« PreviousContinue »
country do not want them. They want quiet to recuperate their wasted forces, and I am sure I utter no sentiment new or original when I say that if this house will promptly pass the appropriation bills and other pressing legislation, and follow it with an immediate adjournment, the people will applaud such a course as the work of statesmen and the wisdom of men of affairs.”
It was in this manner, calmly but forcibly, that he entered upon the work in congress, with which his name was thenceforth to be steadfastly allied. Four years later, owing to the changed condition of national affairs, he advocated a friendly revision of the tariff by a commission appointed for that purpose. The commission was appointed by President Arthur, June 7, 1882, and was composed as follows: John L. Hayes, of Massachusetts, chairman; Henry W. Oliver, Pennsylvania; Austin M. Garland, Illinois; Jacob A. Ambler, Ohio; Robert P. Porter, District of Columbia; John W. H. Underwood, Georgia; Duncan F. Kenner, Louisiana; Alexander F. Boteler, West Virginia, and William H. McMahon, New York. The result of the labors of the commission was reported to congress in 1883, and Major McKinley was one of the most active participants in the debate which resulted. The bill became a law, but in 1884 the democrats took up the question again. Congressman W. R. Morrison, of Illinois, introduced a measure known as the Morrison horizontal bill. The democrats were dissatisfied with the republican measure, and declared that Judge Kelley, of Pennsylvania, Major McKinley, and others did not have sufficient ability to frame a tariff law, and had therefore turned the matter over to a commission of experts. In the debate on the bill Major McKinley met the objections which had been urged against the commission bill, and displayed his remarkable familiarity with the subject by taking up the various schedules and pointing out the errors of the ways and means committee. In his speech he said:
"It is gratifying to know that at last the true sentiment of the democratic party of the country dominates the party in which it has so long been in the majority, and no longer submits to the dictation of a factious minority within its own ranks. It is gratifying because the people can no longer be deceived as to the real purpose of the party, which is to break down the protective tariff and collect duties hereafter upon a pure revenue basis, closely approximating free trade. Patent platforms and the individual utterances of democratic statesmen will no longer avail, and false pretenses can no longer win.
"The bill reported from the committee on ways and means is a proposition to reduce the duties upon all articles of imported merchandise, except those embraced in two schedules, to-wit, spirits and silks, twenty per cent. It is to be a horizontal reduction, not a well matured and carefully considered revision. Its author makes no such claim for it, but confesses in his recent speech, that while a revision and adjustment are essential, they are believed to be unattainable at the present session of congress.'”.
In further discussing the measure, Major McKinley said:
"What can be said of the capacity of the majority of the committee on ways and means as evidenced by the bill before us? It is a confession upon its face of absolute incapacity to grapple with the great subject. The Morrison bill will never be suspected of having passed the scrutiny of intelligent experts like the tariff commission. This is a revision by the cross-cut process. It gives no evidence of the expert's skill. It is the invention of indolence—I will not say of ignorance, for the gentlemen of the majority of the committee on ways and means aro competent to prepare a tariff bill. I repeat, it is not only the invention of indolence, but it is the mechanism of a botch workman. A thousand times better refer the question to an intelligent commission, which will study the question in its relation to the revenues and industries of the country, than to submit a bill like this.
“They have determined upon doing something, no matter how mischievous, that looks to the reduction of import duties; and doing it, too, in spite of the fact that not a single request has come either from the great producing or consuming classes of the United States for any change in the direction proposed. With the power in their hands, they have determined to put the knife in, no matter where it cuts, nor how much blood it draws. It is the volunteer surgeon, unbidden, insisting upon using the knife upon a body that is strong and healthy, needing only rest and release from the quack whose skill is •limited to the horizontal amputation, and whose science is barren of either knowledge or discrimination. And then it is not to stop with one horizontal slash; it is to be followed by another, and still another, until there is nothing left either of life or hope.
"It is well, if this bill is to go into force, that on yesterday the other branch of congress, the senate, passed a bankruptcy bill. It is a fitting corollary to the Morrison bill; it is a proper and necessary companion. The senate has done wisely in anticipation of our action here in providing legal means for settling with creditors, for wiping out balances, and rolling from the shoulders of our people the crushing burdens which this bill will impose.”
The next assault upon the tariff which Major McKinley met was in 1888, when Roger Q. Mills, of Texas, presented what is known as the Mills bill. This bill was fixed up by the majority of the ways and means committee to suit themselves. It was completed and printed without the knowledge of the minority, and without consideration or discussion in the full committee. This naturally incensed Major McKinley, who was a member of the committee. The minority made repeated efforts to obtain from the majority of the committee data from which the bill was constructed, but without avail. Major McKinley, prepared and presented to the house the views of the minority of the committee on the Mills bill, and the document is said to be one of the ablest ever prepared on the subject. The minority condemned the bill, declaring it to be a radical reversal of the tariff policy of the country which for the most part had prevailed since the foundation of the government, and under which the country had made industrial and agricultural progress without a parallel in the world's history. The schedules were analyzed and their inconsistency and unworthiness, from a republican standpoint, referred to. In closing, the report asserted that the minority regarded the bill not as a revenue reduction measure, but as a direct attempt to fasten upon this country the British policy of free foreign trade.
