Daniel Webster as An Economist

By Robert Lincoln Carey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
TARIFF VIEWS FROM 1814 TO 1828

WEBSTER'S first term in Congress began in May 1813, and coincided with the entrance of the protective tariff as a great issue in national life. Prior to 1812, the problem of protection entered but slightly into the deliberations of Congress. The first great clash over protection took place in the spring of 1814 between Calhoun and Webster on the question of the continuation of certain war time double duties on importations. Calhoun proposed to retain the double duties as a protective measure. Webster was not slow to respond to this threat of transforming purely revenue duties into devices designed to promote manufacturing. He expressed his opinions on this matter in a speech delivered before the House. "To double duties on all articles for encouraging domestic manufacture of some is preposterous and absurd," and "that duties on tea and sugar should encouage the manufacture of cotton and woolens is ridiculous".1 These excerpts from the 1814 speech illustrate his point of view very effectively. It was this same speech in which Webster declared his opposition to any policy which would "rear industry in hot beds" and would bring Sheffields and Birminghams to America in great haste, forcing capital into manufacturing faster than it would naturally flow. He preferred a policy of laissez faire, but if government interference had to come, he proclaimed it to be

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1
Speech on the Repeal of the Embargo, April, 1814, Writings and Speeches, vol. xiv, p. 43.

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