CHAPTER XIV. THE TARIFF OF 1824 (1820-1824)
In the speeches of some of the representatives of the south was a note of revolt not to be found in Webster's argument. For the first time in the discussion of the tariff, the constitutional objection was made prominent. It was argued that the power to impose taxes and duties was given for the purpose of raising revenue, not for the purpose of protection. If not the letter, at least the spirit, of the Constitution was violated, so it was charged, by this distortion of the power of taxation. The proceedings of the constitutional convention were recited to show that a proposition conferring the alleged power was voted down. To this, Clay gave the reply that the clause on which the protectionists relied was the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations.
Even the south, however, laid less stress upon the constitutional argument than upon the injustice to the section. McDuffie, for example, replying to Clay, [Footnote: Ibid., II., 2400 et seq.] argued that no one of the great sections of the country, if it were a separate nation, could advantageously apply the system of protection. He warned the western states that the system would make them tributary to the Atlantic states, [Footnote: Ibid., II., 2423.] and that they had more to lose by alienating the friendship of the south for a system of internal improvements which should facilitate the sale of their meat products to the south than by a union with the manufacturing interests. With respect to the south itself, he declared that cotton, which alone constituted one-third of the whole export of the Union, was in danger of losing the market of England if we ceased to take the manufactures of that country. Protesting that the protective system would strike at the root of their prosperity, by enhancing the cost of the clothing of their slaves and the bagging used to cover their cotton-bales, while at the same time it put to hazard the sale of their great staple in the English market, he yet declared that, if the bill should pass, "even with a majority of a single vote, I shall, as bound by my allegiance, submit to it as one of the laws of my country."
But if this South Carolina leader represented the attitude of his state in showing moderation at this time, [Footnote: See Ames, State Docs, on Federal Relations, No. 4, p. 6.] not so did the free-lance John Randolph, of Virginia. "I do not stop here, sir," said he, "to argue about the constitutionality of this bill; I consider the Constitution a dead letter; I consider it to consist, at this time, of the power of the General Government and the power of the States - that is the Constitution." "I have no faith in parchment, sir; ... I have faith in the power of the commonwealth of which I am an unworthy son." "If, under a power to regulate trade, you prevent exportation; if, with the most approved spring lancets, you draw the last drop of blood from our veins; if, secundum artem, you draw the last shilling from our pockets, what are the checks of the Constitution to us? A fig for the Constitution! When the scorpion's sting is probing to the quick, shall we stop to chop logic? ... There is no magic in this word union." While he threatened forcible resistance, he rejoiced in the combination of the shipping and commercial classes of New England with the south in opposition to the measure. "The merchants and manufacturers of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, the province of Maine and Sagadahock," said he, "repel this bill, whilst men in hunting-shirts, with deer-skin leggings and moccasins on their feet, want protection for manufactures."
The bill passed the House of Representatives on April 16, 1824, by the close vote of 107 to 102, and subsequently passed the Senate by a small majority: