Mr. Calhoun said: If this bill should become a law, it would make a wider breach in the Constitution, and be followed by changes more disastrous, than any one measure which has ever been adopted. It would, in its violation of the Constitution, go far beyond the general-welfare doctrine of former days, which stretched the power of the government as far as it was then supposed was possible by construction, however bold. But, as wide as were the limits which it assigned to the powers of the government, it admitted by implication that there were limits; while this bill, as I shall show, rests on principles which, if admitted, would supersede all limits.
According to the general-welfare doctrine, Congress had power to raise money, and appropriate it to all objects which it might deem calculated to promote the general welfare that is, the prosperity of the States, regarded in their aggregate character as members of the Union, or, to express it more briefly, and in language once so common, to national objects; thus excluding, by necessary implication, all that were not national, as falling within the spheres of the separate States. As wide as are these limits, they are too narrow for this bill. It takes in what is excluded under the general-welfare doctrine, and assumes for Congress the right to raise money to give, by distribution, to the States; that is, to be applied by them to those very local State objects to which that doctrine, by necessary implication, denied that Congress had a right to appropriate money; and thus superseding all the limits of the Constitution, as far, at least, as the money power is concerned.
The advocates of this extraordinary doctrine have, indeed, attempted to restrict it, in their argument, to revenue derived from the public lands; but facts speak louder than words. To test the sincerity of their argument, amendments after amendments have been offered to limit the operation of the bill exclusively to the revenue derived from that source, but which, as often as offered, have been steadily voted down by their united votes. But I take higher ground. The aid of those test votes, as strong as they are, is not needed to make good the assumption that Congress has the right to lay and collect taxes for the separate use of the States. The circumstances under which it is attempted to force this bill through speak, of themselves, a language too distinct to be misunderstood.
The treasury is exhausted; the revenues from the public lands cannot be spared; they are needed for the pressing and necessary wants of the government. For every dollar withdrawn from the Treasury and given to the States, a dollar must be raised from the customs to supply its place: that is admitted. Now, I put it to the advocates of this bill. Is there, can there be, any real difference, either in principle or effect, between raising money from customs to be divided among the States, and raising the same amount from them to supply the place of an equal sum withdrawn from the Treasury to be divided among the States ? If there be a difference, my faculties are not acute enough to perceive it, and I would thank any one who can to point it out. But, if this difficulty could be surmounted, it would avail nothing, unless another, not inferior, can also be got over. The land from which the revenue proposed to be divided is derived was purchased (with the exception of the small portion, comparatively, lying between the Ohio and Mississippi rivers) out of the common funds of the Union, and with money derived, for the most part, from customs, I do not exempt the portion acquired from Georgia, which was purchased at its full value, and cost as much, in proportion, as Florida purchased from Spain, or Louisiana from France.
If money cannot be raised from customs or other sources for distribution, I ask, How can money, derived from the sales of land purchased with money raised from the customs or other sources, be distributed among the States ? If the money could not be distributed before it was vested in land, on what principle can it be when it is converted back again into money by the sales of the land ? If, prior to the purchase, it was subject, in making appropriations, to the limits prescribed by the Constitution, how can it, after having been converted back again into money by the sale of the land, be freed from those limits ? By what art, what political alchemy, could the mere passage of the money through the lands free it from the constitutional shackles to which it was previously subject ?
But if this difficulty, also, could be surmounted, there is another, not less formidable and more comprehensive, still to be overcome. If the lands belong to the States at all, they must belong to them in one of two capacities either in their federative character, as members of a common Union, or in their separate, as distinct and independent communities. If the former, this government, which was created as a common agent to carry into effect the objects for which the Union was formed, holds the lands, as it does all its other delegated powers, as a trustee for the States in their Federal character, for the execution of those objects, and no other purpose whatever; and can, of course, under the grant of the Constitution "to dispose of the territories or other property belonging to the United States," dispose of the lands only under its trust powers, and in execution of the objects for which they were granted by the Constitution. When, then, the lands, or other property of the United States, are disposed of by sale that is, converted into money the trust, with all its limitations, attaches as fully to the money as it did to the lands or property of which it is the proceeds. Nor would the government have any more right to divide the land or the money among the States that is, to surrender it to them than it would have to surrender any other of its delegated powers. If it may surrender either to the States, it may also surrender the power of declaring war, laying duties, or coining money. They are all delegated by the same parties, held under the same instrument, and in trust, for the execution of the same objects. The assumption of such a right is neither more nor less than the assumption of a right paramount to the Constitution itself the right on the part of the government to destroy the instrument and dissolve the Union, from which it derives its existence. To such monstrous results must the principle on which this bill rests lead, on the supposition that the lands that is, the territories belong to the United States, as they are expressly declared to do by the Constitution.
