imposed as a war measure—to “ Mr. Benton commenced his speech, by saycease as soon as the war was over. But all goy-ling that he was no advocate for unprofitable de
bate, and had no ambition to add his name to it got to the consumer, each had his profit upon the catalogue of barren orators; but that there it; and whenever this profit amounted to fifty were cases in which speaking did good ; cases in per cent. upon the duty, it was upwards of one which moderate abilities produced great results; hundred per cent. upon the salt. Then, the and he believed the question of repealing the tariff laws have deprived the consumer of thirtysalt tax to be one of those cases. It had cer- four pounds in the bushel, by substituting weight tainly been so in England. There the salt tax for measure, and that weight a false one. The had been overthrown by the labors of plain men, true weight of a measured bushel of alum salt under circumstances much more unfavorable to is eighty-four pounds; but the British tariff their undertaking than exist here. The English laws, for the sake of multiplying the bushels salt tax had continued one hundred and fifty and increasing the product of the tax, substiyears. It was cherished by the ministry, to tuted weight for measure; and our tariff laws whom it yielded a million and a half sterling of copied after them, and adopted their standard revenue ; it was defended by the domestic salt of fifty-six pounds to the bushel. makers, to whom it gave a monopoly of the “Mr. B. entered into statistical details, to show home market; it was consecrated by time, hav- the aggregate amount of this tax, which he stating subsisted for five generations; it was forti- ed to be enormous, and contrary to every princified by the habits of the people, who were born, ple of taxation, even if taxes were so necessary and had grown gray under it; and it was sanc- as to justify the taxing of salt. He stated the tioned by the necessities of the State, which re- importation of foreign salt, in 1829, at six milquired every resource of rigorous taxation. Yet lions of bushels, round numbers; the value seren it was overthrown; and the overthrow was ef- hundred and fifteen thousand dollars, and the fected by two debates, conducted, not by the tax at twenty cents a bushel, one million two orators whose renown has filled the world—not hundred thousand dollars, the merchant's profit by Sheridan, Burke, Pitt, and Fox-but by plain, upon that duty at fifty per cent. is six hundred business men-Mr. Calcraft, Mr. Curwen, and thousand dollars; and the secret or hidden tax, Mr. Egerton. These patriotic members of the in the shape of false weight for true measure, at British Parliament commenced the war upon the the rate of thirty pounds in the bushel, was four British salt tax in 1817, and finished it in 1822. hundred and fifty thousand dollars. llere, then, They commenced with the omens and auspices is taxation to the amount of about two millions all against them, and ended with complete suc- and a quarter of dollars, upon an article costing cess. They abolished the salt tax in toto. They seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and swept it all off, bravely rejecting all compro- that article one of prime necessity and universal mises when they had got their adversaries half use, ranking next after bread, in the catalogus vanquished, and carrying their appeals home to of articles for human subsistence. the people, until they had roused a spirit before “ The distribution of this enormous tax upon which the ministry quailed, the monopolizers the different sections of the Union, was the next trembled, the Parliament gave way, and the tax object of Mr. B.'s inquiry; and, for this purpose, fell. This example is encouraging; it is full of he viewed the Union under three great divisions consolation and of hope; it shows what zeal and the Northeast, the South, and the West. To perseverance can do in a good cause: it shows the northeast, and especially to some parts of it
, that the cause of truth and justice is triumphant he considered the salt tax to be no burthen, but when its advocates are bold and faithful. It rather a benefit and a money-making business, leads to the conviction that the American salt The fishing allowances and bounties produced tax will fall as the British tax did, as soon as this effect. In consideration of the salt duty, the the people shall see that its continuance is a curers and exporters of fish are allowed money burthen to them, without adequate advantage to out of the treasury, to the amount, as it was the government, and that its repeal is in their intended, of the salt duty paid by them ; but it own hands.
