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Duce. Yes, Sir, I pursued in all this, a South-Carolina track. On the doctrines of Internal Improvement, South-Carolina, as she was then represented in the other House, set forth, in 1816, under a fresh and leading breeze, and I was among the followers. But if my leader sees new lights and turns a sharp corner, unless I see new lights also, I keep straight on, in the same path. I repeat, that leading gentlemen from South-Carolina were first and foremost in behalf of the doctrines of Internal Improvement, when those doctrines first came to be considered and acted upon in Congress. The debate on the Bank question, on the Tariff of 1816, and on the Direct Tax, will show who was who, and what was what, at that time. The tariff of 1816, one of the plain
cases of oppression and usurpation, from which, if the Government does · not recede, individual States may justly secede from the Government,
is, Sir, in truth, a South-Carolina Tariff, supported by South-Carolina votes. But for those votes, it could not have passed in the form in which it did pass; whereas, if it had depended on Massachusetts votes, it would have been lost. Does not the honourable gentleman well know all this? There are certainly those who do full well know it all. I do not say this to reproach South-Carolina; I only state the fact, and I think it will appear to be true, that among the earliest and boldest advocates of the Tariff, as a measure of protection, and on the express ground of protection, were leading gentlemen of South-Carolina in Congress. I did not then, and cannot now, understand their language in any other sense. While this Tariff of 1816 was under discussion in the House of Representatives, an honourable gentleman from Georgia, now of this House, (Mr. Forsyth) moved to reduce the proposed duty on cotton. He failed by four votes, South-Carolina giving three votes (enough to have turned the scale) against his motion. The Act, Sir, then passed, and received on its passsage the support of a majority of the Representatives of South-Carolina, present and voting. This act is the first, in the order of those now denounced as plain usurpations. We see it daily in the list by the side of those of 1824 and 1828, as a case of manifest oppresssion, justifying Disunion. I put it home to the honourable member from South-Carolina, that his own State was not only art and part in this measure, but the causa causans. Without her aid, this seminal principle of mischief, this root of Upas, could not have been planted. I have already said, and it is true, that this act proceeded on the ground of protection. It interfered, directly, with existing interests of great value and amount; it cut up the Calcutta cotton trade by the roots. But it passed, nevertheless, and it passed on the principle of protecting manufactures, on the principle against free trade, on the principle opposed to that which lets us alone.”
This, then, is the sum and substance of the accusation. It seems, as early as 1816, a few of the leading members from South-Carolina were in favour of the Bank bonus bill, and, under the general power of appropriation, they were inclined to set aside this fund as a sum for internal improvements. We undertake to say, that at this period, the right to construct roads and canals, and the jurisdiction over territory this right in
volved, were scarcely considered, in all their details, as a substantive power of the government, and if the uncalculating generosity of a few of the public men of South-Carolina, induced them to support this appropriation, the subject was, in all its consequences, as little understood by them, as it was by their constituents at home. In truth, the bonus bill being lost, the system of internal improvements was not established at the period alleged, nor will the fact of the appropriations for the Cumberland road militate, in the smallest degree, from the position assumed, because it is well known that the appropriations for that object were made by virtue of a special condition annexed to the cession of the territory north-west of the Ohio, that a certain per centum should be reserved from the sales of the public lands for the construction of a public road to the territory ceded, and it was a condition precedent to a cession, which the United States must fairly be considered as bound to fulfil, as being, in fact, the consideration of purchase, without involving the general power of government, to execute a system of internal improvements. . It was not until after the passage of the survey bill in 1822–23, and upon the returns made by the authority of that bill, (which its friends, on its passage, distinctly affirmed, committed no man to the system, as its object was to obtain topographical information, interesting and important to the defence and military relations of the country) that the attempt was seriously made to engraft this system on the general policy of the government. By this time the public mind of South-Carolina had become informed of the latent and pernicious consequences of this system ; her public will was emphatically expressed through the decided resolutions of her legislature, and her whole delegation in Congress, with one distinguished exception, responded to the authentic expression of her opinions, by a zealous and unfaltering opposition to all appropriation for the objects of internal improvements, against the promotion of which, by these means, she had entered her solemn protest, as being an equally unconstitutional and dangerous infraction of the compact. And all these things were done when the system itself was in its infancy, when the infant was in its swaddling clothes, not yet weaned from the bosom of the exuberant West, to be put under the hopeful and fostering care of its dry nurses of the East—who, at first, were dry enough, until they discovered what a profitable bargain they could drive by the guardianship of this hopeful bantling. With the present system of internal improvement, South-Carolina had as little to do, as she had with the battle of Pharsalia, or what is equally impossible, the Hartford Convention.
Still less destitute of plausibility is the charge that SouthCarolina is, in any degree, guilty of the heavy responsibility of fastening the tariff on the country. Mr. Hayne's reply to this allegation, is so perfectly triumphant, that we cannot do better than to employ it as the best refutation of this absurd and groundless accusation.
