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The general rule to be applied in graduating the duties upon the articles of foreign growth or manufacture, is that which will place our own in sair competition with those of other countries ; and the inducements to advance even a step beyond this point, are controlling in regard to those articles which are of primary necessity in time of war. When we reflect upon the difficulty and delicacy of this operation, it is important that it should never be attempted but with the utmost caution. Frequent legis lation in regard to any branch of industry, affecting it. value, ang by which its capital may be transferred to nen channels, must always be productive of hazardous specu. lation and loss.
In deliberating, therefore, on these interesting subjects, local feelings and prejudices should be merged in the patriotic determination to promote the great interests of the whole. All the attempts to connect them with the party conflicts of the day are necessarily injurious, and should be discountenanced. Our action upon them should be under the control of higher and purer motives. Legislation, subjected to such influence, can never be just; and will not long retain the sanction of the people, whose active patriotism is not bounded by sectional limits, nor insensible to that spirit of concession and forbearance which gave life to our political compact, and still sustains it. Discarding all calculations of political ascendency, the north, the south, the east, and the west, should uniie in diminishing any burden, of which either may justly complain.
The agricultural interest of our country is so essentially connected with every other, and so superior in importance to them all, that it is scarcely necessary to invite to it your particular attention. It is principally as manufactures and commerce tend to increase the value of agricultural productions, and to extend their application to the wants and comforts of society, that they deserve the fostering care of government.
1.ooking forward to the period, not far distant, when a sinking fund will no longer be required, the duties on those articles of importation which cannot come in com petition with our own productons, are the first that should engage the attention of Congress in the modification of the tariff. Of these, tea and coffee are the most prominent ; they enter largely into the consumption of the country, and have become articles of necessity to all classes. A reduction, therefore, of the existing duties, will be felt as a conmon benefit: but, like all other legislation connected with commerce, to be efficacious, and not injurious, it should be gradual and certain.
The public prosperity is evinced in the increased revenue arising from the sales of public lands; and in the steady maintenance of that produced by imposts and tonnage, notwithstanding the additional duties imposed by the act of 19th May, 1828, and the unusual importations in the early part of that year.
The balance in the treasury on the 1st January, 1829, was $5,972,435 81. The receipts of the current year are estimated at $24,602,230; and the expenditures for the same time at $26,164,595. Leaving a balance in the treasury, on the 1st of January next, of $4,410,070 81.
There will have been paid on account of the public debt during the present year, the sum of $12,405,005 80, reducing the whole debt of the government, on the first of January next, to $48,565,406 50, including seven millions of five per cent. stock subscribed to the Bank of the United States. The payment on account of the public debt, made on the first of July last, was $8,715,462 87. It was apprehended that the sudden withdrawal of so large a sum from the banks in which it was deposited, at a time of unusual pressure in the money market, might cause much injury to the interests dependent on bank accommodations. But this evil was wholly averted by an early anticipation of it at the treasury, aided by the judicious arrangements of the officers of the Bank of the t'nited States.
The state of the finances exhibits the resources of the nation in an aspect highly flattering to its industry, and auspicious of the ability of the government, in a very short time, to extinguish the public debt. When this sliall be done, our population will be relieved from a con. siderable portion of its present burdens; and will find not only new motives ta patriotic affection, but additional menns for the display of individual enterprise. The fiscal power of the states will also be increased ; and may be more extensively exerted in favor of education and other public objects; while ample means will remain in the federal government to promote the general weal, in all the modes permitted to its authority.
After the extinction of the public debt, it is not proba. ble that any adjustment of the tariff, upon principles satisfactory to the people of the Union, will, until a remote period, if ever, leave the government without a considerable surplus in the treasury, beyond what may be required for its current service. As, then, the period approaches when the application of the revenue to payment of the debt will cease, the disposition of the surplus will present a subject for the serious deliberation of Congress; and it may be fortunate for the country that it is yet to be decided. Considered in connection with the difficulties which have heretofore attended appropriations for purposes of internal improvement, and with those which this experience tells us will certainly arise, whenever power over such subjects may be exercised by the general government; it is hoped that it may lead to the adoption of some plan which will reconcile the diversified interests of the states, and strengthen the bonds which unite them. Every member of the Union, in peace and in war, will be benefitted by the improvement of inland navigation, and the construction of highways in the several states. Let us then endeavor to attain this benefit in a mode that will be satisfactory to all. That hitherto adopted has, by many of our fellow-citizens, been deprecated as an infraction of the constitution ; while by others it has been viewed as inexpedient. All feel that it has been employed at the expense of harmony in the legisla tive councils.
