Abbildungen der Seite

nificant title which follows: “A bill for removing all doubts and apprehensions conce; ming TAXATION by the Parliament of Great Britain in any of the colonies and plantations of North America.” The body of the bill contained an offer of unconditional surrender of the original ground of controversy, in these words: “It is expedient to declare that the King and Parliament of Great Britain will not impose any duty or taa, FoR THE PURPOSE OF RAISING A REVENUE IN THE COLONIES, eaccept only such duties as may be easpedient to impose For THE REGULATION OF COMMERCE.” But this tardy attempt at pacification came too late. The quarrel had drifted far from its starting-point, while a system of insults and injuries had planted almost inextinguishable hatred in the colonial bosom, where the warmest friendship had so long been cultivated. In the many historical records quoted in this chapter, a safe, undoubtable foundation, massive and solid, is furnished for the support of the propositions which constitute the superstructure, to wit: That it was well understood in both Great Britain and America, previous to and during the Revolutionary war, that duties for regulation of commerce never aimed at revenue, although some revenue might incidentally result therefrom; and that duties for revenue never aimed at regulation in any case whatsoever, even though some regulation might be the unavoidable consequence. This wide separation of intent was kept up and fully comprehended, as will be shown, down to the formation of the Constitution, when the power “to regulate commerce with foreign nations” was granted to Congress in the sense of authority to impose duties on imports for the advantage of home interests, and in the very words which had been used in colonial times to denote that object; this, too, be it remembered, un addition to the grant of the revenue power, or “power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.” Indeed, it is peculiarly remarkable, as related to latter-day controversy on the subject, that the colonists utterly refused to submit to the British duties for revenue—that is, to a tariff for revenue only—but yielded without question to the British duties for regulation of trade—that is, to a tariff for protection only. Is it logically supposable that the free and independent States, which had been oppressed colonies, had any design, when constructing a new framework of government for themselves, to limit the tariff-making power of Congress solely to an object which had been odious and intolerable during their time of colonial vassalage, and which had been regarded as such a vital encroachment upon civil liberty as to justify the resistance of war? Yet this unnatural and absurd assumption is exactly what must be claimed and defended by all those who maintain that the Constitution does not authorize the imposition of duties on imports for the purpose of protection.



When, under the Confederation, the enlightened friends of national unity had been thoroughly alarmed by the growing tendency to disorder, violence, and disintegration; and when the best intellects in the country were discussing plans to prevent the threatened plunge into anarchy, one of the means suggested—the one most frequently advocated in the pamphlet and newspaper literature of the day—was to confer upon Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations. The same colonial, controversial, and technical use of phraseology to express this power, which had long been familiar to the people, was employed in those discussions; hence, everybody understood that the proposed grant of authority signified something very different from authority to raise revenue, and included, as one of its commonest exemplifications and exertions, authority to make what nowadays is known as a protective tariff. After the Revolution and before the Constitution, all impositions of duties on imports, by any of the States, for the purpose of shielding and cherishing home interests, were called commercial regulations by our writers and speakers, and universally considered to be a legitimate as well as a customary exercise of the power to regulate commerce. When that precise form of speech was incorporated in the Constitution, did it not mean exactly the same thing as always before it had

meant? Would it not have been exceedingly strange— extraordinary almost beyond belief, and requiring the support of the very strongest evidence to make it credible—if the signification of a certain formula of words, established by many years of documentary, legislative, diplomatic, controversial, and popular usage, had been suddenly and radically changed, without due notice, until every trace of its former meaning was taken away, so soon as the verbiage was introduced into the organic law of the nation, for the purpose of granting and defining a particular power of government? This extreme of unlikelihood represents, nevertheless, the logical predicament of those who deny that the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations embraces the power to protect home industry by import duties which neglect revenue. Rufus Choate so thoroughly investigated, and has so exhaustively treated, this part of the subject, that his exposition of it, as given in his speech in the Senate of the United States, March 14, 1842, on “The Power and Duty of Congress to continue the Policy of Protecting American Labor,” is copied below in full:

To put this matter at rest, let me ask you to look a little more at large into that considerable body of writings which appeared in the States, between the peace of 1783 and the adoption of the Constitution, upon the subject of a new Constitution. A word first on their general character.

You know how soon after the war an opinion began to prevail that the country needed a stronger government. Suggested at first, like the Revolution itself, by the intelligence of the community, it spread fast and far; the events of every day gave it diffusion and strength; it possessed itself at last of the general mind, and the Constitution was the result. During the progress of this opinion, it produced a great deal of discussion. These writings, into which I wish you now to look, are the fruits of that discussion, and embody its topics and its language. Less known than the more lofty and classical controversial literature of the more glorious revolutionary and ante-revolutionary time, they are to us the most interesting and most instructive writings in the world. No man, I could almost say, can understand the Constitution without the study of them. No man can understand the nature of the new remedial law until he has meditated the disease which it was made to cure, in these vivid pictures of it. No man can understand the vocabulary of the Constitution until he has familiarized himself in these writings, with the current vocabulary of the people, by whom and for whom it was composed. The defects of the old Confederation; its utter insufficiency for our greatness and our glory; the evils which bore the people to the earth, and made their newly-acquired independence a dreary and useless thing; the disordered condition of the currency: our exhausting system of trade; the action of conflicting and inadequate commercial regulations of the States; the excessive importations of foreign manufactures; the drain of specie; the stagnation of labor, oppressed and disheartened by a competition with all the pauper labor of all the world; the depression of agriculture, sympathizing with other labor by an eternal law; the need of a system of divided and diversified employments, which should leave no one overcrowded, should leave no man's faculties undeveloped and unexcited; which should give a market and a reward to all industry; the wants, susferings, fears, wishes; the universal stimulation of mind and fermentation of opinions in which the Constitution had its birth; you will find them all there, and you will find them nowhere else. Looking with some labor into a collection of part of these writings in the American Museum—a work embodying the general spirit of the press from 1783 to 1787—I think I find conclusive evidence of this fact, to wit: that a confident and sagacious and salutary conviction came to be generally adopted: 1. That one capital source of the evils which oppressed us was the importation of too many foreign manufactures, and the use of too few domestic manufactures—too much encouragement of the foreign laborer, and too little encouragement of our own; 2. That a new and more perfect union and a stronger government were required, among other ends, very much for the cure and prevention of this precise evil; and, 3. That, in order to effect this end, the new

« ZurückWeiter »