« AnteriorContinuar »
at the election. The only remaining measure of the late session, which the limits of this letter will allow me to mention, is
The Bank was the favorite measure with the Southern Whigs : the tariff with the Northern ones. The first had been lost by the veto of the called session; and the second was involved in much difficulty by two solemn compromises, limiting its amount to twenty per cent. The first compromise was in 1833, in order to prevent civil war, and a probable dissolution of the Union. The North had enjoyed the benefit of it, on their part, ever since; and now the time was coming (30th June, 1812) when the South was to begin to enjoy it on her part. It has often been questioned whether the North would continue to adhere to this solemn compact or not, when it began to be her interest to violate it. Hence the candidates for the Presidency in 1840 were often questioned on the subject, because the South could not afford to vote for any man for that high office who would withholil from it her part of the bargain, after the North, for nearly ten years, had been pocketing millions upon millions under it. The Southern Whigs obtained the solemn promise of General Harrison that he never would consent to set aside or violate the compromise act of 1833. In his Zanesville letter he said :
“I am for supporting the compromise act, and never will agree to its being altered or repealed."
In reply to a letter from Mr. Berrien of Georgia, he said: "Good faith, and the peace and harmony of the Union, do, in iny opinion, require that the compromise of the tariff, known as Mr. Clay's bill, should be carried out according to its spirit and intention."
Well, these letters were published ; and many of the States, opposed to any other tariff than the compromise, voted for Harrison and Tyler—the latter of whom every one knew to be so much of an anti-tariff man as to have been even a nullifier in the days of that doctrine. But Harrison was dead at the time of the called session, and the time was rapidly approaching when the fidelity of the North would be brought to the teet. It was, therefore, highly important to the South to get
be the larrison party, and to reverence and honor his principles. An opportunity occurred on the passage of the distribution bill. It was said often in argument in relation to that bill, that, if the land money was given away, Congess would be obliged to raise the duties above twenty percent., in violation of the compromise, in order to have money enough to carry on the government. This rousedup Southern Senators to demand a renewal of the Harrison pledge, never to violate the terms of the compromise. Without this renewed pledge, they declared that they could not and would not vote for the distribution. Thereupon, the Whis party in the Senate did give the pledge, by introducing the proviso, that if, at any time, the duties should be raised above twenty per cent., the land distribution should cease. They sent it to the llouse of Repretentatives, where the Whig party of that body signed, scaled, and ratified the same pledge. The good faith of the North to the observance of the compromise having been thus more than doubly secured-secured by the pledge of Jr. Clay, that no honorable man deserving the name of an American statesman, would ever propose its violation-secured by the pledge of General Harrison, that he would never consent to set it aside-secured now, in 1841, by the pledge of the Thig party in both IIouses of Congress, that they did not intend its violation, and that, if they ever did, they would instantly surrender the further distribution of the land fund. With such assurances as these, the land bill received the sanction and signature of the President. Now, under all these solemn covenants, compacts, compromises, or whatever else you may choose to call them, made in old and recent times by the leaders of the party, and by the purty itself, what ought to have been done by them in relation to the tariff at the present session ? D They ought to have enacted only a few obvious provisions in relation to the mode of ascertaining the home valuation, and of carrying into effect the compromise act of 1833. This, and the correction of some errors of the last session in regard to the list of free articles, are, in my opinion, all that honor, justice and good faith allowed them to have done. This could have been done in a few weeks, at farthest; half of this everlasting session could have been saved, and all the parts of delicate question, could have been reposing in confidence and affection under the equal and benign protection of the Constitution. It may seem to you strange that this "consummation devoutly to be wished” for, was not attained. But you must remember that it has been the policy of the dominant party not to bring forward their measures separately, but to link and fasten them together, so that, by a combination of various interests, all should be dragged through together. The journals show that no one of the great measures of either session ever commanded the majority of the two Houses of Congress. Not one of them. Neither distribution, the bank, the tariff, nor the bankrupt law, ever had a majority of the two Houses; and yet all of them were gotten through. I have just shown you how the bankrupt bill drayged through the distribution bill, and how the latter, by increasing the wants of the treasury, dragged through the tariff. All these measures were declared by the Dictator to constitute a system, and should be judged of and acted on as a system, and not on their individual and separate merits or demerits. Hence it became the interest of all to