A few weeks after the presentation of this report, Major McKinley delivered a speech in the house against the bill. It was a masterly effort, prepared with all possible care, and it is declared to have been one of the most convincing speeches on the subject ever uttered. There was no argument which the democrats advanced to which he had not a ready answer, and the clearness with which he presented his points, and remarkable grasp of the numerous details which he possessed, astounded even those who were familiar with his career, and knew the care with which he examined every subject brought to his attention while in the performance of his duty.
In the course of his address, he spoke as follows:
“From 1789 to 1888, a period of ninety-nine years, there have been forty-seven years when a democratic revenue tariff policy has prevailed, and fifty-two years under the protective policy, and it is a noteworthy fact that the most progressive and prosperous periods of our history ini every department of human effort and material development, were during the fifty-two years when the protective party was in control and protective tariffs were maintained, and the most disastrous years—years of want and wretchedness, ruin and retrogression, eventuating in insufficient revenues and shattered credits, individual and national—were during the free trade or revenue tariff eras of our history. No man lives who passed through any of the latter periods but would dread their return, and would flee from them as he would escape from fire and pestilence, and I believe the party
which promotes their return will merit and receive popular condemnation. What is the trouble with our present condition ? No country can point to greater prosperity or more enduring evidences of substantial progress among all the people. Too much money is being collected, it is said. We say, stop it; not by indiscriminate legislation, but by simple business methods. Do it on simple, practical lines, and we will help you. Buy up the bonds, objectionable as it may be, and pay the nation's debt, if you cannot reduce taxation. You could have done this long ago. Nobody is chargeable for the failure but your own administration.
“Who is objecting to our protective system? From what quarter does the complaint come? Not from the enterprising American citizen; not from the manufacturer; not from the laborer, whose wages it improves; not from the consumer, for he is fully satisfied, because under it he buys a cheaper and better product than he did under the other system; not from the farmer, for he finds among the employees of the protected industries his best and most reliable customers; not from the merchant or the tradesman, for every hive of industry increases the number of his customers and enlarges the volume of his trade.
“This measure is not called for by the people; it is not an American measure; it is inspired by importers and foreign producers, most of them aliens, who want to diminish our trade and increase their own; who want to decrease our prosperity and augment theirs, and who have no interest in this country except what they can make out of it. To this is added the influence of the professors in some of our institutions of learning, who teach the science contained in books, and not that of practical business. I would rather have my political economy founded upon the every day experience of the puddler or the potter than the learning of the professor; or the farmer and factory hand than the college faculty. There is another class who want protective tariffs overthrown. They are the men of independent wealth, with settled anci steady incomes, who want everything cheap but currency; the value of everything clipped but coin-cheap labor, but dear money. These are the elements which are arrayed against us.”
The Mills bill, though passed by the house, was defeated in the senate, and no one man contributed more to that result than Major McKinley. He had been for ten years at work almost incessantly upon the subject of tariff. He had ransacked the pages of history, explored native industries, quizzed all classes of people, and had learned all there was to know. He was not an expert as to the iron industry alone. He knew all about wool, about glassware, about lace, sugar, drugs, lumber, wheat, coal, and the myriad commodities which are in daily use by society. As a result of these studies and experiences, he had already hoisted the banner of protection for protection's sake. Other leaders of the party had wobbled somewhat in times past on the subject of protecting home industries by levying a tariff. There had been talk of a “tariff for revenue only” in the party, and "a revenue tariff with incidental protection,” but Major McKinley listened to no doctrine on the tariff question which did not embody, without equivocation, the idea of protection.
When congress assembled in 1889, Major McKinley, then chairman of the committee on ways and means, set about preparing a tariff bill which had for its object the double purpose of reducing the then surplus revenue, and of revising and harmonizing the several schedules of the tariff law. The work was done completely and systematically. It caused no disturbance in business circles, because everybody knew there would be no violence done to the existing law, and that business would be in no wise unsettled. To get at facts, however, everybody interested, high and low, was heard by the committee, and no one worked as hard during all this period as Major McKinley. The bill was drawn, and said to be the most complete, symmetrical and patriotic law ever framed. It is not necessary here to enter into details concerning it. Suffice it to say that it stimulated manufactures in a most remarkable degree, and brought amazing prosperity to the country. Before these results were brought about, however, another congressional election had been held, and a democratic house had been chosen. That body, in accordance with party principles, took up the tariff question, and finally passed the Wilson bill, which President Cleveland declared an act of party perfidy and party dishonor," and said if the house should at last concur in it, “they would not dare to look the people of the country in the face."
The speeches of Major McKinley on the bill bearing his name show the honesty of his convictions, and the superb consistency with which he maintained himself amidst conflicting opinions and seeming disaster. The return of a democratic house in 1890, after the passage of the McKinley bill, and his own defeat as the result of another gerrymander, did not alarm him. He regarded it as only an insignificant incident in a great conflict. To the weak-kneed among his friends, those who could not penetrate the future as unerringly as he did, he said: “Be firm; This is only a cross current, a chop sea; the tide of truth flows surely on beneath."
The passage of the Wilson bill demoralized industry, and commercial depression ensued that was only relieved when under the administration of President William McKinley the Dingley tariff bill was Bacted,