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This was followed in a week by another, of the “mechanics and manufacturers of the city of New York,” which, having recited that their prospects of improving wealth had been blasted after the peace by a system of commercial usurpation ; that trade had been loaded with foreign fetters; enterprise and industry discouraged; the development of the vast natural resources of the country restrained; agriculture without stimulus; and manufactures, the sister of commerce, participating in its distresses; that a profusion of foreign articles had deluged the country, presenting a delusive appearance of plenty, and deceiving the people into the mistake that excessive and deleterious importation was a flourishing trade, proceeds: —
“Wearied by their fruitless exertions, your petitioners have long looked forward with anxiety for the establishment of a government which would have power to check the growing evil, and extend a protecting hand to the interests of commerce and the arts. Such a government is now established. On the promulgation of the Constitution just now commencing its operations, your petitioners discovered in its principles the remedy which they had so long and so earnestly desired. To your
honorable body the mechanics and manufacturers of New York look up with confidence, convinced that, as the united voice of America has furnished you with the means, so your knowledge of our common wants has given you the spirit, to unbind our fetters and rescue our country from disgrace and ruin.”
Then came in the tradesmen and manufacturers of the town of Boston," who say, —
“ That on the revival of their mechanical arts and manufactures, now ruinously depressed, depend the wealth and prosperity of the Northern States; and that the citizens of these States conceive the object of their independence but half obtained, till these national purposes are established on a permanent and extensive basis by the legislation of the federal government."
And who in that assembly of men—many of whom sat in the convention which framed the Constitution, all of whom had
partaken in the discussions which preceded its adoption — breathed a doubt on the competence of congress to receive such petitions as these, and to grant their prayer? “I conceive,” (said the most eloquent of the eloquent, Mr. Ames) —“I conceive, Sir, that the present Constitution was dictated by commercial necessity more than any other cause. The want of an efficient government to secure the manufacturing interest, and to advance
our commerce, was long seen by men of judgment, and pointed out by patriots solicitous to promote our general welfare.' But I have more to say, before I have done, on the proceedings of that congress, and leave them for the present; in the mean time I submit to you that the proof is complete, that the people who adopted the Constitution universally, and without a doubt, believed that it embodied this power. It was for that they received it with one wide acclaim, with tears of exultation, with ceremonies of auspicious significance, befitting the dawn of our age of pacific and industrial glory. Even those who feared its imperial character and its other powers, who thought they saw the States attracted to its centre and absorbed by its rays, did not fear this power.
And now, Sir, I wonder if, after all, the people were deluded into this belief! I wonder if that heroic and energetic generation of our fathers, which had studied the controversies and had gone through the tasks of the Revolution ; which had framed the Confederation, proved its weakness, proved its defects; which had been trained by a long and dreary experience of the insufficiency of a nominal independence to build up a diffused and massive and national prosperity, if the trade laws of foreign governments, the combinations of foreign capitalists, the necessities of foreign existence, are allowed to take from the native laborer his meal of meat, and from his children their school, and depress his standard of comfortable life; which had been trained by experience, by the discussions of its ablest minds, in an age of extraordinary mental activity, and yet
of great morality, sobriety, and subordination, peculiarly favorable to the task, trained thus to the work of constructing a new government, — I wonder if such a generation were deceived, after all! I wonder if it was not living water, that which they supposed they saw gushing from the rock, and sparkling and swelling at their feet, but only a delusive imitation, struck out by the wand of an accursed enchantment! No, Sir; no man who believes that the people of this country were fit to govern themselves, fit to frame a Constitution, fit to judge on it, fit to administer it, no such man can say that the belief, the popular belief in 1789, of the existence of this power, under all the circumstances, is not absolutely conclusive proof of its existence.
And then, in addition to this, how do you deal with the fact that all the framers of the Constitution themselves, as well as every public man alive in 1789, and the entire intelligence of the country, supposed they had inserted this power in it?
Did not those who made it know what they had done? Considering their eminent general character, their civil discretion, their preparation of much study, and yet more experience of arduous public affairs, for the task; their thorough acquaintance with the existing systems, State and national, and with the public mind and opinions of the day; the long, patient, and solitary labor which they bestowed on it; the immediate necessity imposed on them of explaining and defending it to the country — in view of this, if you find them unanimously concurring in ascribing this power to the instrument, is it not the transcendentalism of unbelief to doubt ? Do we really think we are likely to understand their own work now, better than they did the day they finished it?
