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State journal & flag. [volume] (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) 1843-1846, August 21, 1846, Image 1

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“jphess «.vir.ii{«>
Established July 4,1833.
United November!), 1843.
Speech of the Hon. D. H. LEWIS,
of Alabama,
states, Monday july 13, 1S40.
On the Bil^amendatory of the Tariff law of
1942, reducing the duly on Imports, and
for other purposes.
Mr. LEWIS addressed the Senate as fol
lows :
Mr. President: From my position on
the Committee ot Finance, I feel it my du.
ty to present to the Senate the result of such
conclusions as 1 havs been able to form of
the merits of this bill, after a very hasty,
and, of course, imperfect, examination of its
provisions, and without the aid of much val
uable information which, with more time, 1
could have procured from the Treasury De
In attempting this duty, 1 shall say noth
ing of the ami protective character of this
measure. As strung ns are my convictions,
and as deeply ns 1 feel interested in that as
pect of the question, I shall leave its discus
sion in other and abler hands, contenting
myself with examining this bill ns a meas
ure of revenue alone—ns a means of meet
ing the financial necessities of the Govern
It may be readily conceived that a princi
pal objection to this bill will be derived from
the entirely ad valorem character of i's pro
visions. It appears to tie tuken for granted,
pirticularly by gentlemen who advocate
high duties that ad valorems are but little
to be depended on for revenue, and that in
adjusting a tariff at such a. rate as will give
any considerable amount of revenue, reli
ance can bi placed alone on specifics.
This proposition is, in mv judgment, one
of those ax otnatic et rors which, upon exam
ination, will be found to be-wholly fillacious.
1 think, sir, it will be found that ad valorem
duties, which, it is admitted by all, are the
f.irest, inasmuch as they are more open
and belter understood—currying the rate
of the taxes they impose on their very face
—are also best for all the purposes of reve
But, sir, under wlmt circumstances of
failure rn (lie part of ad valorem* to sub
serve all the purposes of revenue, is this ob
jection brought forward? At a time when,
by the report of the Treasury, $15,722,811
of our present revenue have been derived
from ad valorem*, and only $13,200,118
have been derived from specifics. Yes.
sir, considerably more than one half has
been derived from ad val reins, although
coal, iron. Itemp, sugar, molasses, salt, spir
its, wine. glass of all kinds, shoes, boots, and
many other articles of Iteavy consumption,
upon which it was attempted in give the
highest protection, pay specific duties.
Now, sir,before discrediting so large a source
of our revenue, I propose inquiring into the
character and truth of the al.egations which
have be< n urged against the ad valorem prin
The chief ground ofcbjection toad valo.
rem duties i», that they furnish the import
er with the constant temptation nnd oppor
tunity to undervalue hi*goods by returning
a false invoice. I ask, in reply, what temp
tation can there he to do this in the face of
the heavy penalties prescribed by existing
laws?—-among which are not only verv
heavy forfeitures, if the invoice price be fix
ed lower than the appraised value of the
goods in the foreign market, however truly
and innocently that invoice price may be
staled, but, if it be stated falsely and crimi
nally, the heavier density of the State pri
so.i awaits the offender. To suppose that
false invoices would be made out under such
circumstances, is to presuppose the tempta
tion of very great gain in case the fraud suc
Now, sir, I hold in my hand a calculation
of what the importer would gain even if he
succeeded in passing his goods through the
custom-house by a false invoice. I will, for
the information of the Senate, give the re
sults of several supposed successful attempts,
to defraud the revenue.
In each case, suppose the goods imported
cost $100 in the foreign market, nnd 20 per
cent, to be the rate of duty ; the importer
would save, not the amount of the underval
valio* on his invoice, but the 20 per cent,
duty on that amount.
“Thus, if he entered his goods five per
cent, below their value, he would pay not
$20 duty, but $19 duty. Gain one dollar
by the fraud—equal to 85-100 per cent, on
cost of goods and duty.”
“If he enters his goods 10 p6r cent, be
low their value, he would pay not 830 duty,
but 818 duty. Gain by the fraud, two dol
lars—equal to 1 70-100 per cent, on cost of
goods and duty."
“If he enters his goods 15 per cent, below
their value, he would pay, instead of 830 du.
ty, 817 duty. Gain, by the fraud, three
dollars—equal to 3 55 100 per cent, on cost
of goods and duty."