has been proved to be twice as much. The an“ The enormous amount of the tax was the nual allowance is about two hundred and fifty first point to which Mr. B. would direct his at-thousand dollars, and the aggregate drawn from tention. He said it was near three hundred per the treasury since the first imposition of the salt cent. upon Liverpool blown, and four hundred duty in 1789, is shown by the treasury returns per cent. upon alum salt; but as the Liverpool to be five millions of dollars. Much of this is was a very inferior salt, and not much used in drawn by undue means, as is shown by the rethe West, he would confine his observations to port of the Secretary of the Treasury, at the the salt of Portugal and the West Indies, called commencement of the present session, page eight by the general name of alum. The import price of the annual report on the finances. The Northof this salt was from eight to nine cents a bush-east makes much salt at home, and chiefly by •el of fifty-six pounds cach, and the duty upon solar evaporation, which fits it for curing fish that bushel was twenty cents. Ilere was a tax and provisions. Much of it is proved, by the of upwards of two hundred per cent. Then the returns of the salt makers, to be used in the fishmerchant had his profit upon the duty as well eries, while the fisheries are drawing money from as the cost of the article: and when it went the treasury under the laws which intended to through the hands of several merchants before indemnify them for the duty paid on foreigu salt.
To this section of the Union, then, the salt tax beef, pork, bacon, cheese, and butter, is prodigiis not felt as a burthen.
ous, and the foreign salt re-exported upon the “Let us proceed to the South. In this section whole of it. there are but few salt works, and no bounties or “Mr. B. then argued, with great warmth, that allowances, as there are no fisheries. The con- the provision curers and exporters were entitled sumers are thrown almost entirely upon the to the same bounties and allowances with the exforeign supply, and chiefly use the Liverpool porters of fish. The claims of each rested upon blown. The import price of this is about fifteen the same principle, and upon the principle of all cents a bushel ; the weight and strength is less drawbacks—that of a reimbursement of the duty than that of alum salt; and the tax falls heavily which was paid on the imported salt when re-exand directly upon the people, to the whole amount ported on fish and provisions. The same princiof their consumption. It is a heavy burthen ple covers the beef and pork of the farmer, which upon the South.
covers the fish of the fisherman; and such was “ The West is the last section to be viewed, the law in the beginning. The first act of Conand it will be found to be the true seat of the gress, in the year 1789, which imposed a duty most oppressive operations of the salt tax. The upon salt, allowed a bounty, in lieu of a drawdomestic supply is high in price, deficient in back, on beef and pork exported, as well as fish. quantity, and altogether unfit for one of the The bounty was the same in each case ; it was greatest purposes for which salt is there wanted five cents a quintal on dried fish, five cents a -curing provisions for exportation. A foreign barrel on pickled fish, and five on beef and pork. supply is indispensable, and alum salt is the kind | As the duty on salt was increased, the bounties used. The import price of this kind, from the and allowances were increased also. Fish and West Indies, is nine cents a bushels; from Port- salted beef and pork fared alike for the first ugal, eight cents a bushel. At these prices, the twenty years. West could be supplied with this saīt at New “ They fared alike till the revival of the salt Orleans, if the duty was abolished; but, in con- tax at the commencement of the late war. Then sequence of the duty, it costs thirty-seven and a they parted company; bounties and allowances half cents per bushel there, being four times the were continued to the fisheries, and dropped on import price of the article, and seventy-five cents beef and pork; and this has been the case ever per bushel at Louisville and other central parts since. The exporters of fish are now drawing at of the valley of the Mississippi. This enormous the rate of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars price, resolved into its component parts, is thus per annum, as a reimbursement for their salt tax; made up: 1. Eight or nine cents a bushel for while exporters of provisions draw nothing. The the salt. 2. Twenty cents for duty. 3. Eight aggregate of the fishing bounties and allowances, or ten cents for merchant's profit at New Orleans. actually drawn from the treasury, exceeds five 4. Sixteen or seventeen cents for freight to Lou- millions of dollars; while the exporters of proişvile. 