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of opinion certainly more venial, arising from a conviction that the policy which we have once supported, is no longer profitable to the peculiar interests of the people, which, as a public agent, a public man may represent; and this justification would be altogether unexceptionable, if all the principles of
government and administration could be resolved into mere questions of profit and loss, if they did not involve something more essential than mere dollars and cents--if a system of public ethics was not as applicable to legislation, as a code of private ethics is to domestic morals-in a word, if there was not something due to abstract justice and to those obligations of the Constitution, the truth of which we have ourselves acknowledged. We cannot but think that that statesman has taken but a poor view of the principles of legislation, who considers them only as the ductile theorems of sheer expediency, which may fluctuate with the transient interests of the country, resting ou no moral basis for their foundation, and having no moral end for their scope and object.
Mr. Webster has considered himself as arraigned at the bar of public opinion, on a charge of inconsistency. He is right; he has been so arraigned, and the weight of the public judgment against him, bears an exact proportion to the amount of the force and importance of his support of his first opinions, when in 1821, he was maintaining at Fanueil Hall, the cradle of free principles, the unconstitutionality of the tariff, and in in 1824, on the floor of the House of Representatives, demonstrating with unanswerable vigour, its blighting mischiefs to the best interests and morals of the country. Mr. Webster, however, shall put in his own plea, which he has adjusted with all the art, but the baffled art of an advocate who has to defend a prisoner at the bar, taken in the manner-in flugrunte delicto.
In reply to the strictures of Mr. Hayne on this topic, Mr.
** As well as I recollect the course of his remarks, the honourable gentleman next recurred to the subject of the Tariff. He did not doubt the word must be of unpleasant sound to me, and proceeded, with an effort neither new nor attended with new success, to involve me and my votes in inconsistency and contradiction. I am happy the honourable gentleman bas furnished me an opportuniny of a timely remark or two on that subject. I was glad he approached it, for it is a question I enter upon without fear from any body. The strenuous toil of the gentleman has been to raise an inconsistency between my dissent to the Tariff in 1824 and my vote in 1828. It is labour lost. He pays undeserved compliment to my speech in 1824; but this is to raise me high, that my
fall, as he would have it in 1828, may be the more signal.
Sir, there was no fall at all
. Between the ground I stood on in 1824, and that I took in 1828, there was not only no precipice, but no declivity. It was a change of position to meet new circumstances, but on the same level. A plain tale explains the whole matter: In 1816, I had not acquiesced in the Tariff, then supported by South-Carolina. To some parts of it, especially, I felt and expressed great repugnance. I held the same opinions in 1821, at the meeting in Faneuil Hall, to which the gentleman has alluded. I said there and say now, that, as an original question, the authority of Congress to erercise the revenue power, with direct reference to the protection of manufactures, is a questionable authority, far more questionable, in my judgment, than the power of Internal Improvements. I must confess, Sir, that, in one respect, some impression has been made on my opinions lately. Mr. Madison's publication has put the power in a very strong light. He has placed it, I must acknowledge on the grounds of construction and argument, which seem impregnable. But, even if the power were doubtful, on the face of the Constitution itself, it had been assumed and asserted in the first revenue law ever passed under that same Constitution; and on this ground, as a matter settled by contemporaneous practice, I had refrained from expressing the opinion that the Tariff laws transcended constitutional limits as the gentleman supposes. What I did say at Faneuil Hall, as far as I now remember, was, that this was originally matter of doubtful construction. The gentleman himself, I suppose, thinks there is no doubt about it, and that the laws are plainly agamst the Constitution. Mr. Madison's letters, already referred to, contain, in my judgment, by far the most able exposition extant of this part of the Constitution. He has satisfied me, as far as the practice of the Government had left it an open question. With a great majority of the Representatires of Massachusetts,
I voted against the Tariff of 1824. My reasons were then given, and I will not now repeat them. But, notwithstanding our dissent, the great States of New-York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky, went for the bill, in almost unbroken column, and it was passed. Congress and the President sanctioned it, and it became the law of the land. What, then, were we to do? Our only option was either to fall in with this settled course of public policy, and accommodate ourselves to it as well as we coulit, or to embrace the South-Carolina doctrine, and talk of nullifying the statute by State interference.