“If he enters his goods at 30 per cent,
below their value, instead of 830 duty, he
wou'd pay 816 duty. Gain, by thn fraud,
(bur dollars—equal to 3 44 100 per cent, on
costs of goods and d uty.”
“If he enters his goods it 35 per cent, be
low their value, he would pay, instead at 830
duty, 815 duty. Gain, by the fraud, five
dollars—equal to 4 35-100 per cent, on cost
of goods and duty.”
Now, sir, ! take it for granted, before no
competent appraisers would it be possible for
any importer to undervalue his goods more
than 25 per cent, below their true valua
tion ; and, therefore, the most that he could
promise himself, even were he to succeed,
would be 4 35-100 per cent. I submit it
to the Senate, if any man of sane mind
would run the risk of the State prison, of loss
of character and liberty, together with the
heavy pecuniary forfeitures affixed by the
law, for the barely possible contingency of
saving less than five per cent, on the cost of
his goods by a fraudulent invoice! The
absurdity is too monstrous for belief, and I
venture to say no importer over attempted,
such a fraud. The united testimony of
every monopolist interested in the disguises
of the specific system could not impose a
presumption so unreasonable) on my credul
But, Mr. President, should the importer
be weak and wicked enough to attempt to
undervalue his goods by a false invoice, he
could not by possibility succeed, for the
reason that duties are assessed, not upon his
invoice, but on the actual valualion of the ap
praisers, who are sworn to affix the true val
ue of the goods in the foreign market, with
out regard to their actual cost. And how
do they urrive at this foreign value ? Not
by any one invoice, but by many, and least
of all do they urrive at it by the invoice of
the immediate parly ir. interest. Their con
stant business is to know and adjudge the
values of goods in foreign markets, to ex.
amine invoices, to compare them with pri
cescurrent, and to obtain information ns to
the foreign market by every possible means
which a constant association with other well
informed commercial men can afford. Their
valuations aro made en irely independent of
the cost of the article in the foreign market,
even where that cost is known. The ques
tion is not wlintis the cost of the article, but
what is its value in the foreign market. Jt
becomes, therefore, necessary that the ap
praisers should establish a regular and uni
form standard of such values, from which
uniform standard they are not at liberty to
depart, even though they may ascertain
beyond doubt that the actual cost in the for
eign market of the goods valued is below
that s'andard. Of what avnil is it, then, for
ffieimpoiler to under-slate the cost of the
goods in his invoice, when that cost consti
tutes not even an element in determining
the amount of duty he has to pay? Are
we to suppose him guilty of ilie madness < f
risking character, liberty’, and money, where
hu cannot even by possibility lessen the
amount of the duties, und where it is the in.
teiset of every human being connected wilh
the custom nouse to detecunnj expose the
under-valuation ? There are some proposi
tions so grossly absurd, that they assume the
semblance of possibility only when they are
gravely denied.
But, .Hr. President, 1 will now show, that
so far from (he importer having an interest
in undervaluing his invoice, he has moro
Ireqnrnily a positive and direct interest in
overvaluing it. And why ? Because, if he
has been so fortunate in the fort ion market
as to have purchased goods t A rate lower
than the u-uul price in that market, the pre
sentation of a true invoice of that purchase
subjects him to the penalties of the law.
He is lequued by the law not to return the
value of his goods, hut a sworn invoice ol
their cost -, and this very requirem-nt of the
law subjects linn 'o the pen d.v of forfeiture,
if he has purchased them a few per cent,
b low tin ir market Valu ■« It is in vain
that llie appraisers are coiwinced of the
truth and genuinenss of Ins invoice, and
•tat the goods actually cost him no more
than is slated in that invoice. Ii is less than
the established valuation of tucli aiti' les in
the foreign market. Toe liw is inexoin
hle ; and by this summitry jn'gment of the
cu'iom-hoiise, without the formality of a tri
al. or the intervention of a jury, the impor.
ter incurs the penally of forfeiture. In a
ca-e like this, it is easy to s’e that nil the
promptings of interest would induce an over
statement rather than an understatement of
the foreign cost.
