CHAPTER XIX. THE TARIFF OF ABOMINATIONS AND THE SOUTH CAROLINA EXPOSITION (1827- 1828)
While the slavery agitation was inflaming the minds of South Carolina and her sister states of the cotton region, and while Georgia, half a frontier state, was flinging defiance at the general government when it checked her efforts to complete the possession of her territory, the reopening of the tariff question brought the matter of state resistance to a climax.
The tariff of 1824 was unsatisfactory to the woolen interests. In the course of the decade there had been an astonishing increase of woolen factories in New England, [Footnote: See chap. ii., above.] and the strength of the protective movement grew correspondingly in that section. By a law which took effect at the end of 1824, England reduced the duty on wool to a penny a pound, and thus had the advantage of a cheap raw material as well as low wages, so that the American mills found themselves placed at an increasing disadvantage. Under the system of ad valorem duties, the English exporters got their goods through the United States custom-house by such under valuation as gravely diminished even the protection afforded by the tariff of 1824; and the unloading of large quantities of woolen goods by auction sales brought a cry of distress from New England. This led to an agitation to substitute specific duties in place of ad valorem, and to apply to woolens the minimum principle already applied to cottons. At the same time sheep-raisers were demanding increased protection.
Early in 1827, therefore, Mallory, of Vermont, a state which was especially interested in wool-growing, brought into the House of Representatives a report of the committee on manufactures, proposing a bill which provided three minimum points for woolen goods, with certain exceptions, those that cost less than 40 cents a square yard were to be rated as though they cost 40 cents in imposing the tariff; those which cost between 40 cents and $2.50 were reckoned at $2.50; and those which cost between $2.50 and $4, at $4. Upon unmanufactured wool, after 1828, a duty of forty per cent, was imposed, and all wool costing between 10 and 40 cents a pound was to be rated at 40 cents. [Footnote: Stanwood, Tariff Controversies, I., 255.]
The political situation exercised a dominant influence upon the tariff legislation at this time. As the campaign between Adams and Jackson was approaching its end, the managers of Jackson faced the problem of how to hold together the forces of the south, which were almost to a man opposed to tariff legislation, and those of Pennsylvania and New York, where protection was so popular. Jackson himself, as we have seen, announced his belief in the home-market idea, and, although with some reservations, committed himself to the support of the protective system.
While the forces of Jackson were not harmonious on the tariff, neither was there consistency of interests between the friends of protection in New England, the middle states, and the west. If New England needed an increased tariff to sustain her woolen factories, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and parts of New York were equally interested in extending the protection to wool, the raw material of the New England mills. If the New England shipping interests demanded cheap cordage, on the other hand, the Kentucky planters were ever ready to plead for an increased duty upon the hemp which made the ropes. If iron foundries were developing among the towns of the New England coast, where ships brought in the raw material from Sweden and from England, the Pennsylvania forges found an opposite interest in their desire for an increased duty on pig-iron to protect the domestic product.
The history of the tariff has always been the history of the struggle to combine local and opposing interests into a single bill. Such conditions furnished opportunity for the clever politicians who guided Jackson's canvass to introduce discordant ideas and jealousy between the middle states, the west, and New England. The silence of the New England president upon the question of the tariff, the "selfishness of New England's policy," and the inducements offered to the middle region and the west to demand protection for their special interests were all successfully used to break the unity of the tariff forces. Even protectionist Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, home of the champion of the American system, gave a large share of their votes against the bill. Although it passed the House (February 10, 1827), the Senate laid it on the table by the casting-vote of Vice-President Calhoun, who was thus compelled to take the responsibility of defeating the measure, [Footnote: See the account of Van Buren's tactics at this time, in Stanwood, Tariff Controversies, I., 258; and Calhoun, Works, III., 47.] and to range himself permanently with the anti-tariff sentiment of his section.