This last alternative did not suit our principles, and, of course, we adopted the former. In 1827, the subject came again before Congress, on a proposition favourable to wool and woollens. We looked
upon systein of protection as being fired and settled. The law of 1824 remained. It had gone into full operation, and in regard to some objects intended by it, perhaps most of them had produced all its expected effects. No man proposed to repeal it, no man attempted to renew the general contest on its principle. But, owing to subsequent and unforeseen occurrences, the benefit intended by it to wool and woollen fabrics, had not been realized. Events, not known here when the law passed, had taken place, which defeated its object in that particular respect. A
measure was accordingly brought forward to meet this precise deficiency, to remedy this particular defect. It was limited to wool and woollens. Was ever any thing more reasonable? If the policy of the Tariff laws had become established in principle, as the permanent policy of the Government, should they not be revised and amended, and made equal, like other laws, as erigencies should arise, or justice require ? Because we had doubted about adopting the system, were we to refuse to cure its manifest defects, after it became adopted and when no one attempted its repeal? And this, Sir, is the inconsistency so much bruited. I had voted against the Tariff of 1824—but it passed; and in 1827 and 1828, I voted to amend it, in a point cssential to the interest of my constituents. Where is the inconsistency? Could I do otherwise ? Sir, does political consistency consist in always giving negative votes ? Does it require of a public man to refuse to concur. in amending laws, because they passed against his consent? Having voted against the Tariff originally, does consistency demand that I should do all in my power to maintain an unequal Tariff, burthensome to my own constituents in many respects, favourable in none ? To consistency of that sort, I lay no claim and there is another sort to which I lay as little—and that is, a kind of consistency, by which persons feel themselves as much bound to oppose a proposition after it has become the law of the land, as before.
“ The bill of 1827, limited, as I have said, to the single object in which the Tariff of 1824, had manifestly failed in its effect, passed the House of Representatives but was lost here. We had then the act of 1828. I need not recur to the history of a measure so recent. Its enemies spiced it with whatsoever they thought would render it distasteful; its friends took it, drugged as it was Vast amounts of property, many millions, had been invested in manufactures, under the inducements of 1824. Events callcd loudly, as I thought, for further regulation to secure the degree of protection intended by that act. I was diposed to vote for such regulation and desired nothing more ; but certainly was not to be bantered out of my purpose by a threatening augmentation of the duty on molasses, put into the bill for the avowed purpose of making it obnoxious. The vote may have been right or wrong, wise or unwise : but it is little less than absurd to allege against it an inconsistency with opposition to the former law."
This, then, is Mr. Webster's defence, let us examine it in a few of its details. He says: “the strenuous toil of the gentleman has been to ruise un inconsistency between my dissent to the Tariff in 1824, and my vote in 1828. It is labour lost. He pays an undeserved compliment to my speech in 18:4; but this is to raise me high, that my full, as he would have it, in 1828, may be the more signal. Sir, there was no fall at all. Between the ground I stood on, in 1824, and that I took in 1828, there was not only no precipice, but no declivity, it was a change of position to meet new circumstances, but on the same level.' It seems then, that between the act of 1824 and 1828,
there was not only no precipice, but no declivity-yes, this is most true, but unfortunately for Mr. Webster, between the two acts, there was an ugly acclivity, which it required a man of Mr. Webster's strength of nerve to travel up, produced by the imposts being suddenly raised from an average of thirty-seven per cent. under the act of 1824, to upwards of 82 per cent, on the entire consumption of the country on imported articles by the act of 1828. If the act of 1828 had been to reduce the duties, instead of increasing them, Mr. Webster might well say that in supporting it he stood upon the " same level" which he occupied in opposing an augmentation of the impost in 1824. He must, indeed, have the same idea of levels that the geometricians, in Dean Swift's Laputa, had on the subject of mathematical lines. That “it was a change of position to meet new circunstances" we admit, and those new circumstances" were, that New England had transferred very suddenly the investment of a large portion of her capital from commerce and navigation to manufactures, which induced Mr. Webster to perform this wonderful political somerset, which vastly surpasses the ground and lofty tumbling of that memorable vicar, who shall be nameless.