support each, and of each to support all. But the President, by his veto, had put the bank interest out of the concern, and there remained, to trude upon at this session, only the two remaining measures-distribution and the tariff. I have just mentioned the embarrassing pledge which both of these interests had given at the preceding session. According to that pledge, if the tariff went up above twenty per cent., distribution must eease. If it did not go up above twenty per cent., the manufacturers insisted that they would be ruined. In the meantime, it was known that the President would not sanction both. What, then, was to be done? The party was in extremis—its agony immense. If the walls of their secret council chamber could speak, what a tale would they tell of this ill-judging and ill-doing party! Well, their resolution was taken-to make one more bold and united charge, and drive the President, if possible, from his position-compel him to sanction both distribution and a higher tariff than the compromise. “What though he remind us that the compromise was the work of Mr. Clay? what if he shall tell us of General Harrison's and his own pledges of 1840 ? ingly prepared-distribution and protection are linked together. What sort of protection ? The highest, having reference to the rates established, the present prices of most articles, and the general circumstances of the times, which was ever passed in this country. I have no time to show you its enormous rates now on sugar, iron, salt, domestics, woollens, on everything. I have done that on another occasion. The Democrats did all they could; they stood on the compromise; they advanced even farther, in the later progress of the measure, They brought forward a proposition (Senator Sevier's) advancing five per cent. on the compromise act, and allowing home valuation and cash duties beside-equal to at least thirty per cent. But it was all in vain ; their own bill, and nothing but their own bill, they were determined to have.
They passed it by a vote of 105 to 103; and, had all the members been present, it would have been an exact tie, and dependent on the vote of the Speaker. That vote would have been undoubtedly given in favor of the bill. This would have presented the question, whether the Whigs would have had a bill by virtue of the one-man power. They complain grievously that they lose a bill by such an odious power, and surely they would refuse to receive one from such a source.
The bill was so enormous and unjust in its rate of duties, that, although it was one of high party interest, every one of my Whig colleagues from Middle and West Tennessee (except Mr. Gentry) voted against it. The veto of the President, however, although it defeated the very bill which they themselves had voted to defeat, they did not and would not support. Such was their exasperation against Mr. Tyler for doing precisely what they had done, (withholding his approbation, that when the bill was again put on its passage, as required by the Constitution, not one of them would vote against it, as they had done before. I suppose they concluded, that, as they could not consistently vote for the bill, and as a vote against it might geem too much like agreeing with the President, they concluded not to yote at all! On the passage of the McKennan bill, (without distribution,) the Democratic members of the State Whig Representative from it (except Mr. Joseph L. Williams) against the bill. It was, indeed, a most gratifying concurrence of opinion, indicating that there would be, at all events, not more than one man from the whole State to sustain this odious and oppressive measure. But our satisfaction was of brief duration. When the bill returned from the Senate, a motion was made to lay it, with all its amendments, on the table. If this motion succeeded, the bill would be defeated, and the country rescued from all the evils which it was calculated to inflict, at least on the agricultural States. It was the last final test vote on the subject. But our Whig friends, with only two exceptions, voted against laying it on the table. These exceptions were Mr. Gentry and Mr. C. H. Williams, who were, no doubt, unavoidably absent, and, therefore, did not vote at all. Even the burly and intractable Arnold, who had been with us in every contest, (after he lost his land, and got so mad with President Tyler for his veto,) now deserted us in the last dying struggle against the bill, and went back and joined again with our oppressors ! How strong are the triple cords that bind us to our party! I return from digression, to pursue further the history and progress of this measure.
On the 9th of August the President returned the bill with his objections. The message was one of the best he had ever sent to Congress. Lucid in style, and cogent in argument, it marched directly on its object. It breathed no complaint that a second experiment had been made to drive him from his known opinions, nor uttered the slightest rebuke for this breach of the plighted faith of the party which had originally secured his signature to the distribution bill. But he was met in no correspondent spirit of forbearance and moderation. What was never done before, was perpetrated on this occasion. A special committee, composed of the President's bitterest enemies, Adams, Botts, Granger, and others-was appointed, to whom the message and the bill were referred. The report of Mr. Adams was all that might be expected from the vast but poisoned well of learning (not knowledge) of that passionate and irritable old man. It abounded in whatever dislike to the Pre. sident, hereditary hatred to the Democracy of the country, and