To avoid these evils, it appears to me that the most safe, just, and federal disposition which could be made of this surplus revenue, would be its apportionment among the several states, according to their ratio of representation; and should this measure not be found warranted by the constitution, that it would be expedient to propose to the states an amendment authorizing it. I regard an appeal to the source of power, in all cases of real doubt, and where its exercise is deemed advisable to the general welfare, as among the most sacred of all our obligations. Upon this country, more than any other, has, in the providence of God, been cast the special guardianship of the great principle of adherence to written constitutions. If it fail here, all hope in regard to it will be extinguished. That this was intended to be a government of limited and specific, and not general powers, must be admitted by all; and it is our duty to preserve for it the character intended by its framers. If experience points out the necessity for an enlargement of these powers, let us apply for it to those for whose benefit it is to be exercised ; and not undermine the whole system by a resort to overstrained constructions. The scheme has worked well. It has exceeded the hopes of those who devised it, and become an object of admiration to the world. We are responsible to our country and to the glorious cause of self-gov. ernment, for the preservation of so great a good. The great mass of legislation relating to our internal affairs, was intended to be left where the federal convention found it-in the state governments. Nothing is clearer, in my view, than that we are chiefly indebted for the success of the constitution under which we are now act. ing, to the watchful and auxiliary operation of the state authorities. This is not the reflection of a day, but belongs to the most deeply-rooted convictions of my mind. I cannot, therefore, too strongly or too earnestly, for my own sense of its importance, warn you against all encroachment upon the legitimate sphere of state sovereignty. Sustained by its healthful and invigorating influence, the federal system can never fall.
In the collection of the revenue, the long credits au. thorized on goods imported from beyond the Cape of Good Hope are the chief cause of the losses at present sustained. If these were shortened to six, nine, and twelve months, and warehouses provided by government, sufficient to receive the goods offered in deposite for se curity and for debenture ; and if the right of the United States to a priority of payment out of the estates of its nsolvent debtors was more effectually secured, this evi) would in a great measure be obviated. An authority to construct such houses is, therefore, with the proposed alteration of the credits, recommended to your attention.
It is worthy of notice, that the laws for the collection and security of the revenue arising from imposts, were chiefly framed when the rates of duties on imported goods presented much less temptation for illicit trade than at present exists. There is reason to believe that these laws are, in some respects, quite insufficient for the proper security of the revenue, and the protection of the interests of those who are disposed to observe them. The injurious and demoralizing tendency of a successful system of smuggling is so obvious as noi to require como ment, and cannot be too carefully guarded against. I therefore suggest to Congress the propriety of adopting efficicnt measures to prevent this evil, avoiding, however, as much as possible, every unnecessary infringement of individual liberty, and embarrassment of fair and lawful business.
On an examination of the records of the treasury, I have been forcibly struck with the large amount of public money which appears to be outstanding. Of this sum thus due from individuals to the government, a considerable portion is undoubtedly desperate ; and in many instances, has probably been rendered so by remissness in the agents charged with its collection. By proper ex. ertions, a great part, however, may yet be recovered; and whatever may be the portions respectively belonging to these two classes, it behooves the government to ascertain the real state of the fact. This can be done only by the prompt adoption of judicious measures for the collection of such as may be made available. It is believed that a very large amount has been lost through the inadequacy of the means provided for the collection of debts due to the public; and that this inadequacy lies chiefly in the want of legal skill, habitually and constantly employed in the direction of the agents engaged in the service. It must, I think, be admitted, that the supervisory power over suits brought by the public, which is now vested in an accounting officer of the treasu ry, not selected with a
his legal knowledge, and encumbered as he ..