But the difficulty would not be less if they should be considered as belonging to the States in their individual and separate character. So considered, what right can this government possibly have over them ? It is the agent or trustee for the United States; the States as members of a common Union, and not of the States individually, each of which has a separate government of its own to represent it in that capacity. For this government to assume to represent them in both capacities would be to assume all power to centralize the whole system in itself. But, admitting this bold assumption, on what principle of right or justice, if the lands really belong to the States or, which is the same thing, if the revenue from the lands belong to them can this government impose the various limitations prescribed in the bill ? What right has it, on that supposition, to appropriate funds belonging to the States separately to the use of the Union, in the event of war, or in case the price of the lands should be increased above a dollar and a quarter an acre, or any article of the tariff above twenty per centum ad valorem ?
Such, and so overwhelming, are the constitutional difficulties which beset this measure. No one who can overcome them who can bring himself to vote for this bill need trouble himself about constitutional scruples hereafter. He may swallow without hesitation, bank, tariff, and every other unconstitutional measure which has ever been adopted or proposed. Yes: it would be easier to make a plausible argument for the constitutionality of the most monstrous of the measures proposed by the Abolitionists for abolition itself than for this detestable bill; and yet we find Senators from slaveholding States, the very safety of whose constituents depends on a strict construction of the Constitution, recording their names in favor of a measure from which they have nothing to hope and everything to fear. To what is a course so blind to be attributed, but to that fanaticism of party zeal, openly avowed on this floor, which regards the preservation of the power of the Whig party as the paramount consideration ? It has staked its existence on the passage of this and the other measures for which this extraordinary session was called; and when it is brought to the alternative of their defeat or success, in the anxiety to avoid the one and secure the other, constituents, Constitution, duty, and country all are forgotten.
A measure which would make so wide and fatal a breach in the Constitution could not but involve in its consequences many and disastrous changes in our political system, too numerous to be traced in a speech. It would require a volume to do them justice. As many as may fall within the scope of my re marks, I shall touch in their proper place. Suffice it for the present to say, that such and so great would they be, as to disturb and confound the relations of all the constituent parts of our beautiful but complex system of that between this and the co-ordinate governments of the States, and between them and their respective constituency. Let the principle of the distribution of the revenue, on which this bill rests, be established, and it would follow, as certainly as it is now before us, that this government and those of the States would be placed in antagonist relations on all subjects except the collection and distribution of revenue; which would end, in time, in converting this into a mere machine of collection and distribution for those of the States, to the utter neglect of all the functions for which it was created. Then the proper responsibility of each to their respective constituency would be destroyed; then would succeed a scene of plunder and corruption without parallel, to be followed by dissolution, or an entire change of system. Yes: if any one measure can dissolve this Union, this is that measure. The revenue is the state, said the great British statesman, Burke. With us, to divide the revenue among its members is to divide the Union. This bill proposes to divide that from the lands. Take one step more, to which this will lead if not arrested divide the revenue from the customs, and what of union would be left ? I touched more fully on this, and other important points connected with this detestable measure, during the discussions of the last session, and shall not now repeat what I then said.
What I now propose is, to trace the change it would make in our financial system, with its bearings on what ought to be the policy of the government. I have selected, it, not because it is the most important, but because it is that which has heretofore received the least attention.
This government has heretofore been supported almost exclusively from two sources of revenue the lands and the customs; excepting a short period at its commencement, and during the late war, when it drew a great portion of its means from internal taxes. The revenue from lands has been constantly and steadily increasing with the increase of population, and may, for the next ten years, be safely estimated to yield an annual average income of $5,000,000, if they should be properly administered: a sum equal to more than a fourth of what the entire expenditures of the government ought to be with due economy, and restricted to the objects for which it was instituted. This bill proposes to withdraw this large, permanent, and growing source of revenue from the treasury of the Union, and to distribute it among the several States; and the question is, Would it be wise to do so, viewed as a financial measure, in reference to what ought to be the policy of the government ? which brings up the previous question, What ought that policy to be ? In the order of things, the question of policy precedes that of finance. The latter has reference to, and is dependent on, the former. It must first be determined what ought to be done, before it can be ascertained how much revenue will be required, and on what it ought to be raised.
To the question, then, What ought to be the policy of the government ? the shortest and most comprehensive answer which I can give is, that it ought to be the very opposite of that for which this extraordinary session was called, and of which this measure forms so prominent a part. The effect of these measures is to divide and distract the country within, and to weaken it without; the very reverse of the objects for which the government was instituted which was to give peace, tranquility, and harmony within, and power, security, and respect ability without. We find, accordingly, that without, where strength was required, its powers are undivided. In its exterior relations abroad, this government is the sole and exclusive representative of the united majesty, sovereignty, and power of the States constituting this great and glorious Union. To the rest of the world we are one. Neither State nor State government is known beyond our borders. Within it is different. There we form twenty six distinct, independent, and sovereign communities, each with its separate government, whose powers are as exclusive within as that of this government is without, with the exception of three classes of powers which are delegated to it. The first is, those that were necessary to the discharge of its exterior functions such as declaring war, raising armies, providing a navy, and raising revenue. The reason for delegating these requires no explanation. The next class consists of those powers that were necessary to regulate the exterior or international relations of the States among themselves, considered as distinct communities powers that could not be exercised by the States separately, and the regulation of which was necessary to their peace, tranquillity, and that free intercourse, social and commercial, which ought to exist between confederated States. Such are those of regulating commerce between the States, coining money, and fixing the value thereof, and the standard of weights and measures. The remaining class consists of those powers which, though not belonging to the exterior relations of the States, are of such nature that they could not be exercised by States separately without one injuring the other such as imposing duties on imports; in exercising which, the maritime States, having the advantage of good ports, would tax those who would have to draw their supply through them. In asserting that, with these exceptions, the powers of the States are exclusive within, I speak in general terms. There are, indeed, others not reducible to either of these classes, but they are too few and inconsiderable to be regarded as exceptions.
