Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

C EIAPTER XXXIII.

THE MORRILL TARIFF-TARIFF AMENDMENTS-GENERAL REVISION OF THE TARIFF OF 1861 —TARIFF RECEIPT8–INTERNAL rew ENUE BUREAU CREATED - THE DIRECT TAx-INCOME FROM INTERNAL REVENUE-COMMERCE BETWEEN LOYAL AND INSURGENT STATES-EMBARRASSMENT OF THE SUBJECT-MR. CHASE's VIEws—PROCLAMATION OF BLOCKADE, AND suspenSION OF INTERNAL COMMERCE BY THE PRESIDENT-ACTS OF CoNGRESS ON THE SUBJECT-Policy of MR. CHASE—“TRADE sHALL FOLLow THE FLAG”—ADVANCE IN THE PRICE of cotton, AND ABUSEs QCCASIONED BY EAGER DESTRE FOR TRAFFIC–NECESSITY OF THE INTERNAL COMMERCE—REGULATIONS FOR ITS GOVERNMENT—ORIGIN of FREEDMEN's BUREAU-MAGNITUDE OF THE INTERNAL COMMERCE SYSTEMCORRUPTION AMONG THE OFFICERS–A PAINFUL INSTANCE OF THIS.

Th; “Morrill tariff,” as it is historically called, became a law by receiving the signature of President Buchanan on the 2d of March, 1861, and was to go into operation on the 1st day of April following. The tariff act in force at the date of Mr. Lincoln's first inauguration was that of March 8, 1857. The Morrill tariff was amended in important particulars, as we have seen in a former chapter, by the act of August 5, 1861, under which heavy duties were laid on teas, coffees, sugars and molasses, substantially as recommended by Mr. Chase; and this act, in its turn, was materially modified by that of the 24th of December, 1861, by which the duties on the specific articles named were further increased, as were also those upon some other articles. This latter act was also framed chiefly in accord

TARIFF MEASURES. 313

ance with recommendations made by Mr. Chase. There was no general revision of the tariff, however, until June, 1862, when a considerable increase in the rates was laid upon the whole range of imported commodities, and an additional tonnage tax was levied upon both American and foreign vessels. An act modifying some of the provisions of this last-mentioned act, was approved by the President March 8, 1863. And by a joint resolution of the 29th of April, 1864, the duties on all foreign goods—printing-paper for books and newspapers excepted— were increased fifty per cent. for sixty days; a measure fortumate for some importers and merchants, and quite as unfortunate for others. But the anxious solicitude of Congress that the educational improvement of the American people should not be impeded by this sort of “snap” legislation, is witnessed in the exemption of printing-paper from the operation of the resolution. These were the several tariff measures acted upon by Congress during Mr. Chase's services in the Treasury. On the 30th of June, 1864, however, the President approved an act for a further augmentation of the rates of duties; the primary object of this act being, as explained by Mr. Morrill, “to increase the revenue upon importations from abroad, and at the same time to shelter and nurse our domestic products, from which we draw the largest part of our revenue, so that the aggregate amount shall not be diminished through the substitution of foreign articles for those which we have been accustomed to make at home.” The prospect of a civil war near at hand had occasioned a large falling off in the income from customs, even before Mr. Lincoln's inauguration. The actual presence of war operated still more calamitously upon the revenues from this source. The receipts for the first quarter of the fiscal year 1861—it ended on the 30th of September, 1860—were somewhat more than sixteen millions of dollars ($16,119,831); during the second quarter, ending December 30, 1860—the presidential election intervening meantime—they were reduced to $8,174,167; there was a slight increase during the third quarter, ending March 31, 1861, when they were $9,772,574; and reached their lowest point during the fourth quarter, which ended June 30, 1861, when they were only $5,515,552; making a total of $39,582,124 for the whole year. Mr. Chase, in his report for December, 1861, basing his conclusions for the fiscal year 1862 upon the receipts of the first quarter ending September, 1861 (which were $7,198,602), estimated that the whole receipts up to the 30th of June, 1862, would not exceed $32,198,602. The actual receipts, however—in consequence of the renewed impetus given to commerce and production by the extensive demand for commodities created by the war—were $49,056,397. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1863, they were $69,059,399, and for that ending on the 30th of June, 1864, they were $102,316,152; a very great and important increase in the customs revenues. Additional methods of permanent revenue were necessary; and accordingly the Internal Revenue Bureau was created by an act of Congress, approved by the President July 1, 1862. The germ of this bureau will be found in the act of August 5, 1861, “to provide increased revenue from imports to pay interest on the public debt, and for other purposes.” It was in this act that provision was made for the levy of a direct tax of twenty millions, and the appointment of Federal officers for its assessment and collection. By the fifty-sixth section the President, upon the nomination of the Secretary of the

