Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 74.djvu/462

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
I take the liberty, Mr. Chairman, at this early stage of the business, to introduce to the committee a subject which appears to me to be of the greatest magnitude; a subject, sir, that requires our first attention and our united exertions. . . . The deficiency in cur treasury has been too notorious to make it necessary for me to animadvert upon that subject. Let us content ourselves with endeavoring to remedy the evil. To do this a national revenue must be obtained; but the system must be such a one that, while it secures the object of revenue, it shall not be oppressive to our constituents. Happy it is for us that such a system is within our power, for I apprehend that both these objects may be obtained from an impost on articles imported into the United States. In pursuing this measure, I know that two points occur for our consideration. The first respects the general regulation of commerce, which, in my opinion, ought to be as free as the policy of nations will admit. The second relates to revenue alone, and this is the point I mean more particularly to bring into the view of the committee. . . . The proposition made on this subject by Congress in 1783, having received generally the approbation of the several states of the union in one form or other, seems well calculated to become the basis of the temporary system which I wish the committee to adopt.

In closing, Mr. Madison offered a resolution declaring it to be the sense of the committee that specific duties should be levied on spirituous liquors, molasses, wines, teas, sugars, pepper, cocoa and spices, and an ad valorem duty upon all other articles; and also a tonnage duty upon American vessels in which merchandise was imported, and a higher rate upon foreign vessels.

From that day until this the United States has maintained a tariff. At times for revenue only, but in the main to produce a revenue and to protect home industries.

The act of August 10, 1790, was entitled "An act for laying a duty on goods, wares and merchandises imported into the United States ... for the discharge of the debts of the United States and for the encouragement and protection of manufacturers."

It should therefore be noted that from the very inception of our government the tariff has been recognized as exercising two distinct functions; to wit, to raise a revenue and as well to protect home manufacturers.

Since the act of 1790 there have been passed by Congress thirtythree distinct tariff acts up to and including the act of 1897. Of these the McKinley act of 1890, the Wilson act of 1894 and the Dingley act of 1897, being the one now in operation, are those of most interest to the importer of the present day.

Probably no tariff act was ever placed upon the statute books that did not contain mistakes and that was not open to criticism from one source or another. The most equitable, the most liberal act must hurt some individual.

The importer who purchases his goods in other countries to sell at home, is primarily a free trader, and as such regards each per cent, of duty laid upon his particular importation as a tax upon his business. Sometimes he is so short-sighted as to consider his own particular