That such must be the effect of the system of measures now attempted to be forced on the government by the perversion of its interior powers, I appeal to the voice of experience in aid of the dictates of reason. I go back to the beginning of the government, and ask, What, at its outset, but this very system of measures caused the great struggle which continued down to 1828, when the system reached its full growth in the tariff of that year ? And what, from that period to the termination of the late election which brought the present party into power, has disturbed the harmony and tranquillity of the country, deranged its currency, interrupted its business, endangered its liberty and institutions, but a struggle on one side to overthrow, and on the other to uphold the system ? In that struggle it fell prostrate; and what now agitates the country, what causes this extraordinary session, with all its excitement, but the struggle on the part of those in power to restore the system; to incorporate a bank; to re-enact a protective tariff; to distribute the revenue from the lands; to originate another debt, and renew the system of wasteful expenditures; and the resistance on the part of the opposition to prevent it ? Gentlemen talk of settling these questions: they deceive themselves. They cry peace, peace, when there is no peace. There never can be peace till they are abandoned, or till our free and popular institutions are succeeded by the calm of despotism; and that not till the spirit of our patriotic and immortal ancestors, who achieved our independence and established our glorious political system, shall become extinct, and their descendants a base and sordid rabble. Till then, or till our opponents shall be expelled from power, and their hope of restoring and maintaining their system of measures is blasted, the struggle will be continued, the tranquillity and harmony of the country be disturbed, and the strength and resources of the government be wasted within, and its duties neglected without.
But, of all the measures which constitute this pernicious system, there is not one more subversive of the objects for which the government was instituted, none more destructive of harmony within and security without, than that now under consideration. Its direct tendency is to universal discord and distraction; to array the new States against the old, the non-indebted against the indebted, the staple against the manufacturing; one class against another; and, finally, the people against the government. But I pass these.
My object is not to trace political consequences, but to discuss the financial bearings of this measure, regarded in reference to what ought to be the policy of the government; which, I trust, I have satisfactorily shown ought to be, to turn its attention, energy, and resources from within to without, to its appropriate and exclusive sphere, that of guarding against danger from abroad; giving free scope and protection to our commerce and navigation, and that elevated standing to the country to which it is so fairly entitled in the family of nations. It becomes necessary to repeat, preparatory to what I propose, that the object of this measure is to withdraw the revenue from the public lands from the treasury of the Union, to be divided among the States; that the probable annual amount that would be so drawn would average the next ten years not less than five millions of dollars; and that, to make up the deficit, an equal sum must be laid on the imports. Such is the measure, regarded as one of finance; and the question is, Would it be just, wise, expedient, considered in its bearings on what ought to be the policy of the government.
The measure, on its face, is but a surrender of one of the two sources of revenue to the States, to be divided among them in proportion to their joint delegation in the two houses of Congress, and to impose a burden to an equal amount on the imports; that is, on the foreign commerce of the country. In every view I can take, it is preposterous, unequal, and unjust. Regarded in its most favorable aspect that is, on the supposition that the people of each State would pay back to the treasury of the Union, through the tax on the imports, in order to make up the deficit, a sum equal to that received by the State as its distributive share; and that each individual would receive of that sum an amount equal in proportion to what he paid of the taxes what would that be but the fully of giving with one hand and taking back with the other ? It would, in fact, be worse. The expense of giving and taking back must be paid for, which, in this case, would be one not a little expensive and troublesome. The expense of collecting the duties on imports is known to be about ten per cent.; to which must be added the expense and trouble of distribution, with the loss of the use of the money while the process is going on, which may be fairly estimated at two per cent, additional; making, in all, twelve per cent, for the cost of the process. It follows that the people of the State, in order to return back to the treasury of the Union an amount equal to the sum received by distribution, would have each to pay, by the supposition, twelve per cent, more of taxes than his share of the sum distributed. That sum (equal to six hundred thousand dollars on five millions) would go to the collectors of the taxes the custom-house officers for their share of the public spoils.