I hold in my hand a statement, from n re
liable source, illustrative of what [ have said,
and which I will read for the satisfaction of
the Senate :
‘■In 184 I, Mr. John A. Nswbold, of New
York, contracted with an ironmonger ol Bir
mingham for certain kinds of goods, to be
delivered in equal quantities for five conse
cutive years. In ‘lie mean lime, iron rose
in price so much ns to compel the ironmon
ger to raise the price of his irons to all his
other customers 20 per cent. He still con
tinued to send them to Mr. Newbold accor
ding to contract. The appraisers nt the
custom-house, observing the discrepancy be
tween the invoice of Mr. Newbold and his
neighbors, felt themselves bound by the law,
not only to impose the same duty as the
others paid, but also (he penalty of 50 per
cent, for undervaluation, required by the
act of 1842. The law allowed no discretion.
Nobody doubted the character of the trans
action, ns Mr. Newbold then and now stood
as high as any importer in New York. Mr.
Newbold was compelled to give up his good
contract, as it was a loosing business.”
Mr. Webster. I hope the honorable
Senator will hand his documents to the Chair,
or put them in such a form we can have
access to them.
Mr. Lewis. I shall have them publish
ed, sir.
Now, Mr. President, with tins Tact before
them, will gentlemen contend further that
there is a tendency in ad valorem duties to
induce importers to under value (heir goods?
Here was a case where the importer would
most gladly have returned his goods above
their invoice cost, and at their true value;
but the law ol 1842 would not allow him
that privilege. It compelled him to enter
them at their cost, although it was known
to be below their value ; and after thus com*
pelting him, extorted a forfeiture for so do
This hill amends the net of 1842, and
gives to Ihv importer the privilege he has
long desired, of entering his goods above
their invoice cost. s strange as it mav
appear, this will be found to be a most im
portant privilege, and one which will save
mote to tha importer than all the under-val
uations which were ever put into requisi
lions to defraud the custom house. 1 ask
the clerk to read the 8th section of the bill,
to prove that while gentlemen contend there
is such a tendency to understate the invoice
price of imported goods, it is considered im
portant to the rights and interests of import
era that they should be allowed to evade the
rigid penalties of the law by overstating
the cost of such goods in the foreign mar
The Clerk read the section, which is as
follows t
“Sec. 8. And be it further enacted. Thai
il shall be lawful ful the owner, consignee, or
agenl of imports which have been actually
purchased, on entry of the same, lo make
such addition in the entry to the cost or val
ue given in the invoice ns in his opinion
may raise the same to the true market value
of such imports in the principal markets of
the country whence the importation shall
have been mude, or in which the goods im
ported shall have been originally manufac
tured or produced,as the case may be; and
to add thereto all costs and charges which,
under existing laws, would form part of the
true value at the port where the same may
be entered, upon which the duties should
be assessed. And it shall be the duly of
the collector within whose district the same
may bo imported or entered to cause the
dutiable value of such imports to be apprais
ed, estimated, and ascertained, in accor
dance with the provisions ol existing laws;
and if the appraised value thereof shall ex
ceed by ten per centum or more the value
so declared on the entry, then, in addition
to the duties imposed by law on the same,
there shall be levied, collected, and paid a
duly of twenty per centum ad valorem on
such appraised vulue : Provided, neverthe
less, That under no circumstances shall
the duty be assessed upon an amount less
than the invoice value, any law of Congress
to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Mr. President, a further objection to ad
valorem duties filial the true value ol
certain kinds of goods cnnriot be ascertain
ed by the appraisers, and hence there will
be no uniformity in the operation or execu
tion of the law. Wines are often cited in
illustration of this objection, and it is said
there is no such thing ns judging of the
quality of wines by the inspection or even
the taste of appraisers. Now I say, as
wines have always paid specific duties,
the posibility of appraising their value has
never been tried. I have no doubt that this
is the strongest case which can he put, and
yet I think it will be found on trial that
I much of this tl.Acuity is imaginary. II
individuals can judge the q inlities of wines
wi ll enough to purclinse them, I see no rea
son why other individuals cannot appraise
' them. Bui il so liuppens in point of fact,
that instead of the dificulty of ascertaining
the value of an article being n reason why
such articles should pay a specific duly, bv
the act of 1842 these articles whose value
are less determinate pay ad valorem duties,
while specific duties have been imposed on
such as are most determinate in value. This
observation is the result of an extensive ex
amination into the character of those arti
cles aying duly. I will give instances:
Course cottons pay niiniiiiiim duties,
which ere a refinement on specifics. These
minimum duties operate on the principle of
assuming the value of the article in the
foreign market, as it such value could not
he accurately ascertained, when, in point
of fact, nothing is iimre determinate in
price and value titan these coarse cotton*.
