William L. Wilson and Tariff Reform, a Biography

By Festus P. Summers | Go to book overview
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The Great Debate [1888]

AS THE DEMOCRATS got down to tariff making, petitions poured in with every mail not only to testify to the correctness of General Hancock's epigram that the tariff was a local issue but also to point the truth that reform had its own skeletons in the closet. The sentiment for free raw materials was strong in New England; yet that section demanded even higher rates for most of its manufactures. New Englanders would gladly consent to the remission of duties on Pennsylvania iron, West Virginia coal, and Louisiana sugar, provided that duties were retained on their own textiles, leather goods, metal products, and novelties; farmers demanded free salt for their flocks and herds but protected butter, protected hides, and a protected wool clip; and transcontinental railway interests, notably the Southern Pacific, favored free coal from Mexico, British Columbia, and Australia for their engine tenders west of the Mississippi River, but for their Eastern lines, which enjoyed the heavy tonnage of the Appalachian bituminous fields, they demanded retention of the existing duty of seventy-five cents per ton as a buffer against New Castle importations.1 These communications left little room to doubt that tariff reform stemmed as much from self-interest as from high principle. A. B. Farquhar, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of farm machinery, who argued for free raw materials, declared:

Which way our interests point is . . . plain enough. I have no occasion to deny that my zeal for tariff reform in a larger sense is strengthened by this consideration; for when one's interest is identical with that of the great mass of his fellow-countrymen, enlightened selfishness becomes truest patriotism.2

C. P. Huntington to W. C. P. Breckinridge, February 12, 1886, December 19, 1887, Breckinridge Papers.
Arthur B. and Henry Farquhar, Economic and Industrial Delusions, p. 101.


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