But it is still worse. It is unequal and unjust, as well as foolish and absurd. The case supposed would not be the real state of the facts. It would be scarcely possible so to arrange a system of taxes under which the people of each state would pay back a sum just equal to that received; much less that the taxes should fall on each individual in the State in the same proportion that he would receive of the share distributed to the state. But, if this be possible, it is certain that no system of taxes on imports especially the bill sent from the other house can make such equalization. So far from that, I hazard nothing in asserting that the staple States would pay into the treasury, under its operation, three times as much as they would receive on an average by the distribution, and some of them far more; while to the manufacturing States, if we are to judge from their zeal in favor of the bill, the duties it proposes to impose would be bounties, not taxes. If judged by their acts, both measures the distribution and the duties would favor their pockets. They would be gainers, let who may be losers in this financial game.
But be the inequality greater or less than my estimate, what could be more unjust than to distribute a common fund in a certain proportion among the States, and to compel the people of the States to make up the deficit in a different proportion; so that some shall pay more, and others less, than what they respectively received ? What is it but a cunningly-devised scheme to take from one State and to give to another to replenish the treasuries of some of the States from the pockets of the people of the others; in reality, to make them support the governments and pay the debts of other States, as well as their own ? Such must be the necessary result, as between the States which may pay more than they receive, and those which may receive more than they pay; the injustice and inequality will increase or decrease, just in proportion to the respective excess or deficit between receipts and payments, under this flagitious contrivance for plunder.
But I have not yet reached the reality of this profligate and wicked scheme. As unequal and unjust as it would be between State and State, it is still more so regarded in its operation between individuals. It is between them its true character and hideous features fully disclose themselves. The money to be distributed would not go to the people, but to the Legislatures of the States; while that to be paid in taxes to make up the deficiency would be taken from them individually. A small portion of that which would go to the Legislatures would ever reach the pockets of the people. It would be under the control and management of the dominant party of the Legislature, and they under the control and management of the leaders of the party. That it would be administered to the advantage of themselves, and their friends and partisans; and that they would profit more by their use and management of an irresponsible fund, taken from nobody knows who, than they would lose as payers of the taxes to supply its place, will not be doubted by any one who knows how such things are managed. What would be the result ? The whole of the revenue from the immense public domain would, if this wicked measure should become the settled policy, go to the profit and aggrandizement of the leaders, for the time, of the dominant party in the twenty-six state legislatures, and their partisans and supporters; that is, to the most influential, if not the most wealthy clique, for the time, in the respective States; while the deficiency would be supplied from the pockets of the great mass of the community, by taxes on tea, coffee, salt, iron, coarse woollens, and, for the most part, other necessaries of life. And what is that but taking from the many and giving to the few from those who look to their own means and industry for the support of themselves and families, and giving to those who look to the government for support, to increase the profit and influence of political managers and their partisans, and diminish that of the people ? When it is added that the dominant party in each state for the time would have a direct interest in keeping up and enlarging this pernicious fund, and that their combined influence must for the time be irresistible, it is difficult to see by what means the country can ever extricate itself from this measure, should it be once established, or what limits can be prescribed to its growth, or the extent of the disasters which must follow. It contains the germe of mighty and fearful changes, if it be once permitted to shoot its roots into our political fabric, unless, indeed, it should be speedily eradicated.
In what manner the share that would fall to the States would, in the first in stance, be applied, may, for the most part, be anticipated. The indebted States would probably pledge it to the payment of their debts; the effect of which would be to enhance their value in the hands of the holders the Rothschilds, the Barings, the Hopes, on the other side of the Atlantic, with wealthy brokers and stock-jobbers on this. Were this done at the expense of the indebted States, none could object. But far different is the case when at the expense of the Union, by the sacrifice of the noble inheritance left by our ancestors, and when the loss of this great and permanent fund must be supplied from the industry and property of a large portion of the community, who had no agency or responsibility in contracting the debts, or benefit from the objects on which the funds were expended. On what principle of justice, honor, or Constitution, can this government interfere, and take from their pockets to increase the profit of the most wealthy individuals in the world ?
The portion that might fall to the States not indebted, or those not deeply so, would probably, for the most part, be pledged as a fund on which to make new loans for new schemes similar to those for which the existing state debts were contracted. It may not be applied so at first; but such would most likely be the application on the first swell of the tide of expansion. Supposing one half of the whole sum to be derived from the lands should be so applied: estimating the income from that source at five millions, the half would furnish the basis of a new debt of forty or fifty millions. Stock to that amount would be created would find its way to foreign markets, and would return, as other stocks of like kind have, in swelling the tide of imports in the first instance, but in the end by diminishing them to an amount equal to the interest on the sum borrowed, and cutting off in the same proportion the permanent revenue from the customs; and this, when the whole support of the government is about to be thrown exclusively on the foreign commerce of the country. So much for the permanent effects, in a financial view, of this measure.
The swelling of the tide of imports, in the first instance, from the loans, would lead to a corresponding flush of revenue, and that to extravagant expenditures, to be followed by embarrassment of the treasury, and a glut of goods, which would bring on a corresponding pressure on the manufacturers; when my friend from Massachusetts [Mr. Bates], and other Senators from that quarter, would cry out for additional protection, to guard against the necessary consequences of the very measure they are now so urgently pressing through the Senate. Such would be the consequences of this measure, regarded as one of finance, and in reference to its internal operation. It is not possible but that such a measure, so unequal and unjust between state and state, section and section between those who live by their own means and industry, and those who live or expect to live on the public crib would add greatly to that discord and strife within, and weakness without, which are necessarily consequent on the entire system of measures of which it forms a part.