By an instrument applied to the eye, yuu
judge of their fineness most accurately by
Counting the number of lltri ads in a square
inch. But fine cottons, the quality of which
cannot he so estirnuied and described, and
I lie value of which II is diffieiill lo fix, pay
ml valorem duly S wing silk pays n spe
cific duty ; silk mixed Willi cuilonor wind
pins an ad valorem duty ; chains, chain
cables, castings, anchors, and anvils,
ariicles nt which no one wishes to look lo
ascertain their value, judging entirely bv
their weight, pay specific duties; wliiie
clothes, kerseymeres—the quantity and
qualiy of which can by delei mined with
I dificulty even on inspection—pay ad valo
rem duties. Those articles which, from the
determinateness of their value, are lo be
found in every ‘-price current.” would upon
this reasoning, appear to be the articles
which should pay ad valorem duty; and
with llte price current before them the ap
praisers could never he deceived ; hut with
scarcely on exception, these ore the articles
which pay specific duties; while those arti
cles which, from their indeterminate value,
are never admitted into a price current,
with few exceptions, pay ad valorem duties.
The objection, then, of a difficulty in the
appraiser’s ascertaining the true vnlue of
certain goods, so far from being a reason
for abolishing ad valorems and substituting
specifics, turns out to be an alier thought,
which has had no influence in introducing
the one or excluding the other. It is not
only a clear afterthought, but on afterthought
founded on gross absurdity, that although in
dividuals can. by inspection judge the value
of those articles with sufficient accuracy to
buy them, appraisers, upon like inspection,
cannot know erfough of their value to ap
praise them. My life on it, sir, the whole
batch of specifics, including even wines, nan
be valued by (he Government appraisers
with as much accuracy as to price, as they
can he purchased by inqividuals.
Hut, sir, il frauds are themeccssary con
comitants of ad valorems, why have not such
frauds been detected, prosecuted, and pun
ished ? We hear much complaint from the
manufacturers, but from no other source.
II thare were such frauds, the honest im
porters themselves would be the first to
complain. Do the fair dealing merchants
complain ? Who has heard such complaint
except from the manufacturers, who, with
all their talent, wealih, industry, and zeal in
this cause, have wholy failed to make out
their proof of Iraud I I will prove by a
document I hold in my hand, that after a
most patient and thorough investigation by
an Executive Committee, appointed to in
vestigate this very subject of frauds on the
revenue, and particularly onjad valorem du
tes—a committee at the head of which was
a leading member of the Whig party—a
committee which «lled on the manufac
turers hoth^far and near to come forward
and produce their proofs—that committee
reported that no such fraud had been proved,
and that “none such existed.”
Mr. Lewis desired the Clerk to read the
following from House Document, No 212.
27th Congress, 2d session, page 209:
“In search of these frauds, and the man
ner in which they have been or might be
perpetrated, the commissioners have exam
ined the most intelligent and experienced
merchants engaged in the importation of
foreign goods and in domestic manufac
turers, both in New York ttnd Boston. The
interogntories put to those merchants cov
ered the whole ground of their knowledge
of frauds or evasions of the revenue laws;
their belief in the existence of such frauds ;
the information which they had received
from others, and circumstances which might
lead to the conclusion that such frauds and
evasions had been practiced, to the injury
of the revenue or of the honest importer.
Of their own knowledge, not a single wit
ness called has testified to any fact
which established, in any particular case,
or any number of cases, the existence of
frauds or evasion of the revenuo laws.
From rumors and various circumstances
relating to the discrepancy in price he ween
importers of the same discrip'ion ol goods,
(some ol these selling at a price far below
what could he afforded by others at a rea
sonable profit,) and speculative opinions, all
agree that frauds have hern practiced on
the revenue, at different times to a consider
able extent. They also speak of the devices
by which those frauds hav'becn successful
ly perpetrated, and bv vhich they may
be again ; hut of tln ir own knowledge j
they do not profess to know anything;
resting their opinion entirely on general j
reputilmn and the count of trade, ns it l
has existed under their own observation. I
Muny of the witnesses eximtned on these |
points are domestic innnuficturers or their |
agents, or merchants refelred to by such
iiiaiiulaclureis to es'ublish the existence ol
trends on the revenue, in order to place
foreign commerce under lim most rigid
restrictions, to exc'ude the foreign fabric
for the benefit of domestic goals ol the same
diNcripiion. It may, therefore, he faiily
presumed that if any positive evidencccould
be adduced to fix the chiugn of fraud on
uny number of foreign importers, il would
Imve been, ns the door was widely thrown
open by the commissioners to the introduc
tion of such evidence- None sicli, how
ever, was adduced, nnd it is presumed there,
lore, that none such existed.”
