About       Speeches Prior to 1850       Speeches 1850 to 1861      Civil War Era Speeches      Reconstruction Era Speeches      Articles
 
 

Remarks on the Tariff
Speech of Representative Thaddeus Stevens,
in Congress, February 25, 1861


   Mr. STEVENS, of Pennsylvania. It is necessary for us sometimes to seem to be inconsistent. I admit that the principle of the Republican Party, with regard to this tariff matter, so far as I understand them, is not to tax tea and coffee, but to tax those things which, by being taxed, afford not only a revenue, but a protection to home industry.

   When we had our way here, we sent to the Senate a bill founded strictly upon that principle; but the bill has been vastly altered. We sent the Senate a bill abolishing the warehouse system -- a system which, in my judgment, is equal to a protection of 15 per cent. When we sent that bill there, I avowed that I voted for it as a tariff for protection as well as for revenue. Such are my sentiments; and such I believe to be the sentiments of most of the members upon this side of the House. But the bill is now changed; and it is no longer a protective tariff; for, without an abolition of the warehouse system, there is scarcely any protection in the bill. There is nothing in it but a mode of preventing fraud, by ad valorem instead of specific duties. When we sent the bill to the Senate last year, we held it up to the people of Pennsylvania as a protective tariff bill; and our laborers, our miners, our mechanics came forth from their work-shops and mountain mines, and in the election swelled our vote to an unparalleled extent. It went to the Senate; but there we were stricken down in the house of our friends. The chief feature of the bill was taken away by English merchants and New York politicians; and now we have to take it as we find it, and carry the remnant of it through.

   Now, the gentleman speaks of a treaty stipulation regulating commerce. I know it was argued in the Senate, and controlled their action. Let me ask, when treaties have ever been allowed to regulate commerce? In what part of the Constitution do you find the power of the Executive to usurp the right of regulating commerce? To Congress alone is given the power, and Congress alone must originate revenue bills in the House of Representatives, whose members are immediately responsible to the people; and not the Senate, whose members are responsible to the people only at a far distant period. Yet I know that the Senate has usurped the right, not only to destroy revenue bills -- which was never intended by the Constitution -- but to make commercial treaties, which lie wholly beyond their jurisdiction; and in no case are such treaties constitutional, except when they come down to the House -- as they did in the case of the reciprocal treaty with Canada -- and ask the consent of the House to them.

   Mr. SPINNER. With the permission of the gentleman, I will show him the authority in the Constitution. It is found in this clause:

    "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United S
tates, shall be the supreme law of the land."

   Mr. STEVENS, of Pennsylvania. The treaties made under the authority of this Constitution, shall be the supreme law of the land, and so shall all laws. But in the distribution of the treaty-making power, no power was given to regulate commerce. The commercial power is given solely to Congress, and this body only has power to originate this measure, and no commercial treaty made, or which ever can be made, by the Executive, with the Senate, will be right and constitutional, except sanctioned by this body. But I am obliged to forego some of my principles -- not all of them -- not in point of principle, but simply in point of policy. I am obliged to swallow this bill just as it is, or I know it will not be swallowed at all. I have seen sufficient upon that side of the House to convince me that there is a determination to defeat the bill if possible, and if it is sent to a committee of conference, let me tell my friends, that it will not pass at all. You will never pass it at all; and God knows, whether next year there will be a Republican party any more than there is a Democratic party. We have no Republican party in the Senate now, and they have no Democratic party; and a year hence, we cannot tell whether there will be any party at all.


Return To Index

 

 

 

 

    

webmaster@thaddeusstevens.info

This site was designed and is maintained by Fredric W. Henderson