" I say now that as an original question, the authority of Congress to exercise the revenue power with direct reference to the protection of manufactures, is a questionable authority, far more questionable in my judgment than the power of Internal Improvements. I must, confess, Sir, that in one respect some impression has been made upon my opinions lately. Mr. Madison's publication has put the power in a very strong light. He has placed it, I must acknowledge, on the grounds of construction and argument, which seem impregnable."
If Mr. Madison has placed the power on “grounds of construction and argument which seem impregnable,” is it not a little strange that Mr. Webster should even now think that “to exercise the revenue power with direct reference to the protection of domestic manufactures, is a questionable authority ?" But we will let this pass. Mr. Madison has principally put the power, we believe, on the ground which justified the einbargothe ground of retaliation, the principle upon which countervailing duties are necessarily placed, but which neither the friends nor the enemies of the present tariff, adınit as forming the foundation on which it at present rests; for this manifest reason, that if its supporters were to make this admission, (to which they have been strongly urged) it would follow that our tariff, under the principle of reciprocity, could be repealed by treaty, which, of all possible issues, is the one least desired by the friends of
the American System. If Mr. Madison's argument has given Mr. Webster any new light, we can only say that a mind like his must have been in a singular state of eclipse, ever since 1821, as the venerable Ex-President has not stated a single argument in favour of the existence of the power, which is not to be found in the lucubrations of Mr. Carey and Mr. Niles, which they have announced in all the exhaustless iterations and reiterations which distinguish their labours. One new and important fact Mr. Madison does state, which, we believe, escaped the acute research of these gentlemen, that in the Massachusetts Convention, Mr. Wiggery and Mr. Dawes expressed their belief that the Constitution did contain a power for the protection of domestic manufactures. We cannot but think the resolutions reported by Mr. Webster, as chairman of a committee, at a large public meeting at Boston, at Faneuil Hall, in 1821, contain a much sounder exposition of this power, than any thing Mr. Madison can say or has said under inducements, which, however amiable, have been the occasion, nevertheless, of putting a weapon into the hands of those who were once his worst enemies, to war against those principles of constitutional freedom and limited construction, the conservation of which, was the object of the most useful and distinguished portion of his life. Mr. Webster said at Faneuil Hall, in the emphatic words of these resolutions
Resolved, That no objection ought ever to be made to any amount of taxes equally apportioned and imposed, for the purpose of raising revenue necessary for the support of the government; but that taxes imposed on the people for the benefit of any one class of men (the manufacturers) are equally INCONSISTENT WITH THE CONSTITUTION, and with sound policy.
“ 2d. That in our opinion, the proposed tariff, and the principles on which it is avowedly founded, would, if adopted, have a tendency, however different may be the motives of those who recommend them, to diminish the industry, impede the property, and corrupt the morals of the people."
“With a great majority of the Representatives of Massachusetts, I voted against the T'ariff of 1824. It became the law of the land. What were we to do? Our only option was either to fall in with this settled course of public policy, and accommodate ourselves to it as well as we could, or to embrace the South-Carolina doctrine, and talk of nullifying the statute by State interference."
Was this the only alternative? Could Mr. Webster not have maintained his principles by continuing to struggle by the side of the South, in the cause of free trade? Was the contest hopeless when the bill of 1824 passed by a trifling majority of