None, sir, “was adduced, and llirrefore it
is to he presumed none existed.’’ Now I
ask the clerk to rend another extrict from
the same document, page 372, the report of
three very experienced nppruisets, long
employed in the business in ttie city of
New York. The Clerk read as lollows :
“The undersign' d, lain principal appraisers
of the customs for tlo* port anil district ofNew
YorU, beg leave to submit the following report,
and respectfully solicit that il may be consider- I
ed as a r- port of their testimony, v z :
From long und careful nba rvatinna anJ ex j
annual ions of merchatidese at the custom house 1
they are fully satished that they have been no
Irauda of any con-equence pmctisid on the
revenue by the undervaluation of cloth and
cassiiiieres at th'ir entry—
Because there lias been, in all Engli-h fab
nos of mai hind, a great uniformity m value on
the invoice prices, when of similar quality,
whether imported by American or foreign
met ci ante.
Bicause most of the woollens, particularly the
mi ill ng and lower qualmes, have not been
subjected to ditto s Branding to invoice value ;
but have, in most cases, been subjected to in
or* ad duties llirooiyh prijudicu, caprice, or
false valuation, by those acting as appraisers,
will) were no! the legal appraisers ill the New
York custom house.
Because Hi re h-ts been no motive rounder,
value the goods on invoice, since it wns not ta
ken as the criterion of value on which the duties
w. re to he computed ; and, consequently, the
merchant cm the other aide of tho water could
not consider Ins invoice as a guide to the duties
to he imposed here.
Bt cause neither in our official capacities or
otherwise liuve complaints been made of any
instances ol suspected under-valuation, either
by importers, or by persons engaged in the man
ufacture of d- inestic goods; and had there been
any such under-vninatiore, the vigilance of ri
valry and promptings of interest would have
made the facts known.
Became, in the sales of clot (is and cassi- ,
meres, when they have been made after seizure
by consent of parties and without prejudice, ;
they have rarely brought the invoice cost and
charges, even when made under the most favo- j
ruble circumstances; and, in a large majority
of the cases, they.have not brought to exceed
two-lhirds of the custom house valuation.
That there were frauds by smuggling, com
mitted during the last term of Swartwout's in
cumbency, there cannot he a doubt; but these
were rouglil about by collusion of officers of
the customs with certain importers, but, wheth
er by under valuation or otherwise, the under
signed, not having seen the goods, are unable
to say.
We have confined these remarks to cloths
snd cassirneres solely, because no allegations of
fraud in any other descriptions of increhandise
or manufactures have ever been made by the
American manufacturers, to our knowledge. |
But it is due to the public to state, (and we do
il with great deference and respect,) that among
the numerous cases of evasions and frauds that
came under our observations, when acting as
appraisers of the customs, whether by false or
under-valuation, or otherwise, much the greatest
propor' ion, both in numbers and amount, were
of goods other than those in which wool was a
component part.”
Now sir, until this charge of fraud is sat.
isfaclorily proven, I think, from the result
of this investigation, it may may be safe
ly inferred it is wholly and utterly without
Having thus disposed of the objection of
fraud ir. ad valorcins, I feel that I have put
down the principal argument in favor of spe
cifics, for I do not know that 1 ever heard
any one express a preference in lavor ol
specifics, winch was not founded un the al
legation of fruuds in ud valorerns. The
stereotyped objection ol die protectionists is,
that as ad valorerns cannot be relied on for
revenue, necessity compels us to adopt spe
Now, sir, not satisfied with establishing the
fairness and equity of the former system, I
propose to prove that for revenue, or for any
other purpose, the latter is not entitled to
What is the origin of specific duties?