5. Fifteen or twenty cents for the second visions, who get nothing, would have been enmerchant's profit, who counts his per centum on titled to draw a greater sum; for the export in liis whole outlay. In all, about seventy-five cents salted provisions exceeds the value of exported for a bushel of fifty pounds, which, if there was fish. no duty, and the tariff regulations of weight for “Mr. B. could not quit this part of his submeasure abolished, would be bought in New Or-ject, without endeavoring to fix the attention of leans, by the measured bushel of eighty pounds the Senate upon the provision trade of the West. weight, for eight or nine cents, and would be He took this trade in its largest sense, as includbrought up the river, by steamboats, at the rate ing the export trade of beef, pork, bacon, cheese, of thirty-three and a third cents per hundred and butter, to foreign countries, especially the weight. It thus appears that the salt tax falls West Indies; the domestic trade to the Lower heaviest upon the West. It is an error to sup- Mississippi and the Southern States; the neighpose that the South is the greatest sufferer. The borhood trade, as supplying the towns in the upWest wants it for every purpose the South does, per States, the miners in Missouri and the Upper and two great purposes besides-curing provision Mississippi, the army and the navy; and the for export, and salting stock. The West uses various professions, which, being otherwise emalum salt, and on this the duty is heaviest, be-ployed, did not raise their own provisions. The cause the price is lower, and the weight greater. amount of this trade, in this comprehensive view, Twenty cents on salt which costs eight or nine was prodigious, and annually increasing, and incents a bushel is a much heavier duty than on volving in its current almost the entire population that which costs fifteen cents; and then the de- of the West, either as the growers and makers ception in the substitution of weight for measure of the provisions, the curers, exporters, or conis much greater in alum salt, which weighs so sumers. The amount could scarcely be ascermuch more than the Liverpool blown. Like the tained. What was exported from New Orleans South, the West receives no bounties or allow- Was shown to be great; but it was only a fracances on account of the salt duties. This may tion of the whole trade. He declared it to be enbe fair in the South, where the imported salt is titled to the favorable consideration of Congress, not re-exported upon fish or provisions; but it is and that the repeal of the salt duty was the unfair in the est, where the exportation of greatest favor, if an act of justice ought to come
under the name of favor, which could be ren- year (1829) as shown in the returns to the Secdered it, as the salt was necessary in growing retary of the Treasury, is about five millions of the hogs and cattle, as well as in preparing the bushels; the importation of foreign salt, for the beef and pork for market. A reduction in the same period, as shown by the custom-house reprice of salt, next to a reduction in the price of turns, is five million nine hundred and forty-five land, was the greatest blessing which the federal thousand five hundred and forty-seven bushels. government could now confer upon the West. This shows the consumption to be eleven milMr. B. referred to the example of England, who lions of bushels, of which five are domestic. favored her provision crrers, and permitted them Here the failure in the essential particular of an to import alum salt free of duty, for the encou- adequate supply is more than one half. In the ragement of the provision trade, even when her next place, how is it in point of price? Is the own salt manufacturers were producing an abun- domestic article furnished as cheap as the dant and superfluous supply of common salt. foreign ? Far from it, as alrendy shown, and He showed that she did more"; that she extend still further, as can be shown. The price of the ed the same relief and encouragement to the domestic, along the coast of the Atlantic States, Irish ; and he read from the British statute book varies, at the works, from thirty-seven and a an act of the British Parliament, passed in 1807, half to fifty cents; in the interior, the usual entitled "An act to encourage the export of prices, at the works, are from thirty-three and a salted beef and pork from Ireland, which allow- third cents to one dollar for the bushel of fifty ed a bounty of ten pence sterling on every hund- pounds, which can nearly be put into a half red weight of beef and pork so exported, in con- bushel measure. The prices of the foreign salt, sideration of the duty paid on the salt which at the import cities, as shown in the customwas used in the curing of it. He stated, that, house returns for 1829, are, for the Liverpool at a later period, the duty had been entirely re- blown, about fifteen cents for the bushel of fifty. pealed, and the Irish, in common with other six pounds; for Turk’s Island and other West British subjects, allowed a free trade with all India salt, about nine cents; for St. Ubes and the world, in salt; and then demanded, in the other Portugal salt, about eight cents; for Spanmost emphatic manner, if the people of the West ish salt, Bay of Biscay and Gibraltar, about could not obtain from the American Congress seven cents; from the Island of Malta, six cents. the justice which the oppressed Irish had pro- Leaving out the Liverpool salt, which is made cured from a British Parliament, composed of by boiling, and, therefore, contains slack and hereditary nobles, and filled with representa- bittern, a septic ingredient, which promotes putretives of rotten boroughs, and slavish retainers faction, and renders that salt unfit for curing of the king's ministers.
