Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

lips of the government—we must say the deed itself was a base deed, and the motive base and miserable.

Such was the state of foreign affairs. In all that concerned domestic welfare, the nation was never so well off before. There had been a considerable period of remarkable prosperity. It must be a very bad government which, in four years, can seriously injure a nation like this, where so little depends on the central power. Mr Tyler appealed to the judgment of posterity for his vindication; we have no desire to anticipate the verdict which will be rendered, but certainly no party was sorry when he went out of office.

During the year ending June 30th, 1815, the imports of the United States amounted in value to 117,254,564 dols.; the exports to 114,646,606 dols. The national revevenue was 29,769,133 dols. 56 cents; the expenditures 29,968,206 dols. 98 cents. There was a balance in the treasury of 7,658,306 dols. 22 cents. The amount of public debt on the 1st of October, was 17,075,445 dols. 52 cents.

The peculiar and distinctive ideas of the party are set forth in the resolutions of the Baltimore conventionwhich, having ideas, published its platform-and in the inaugural address of Mr Polk. Some of them were expressed in a negative and some in a positive form.

It is inexpedient and dangerous to exercise doubtful constitutional powers.

Government has no right “to commence and carry on a general system of internal improvement.'

“ Justice and sound policy forbid the federal government to foster one branch of industry to the detriment of another, or to cherish the interests of one portion to the injury of another portion of our common country.”

In levying discriminating duties, care should be taken

not to benefit the wealthy few at the expense of the toiling millions."

Congress has no power to charter a national bank.” institute is of deadly hostility to the best interests of the country, dangerous to the republican institutions and the liberties of the people. Separation of the moneys of the government from banking institutions is indispensable."

“Our title to the whole of Oregon is clear and unquestionable.”

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

- Such an

66

[ocr errors]

The distinctive measures proposed were as follows :

1. “ The separation of the money of Government from banking institutions.”

2. “ A Tariff for Revenue.”
3. “The re-occupation of Oregon."
4. “ The re-annexation of Texas.”

[ocr errors]

It is to be regretted that these measures were seldom submitted to a scientific and careful examination. They were abundantly discussed in Congress and out of Congress, but almost wholly in the spirit of party. Some of them were finally carried by a mere party vote; measures, too, on which the welfare of the nation was thought to depend. As we look over the speeches made in reference to the tariff or the subtreasury, we find ability enough ; now and then a knowledge of the subject in hand, though that is far enough from common—but fairness which is willing to see good in the measures of a political opponent we almost never find : a man must be a good Whig,” or a “good Democrat," or a "good Free-Soiler;" must favour

” nothing but the ideas, the measures, the deeds, and the men of his party.

In his first message (Dec. 2nd, 1845), Mr Polk recommended the establishment of a “constitutional treasury

as a secure depository for the public money, without any power to make loans or discounts, or to issue any paper whatever as a currency or circulation.” In conformity with this suggestion, a bill was reported with a proviso called “the specie clause”—that all payments to or from the government should be made in gold or silver. This bill passed the House by a vote of 123 to 64, the Senate by 28 to 24, and went into operation on the 1st of January, 1847, though the government did not pay specie till the 1st of April following. It is instructive to look at the speeches of eminent men, and the remarks in the leading newspapers, and see how party-spirit can blind the eyes of practical men, otherwise far-sighted. It was thought so much specie would be locked up in the subtreasury that there would not be enough for common business; “ the drain would become'onerous, indeed, if not insupportable.” The National Intelligencer of October 10th, 1846, thought it was a "scheme only congenial to despotic govern

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

ments, and utterly incompatible with the habits, the conveniences, and the whole social structure of free communities;” “every day's experience proves its impracticability, and its mischievous nature, even were it practicable.” But before the end of the year Mr Polk could say with truth (Message, Dec. 8th, 1846), “ that the amount of gold and silver coin in circulation in the country is greater than ever before.” The banks were kept from“ inflating" the currency. The measure has proved itself a wise one. Its good effect in retaining coin in the country and thus preventing a suspension of specie payment by the banks during the terrible commercial crisis of 1847—1849, was felt throughout the land, and now pretty extensively acknowledged. The administration deserves the gratitude of the people for this measure. But what Whig journal will venture to do justice to the subtreasury! Mr Gallatin says well: _" the practice .“ the practice ... to convert every

subject ... into a pure party question destroys altogether personal independence and strikes at the very roots of our institutions. The usages of party

make every man a slave, and transfer the legitimate authority of the majority of the nation, to the majority of a party, and consequently to a minority of the sovereign people.”*

Mr Polk also recommended a “ Tariff for Revenue;" Mr Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury, presented his scheme of such a tariff. In due time a bill was reported. The general tone of the discussion in Congress and out of it indicated very clearly the state of the country, and was a good example of the manner in which the most important political matters are investigated. We think there was no impartial discussion of the subject in Congress, or in the newspapers. We doubt that there is a single political or commercial journal in the United States, which would “open its columns" to a free and full discussion of

” the subject on the merits of the case.