Gentlemen speak of them as il they had
grown up out of the frauds of the opposite
system, and on account of frauds, that had
been adopted as a substitute for such sys
tem. This appears to be the common opin
ion ; yet is it far from being true. I speak
advisedly wlien I say, that in no one in
stance has there been a change Irom ad va
loruni to specific duties on account of frauds
under the former. I hold in my hand a list
of the principle articles paying specific du
ties, showing the time at which they were
imposed. Upon examination, it will be 1
found that the act of 1790 was the parent
of a large portion of these specific duties,
and they have been increased by every ta
riff since that lime. In 1810 a large num
ber was added, not under pretence of avoid,
ing fraud, but doubtlcs to conceal the enor
mous duties imposed at that time—imposed,
if you please, strictly for revenue, but to
conceal the expcnces of a war which, in
cettain quarters, was far from being popu
lar. The remaining specifics have sprung
into existence since that time—many by
the act of 1828; hut not once because
the ad valorem had been evaded, but be
cause a high rule of protection was de
sired on particular articles, to put down
foreign .competition. I challenge the ad
vocates of specific duties to show a single
article on which that form of duty was im
posed to put down frauds on the revenue.
Tliev will find in every case since the net
of 1816, these duties have been imposed on
the petition of parties asking for such enor
mous rates of duty, that to grant them, it
was necessary the amount should be con.
cealed under the disguises of the specific
system. The following is the list, to which
1 will invite the attention of the Senate :
All (he oiticles on the specific list amount
to about ninety. None of these nppear to
linve been imposed with a view of prevent
ing frauds.
Nails have been specific from 1790 to
the present time.
Spikes have n'so. Cut nails are only
made in the United States.
Steel has also.
Wire was advah.rem till 1828. It began
to he manufactured three or four years be
fore that lime, when a petition for proteclion
was made (lie ground of the duty.
Tacks, brads, and sprigs, made specific
in 1816—no cut tucks used or made in
England, and none other ol any consequence
are used.
Sheet, hoop, round, split, nnd rolled iron,
tnn<le specific ill 1816 and 1824, on account
of domestic competition.
liar, rolled, Hammered, and pig iron were
changed to specific—the first two in 1816,
and the Inst in 1818, for the purpose of re
route solely.
Anchors were made so high ill 1816, for
revenue purposes, that the duly induced
competition nt home, till the manufacturers
asked and obtained increased protection in
1824. and still more in 1842.
Castings, in 1818, were increased, for
protection, from three-quarters of a cent to
one and n half; in 1924 one and a Imlf;
and in 1842, from various rates, one to five
cents per pound.
Anvils, hammers, nnd chains raised, for
protenionon petition, in 1824, from 20 to
56 per cent.
Brazier’s rods raised for protection from
20 per cent to 3 cents per pound in 1824.
on petition of manufactures; present duty
equal to 56 per cent.
Mill saws taisod in 1824 from 20 per
cent, to one dollar each, on petition of an
Gng'ishtnun, in Philadelphia, by the name
of Millington. There are now four other
Mill ernnks and mill irons both raised in
1824 from 20 per cent, to 4 cents per
pound, for protection.
Sad irons in 1824, were beginning to be
made, and Congress raised the duty from
20 per cent, to 2 1-2 cents per pound ;
equal to 87 per cent.
Manufactured sins : These were free
principally in 1842, when a silk mania had
overspread the country, and n high specific
rate was imposed on the article by the
pound, with a vie’w to protection.
Sewing Silk : This article had been sub
ject to a specific duty for some years, in
consequence of its being manufactured in
Connecticut, nt Mansfield ; a duty was im
posed in 1841.
Gloves, boots, skins, paper, carpeting,
hemp, glussware, all made specific, with a
view to protection.
Pins, shovels, spades, &c., were all in
creased to protect, and so of most other
Having shown, from the history or speci
fics, that they owe their origin to protec
tion, and not to frauds, as is commonly im
agined, I now state my objections to them.
First, they increase the expense and add
greatly to the difficulty of collecting the
revenue. I am informed that a very large
number of those engaged about the New
Yoik custom-house—as many perhaps as
one hundred—may be, I do not say will be,
dispensed with, by ndopting wholly the ad
valorem system. By ridding ourselves of
the specific system, we can disband an ar
my of weighers, gaugers, measurers, and
clerks, in all the custom-houses, nnd a large
number of clerks in the treasury. We
ahull rid ourselves also ol that vexatious
din's of questions arising out ol specific du
ties, which occupy the comptrollers frequent
ly to the obstruction of all other public bu
siness, and which constitute so lie.avy and
perplexing a portion of litigation before our
courts. Thu contested cases arising under
specific duties are as ten to one, compared
to advalnrcms. No doubt can arise, under
an udvulorem duty, as to what amount of
duty the law intends, while the most difficult
of all things is 10 reduce every article of
importation to the class to which it belongs;
so great is this difficulty, it cannot be said
that we have ever approached to absolute
uniformity in collecting duties, although
the Constitution, as well as common jus
tice, requires it. 1 am informed that four
different rates of duty, under the act of 1842,
have been collected at four different custom
houses, on trace chains—and this notwith
standing the greatest industry, talent, and
integrity in the officers of the treasury.