provisions, and which is not used in the West
. “The American system has taken the salt and the average price of the strong, pure, alum tax under its shelter and protection. The prin- salt, made by solar evaporation, in hot climates, ciples of that system, as I understand them, and is about eight cents to the bushel. Here, then, practise upon them, are to tax, through the cus- is another lamentable failure. Instead of being tom house, the foreign rivals of our own essential sold as cheap as the foreign, the domestic salt is productions, when, by that taxation, an adequate from four to twelve times the price of alum salt. supply of the same article, as good and as cheap, The last inquiry is as to the quality of the can be made at home. These were the princi- domestic article. Is it as good as the foreign ? ples of the system (Mr. B. said) when he was This is the most essential application of the test: initiated, and, if they had changed since, he had and here again the failure is decisive. The donot changed with them; and he apprehended a mestic salt will not cure provisions for exportapromulgation of the change would produce a tion (the little excepted which is made, in the schism amongst its followers. Taking these to be Northeast, by solar evaporation), nor for conthe principles of the system, let the salt tax be sumption in the South, nor for long keeping at brought to its test. In the first place, the do- the army posts, nor for voyages with the navy. mestic manufacture had enjoyed all possible pro- For all these purposes it is worthless, and use tection. The duty was near three hundred per less, and the provisions which are put up in it cent. on Liverpool salt, and four hundred upon are lost, or have to be repacked, at a great esalum salt; and to this must be added, so far as pense, in alum salt. This fact is well known relates to all the interior manufactories, the pro- throughout the West, where too many citizens tection arising from transportation, frequently have paid the penalty of trusting to domestie equal to two or three hundred per cent. more. salt, to be duped or injured by it any longer. This great and excessive protection has been en- “And here he submitted to the Senate, that joyed, without interruption, for the last eighteen the American system, without a gross departure years, and partially for twenty years longer. from its original principles, could not cover this This surely is time enough for the trial of a man- duty any longer. It has had the full benefit of ufacture which requires but little skill or expe- that system in high duties, imposed for a long rience to carry it on. Now for the results. Have time, on foreign salt; it had not produced an the domestic manufactories produced an ade- adequate supply for the country, nor half a supquate supply for the country? They have not ; ply; nor at as cheap a rate, by three hundred or nor half enough. The production of the last one thousand per cent. ; and what it did supply,
so far from being equal in quantity, could not the revenue, one million five hundred thousand even be used as a substitute for the great and pounds sterling, derived from the salt tax; and important business of the provision trade. The with a threat to lay that amount upon someamount of so much of that trade as went to for-thing else, if it was taken off of salt. All would eign countries, Mr. B. showed to be sixty-six not do. Mr. Calcraft, and his friends, appealed thousand barrels of beef, fifty-four thousand to the rights and interests of the people, as overbarrels of pork, two millions of pounds of bacon, ruling considerations in questions of taxation. two millions of pounds of butter, and one million They denounced the tax itself as little less than of pounds of cheese; and he considered the sup- impiety, and an attack upon the goodness and ply for the army and navy, and for consumption wisdom of God, who had filled the bowels of the in the South, to exceed the quantity exported. earth, and the waves of the sea, with salt for the
"It cannot be necessary here to dilate upon use and blessing of man, and to whom it was dethe uses of salt. But, in repealing that duty in nied, its use clogged and fettered, by odious and England, it was thought worthy of notice that abominable taxes. They demanded the whole salt was necessary to the health, growth, and repeal; and when the ministry and the manufattening of hogs, cattle, sheep, and horses; that facturers, overpowered by the voice of the peoit was a preservative of hay and clover, and re- ple, offered to give up three fourths of the tax, stored moulded and flooded hay to its good and they bravely resisted the proposition, stood out wholesome state, and made even straw and chaff for total repeal, and carried it. available as food for cattle. The domestic salt "Mr. B.could not doubt a like result here, and makers need not speak of protection against alum he looked forward, with infinite satisfaction, to salt. No quantity of duty will keep it out. The the era of a free trade in salt. The first effect people must have it for the provision trade; and of such a trade would be, to reduce the price of the duty upon that kind of salt is a grievous alum salt, at the import cities, to eight or nine burthen upon them, without being of the least cents a bushel. The second effect would be, a advantage to the salt makers.
