CHAPTER XII. ELEMENTS OF POLITICAL REORGANIZATION (1824-1829).
[Commercial treaties.] [Woollen bill.]
In one respect Adams was successful; he negotiated almost as many commercial treaties as had been secured during the previous fifty years. Trade had sprung up with the Spanish American States. England had meanwhile begun to relax her system of protection, and encouraged manufactures by importing raw materials on very low duties; woollens were therefore so cheapened that they could again be sold in the United States in competition with American manufacturers. In October, 1826, the Boston woollen manufacturers asked "the aid of the government." A bill was accordingly introduced, which Adams would doubtless have signed, increasing the duties on coarse woollens. It passed the House in 1827, but was lost in the Senate by the casting vote of the Vice-President, Calhoun. His change of attitude is significant; it showed that the most advanced Southern statesman had abandoned the policy of protection, as he had abandoned the policy of internal improvements. The Boston petition marked another change. New England had at last settled down to manufacturing as her chief industry, and insisted on greater protection.
The narrow failure of the Woollens Bill in 1827 encouraged a protectionist convention at Harrisburg, which suggested very high duties; but the main force behind the movement was a combination of the growers and manufacturers of wool, including many Western men. It is probable that Clay was glad to make the tariff a political issue, hoping thus to confound the anti-Adams combination.
[Tariff on raw materials.] [The act passed.]
A new bill was reported, introducing the novel principle that the raw materials of manufactures should be highly protected; the purpose was evidently to frame a tariff unacceptable to New England, where Adams had his chief support, and to draw the votes of the South and West. The Western Jackson men favored it because it raised the tariff; and the Southern anti-tariff men expected to kill Adams with the bill, and then to kill the bill. They therefore voted for enormous duties: the duty on hemp was raised from $35 to $60 a ton; on wool from about thirty per cent to about seventy per cent. In vain did the Adams men attempt to reframe the bill: when it came to a vote, sixteen of the thirty-nine New England members felt compelled to accept it, with all its enormities, and it thus passed the House. Even Webster voted for it in the Senate, and his influence secured its passage. On May 24, 1828, Adams signed it. Throughout the debate the influence of the approaching campaign was seen. John Randolph said of it: "The bill referred to manufactures of no sort or kind except the manufacture of a President of the United States."
Notwithstanding these political complications the South saw clearly that the act meant a continuance of the protective system. Five States at once protested in set terms against the law and against the passage by Congress of protective acts. Calhoun came forward as the champion of this movement, and he put forth an argument, known as the South Carolina Exposition, in which he suggested a convention of the State of South Carolina. "The convention will then decide in what manner they [the revenue acts] ought to be declared null and void within the limits of the State, which solemn declaration would be obligatory on our own citizens." The period of the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions seemed to have returned.
139. ORGANIZED OPPOSITION TO ADAMS (1825-1829).
It has been seen that on most of the great questions which arose in Adams's administration there was a division, not so much on principle, as between the friends and opponents of the President. The four years of his administration were really a long drawn Presidential campaign. The friends of Jackson sought in every possible way to make Adams odious in the public mind.
[Executive patronage.] [Retrenchment.]
One of the early evidences of this personal opposition was a report brought in, May 4, 1826, by a Select Committee on Executive Patronage; it included Benton and Van Buren, who had heartily given in his adhesion to Jackson. They reported that the exercise of great patronage by one man was dangerous, and they proposed that a constitutional amendment be secured, forbidding the appointment of senators or representatives to office. In the next Congress, from 1827 to 1829, the Jackson men had a majority in both Houses, and an attempt was made to prejudice Adams by showing that the government was extravagant. Resolutions were adopted calling for a retrenchment; but no misuse of the public money could be brought home to the President.
The so-called investigations were only political manoeuvres: a President who permitted his political enemies to remain in office was upbraided for abusing the appointing power, a President who had never removed one person for political reason was accused of a misuse of the removing power. Nevertheless, the steady waning of Adams's popularity shows that he was not in accord with the spirit of the people of his time.
[Jackson's campaign.] [The Democrats.]