Political economy can hardly be considered an exact science as yet; but American politicians, even the most eminent, with here and there an exception, seem ignorant of the conclusions which

may be regarded as established. Very few of them seem to study political economy-even to learn the facts on which it is based, still less to learn the natural laws on

* Letter of Feb. 10th, 1846, in the National Intelligencer.

[ocr errors]

a

"*

which the material prosperity of the nation depends. Why should they? It is a tiresome work to instruct a great nation, and mankind seldom loves its school-masters in their lifetime, while it requires little effort to swim with the tide. In 1827, the citizens of Boston “assembled to take into consideration the proposed increase of duties; their committee made a long and very able report adverse to that increase, and very justly say :

“ The success or failure of the candidate for the Presidency, may be of great moment to the country, and still greater to those partisans whose political fortunes are depending on that event; but to the nation at large, the evil or the good which may arise out of the choice of the one or the rejection of the other, can only be of temporary and limited importance compared with the wise and just disposition of a question on which our whole foreign and domestic policy tums, and which may, in its consequences, affect the stability and happiness of the Union for ages to come.

In 1789, a moderate protective duty was established, on all imported articles; in 1816, a high protective tariff was for the first time established. Mr Clay and Mr Calhoun were its most important advocates. The tariff was raised in 1818 and in 1822, and was made much higher in 1824. Mr Webster opposed it with his peculiar ability, in a speech not yet forgotten. In 1828, a very high tariff was established by what has been called “ the Bill of Abominations.” In 1832-3, the tariff relaxed a little, to avert a civil war. Mr Clay got his celebrated “ compromise act” established. The compromise lasted about nine years, till 1842. The celebrated tariff of 1842 was passed under the administration of Mr Tyler, and is too well known to require any remarks from us. Mr Webster admitted it had “its imperfections.

Mr Polk came into power with the idea of a Revenue Tariff in his mind. The bill passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 114 to 95, 1 Whig and 113 Democrats voting on that side ; 71 Whigs, 18 Democrats, and 6 “Native Americans” voting on the opposite side. It passed

* “Report of a committee of the citizens of Boston and vicinity opposed to a further increase of duties on importations. Boston. From the press of Nathan Hale.” 1827. p. 5, et seq. See, also, the Proceedings of the Meeting at Faneuil Hall, Oct. 2nd, 1820, in the New-England Palladium of Oct. 3rd, 1820. Also appended to Letters of S. D. Bradford, Esq. Boston. 1846. p. 37,

et seq.

[ocr errors]

the Senate by the casting vote of the Vice-President, who was pledged to the measure before his election. A law of this magnitude has seldom passed any modern legislature with such imperfect discussion. In the Senate only a single man, Mr Lewis, spoke in defence of the bill ; its friends gave “their thoughts no tongue,” they were “checked for silence but never taxed for speech." Certainly we must say the conduct of the friends of the bill was eminently unjust, and the bill itself was carried, not by its merits, but by the power of the party; not by force of mind, but force of numbers.

It is a little painful to see how confident men are when they are so exceedingly short-sighted. We copy some of the remarks of the leading newspapers of the day.

“The more its details (of the bill] are studied, the more odious is it made to appear;" “it is fruitful of mischief, and of mischief only;" members of Congress must be callous to every principle of justice, to every feeling of humanity,

if they can consent to destroy a measure so important as the law of 1842.” “ The spirit of evil, the exactions of party, the behests of the Baltimore convention, have finally triumphed over the prayers and remonstrances of a betrayed and terrified people. The fatal measure which strikes at the root of all the industry of the country, and at the living of every man in it who earns his bread by the sweat of his brow,—this misshapen and monstrous scheme,

this measure so pregnant of evil, has secured the sanction of both houses of Congress ;” the specie will be “all drained out of the country in order to pay the balance of trade; credit will expand to its utmost to save the specie. At length, having neither cash nor credit, poverty steps in with its imperative restraints."

Mr Webster made a learned, and in many respects a very able, speech, though he weakened his rhetoric with a little extravagance, unusual with him,-against the new Tariff -against its general principles, and its particular details. He said, in the Senate :*—

“The Treasury cannot, in my opinion, be supplied at the ratio which has been stated, and is expected, by any possible, I will say passible, augmentation of importations. Why, the effect of this bill is to diminish freights, and to affect the navigating interests of the United States most seriously, most deeply; and therefore it is, that all the ship-owners of the United States, without an exception, so far

* Speech of July 25th, 1846. VOL. X.-Critical Writings, 2.

12

« AnkstesnisTęsti »