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sion; Whig orators traversing the country, and stimulating the passions of excited multitudes, without respect even to the sanctity of the Sabbath; inflammatory memorials poured into Congress from every quarter; the Senate almost decreeing itself into a state of permanent insurrection, and proclaiming that a revolution had already begun; all the business of legislation in both wings of the capitol postponed to that of agitation and panic ; an extrajudicial and branding sentence pronounced upon the chief magistrate of the nation, in violation of usage and of the constitution—these features present but a faint picture of the alarm and confusion which prevailed. Consternation had almost seized upon the Republican ranks, thinned by desertion and harassed by distracting doubts and fears. But the stern resolve of him whose iron arm guided the helm of state, conducted the perilous conflict to a successful issue. Nor should we forget the eminent services of the individual who presided over the Committee of Ways and Means. His coolness, promptitude, and abundant resources, were never at fault. His opening speech in vindication of the President’s measure, contains all the material facts and reasons on the republican side of the question, enforced with much power, and illustrated by great research. To this speech almost every member of the opposition, who spoke upon the question, attempted to reply, but the arguments which its author brought forward to establish the power of the President under the constitution, as elucidated by cotemporaneous or early exposition, to do the act which had been so boldly denounced as a high-handed and tyrannical usurpation, could neither be refuted nor weakened.
Mr. McDuffie, the distinguished leader of the opposition in this eventful conflict, bore testimony, in his concluding remarks, to the boldness and manliness with which Mr. Polk had assumed the only position which could be judiciously taken. The financial portion of his speech, and that in which he exposed the glaring misdeeds of the Bank, were no less efficient. When Mr. McDuffie had concluded the remarks to which we have alluded, a member from Virginia, [Mr. Mason] after a few pertinent observations, demanded the previous question. A more intense excitement was never felt in Congress than at this thrilling moment. The two parties looked at each other for a space, in sullen silence, like two armies on the eve of a deadly conflict. The motion of Mr. Mason prevailed, the debate was arrested, and the division proved a triumphant victory for the republican V cause. The Bank then gave up the contest in despair. “The position of the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, at all times a most arduous and responsible one, was doubly so at this session, which will form an epoch in the political annals of the country. Mr. Polk occupied it for the first time. From its organization and the nature of its duties, this committee must be at all times the chief organ of every administration in the House. At this session it was for obvious reasons peculiarly so. To attack it, then, was to strike at the government; to embarrass its action was to thwart the course of the Administration. Extraordinary and indiscriminate opposition was accordingly made to all the appropriation bills. It was avowed in debate, that it was within the scope of legitimate opposition to withhold even the ordinary supplies until the deposits were restored to the Bank of the United States: that this restitution must be made, or revolution ensue. The Bank must triumph, or the wheels of government be arrested. The people should never forget the perils of a contest in which they were almost constrained to succumb. The recollection should warn them not to build up again a power in the State of such formidable faculties. The tactics which we have just described, threw great additional labor upon the committee, and particularly upon its chairman. Fully apprised of the difficulties he had to encounter, he maintained his post with sleepless vigilance and untiring activity. He was always ready to give the House ample explanation upon every item, however minute, of the various appropriations. He was ever prompt to meet any objections which might be started, and of quick sagacity to detect the artifices to which factious disingenuousness is prone to resort. All the measures of the Committee, including those of paramount importance, relating to the Bank and the deposits, were carried in spite of the most immitigable opposition.” The same cordial and unhesitating support which Mr. Polk gave to the administration of General Jackson, he also yielded to that of Mr. Van Buren. Although, on account of his position as the Speaker of the House, he took no part in the discussions, he approved of all the prominent measures recommended by Mr. Van Buren, including the cession of the public lands to the states,
y the prečmption law, and the independent treasury, and * exerted his influence to secure their adoption. ( In regard to the tariff question, and the kindred measure of distribution for many years inseparably connected with it, his views were repeatedly expressed. In his report as chairman of the select committee on the surplus in the treasury, made at the session of 1827–8, he declared his preferences for a revenue tariff; and the opinion thus advanced was never changed. The revenue tariff which he favored was no mere will-o'-the-wisp, like Pitt’s “treasury wonder,” the sinking fund—but a practical, substantial reality; something which promised what it was intended to perform, and performed what it promised. To a tariff for protection merely, he was utterly opposed. The encouragement of domestic production and home manufactures, has not only taxed the ingenuity of the law-makers of this country to the utmost; but it has also been the theme upon which fledgeling politicians and youthful legislators have expended a great deal of eloquence. A theory, correct and praiseworthy in the abstract, has been twisted and distorted into so many, and so various shapes, that it has now become almost impossible to recognize it in the unnatural garb which it has been forced to assume. The idea of preserving the integrity of our government, and of encouraging the formation of feelings and habits of self-reliance, so necessary in order to command the respect of foreign nations, by rendering our citizens independent of them for all necessary articles of consumption, was certainly a commendable one. Confined to its legitimate sphere, when carried into practical effect, it could not have failed to advance the prosperity of the country, and, at the same time, add to the national strength and security. Its appropriate province was one of encouragement solely, and not of favoritism. It was idle to anticipate any permanent beneficial results from an unwise interference with the natural and unchangeable laws of production, demand, and supply. A temporary inflation could be produced, by forcing business and trade into a different channel from that into which they ordinarily and properly flowed, but it was impossible to realize any substantial good from disregarding the instincts which they were inclined, through a law of their nature, to obey. The foundation of the tariff system in the United States, was wisely and prudently laid, under the auspices of the founders and leaders of the republican party. The causes which led to the enactment of the first law, providing for the impo
sition of duties on foreign importations, are obvious. At
the time the Union was formed, both the government and the people were involved in debt. It was necessary that a revenue should be raised to defray the annual expenses, and discharge the liabilities of the nation. No other source presented itself, that promised to be available, except a tariff on imports. This appeared to be the most feasible plan, and was therefore adopted. The sequel showed most clearly, that no better method could have been devised. The establishment of a revenue tariff system, in the strict sense of the word, while it yielded ample means for carrying on the operations of government, also afforded, incidentally, a proper degree