Secondly, the danger of mistake, collu
sion, and fraud, in collecting the revenue,
is greatly more under specific than ad va
lorem duties. Articles paying ad valorem
duties pass through the hands of the collec
tor, his deputy, the appraisers, assistant ap
praisers, and examiners—all interested in
detecting every attempt at under-valuation.
Articles paying specific duties, on tho con
trary are delivered into the hands of a sin
j glc officer, for the purpose of measuring,
weighing,or gauging; and when measured,
w ighod, or gauged, this officer sums up
the amount of duty, and returns the article
to the importer. In this case no forfeit
ures can accrue ; and hence there is no
other vigilance than such as arises from a
regard to the interests ot the Government.
Now, sir, I ask, in the name of common
sense, under which system is there the
most chance for mistake and iraud ? Sup
posing the weigher, ganger, or measurer,
equally honest and vigilant, without the in
ducements arising out of forfeitures as the
collector and other olticers are with it—
which system will give rise to most mis
takes and most frauds? Suppose the impor
ter should attempt collusion, in which would
he be most likely to succeed? In the one
case he would have to buy up a score of
officers already bought up against him by
the Government, through hopes ol forfeit
ure ; in the other case, he would only have
to propitiate a single individual, having no
other inducement than his love of honesty
to resist the ap >eal- Sir, I am surprised
that gentlemen who arc so zealous in pre
venting fruuds have never complained of
this “0ne-man power” under the specific
system, where a single man in weighing nnd
returning u hundred ton ul iron,,may,by false
weight or lalae return, make it fifty orsev.
enty-five tons, and thus defraud the Go
vernment not ol Irotn six to twelve hundred
dollars oil a single article.
I>ut suppose tins one weigher charged
with an tmportaiion of silk, how easy in an
nriicle so valuable and so light, to defraud
the Government out offive times the amount
which he could on iron, either by tripping
the beam, if be weighs it all at once ; or,
if he weighs it in dillurent parcels, by lea
ving out, or under stating the weight of
these parcels. If the ingenuity of man can
find a system better calculated than all oth
ers to promote frauds in the revenue, it is
this much boasted system of assessing du
ties by measure and weight. Compared
to Me mode of assessing them by (be value
of the articles, the chances of fraud cannot
be less than twenty one.
Hut, admitting that the custom house of
ficers make no mistakes and commit no
frauds, is it not more difficult to detect nn
under-measurement in piece goods than
an under-valuation in an invoice? What,
then, is to prevent frauds at present on cot
ton bagging, sail duck, carpeting, flannels,
buckings, and baizes t all of them piece
goods, paying specific duties, and which pass
the custom-house without being unrolled or
measured. What, I usk, is to prevent still
greater frauds in under-measurement, when
ull piece goods are made, as gentlemen con
tend all ought to be made, to pay specific
duties? To open and measure them at the
custom house, even it it were possible, all
admit, will destroy their marketable value,
and reduce them to the condition of dama
g"d goods. To reject therefore, the evi
dence of a sworn invoice as to their meas
urement, is to reject the only possible evi
dence you can have, and to open a wide
door to favoritism, collusions, and frauds, on
the part of custom-house nflicers.
Ihtrd. A further objection to specific du
ties is, that they go on progressively inerca.
sing, relatively os compared to the value of
the articles on which they are imposed.