* This joint resolution came near being attended by some awkward circumstances. It took effect on the 29th of April, 1864, and, as its operation was limited to sixty days, it would cease to be effective of course on the 28th of June subsequent. It was supposed at the time of its passage that a tariff bill then in course of preparation in the Committee of Ways and Means would, within the specified sixty days, become a law. But it happened otherwise; the act of June 30, 1864, was to become operative July 1st; meantime, on the 29th and 30th of June, the import duties would be fifty per cent, less than on the 28th, and an average of about fifty per cent less than they would be on the 1st of July. This curious condition of the tariff act was overlooked until near the close of the sitting of Congress, on the 28th of June, when the Secretary became aware of it. Accompanied by Assistant-Secretary Field, Mr. Chase went at once to the Capitol, and by interrupting the regular course of the proceedings, procured such action by Congress upon the joint resolution as extended its operation over to the 1st of July. Near midnight Mr. Lincoln approved the extension by attaching his signature to the renewed resolution, the operation of which was confined to two days —a rather remarkable incident in our national legislation—and a few minutes later Mr. Field delivered the completed resolution into the hands of Mr. Seward, at his residence, thus placing it in the custody of the State Department and completing all the necessary legal preliminaries.

INTERNAL REVENUE BUREAU! - 315

Treasury, was authorized to appoint an officer to be called the “Commissioner of Taxes,” who was to be charged, under the direction of the Secretary, with the general superintendence of the officers and method of collecting the direct taxes. He was to have a salary of $3,000 a year, and the Secretary was directed to assign to the Commissioner the necessary clerks, whose aggregate salaries were not to exceed $6,000 a year. It does not appear, however, that a Commissioner of Taxes was ever appointed. For the collection of the direct taxes in the insurrectionary districts, a special system was devised, under which a board of three tax commissioners was appointed in each one of the States in which rebellion was declared to exist by proclamation of the President. These commissioners were to enter upon their duties in the several States to which they were sent, whenever the commanding general of the forces of the United States, entering into any insurrectionary State or district, should, in any parish, county or district of the same, have established the national military authority. The commissioners were accordingly appointed in some districts; but most of them spent their time quarreling with each other, and in sending private letters to the Secretary extolling their own industry and usefulness, and complaining at the same time of the sloth and incapacity of their associates. The system was not a successful one. The act establishing an Internal Revenue Bureau in the Treasury Department, authorized the President to appoint, not a Commissioner of Taxes, but a Commissioner of Internal Revenue, whose nomination was to be confirmed by the Senate. His salary was fixed at $4,000 a year, and his duties were to be performed under the direction of the Secretary of the Treasury. He was to be furnished of course with clerks, in number large enough to transact the business of his office. For the purpose of “assessing, levying and collecting the duties or taxes prescribed by the act,” the President was authorized to divide the States and Territories into convenient collection districts, and to nominate to the Senate an assessor and collector for each district. The duties of these officers are sufficiently indicated by their titles. It was supposed that the taxes laid by the act would yield a yearly revenue of about one hundred millions of dollars. They were laid chiefly upon spirits; ale, beer and porter; on licenses for carrying on certain trades and businesses; on manufactures, and on manufactured articles and products; on auction-sales; on carriages, yachts, billiard-tables, and plate; on slaughtered cattle; on railroads, steamboats, and ferry-boats; on railroad bonds; on banks, trust-companies, savings institutions, and insurance companies; on salaries and pay of officers and persons in the service of the United States, and passports; on advertisements; on incomes; on legacies and distributive shares of personal property. It provided also for a comprehensive system of stamp duties. The Bureau was promptly organized by the appointment of a commissioner, who entered upon the duties of his office July 17, 1862, and the appointment of the authorized subordinates. The receipts of the office, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1863, were $37,640,787.95; and in his report for that year, submitted November 30, 1863, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue— in a burst of patriotic enthusiasm—informed the Secretary of the Treasury that the “tax laws had not only been endured, but on the whole, had been welcomed" by the people!” The receipts for the second fiscal year of the existence of the Bureau, ending on the 30th of June, 1864, were $109,741,134.10. The income of the Government from both customs and internal revenues in the two years ending June 30, 1864, was $318,756,474.04, or only about eight millions more than the receipts from internal revenue alone in the year 1866, when they reached a total of $310,906,984.17. The original internal revenue act was amended or modified by the subsequent acts of March 3, 1863, May 7 and June 30, 1864. By the act of May 7th, the duty on distilled spirits was fixed at sixty cents per gallon, in lieu of the former tax but in addition to license duties; and by that of June 30th, the duty on distilled spirits was increased to $1.50 per gallon after the passage of the act, and to two dollars per gallon after the 1st day of February, 1865. The duty on ale and beer was at the same time fixed at one dollar per gallon. These largely en

1 It is rather more likely that, in the spirit of Burns's song, they prayed, “May the de'il dance away wi' the exciseman l''

« ZurückWeiter »