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will not enter gratuitously upon the dull discussion of abstract principles, or the dry narration of statistical details. Whatever pains I may have taken in preparation for such a task, I gladly forget ; — whatever satisfaction I may have anticipated in the performance of it, I willingly forego. I will only pray the patience of the House for a few minutes, while, quitting the path which I had marked out for myself in advance, burning my books, blotting out my figures, and religiously eschewing all entertainment of abstract principles, I take up the question where I find it this morning, or rather where the gentleman from Gloucester lest it yesterday.
Sir, I understood that gentleman (Mr. Rantoul) to say, in reply to the honorable member from Nantucket, (Mr. Burnell,) who had ventured to introduce the names of John Hancock and Samuel Adams into this discussion, that could those sacred shades be summoned, at this moment, from their abode, they would be among the first and foremost to protest against the unconstitutional system of taxation which these resolutions support and advocate, - that they would resist it in the same tones and in the same spirit in which they once resisted the tyrannical taxation of Great Britain. It would be easy, Mr. Speaker, to argue out, to almost any length, the countless distinctions between the Tariff of our own Congress and the taxation without representation imposed upon the American Colonies by a British Parliament. But I propose to answer this singular position by no such process. I propose to confine myself, on this point of the question, to the simple recital of one or two authentic anecdotes, which I am sure will not be uninteresting in themselves, and which are worth a brainful of arguments upon this precise issue. They are not new, Sir. I can claim no credit for having hunted them out from the heap of forgotten history. The research of others has done this, and the eloquence of others has embalmed them beyond all danger of future oblivion. But so entirely pertinent are they to the remark of the gentleman from Gloucester, and to the whole question before us, that I trust I shall be pardoned the plagiarism, if such it ought to be called, of relating them on this occasion, as nearly as I can remember, in the form in which I have found them elsewhere.
The Protecting System an unconstitutional system, and John Hancock and Samuel Adams rising from their graves to resist it! Let us go back in imagination, Mr. Speaker, about threeand-fifty years. Let us transport ourselves to the scenes and the circumstances of that distant day. The War of the Revolution is ended. The banners of liberty are at last waving in triumph over the fields upon which they have so often drooped in blood. The strife, the clash, the groan, the shout, are all
But not so the private distress and the public depression. These, if not absolutely greater than during the heat of the war, are certainly more severely felt. No all-absorbing excitement drives them from the thought, - no all-animating hope alleviates them to the feeling. That hope is realized, and the fruition has commenced.
The Atlantic seaboard is the principal scene of this distress, and the ship-owners, the ship-builders, and the various classes of mechanics to which commerce gives support, are the principal sufferers. They are all destitute of employment, and some of them of bread. British ships are entering their ports daily and are deeply laden with British goods, but their own ships and their own goods have neither protection at home nor free trade abroad. There is no power under the existing confederation to adopt a general system of imposts, nor can any individual State successfully establish such a system for itself. Under these circumstances the idea of a Voluntary Association, which had been so effective in the days of the Stamp Act and the Tea Tax, is proposed, and a public meeting is held on the subject by the merchants and ship-builders of Boston. A Committee is appointed to draft an address to the.people, and they are expressly instructed to call upon them, in the strongest terms, not to buy or consume any articles which were imported in British ships. And who is the Chairman of the Committee to whom this work is intrusted ? It is John Hancock, Sir, the same who is now summoned from his grave to protest against the abominable policy of a Protecting System.
The address is drafted, the appeal is made, and the me. chanics of Boston are now assembled to respond to it. They cordially concur in the doctrines of the merchants, — they agree to the principle that American shipping ought to be protected, and that British goods ought not to be bought or consumed when imported in British ships. But they do not stop here. They are for carrying the system of protection a step farther, and they insist, in their turn, that these British goods ought not to be bought or consumed at all. " For,” say they, " Mr. Hancock, what difference does it make to us, whether hats, shoes, boots, shirts, handkerchiefs, tin-ware, brass-ware, cutlery, and every other article, come in British ships or come in your ships ; since, in whatever ships they come, they take away our means of living.” It does not appear, Mr. Speaker, what answer was given by Mr. Hancock to this pregnant interrogatory. I know not what answer he could have given but one of assent and approbation. At all events we see him here one of the earliest advocates of a protecting policy; and who can doubt that could the conjuration of the gentleman from Gloucester summon him out of his grave in the faith in which he went down into it, he would be found so still ? But let us turn to another scene, and another character.