But its mischievous effects on the exterior relations of the country would not be limited to its indirect consequences. There it would strike a direct and deadly blow, by withdrawing entirely from the defences of the country one of the only two sources of our revenue, and that much the most permanent and growing. It is now in the power of Congress to pledge permanently this great and increasing fund to that important object to completing the system of fortifications, and building, equipping, and maintaining a gallant navy. It was proposed to strike out the whole bill; to expunge the detestable project of distribution, and to substitute in its place the revenue from the public lands, as a permanent fund, sacred to the defences of the country. And from what quarter did this patriotic and truly Statesmanlike proposition come ? From the far and gallant West; from a senator [Mr. Linn] of a State the most remote from the ocean, and secure from danger. And by whom was it voted down ? Strange to tell, by Senators from maritime States States most exposed, and having the deepest interest in the measure defeated by their representatives on this floor. Wonderful as it may seem, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, and South Carolina, each gave a vote against it. North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New-Jersey, gave each two votes against it, New-York gave one; and every vote from New-England, but two from New-Hampshire and one from Maine, was cast against it. Be it remembered in all after times, that these votes from States so exposed, and having so deep a stake in the defence of the country, were cast in favor of distribution of giving gratuitously a large portion of the fund from the public domain to wealthy British capitalists, and against the proposition for applying it permanently to the sacred purpose of defending their own shores from insult and danger. How strange that New-York and New-England, with their hundreds of millions of property, and so many thousands of hardy and enterprising sailors annually afloat, should give so large a vote for a measure above all others best calculated to withdraw protection from both, and so small a vote against one best calculated to afford them protection ! But, strange as that may be, it is still more strange that the staple States the States that will receive so little from distribution, and which must pay so much to make up the deficiency it will cause States so defenceless on their maritime frontier should cast so large a vote for their own oppression, and against their own defence ! Can folly, can party infatuation, be the cause one or both, go farther ?
Let me say to the Senators from the commercial and navigating States, in all soberness, that there is now a warm and generous feeling diffused throughout the entire Union in favor of the arm of defence with which your interest and glory are so closely identified. Is it wise, by any act of yours, to weaken or alienate such feelings ? And could you do an act more directly calculated to do so ? Remember, it is a deep principle of our nature not to regard the safety of those who do not regard their own. If you are indifferent to your own safety, you must not be surprised if those less interested should become still more so.
But as much as the defences of the country would be aweakened directly by the withdrawal of so large a fund, the blow would be by no means so heavy as that which, in its consequences, would fall on them. That would paralyze the right arm of our power. To understand fully how it would have that effect, we must look not only to the amount of the sum to be withdrawn, but also on what the burden would fall to make up the deficiency. It would fall on the commerce of the country, exactly where it would do most to cripple the means of defence. To illustrate the truth of what I state, it will be necessary to inquire what would be our best system of defence. And that would involve the prior question, From what quarter are we most exposed to danger ? With that I shall accordingly begin.
Every portion of our extended frontier demands attention, inland as well as maritime; but with this striking difference: that on the former, our power is as much greater than hers as hers is greater than ours on the maritime. There we would be the assailant, and whatever works may be erected there ought to have reference to that fact, and look mainly to protecting important points from sudden seizure and devastation, rather than to guard against any permanent lodgment of a force within our borders.
The difficult problem is the defence of our maritime frontier. That, of course, must consist of fortifications and a navy; but the question is, Which ought to be mainly relied on, and to what extent may the one be considered as superseding the other ? On both points I propose to make a few remarks.
Fortifications, as the means of defence, are liable to two formidable objections, either of which is decisive against them as an exclusive system of defence. The first is, that they are purely defensive. Let the system be ever so perfect, the works located to the greatest advantage, and planned and constructed in the best manner, and all they can do is to repel attack. They can not assail. They are like a shield without a sword. If they should be regarded as sufficient to defend our maritime cities, still they cannot command respect, or give security to our widely-spread and important commercial and navigating interests.
But regarded simply as the means of defence, they are defective. Fortifications are nothing without men to garrison them; and if we should have no other means of defence, Great Britain could compel us, with a moderate fleet stationed at the points mentioned, and with but a small portion of her large military establishment, to keep up on our part, to guard our coast, ten times the force, at many times the cost, to garrison our numerous forts. Aided by the swiftness of steam, she could menace at the same time every point of our coast; while we, ignorant of the time or point where the blow might fall, would have to stand prepared, at every moment and at every point, to repel her attack. A hundred thousand men constantly under arms would be insufficient for the purpose; and we would be compelled to yield, in the end, ingloriously, without striking a blow, simply from the exhaustion of our means.
