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At length the newspapers of the period, without regard to party, began to clamor for change. Pamphleteers arose without number, and joined in the cry of necessity for a change.
the universal sentiment:-“We have had enough of freetrade. It has but one meaning for America, and that is utter neglect of ourselves and the forced sale of our energies, opportunities and resources to the older and better equipped nations. We have won political independence at a cost of seven years of war, we have yet to win the still longer battle for industrial and commercial independence, or else the victory of foreign nations over us will be greater than our recent victory over them.”
Every one saw what was patent to John Stuart Mill, and what he incorporated into his “ Principles of Political Economy," that: “What prevented the rapid recuperation of the United States, after the peace of 1783, was the system of free foreign trade, allowed to add its devastations upon industry to those of the Revolution.”
Educated by a dreadful experience, it became the conviction of all parties that the power of industrial and commercial protection, so conspicuously and fatally absent in the Articles of Confederation, must repose somewhere. No other thought impelled more powerfully toward a Union of States under a Federal Coustitution. “Four causes,” says Bancroft,“ above others, exercised a steady and commanding influence. The New Republic, as one nation, must have power to regulate its foreign commerce ; to colonize its large domain; to provide an adequate revenue ; to establish justice in domestic trade by prohibiting the separate States from impairing the obligation of contracts.”
From this time on till the Constitution became a fact, September 17, 1787, or rather, until the Government became a fact, April 30, 1789, a unanimous political and business sentiment persistently and eloquently urged a stronger government, imbued with the paternal instinct, able and willing to defend and encourage home industries and interests. State responded to State in this behalf; statesmen echoed the complaints and arguments of statesmen. Every political school joined in the pleas for industrial and commercial independence. One of the most assuring phases of the situation was the entire unanimity of artificers, mechanics and working men, who gathered in large assemblies, and by means of public speeches, whose logic was even more forcible than those of learned statesmen, and by printed resolutions of great vigor and aptness, demanded exemption from the degrading and ruinous competition forced upon them by the free and inordinate influx of foreign goods, upon whose manufacture they depended for a living.
Under these auspices the New Constitution took shape, and Clause 1 of Section VIII. provided that “Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, and to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States."
In order to achieve what was equally important in an industrial and commercial sense, viz., perfect interchange of goods and products between the States themselves, or in other words “ free-trade" between all the inhabitants of the Union, it was ordained that Congress should never have the power to levy " a tax or duty on articles exported from any State.”
Thus endowed, the New Government started on its career. The writers of the Federalist, Hamilton, Madison and others, saw in the above clauses sufficient power to remedy the evils complained of, and they eloquently assured their countrymen that the protection they demanded for their infant in dustries could now be given beyond doubt.
Says Bishop: “That the productive classes regarded the Constitution of 1787 as conferring the power and right of protection to the infant manufactures of the country is manifest from the jubilant feeling excited in various quarters upon the public ratification of that instrument.”
THE FIRST TARIFF ACT. The first petition presented to the First Congress, in March, 1789, came from 700 mechanics and tradesmen of Baltimore. It lamented the decline of manufactures since the Revolution, and prayed that the efficient Government with which they were, for the first time, blessed, would render the country "independent in fact as well as in name” by early attention to the encouragement and protection of American manufactures and by imposing on “all foreign articles which could not be made in America such duties as would give a decided preference to their labors.”
Leagues of artisans and tradesmen, merchants and manufacturers were formed in all the leading cities and industrial centres, for the purpose of urging on Congress an early interpretation of the new powers conferred by the Constitution in the interest of industry and commerce. Charleston shipwrights followed the Baltimore artisans with a powerful petition to the First Congress. Similar petitions came in from Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
As already stated, the universal sentiment of the hour was that the Constitution gave Congress ample power to regulate commerce by a tariff for revenue, for protection or for prohibition, as the case might be. The words " for the regulation of commerce” had a well-understood meaning among American statesmen. They were the words used in
English enactments when like objects were in view and • when like powers were conferred, and they had been in
terpreted so often both on the bench and in actual practice that rational dissent to their meaning was out of the question. Hamilton, Franklin, Madison, Jefferson, Monroe, accorded perfectly as to the nature of the power and the object of the clause. Gallatin said that on his entrance into public life he found but one sentiment respecting the clause among statesmen. There was then no such objection as afterwards arose, and still exists, and which is to the effect that a power to raise revenue by a tariff does not carry the power to protect home manufactures and industries.
Said Washington in his first annual message, “ The safety and interest of a free people require that they promote such manufactures as tend to render them independent of others for essentials, particularly military supplies."
The question of a tariff was thus injected into the First Congress, and became the first theme for discussion. It was a Congress which embraced many farmers, merchants and manufacturers, an industrial rather than professional Congress, though, of course, containing many illustrious lawyers, and statesmen. That first great question thrust upon it has survived all others, and is as momentous to-day as ever. The other class of questions which drew fiercer, but not more learned, discussion, such as nullification, the national bank, slavery, secession, reconstruction, has happily found a grave.
After the passage of a bill regulating the oath of office, the Congress took up the tariff bill, and it became the first general Act of the First Congress. Its preamble foreshadowed its purport: “Whereas, it is necessary for the support of the Government, for the discharge of the debt of the United States, and for the encouragement and pro
tection of manufactures, that duties be laid on imported goods, therefore be it enacted," etc.
This preamble drew no dissent. Statesmen North and South gave it sanction. The bill itself drew the widest range of debate, and the learning brought into the discussion of its merits has never been surpassed in considering the same subject, though of course facts, statistics and experience have changed the lines of argument, and remodelled theories. This learning not only bore on all the economic phases of the question, as then understood, but it was exhaustive of the principle that the Constitution designed to secure to the infant manufactures and struggling industries of the country the protection they needed against the riper experience and cheaper labor of Europe.
The debates upon this bill were not as to the necessity for protection, nor as to the fact that the legislation proposed was or was not in principle the best for the purpose. They were rather upon the question of general method of procedure, and as to whether or not the States might be
robbed of some of their reserved rights if too liberal a con•struction were thus early put upon the Constitution. The
question of what rate of duty would raise the required revenue and what would insure the needed protection was also a novel one and the subject of animated discussion, as it broke entirely new ground, and was beyond the range of all precedents and experience. Among the leading debaters were James Madison, Richard Henry Lee, Charles Carroll, Rufus King, Oliver Ellsworth, Fisher Ames, Roger Sherman, James Trumbull, and others, and these all impressed their genius and wisdom on the First American Tariff Act.
The Act became a law by the signature of Washington, affixed July 4, 1789. The rates of duty provided by the Act were, in modern acceptation, ridiculously low, yet as