Let us come down, Sir, to the beginning of the year 1788. The Constitution of the United States is in the process of adoption. Four or five States have already given it their sanction, but as many more are required to carry it into operation. The decision in other States is extremely doubtful, and nowhere more so than in Massachusetts, whose Convention is now in session. John Hancock, it is well known, is President of this Convention, but Samuel Adams also is a conspicuous member. He is naturally of a cautious and doubting disposition, and has many fears of the practicability and safety of the proposed form of government. The whole weight of his name and character are consequently arrayed at the outset against its adoption, when suddenly a change comes over his views, and is yisible in his conduct. The mechanics of Boston have held a meeting at the Green Dragon. They have passed resolutions. They have sent those resolutions to Mr. Adams by the hand of Paul Revere.“ How many mechanics,” says Mr. Adams, “ were there at the Green Dragon when these resolutions were adopted?” “ More than the Green Dragon could hold.” 6 And where were the rest ?" “ In the streets." 6 And
He was a
how many were there in the streets ? ” 66 More than there are stars in the sky." I see before me, Mr. Speaker, one of the very mechanics who met at the Green Dragon on this eventful occasion. My venerable friend and colleague (Zachariah Hicks) was not merely a witness but a party to this scene. Whig in that day, as he is in this. And what were the resolutions which he assisted in passing? They declared that, if the Constitution were adopted, “ trade and navigation would revive and increase, and employ and subsistence be afforded to many of the townsmen then suffering for the want of the necessaries of life," while, on the contrary, should the Constitution be rejected, “ the small remains of commerce yet left would be annihilated the various trades and handicrafts dependent thereon decay; the poor be increased, and many worthy and skilful mechanics be compelled to seek employ and subsistence in strange lands." These were the doctrines of the mechanics of that day;
these were the hopes which they entertained in advocating the adoption of the Constitution; -encouragement to their own labor and protection from foreign competition. And partly, at least, under the influence of these doctrines and these hopes, thus expressed and thus conveyed, Samuel Adams abandons all opposition to the Constitution, and John Hancock unites with him in its favor. There is no longer any doubt; the question is decided; and Massachusetts gives, as it were, the very casting vote in favor of the Constitution. The example of conciliatory moderation which she sets, in proposing amendments to be acted on after its adoption instead of before, is followed by other States, and the ratification is soon complete. And yet we are now told, Sir, that Samuel Adams and John Hancock, could they rise from the dead, would be among the first and foremost to protest against the Protecting System as an unconstitutional system of taxation!
Mr. Speaker, the anecdotes which I have related do not simply demonstrate the absurdity of this idea. They do not only prove to us which side these distinguished persons, if permitted to revisit this scene of their patriotic labors, would take in the questions before us. They also exhibit to us distinctly the circumstances and the sentiments under which the Constitution of the United States was adopted, and the immediate ad
vantages which were expected from its adoption. Compare, now, these two incidents together; look at the cause of the depression and distress which pervaded the country, as explained in the first, and at the remedy which was prescribed and administered in the last, and then add a single other fact to your view a fact, which the published statutes of the country attest, that the very first Revenue Act which was adopted by Congress after the Constitution went into operation, contained in its preamble the express declaration, that the duties it imposed were laid not only for the support of government and the discharge of the public debts, but for the encouragement and protection of manufactures;and then give sentence with me, Sir, as to the unconstitutionality of this system of taxation!
But let me turn from argument to authority upon this point. The gentleman told us the other day that Daniel Webster once asserted the unconstitutionality of the Tariff. Now, it is true, I believe, Mr. Speaker, that this distinguished statesman did venture to say, some twenty years ago, in the deliberate form of a Caucus Speech, that, as an original question, - the practice of government set aside, — the power of Congress to lay duties for protection was, in his opinion, a more doubtful one than that to expend money in Internal Improvements. Something of this sort he has himself confessed. But, most fortunately, Sir, he has also confessed under what influence it was that he resolved these doubts, at the feet of what Gamaliel he unlearned this opinion. It was James Madison, we are told, who satisfied Mr. Webster on this point, so far as the practice of government had left it an open question — JAMES MADISON whose opinions, I had supposed to be the very scale and standard of true, old-fashioned Republicanism. The vaunted democracy of the present day, it seems, is seeking newer lights, and it is welcome to the whole benefit of their brilliancy. But there are those in this House, and a majority, too, I believe, who desire no better authority, on this subject at least, than that of James Madison, and who will rest their belief in the constitutionality of the Tariff on his opinions, without any fear or any misgiving
But the anecdotes which I have related have still another ap