Some other mode of defence, then, must be sought. There is none other but a navy. I, of course, include steam as well as sails. If we want to defend our coast and protect our rights abroad, it is absolutely necessary. The only questions are. How far ought our naval force to be carried ? and to what extent would it supersede the system of fortification ?
Before I enter on the consideration of this important point, I owe it to myself and the subject to premise that my policy is peace, and that I look to the Navy but as the right arm of defence, not as an instrument of conquest, or aggrandizement. Our road to greatness, as I said on a late occasion, lies not over the ruins of others. Providence has bestowed on us a new and vast region, abounding in resources beyond any country of the same extent on the globe. Ours is a peaceful task to improve this rich inheritance; to level its forests; cultivate its fertile soil; develop its vast mineral resources; give the greatest rapidity and facility of intercourse between its widely-extended parts; stud its wide surface with flourishing cities, towns, and villages; and spread over it richly-cultivated fields. So vast is our country, that generations after generations may pass away in executing this task, during the whole of which time we would be rising more surely and rapidly in numbers, wealth, greatness, and influence, than any other people have ever done by arms. But, to carry out successfully this, our true plan of acquiring greatness and happiness, it is not of itself sufficient to have peace and tranquillity within. These are, indeed, necessary, in order to leave the States and their citizens in the full and undisturbed possession of their resources and energy, by which to work out, in generous rivalry, the high destiny which certainly awaits our country if we should be but true to ourselves. But, as important as they may be, it is not much less so to have safety against external danger, and the influence and respectability abroad necessary to secure our exterior interests and rights (so important to our prosperity) against aggression. I look to a navy for these objects, and it is within the limits they assign I would confine its growth. To what extent, then, with these views, ought our Navy to be carried ? In my opinion, any navy less than that which would give us the habitual command of our own coast and seas, would be little short of useless. One that could be driven from sea and kept in harbor by the force which Great Britain could safely and constantly allot to our coast, would be of little more service than an auxiliary aid to our fortifications in defending our harbors and maritime cities. It would be almost as passive as they are, and would do nothing to diminish the expense, which I have shown would be so exhausting, to defend the coast exclusively by fortifications.
But the difficult question still remains to be solved: What naval force would be sufficient for that purpose ? It will not be expected that I should give more than a conjectural answer to such a question. I have neither the data nor the knowledge of naval warfare to speak with anything like precision, but I feel assured that the force required would be far less than what would be thought when the question is first propounded. The very idea of defending ourselves on the ocean against the immense power of Great Britain on that element has something startling at the first blush. But, as greatly as she outnumbers us in ships and naval resources, we have advantages that countervail that, in reference to the subject in hand. If she has many ships, she has also many points to guard, and these as widely separated as are the parts of her widely-extended empire. She is forced to keep a home fleet in the Channel, another in the Baltic, another in the Mediterranean, one beyond the Cape of Good Hope, to guard her important possessions in the East, and another in the Pacific. Our situation is the reverse. We have no foreign possessions, and not a point to guard beyond our own maritime frontier. There our whole force may be concentrated, ready to strike whenever a vulnerable point is exposed. If to these advantages be added, that both France and Russia have large naval forces; that between us and them there is no point of conflict; that they both watch the naval supremacy of Great Britain with jealousy; and that nothing is more easy than for us to keep on good terms with both powers, especially with a respectable naval force at our command, it will be readily perceived that a force far short of that of Great Britain would effect what I contemplate. I would say a force equal to one third of hers would suffice; but if not, certainly less than half would. And if so, a naval force of that size would enable us to dispense with all fortifications, except at important points, and such as might be necessary in reference to the Navy itself, to the great relief of the Treasury, and saving of means to be applied to the Navy, where it would be far more efficient. The less considerable points might be safely left to the defence of cheap works, sufficient to repel plundering attacks; as no large fleet, such as would be able to meet us, with such a naval force as that proposed, would ever think of disgracing itself by attacking places so inconsiderable.
Assuming, then, that a navy is indispensable to our defence, and that one less than that supposed would be in a great measure useless, we are naturally led to look into the sources of our naval power preparatory to the consideration of the question how they will be affected by imposing on commerce the additional burden this bill would make necessary.
Two elements are necessary to naval power sailors and money. A navy is an expensive force, and is only formidable when manned with regularly-bred sailors. In our case, both of these depend on commerce. Commerce is indispensable to form a commercial marine, and that to form a naval marine; while commerce is with us, if this bill should pass, the only source of revenue. A flourishing commerce is, then, in every respect, the basis of our naval power; and to cripple commerce is to cripple that power to paralyze the right arm of our defence. But the imposition of onerous duties on commerce is the most certain way to cripple it. Hence this detestable and mischievous measure, which surrenders the only other source of revenue, and throws the whole burden of supporting the government exclusively on commerce, aims a deadly blow at the vitals of our power.
