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its failure, notwithstanding the urgent necessity of avoiding civil conflict at the time, is proof conclusive, let who will say to the contrary, that nothing short of the means resorted to by South Carolina would have brought to the ground the odious and oppressive system against which it was pointed.
R E MARKS
In reply to the Speech of Mr. Webster on the Report
of the Select Committee, in reference to the Assumption of State Debts; made in the Senate, March 3d, 1840.
[The Report of the Select Committee on the assumption of the debts of the States being under consideration, and Mr. Webster having concluded his remarks, in opposition to the views and opinions expressed by Mr. Calhoun in his speech on the same subject a few weeks previously (Feb. 5th, 1840), the latter rose and said :-)
It affords me pleasure to say, that the Senator has discussed the questions on which he has touched, in a calm and liberal manner, worthy of their magnitude, and honorable to himself; and I sincerely hope that, when the general revision of the tariff, which must come up at the next session, shall be under consideration, the discussion will partake of the same temperate character. I, for one, pledge myself to meet the question with the utmost candor and fairness, having a single eye to the common interest of the whole, as far as it may be consistent with justice to the parts. The first point which the Senator has made the subject of his remarks--that duties on exports and imports were virtually the same, as far as the staple States are concerned—was not advanced by me as an argument bearing on the portion of my speech relating to the protective system, to which he has confined his reply. It was connected with another and dissimilar topic, and advanced, rather as the settled opinion of the South, than as an argument. But it is proper to say, since it has been questioned on this occasion, that my conviction of its truth is deep,--and that I shall be prepared to make it good whenever a suitable occasion offers. I do not regard the present as such, because its truth or error can have little bearing on the points now in discussion between us.
The next point which he made the subject of remark, is the position that, in the present state of our country, the effect of a protective tariff is to expand the currency in the manufacturing portion of the Union, till the increased expense of production, in consequence of the expansion, becomes equal to the protection,-when protection ceases against foreign importation, and new duties are required.
I am willing to leave the argument on this important position where it now stands between the Senator and myself, and shall confine what I have to say to one or two points incidentally connected with it. I, then, entirely concur with the Senator, that the imports and exports of a country -taking a series of years, and allowing for the profit and loss of trade—must be equal ; but there is another position, the counterpart of this, which, though not less true, is not so generally seen or admitted :--that the amount of the exports must, in the long run, be limited by that of the imports. None will deny that, if we are not permitted to import, we cannot long continue to export, unless indeed we should be willing to give away the products of our labor.
So again, if we are not permitted to import more than a given amount in value, annually,--say forty millions, our exports, on the same principle, in the end, will sink to the same point. Again : if the great and leading articles of consumption are prohibited, or admitted only on the payment of extravagant duties, so as to diminish the amount of the imports, it must have a corresponding effect on that of the exports. Now, I ask, what must be the effect of this principle applied to a protective tariff, in the present state of our export trade ? Our export of home productions is about one hundred millions annually. Suppose an act should be passed, prohibiting all imports, except of gold and silver. Such an act could not prevent the shipment of our great staples--cotton, tobacco, and rice. We make more than can be consumed at home, and the surplus must be sent abroad, however great might be the fall of price, and the sacrifice in consequence of such an act. Put down the full amount at one-half, there would still be an importation of forty or fifty millions in specie; and what, I ask, would be the effect of so large a supply, but a corresponding expansion of the currency and rise of prices ? But suppose, instead of such an act, one should be passed prohibiting a greater amount of imports than one-half of the usual quantity, would not a proportional expansion and rise of prices follow ? And must not the effect be the same if, instead of prohibition, high duties were laid,-amounting almost to prohibition on most of the leading articles of consumption,-equalling in value one-half of the usual importation ? And, finally, would not the specie, imported in consequence of such an act, centre in that portion of the country, where such articles were manufactured, and be followed there by a corresponding rise of prices ?
The argument, it seems to me, is irresistible, and, of itself, establishes the position which the Senator controverts. If, to this, the fact be added, that the table of exports and imports, and the history of the protective system, correspond, in every particular, with the operation I have deduced from it, the argument, as a necessary consequence, appears to be conclusive. These tables will show that, just as duties were imposed or repealed, the exports decreased or increased ;--S0 much so, that after the great reduction in 1833, the exports of the great staples nearly doubled in four years; and that of domestic manufactures rose sixty-six per cent. in six. In speaking of the exports of our great staples, although I referred to the exports to foreign countries, I might have shown that the increase was not at the expense of the home market. So far otherwise, if I am not greatly deceived, their exports North increased at the same time, but not in the same proportion.
The Senator seemed to doubt whether the tariff of 1828 increased wages. I had no means of ascertaining the fact from documentary evidence, but think it impossible that the vast increase of the currency which the tables show, took place in the manufacturing portion of the Union, after that tariff, could fail to raise prices generally there, including wages. I well remember that a former Senator from Pennsylvania (Mr. Wilkins), who resided in Pittsburg, intormed me in a conversation, that blacksmiths' wages were double there, in consequence of that measure.
I cheerfully admit, with the Senator, that the home market is preferable to the foreign. It has many advantages; and, among them, I would prefer it on the ground, that whatever might be gained by converting our raw materials into goods, would accrue to our brethren of the North, rather than to strangers ; provided it be not done by sacrificing our interest. But how is this to be effected ? Our great staples are too abundant to be consumed at home. Take, for instance, cotton. If every yard of cotton goods consumed in the United States was the product of our own manufactures, it would not take more than four hundred thousand bales to supply the home demand ; that is, but one-fifth of the amount produced; which cannot be less than two million bales, including what is consumed at home. What is to be done with the other four-fifths? We must cease to produce it, or it must be consumed abroad. The effect of a high tariff is to curtail the production ; but this only tends to diminish our capacity to consume, by impoverishing us ; thus causing a conflict between our interests and those of the manufacturing portion of the Union. How is this conflict to be avoided, and the interests of all parties reconciled ? This is the great problem. I see but one way; and that is, for our manufactures to command the foreign market,—when our cottons would be shipped in the shape of yarns and goods, instead of the raw state. This we would greatly prefer. But how is this to be accomplished, except by a sound, stable, and uniform currency, and low duties, as I explained when I addressed the Senate first upon the question ? Such are my views, formed after much reflection. If I am in error, I am honestly so. Truth, and truth only, is my object, accompanied by an anxious desire to see the interests of this great country harmonized on just, fair, and liberal principles. It is impossible they can be on any other other.
I agree with the Senator, that currency is liable to be disturbed by many, and various, and powerful causes ; some more, and others less permanent. I do not think that it has yet recovered from the effects of the long and exhausting wars, which terminated in the overthrow of the late Emperor of France. At its termination, the currency of Christendom was in an unsound and unnatural state, particularly in this country and Great Britain ; in both of which, paper had superseded gold an silver. We were the first to resume specie payments, which gave the precious metals a direction to this country. Great Britain resumed some years after, when it took an opposite direction; and hence the heavy exports of specie in 1821, 1822, and 1823. The tariff of 1824 checked this, for a time, and that of 1828 gave the currency a direction hitherward again ; which was followed by the operation of other and powerful causes, down to the late suspension as I have shown in my remarks when I first spoke on the subject. But I feel assured that the expansion which followed the tariff of 1828, is truly to be at