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Justification of a Tariff Commission, Speech in the House (Classic Reprint)

Justification of a Tariff Commission, Speech in the House (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Justification of a Tariff Commission, Speech in the House

That gentleman is a merchant of large experience. This is his first term in Congress, but his representative position as a merchant has made him familiar with the difficulties that beset the consideration of the tariff question. Through three successive Congresses he and his associates sought modification of the provisions of law regulating the means of ascertaining the proper duty on colored sugars. They found each Congress alike unable to deal successfully with that single question. He could have told us of the fate of the Robbins sugar bill in the Forty-fifth and of the Tucker bill in the last Congress. He could also have reminded us of the absence of proper provisions on this subject from the tariffs proposed by Mr. Morrison and his successor, Mr. Wood. His experience in this connection justifies me in saying that I do not believe that the tariff law can in many years be judiciously revised, unless it be by the aid of such a commission as this hill proposes.

The Real Question at Issue.

The controversy which has so fiercely raged in Congress for some years is not on questions of detail. Were it, these might be arranged; but it is on fundamental principles, being, Shall our impost duties be adjusted in accordance with the abstract doctrine of free trade as we have heard it presented by the gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Tucker] in the last two hours, or upon the basis of a national polity, the aim of which shall be the promotion of the power of the nation by the development of its material resources, and the quickening into profitable activity of the genius and aptitudes of its people? In the presence of this doctrinal controversy, judicious action and harmonious conclusions are impossible. There is no common ground on which the adherents of these antagonistic theories can meet for compromise.

Sir, who can doubt that had the Committee on ways and Means reported a bill proposing to change the duty on any one commodity, it would have opened to the free-trade side of the House the coveted opportunity to force by innumerable amendments the discussion of every item in the tariff law!

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