The fatal effect of high duties on commerce is no longer a matter of speculation. The country has passed recently through two periods one of protective tariffs and high duties, and the other of a reduction of duties; and we have the effects of each in our official tables, both as it regards our tonnage and commerce. They speak a language not to be mistaken, and far stronger than any one could anticipate who has not looked into the tables, or made himself well acquainted with the powerful operation of low duties in extending navigation and commerce. As much as I had anticipated from their effects, the reduction of the duties the lightening of the burdens of commerce have greatly exceeded my most sanguine expectation.
I shall begin with the tonnage, as more immediately connected with naval power; and, in order to show the relative effects of high duties and low on our navigation, I shall compare the period from 1824, when the first great increase of protective duties took place, to 1830 inclusive, when the first reduction of duties commenced. During these seven years, which include the operation of the two protective tariffs of 1824 and 1828 that is, the reign of the high protective tariff system our foreign tonnage fell off from 639,972 tons to 576,475, equal to 61,497; our coasting tonnage from 719,190 to 615,310, equal to 103,880 tons making the falling off in both equal to 165,370 tons. Yes; to that extent (103,880) did our coasting tonnage decline the very tonnage, the increase of which, it was confidently predicted by the protective party, would make up for every possible loss in our foreign tonnage from their miserable quack system. Instead of that, the falling off in the coasting trade is even greater than in the foreign; proving clearly that high duties are not less injurious to the home than to the foreign trade.
I pass now to the period (I will not say of free trade it is far short of that) of reduction of high protective duties; and now mark the contrast between the two. I begin with the year 1831, the first, after the reduction was made on a few articles (principally coffee and tea), and will take in the entire period down to the last returns that of 1840 making a period of ten years. This period includes the great reduction under the Compromise Act, which is not yet completed, and which, in its farther progress, would add greatly to the increase, if permitted to go through undisturbed. The tonnage in the foreign trade increased during that period from 576,475 tons to 899,764, equal to 323,288 tons not much less than two thirds of the whole amount at the commencement of the period; and the coasting for the same period increased from 615,310 to 1,280,999, equal to 665,699 tons more than double; and this, too, when, according to the high tariff doctrine, our coasting trade ought to have fallen off instead of increasing (in consequence of the reduction of the duties), and thus incontestably proving that low duties are not less favorable to our domestic than to our foreign trade. The aggregate tonnage for the period has increased from 1,191,776 to 2,180,763 nearly doubled. Such, and so favorable to low duties in reference to tonnage, is the result of the comparison between the two periods.
The comparison in reference to commerce will prove not less so. In making the comparison, I shall confine myself to the export trade, not because it gives results more favorable for the reverse is the fact but because the heavy loans contracted by the States during the latter period (between 1830 and 1841) gave a factitious increase to the imports, which would make the comparison appear more favorable than it ought in reality to be. Their effects were different on the exports. They tended to decrease rather than increase their amount. Of the exports, I shall select domestic articles only, because they only are affected by the rate of the duties, as the duties on foreign articles, paid or secured by bond on their importation, are returned on reshipment. With these explanatory remarks, I shall now proceed to the comparison.
The amount in value of domestic articles exported for 1825 was $66,944,745, and in the year 1830, $59,462,029; making a falling off, under the high tariff system, daring that period, of $7,482,718. Divide the period into two equal parts of three years each, and it will be found that the falling off, in the aggregate of the latter part, compared to the former, is $13,090,255; showing an average annual decrease of $4,963,418 during the latter part, compared with the former.
The result will be found very different on turning to the period from 1830, when the reduction of the duties commenced, to 1840, during the whole of which the reduction has been going on. The value of domestic exports for 1831 was $61,277,057, and for 1840, $113,895,634; making a difference of $52,618,577, equal to eighty-three per cent, (omitting fractions) for the ten years. If the period be divided into two equal parts of five years each, the increase of the latter, compared to the former, will be found to be $139,089,371; making an average annual increase for the latter period (from 1835 to 1840) of $27,817,654. This rapid increase began with the great reduction under the Compromise Act of 1833. The very next year after it passed, the domestic exports rose from $81,034,162 to $101,189,082 just like the recoil which takes place when the weight is removed from the spring.
But my friends from the manufacturing States will doubtless say that this vast increase of exports from reduction of duties was confined to the great agricultural staples, and that the effects were the reverse as to the export of domestic manufactures. With their notion of protection, they cannot be prepared to believe that low duties are favorable to them. I ask them to give me their attention while I show how great their error is. So far from not partaking of this mighty impulse from reduction, they felt it more powerfully than other articles of domestic exports, as I shall now proceed to show from the tables.
The exports of domestic manufactures during the period from 1824 to 1832 inclusive that is, the period of the high protective duties under the tariffs of 1824 and 1828 fell from $5,729,797 to $5,050,633, making a decline of $679,133 during that period. This decline was progressive, and nearly uniform, from year to year, through the whole period. In 1833 the Compromise Act was passed, which reduced the duties at once nearly half, and has since made very considerable progressive reduction. The exports of domestic manufactures suddenly, as if by magic, sprung forward, and have been rapidly and uniformly increasing ever since; having risen, in the eight years, from 1832 to 1840, from $505,633 to $12,108,538, a third more than double in that short period, and that immediately following a great decline in the preceding period of eight years, under high duties.