Well, Sir, you have satisfactory evidence that the members of the convention went, all of them, to their graves in the belief that the Constitution contained this power. Mr. Madison's opinion I have read. We have it on unquestionable authority that Mr. Gallatin has repeatedly said that, upon his entrance into political life in 1789, he found it to be the universal opinion of those who framed the Constitution and those who resisted its adoption, the opinion of all the statesmen of the day, that congress possessed the power to protect domestic industry by means of commercial regulations. Stronger proof to this point, indeed, you cannot desire than is afforded by the history of the first revenue and protection law of the federal government. Let me recall that history a little in detail. Considering how many members of that congress had sat in the convention; that all the members of the convention were still alive, and still observers of what was passing on the public stage; how anxiously the whole people, now divided into two great and already excited parties, and the several local regions of the country, developing already the antagonism of their
were looking on in this view, the express affirmation by some, and the tacit universal concession by others, of this power, in every stage of the protracted and anxious debate which resulted in that law, ought to be conclusive on the ques
tion of its existence with every sound mind. But observe its history
It was Mr. Madison who, on the ninth of April, introduced the subject of providing a revenue by imposts. And it is very material to remark that his original purpose was to pass a strict and temporary revenue law, and to pass it immediately, in order, as he said, to intercept the importations of the spring. Accordingly he took, as the basis of his measure, the propositions of the congress of the Confederation, of 1783. Those propositions imposed a general and uniform ad valorem duty on the whole mass of imported articles, except spirituous liquors, wines, sugars, teas, molasses, cocoa, and coffee, which were charged with higher and specific duties. This old scheme of imposts Mr. Madison proposed to adopt as the basis of the new law, engrafting on it only a tonnage duty discriminating in favor of American vessels. His purpose, therefore, you perceive, as I have said, was revenue purely, and not a commercial regulation for protection. Not one of the articles on wbich the specific and higher duties would have been laid, and were laid, under this old model scheme, were produced in the United States, except rum.
The discrimination was for revenue, and the whole measure was for revenue. Indeed, Mr. Madison said, on introducing it, in so many words,
“In pursuing this measure, I know that two points occur for our consideration. The first respects the general regulation of commerce, which, in my opinion, ought to be as free as the policy of the nations will admit. The second relates to revenue alone; and this is the point I mean more particularly to bring into the view of the committee. Not being at present possessed of sufficient materials for fully elucidating these points, and our situation admitting of no delay, I shall propose such articles of regulations only as are likely to occasion the least difficulty. The propositions made on this subject by congress in 1783, having received, generally, the approbation of the several States of the Union, in some form or other, seem well calculated to become the basis of the temporary system which I wish the committee to adopt. I am well aware that the changes which have taken place in many of the States, and in our public circumstances, since that period, will require, in some degree, a deviation from the scale of duties then affixed; nevertheless, for the sake of that expedition which is necessary in order to embrace the spring importations, I should recommend a general adherence to the plan.”
And later in the debate he said, “ It was my view to restrain the first essay on this subject principally
to the object of revenue, and make this rather a temporary expedient than anything permanent.”. Gales & Seaton's Debates, old series, vol. i.
pp. 107, 115.
But what followed ? The next day, Mr. Fitzsimons, of Pennsylvania, presented a suggestion which resulted in a total departure from Mr. Madison's plan, and in the substitution for a pure and temporary revenue law of a permanent law, which was at once and avowedly a measure of revenue and a commercial regulation for the encouragement and protection of American agriculture, navigation, and manufactures ; at once an exercise of the power of taxing imports and the power to regulate trade ; at once, in the terms of its own preamble, an act“ for the support of government, the debt of the United States, and the encouragement and protection of manufactures.” He began by saying,
“I observe, Mr. Chairman, by what the gentlemen have said, who have spoken on the subject before you, that the proposed plan of revenue is viewed by them as a temporary system, to be continued only till proper materials are brought forward and arranged in more perfect form. I confess, Sir, that I carry my views on this subject much further ; that I earnestly wish one which, in its operation, will be some way adequate to our present situation, as it respects our agriculture, our manufactures, and our commerce ; and concluded with a motion, that there be added to the few articles which Mr. Madison had proposed to subject to specific duties, and duties above the general average, more than fifty others, which should be also specifically and more highly taxed. Forty-five of these were of the class of articles produced or manufactured in the United States; they were articles coming in competition with almost the entire circle of American manufacturing and agricultural labor; and they were subsequently so increased as to surround that whole circle with a protecting tariff.
This proposition of Mr. Fitzsimons was made for the purpose of uniting the objects of protection and revenue. avowed this to be his object. “ Among the articles,” said he, in introducing his motion, (page 111,)“ which I would have specifically taxed, are some calculated to encourage the productions of our country, and protect our infant manufactures ; besides others tending to operate as sumptuary restrictions upon articles which are often termed those of luxury.” So he