- The gentleman considers the Tariff of 1816, and the Bonus Bill as the foundations of the American System, and intimates, that the former would not have prevailed, but for South-Carolina votes. Now, Sir, as to the Tariff of 1816, I think a great mistake prevails throughout the country, in regarding it as the commencement of the existing policy. That was not a bill for increasing, but for reducing duties. During the war double duties had been resorted to, for raising the revenue necessary for its prosecution. Manufactures had sprung up under the protection incidentally afforded by the restrictive measures and the war. On the restoration of peace, a scale of duties was to be established, adapted to the situation in which the country was, by that event, placed. All agreed that the duties were to be reduced, and that this reduction must be gradual. We had a debt on our hands of $140, to $150,000,000. Admonished by recent experience, a Navy was to be built up, and an extensive system of fortifications to be commenced. The operation, too, of a sudden reduction of duties upon the manufactures which had been forced into existence by the war, and which then bore their full proportion of the direct taxes, was also to be taken into consideration; and, under all these circumstances, it was determined to reduce the duties gradually, until they should reach the lowest amount necessary for revenue in time of peace. Such, Sir, was the true character of the Tariff law of 1816. By that bill (reported, Sir, by the lamented Lowndes, a steady opponent of the protecting system) the duties on woollen and cotton goods, were at once reduced to 25 per cent. with a provision, that they should, in the course of three years, be further reduced to 20 per cent. ; while, by the tariff of 1824, the duties on the same articles were at once increased to 30 per cent. and were to go on increasing to 375 per cent. ; and by the Tariff of 1828, have been carried much higher. And yet the Tariff of 1816 is now quoted as an authority for the tariff's of 1824 and 1828 ; by which, duties admitted to be already high enough for all the purposes of revenue, are to go on increasing, year after year, for the avowed purpose of promoting domestic manufactures, by preventing importations. Suppose, Sir, the New-England gentlemen were now to join the South in going back to a Tariff for revenue, and were to propose to us gradually to reduce all the existing duties, so that they should come down in two or three years, to 15 or 20 per cent-would the gentleman consider us as sending in our adhesion to the American System,' by voting for such a reduction? And if not, how can he charge the supporters of the Tariff of 1815 with being the fathers of that system? In this view of the subject, it is not at all material, whether the Representatives from South-Carolina voted for that measure or not, or whether the passage of the bill depended on their votes. On looking into the Journals, however, it
will be found that the bill actually passed the House of Representatives, by a vote of 88 to 54; and would have succeeded, if every member from South-Carolina had voted against it.”
South-Carolina has never contended, that, in pursuing, bona fide, the legitimate object of revenue, a bill for this purpose may not be arranged in such a manner, as incidentally to benefit the domestic industry of the country ; but, as Mr. Kayne very justly says, the act of 1816 was a bill to provide for the reduction, not the increase of duties, and the question was one of finance, on what articles the minimum or maximum of reduction should fall; and there was a provision in the act for the gradual diminution of the imposts on those articles on which the immediate reduction was the least, until nearly the whole of the ad valorem duties should be put on an equivalent footing. There is about as much truth and justice in quoting Mr. Lowndes as the parent of the restrictive system, as there would be in affirming that Martin Luther was the founder of the papal authority at Rome. No! that distinguished statesman and lamented patriot was one of the first to descry the concealed evils of this baleful system. His speech, in the session of 1820, is not only one of the inost original and profound investigations of the political economy of this momentous question, which has been made on either side of the water, but it was, likewise, one of the most touching admonitions of the bitter fruit which this Upas was likely to bear in the fulness of its fruit time, of the blighting curse it was to spread over our land, in the maturity of its growth.
But really if the statesmen of South-Carolina did not make, in 1816, the reduction of duties sufficiently comprehensive to suit the then free trade politicians of Massachusetts, we think our poor State might put in the plea which ought to entitle her to some indulgence and consideration, that immediately after the passage of the tariff of 1820, which, according to all authentic kalends, was its birth-time and origin, the system was opposed by the statesman we have just mentioned, and, we believe, by nearly her whole delegation. She, moreover, by every public demonstration of popular sentiment, immediately took the field in favour of the cause of free trade, with a zeal not inferior, though, perhaps, with an ability less effective than that with which Mr. "Vebster was leading the free trade party in Boston, at one and the same period. We know that directly after the passage of this act, (the first of the series in the chapter of abominations,) a public meeting was held in this city, which adopted, with almost perfect unanimity, a
memorial to Congress, drawn by the pen of him, whose genius and whose virtues adorn many pages in this journal, of which he was the founder, but whom a power, mightier than our wishes and regrets, has removed from the sphere of his duties, at a moment when his country could least have spared such a “finished man." Charleston may well remember with pride, in all the trials through which she may be destined to pass, this memorial, one of the ablest state papers which either the politics or the literature of the country has ever produced ; a paper, in which the most seemingly remote and recondite consequences of the restrictive system were anticipated, with a clearness little short of prophecy, wbilst it abounded with lessons of patriotism, illustrated and enforced with all the charms of that mild philosophy and chastened eloquence which belonged to its then highly gifted and now deeply Jamented author.
That South-Carolina should, at this day, be reproached with the original sin of this policy, surpasses every idea of justice, which, we should suppose, even a Hottentot jury capable of forming. We are almost tempted to applaud the enterprising hardihood which should lead a man to venture upon such an accusation, surrounded by the very signs and speaking evidences of his refutation, if we did not feel a more sober sentiment rising within our bosom for his chastisement and rebuke.
We are now, however, bronght to a topic of less importance to the public, but infinitely more interesting to Mr. Webster-his defence of his change of opinions on the tariff, between the act of 1824 and the woollen's bill of 18:27. That a man may sometimes change his opinion without implicating his morality, or impeaching his wisdom, is, certainly, a manifest proposition; indeed, he cannot do a better thing than to get rid of his bad opinions, and adopt those that are good-and the sooner done, the better the grace. But these conversions must have some relation to the circumstances in which the individual is placed, his probable motives, and the subject on which this change of sentiment is founded. If there should be nothing miraculous in his conversion, it should likewise be free from the bias of any thing sordid or interested, either as it respects himself, or, if a public man, the cause which he may support. When Mr. Grattan, in the Irish Parliament, said to Mr. Flood, “Sir, your talents are not as great as your life is infamous ; you were silent for years, and you were silent for money,” he meant to fix the brand of his reprobation on that species of conversion for which a public man may have a much more adequate consideration, than a justifiable excuse. There are other chavges