Such were the blighting effects of high duties on the tonnage and the commerce of the country, and such the invigorating effects of their reduction. There can be no mistake. The documents from which the statements are taken are among the public records, and open to the inspection of all. The results are based on the operations of a series of years, showing them to be the consequence of fixed and steady causes, and not accidental circumstances; while the immediate and progressive decrease and increase of tonnage, both coastwise and foreign, and of exports, including manufactured as well as other articles, with the laying on of high duties, and the commencement and progress of their reduction, point out, beyond all controversy, high duties to be the cause of one, and reduction low duties that of the other.
It will be in vain for the advocates of high duties to seek for a different explanation of the cause of these striking and convincing facts in the history of the two periods. The first of these, from 1824 to 1832, is the very period when the late Bank of the United States was in the fullest and most successful operation; when exchanges, according to their own showing, were the lowest and most steady, and the currency the most uniform and sound; and yet, with all these favorable circumstances, which they estimate so highly, and with no hostile cause operating from abroad, our tonnage and commerce, in every branch on which the duties could operate, fell off: on the contrary, during the latter period, when all the hostile causes which they are in the habit of daily denouncing on this floor, and of whose disastrous consequences we have heard so many eloquent lamentations; yes, in spite of contractions and expansions; in spite of tampering with the currency, and the removal of the deposites; in spite of the disordered state of the whole machinery of commerce; the deranged state of the currency, both at home and abroad; in spite of the state of the exchanges, and of what we are constantly told of the agony of the country, both have increased rapidly increased increased beyond all former example ! Such is the overpowering effect of removing weights from the springs of industry, and striking off shackles from the free exchange of products, as to overcome all adverse causes.
Let me add, Mr. President, that of this highly prosperous period to industry (however disastrous to those who have over-speculated, or invested their funds in rotten and swindling institutions), the most prosperous of the whole, as the tables will show, is that during the operation of the Sub-Treasury a period when some progress was made towards the restoration of the currency of the Constitution. In spite of the many difficulties and embarrassments of that trying period, the progressive reduction of the duties, and the gradual introduction of a sounder currency, gave so vigorous a spring to our industry as to overcome them all; showing clearly, if the country was blessed with the full and steady operation of the two, under favorable circumstances, that it would enjoy a degree of prosperity exceeding what even the friends of that measure anticipated.
Having now shown that the Navy is the right arm of our defence; that it depends on commerce for its resources, both as to men and means; and that high duties destroy the growth of our commerce, including navigation and tonnage, I have, I trust, satisfactorily established the position which I laid down that this measure, which would place the entire burden of supporting the government on commerce, would paralyze the right arm of our power. Vote it down, and leave commerce as free as possible, and it will furnish ample resources, skilful and gallant sailors, and an overflowing treasury, to repel danger far from our shores, and maintain our rights and dignity in our external relations. With the aid of the revenue from land, and proper economy, we might soon have ample means to enlarge our Navy to that of a third of the British, with duties far below the limits of 20 per cent, prescribed by the Compromise Act. The annual appropriation, or cost of the British navy, is about $30,000,000. Ours, with the addition of the appropriation for the home squadron made this session, is (say) $6,000,000; requiring only the addition of four millions to make it equal to a third of that of Great Britain, provided that we can build, equip, man, and maintain ours as cheaply as she can hers. That we can, with proper management, can scarcely be doubted, when we reflect that our navigation, which involves almost all the elements of expense that a navy does, success fully competes with hers over the world. Nor are we deficient in men gallant and hardy sailors to man a navy on as large a scale as is suggested. Already our tonnage is two thirds of that of Great Britain, and will, in a short time, approach an equality with hers, if our commerce should be fairly treated. Leave, then, in the treasury the funds proposed to be withdrawn by this detestable bill; apply it to the Navy and defences of the country; and even at its present amount, with small additional aid from the impost, it will give the means of raising it, with the existing appropriation, to the point suggested; and, with the steady increase of the fund from the increased sales of lands, keeping pace with the increase of our population, and the like increase of commerce under a system of light and equal duties, we may, with proper economy in the collection and disbursements of the revenue, raise our Navy steadily, without feeling the burden, to half the size of the British, or more, if more be needed for defence and the maintenance of our rights. Beyond that we ought never to aim.
I have concluded what I proposed to say. I have passed over many and weighty objections to this measure, which I could not bring within the scope of my remarks without exhausting the patience of the body. And now, Senators, in conclusion, let me entreat you in the name of all that is good and patriotic in the name of our common country, and the immortal fathers of our Revolution and founders of our government to reject this dangerous bill. I implore you to pause, and ponder before you give your final vote for a measure which, if it should pass and become a permanent law, would do more to defeat the ends for which this government was instituted, and to subvert the Constitution, and destroy the liberty of the country, than any which has ever been proposed.