return to the measured bushel, by getting rid "Mr. B. said, there was no argument which of the tariff" regulation, which substituted weight could be used here, in favor of continuing this for measure, and reduced eighty-four pounds to duty, which was not used, and used in vain, in fifty. The third effect would be, to establish a England; and many were used there, of much great trade, carried on by barter, between the real force, which cannot be used here. The inhabitants of the United States and the people American system, by name, was not impressed of the countries which produce alum salt, to the into the service of the tax there, but its doctrines infinite advantage and comfort of both parties. were; and he read a part of the report of the He examined the operation of this barter at committee on salt duties, in 1817, to prove it. New Orleans. He said, this pure and superior It was the statement of the agent of the British salt, made entirely by solar evaporation, came salt manufacturers, Mr. William Horne, who from countries which were deficient in the was sworn and examined as a witness. He said: articles of food, in which the West abounded. 'I will commence by referring to the evidence I It came from the West Indies, from the coasts gave upon the subject of rock salt, in order to of Spain and Portugal, and from places in the establish the presumption of the national im- Mediterranean; all of which are at this time portance of the salt trade, arising from the large consumers of American provisions, and take extent of British capital employed in the trade, from us beef, pork, bacon, rice, corn, corn meal, and the considerable number of persons depend- flour, potatoes, &c. Their salt costs them almost ant upon it for support. I, at the same time, nothing. It is made on the sea beach by the stated that the salt trade was in a very depressed power of the sun, with little care and aid from state, and that it continued to fall off. I think man. It is brought to the United States as it cannot be doubted that the salt trade, in com- ballast, costing nothing for the transportation mon with all staple British manufactures, is en- across the sea. The duty alone prevents it from titled to the protection of government; and the coming to the United States in the most unBritish manufacturers of salt consider that, in bounded quantity. Remove the duty, and the common with other manufacturers of this coun- trade would be prodigious. A bushel of corn is try, they are entitled to such protection, in par- worth more than a sack of salt to the halfticular from a competition at home with foreign starved people to whom the sea and the sun manufacturers; and, in consequence, they hope give as much of this salt as they will rake up to see a prohibitory duty on foreign salt.' and pack away. The levee at New Orleans
"Such was the petition of the British manu- would be covered—the warehouses would be facturers. They urged the amount of their cap- crammed with salt; the barter trade would beital, the depressed state of their business, the come extensive and universal, a bushel of corn, number of persons dependent upon it for sup- or of potatoes, a few pounds of butter, or a few port, the duty of the government to protect it, pounds of beef or pork, would purchase a sack the necessity for a prohibitory duty on foreign of salt; the steamboats would bring it up for a salt, and the fact that they were making more trifle; and all the upper States of the Great than the country could consume. The ministry Valley, where salt is so scarce, so dear, and so backed them with a call for the continuance of indispensable for rearing stock and curing pro