Financial History 143 Fall 2022 | Page 40

Political cartoon titled “ Political Jesuitism — or interest versus principle .” The term “ Jesuitism ” was a strong contemporary term for deception and intrigue . The artist portrays Vice President George M . Dallas ’ s support of the Walker Tariff of 1846 as a reversal of his campaign pledge to support the popular Tariff of 1842 .
Library of Congress branch of industry to the detriment of the other ” was in the country ’ s best interest .
The Whigs , in contrast , lobbied for the creation of a third Bank of the United States , believed industrial development and not agriculture alone would sustain the country , and advocated for sustaining higher tariffs as a means of protecting labor and capital . Given that such stark political distinctions existed between the two major parties over internal improvements and foreign trade , if fell upon Secretary Walker to impress the Whig congressmen as to the efficacy of modifying existing tariff law .
Already known as a man of finance in his home state and , given his devoted support of Texas annexation while in the Senate , Walker ’ s pedigree might have held some sway with his former colleagues . Certainly , the details of the Treasury ’ s Annual Report of 1845 — presented to Congress that December and replete with quantitative data and rich in narrative — conveyed a sense of financial savvy and evidenced his advocacy for tariff reform .
Like Polk , the Treasury Secretary advised in his report that a tariff for “ revenue ,” not protection , would be the most advisable course of action , a point addressed throughout the statement . Claiming that “ at least two-thirds of the taxes imposed by the present tariff [ 1842 ] are paid , not into the Treasury , but to the protected classes ,” and that only the Constitution gives Congress the ability to adopt tariffs for “ raising revenue ,” Secretary Walker pulled no punches as to which direction the Polk administration would take on the issue . He even suggested that modifying the United States ’ trade policy toward imports might strengthen the hand of trade reformists in Great Britain who wanted to abolish the “ Corn Laws .”
The English Corn Laws were restrictions which protected agricultural monopolies in Britain since 1815 ; calls for their repeal could benefit US exporters and further reduce trade barriers between the two nations . “ If accompanied by a reduction of our tariff ,” the Secretary reasoned , “[ that ] would lead to the repeal of her corn laws ,” and “ unrestricted admission ” of American produce . To Walker , these expressions clearly denoted the superiority of free trade over protectionist sentiments : it could serve to expand markets abroad while , simultaneously , promoting commercial harmony with our trading partners .
The tariff passed the House on a mostly party line vote of 113 ( Democrat ) to 95 ( Whig ) on July 3 , 1846 , with only one Whig defection and few Democrats breaking ranks by voting against . Passage in the Senate seemed plausible given that the Democrats held 31 seats to the Whigs ’ 24 ; the one member representing the Liberal Party would vote with the Whigs . Still , there were Democratic holdouts ; Pennsylvania Senators Simon Cameron and Daniel Sturgeon backed higher import duties as a means of protecting their states ’ iron and coal interests . Others , like John Niles of Connecticut , expressed as a “ friend of the administration he regretted the introduction of the bill and as a friend he would vote against it .”
Frustrated by the number of “ capitalists ”— specifically industrialists — descending upon Washington to defeat the bill ,
38 FINANCIAL HISTORY | Fall 2022 | www . MoAF . org