There is no process more rapid than the re
duction in the price of most manufactured
articles. This is the result, mainly, of im
provements in machinery, bringing nhout
easier and cheaper modes of producting
such articles. It has been eminently the
case for the last twenty years, and a conse
quence has been that specific duties, impo
sed with a view to protection or revenue to
the extent of 50 per cent, upon the value
of the article paying them, in a few years
becomes a tax to the amount of 100 per
cent, upon such value. The further conse.
quence is, the augmenting duty soon be
comes prohibitory, and yields no revenue,
or we are forced to do what some gentle,
men regard with so much horror—we are
forced to be every few years tinkering with
the revenue. Sir, under a system of spe
cific duties, no rate of duty can survivo
more than four or five years without the
necessity of change. Ad valorem duties,
on the contrary, decline with the price of
(he articles on which they are levied, while
iho revenue in most cases if reimbursed by
increased importation and consumption.
Fourth, Another objection to specific du.
ties is, tf nt they impose an equal fax on
coarse and fine goods. Now, sir, we were
told a few days ago by a Senator on the oth
er side of the House, that this was a high
recommendation to specifics, inasmuch as
they encouraged nn importation of the finest
and host goods. If we were all able to pur
chase and consume no other than the finest
and best, and consequently highest priced
goods, the remark might tie just ; but os
nine-tenths of the great body of the people
are compelled to consume the coarser and
lower priced goods, although not the best,
to discriminate against tho cheaper and
coarser goods is to discriminate against pov
erty— against the masses—against the ma
ny for the benefit of the few. Tnis is an
injustice in our tarifflaws of which we have
always coni dained. The act of 1842 is full
of such unjust and iniquitous discrimina
tions, a few of which I shall now drag out
fiotn under the disguises of the specific sys
tem, for there they are all to he found, to
expose to the full gaze of the Senate.
Silk pays a specific duty agreeable to
weight, the finer articles, of course, weigh
ing less. I am informed, on good authori
ty, that a lady’s shawl was lately imported
through the New York custom house, which
was so fine and costly that it only paid one
per cent, duty on its cost. Now, sir, to
show off this discrimination in facot of
wealth and luxury, 1 will read to you a few
more oT these specific duties, levied upop
the necessaries of life. Suit pays 83 per
cent, duty ; brown sugar pays 63 per cent,;
coal pays 69 per cent.: plain tumblers not
cut, such as are used by the poor, pay 137
percent.: lop chains pays 101 per cent.:
spikes pay 169 per cent.: hoop iron pays
113 per cent.
Fifth. But the great and conclusive ob
jection to specific duties, if there were no
other, is, that they conceal, the amount of
the duty. I say nothing of the morality of
any legislation which attempts to deceive
and hoodwink the people; but [ do say, that
it is not only the people’s right, but the very
essence of liberty, that they should know
the amount of taxes they are forced to pay.
1 put it to the advocates of specific duties,
to say if they would have dared, in the broad
light of day and in plain English, to have
sanctioned such unjust and unequal taxation
as I have pointed out? And whether, in
adopting such expedients to conceal the ex
tent nnd onoemily ot their tmpnvufonl, they
can hope to secure the people’s favor?
Having established, as 1 think. Mr. Pres
ident, most satisfactorily, not only the fair*
ness, openness, and justice of ad valorem du
ties ns compared with specifics, but likewise
their better adaptation to all the purposes of
revenue, and more particularly to the pre
vention of collusions and frauds in the cus
tom-house—1 come now to the considera
tion of the question, whether this hill will
raise the amount of revenue required to meet
the financial necessities of the Government.
That it will meet, in addition to the ordina
ry expenditures, all the requirements of tho
Mexican war as fast as they mav occur, with
out throwing on the Government the neces
sity of using its credit, is of course noi ex
pected by any one.
Tho renl question is, whether it will fur
nish ns much or more revenue than the ex
isting law. 1 stand prepared io maintain
that the revenues will not be diminished by
the passage of this bill. But, sir, on what
grounds can it be maintained that the reve
nue will be lessened ? On no other, certain
ty, than that there will not be an increase
of importations corresponding with the re
duction of duties. If there he any conside
rable increase of importations, there must
he an increase of revenue, for while the nv.
erage rate of duly under (his hill is about 211
per cent.,* it will not require a very great
increase of importations to give us an in
crease of revenue. Why should we not
expect such an increase 7 No other reason
cun be assigned under a reduction of the
duties, unless it be that they huve not been
reduced low enough to give us the highest
amount of revenue, and are therefore still to
some extent prohibitory. Such is my own
opinion, l confess. It is impossible to say
whut amount of duty will give the maximum
of revenue. It varies on different articles
and nt different times ; but while I believe
that 30 per cent., nr even 25 per cent., is
above the maximum of revenue, and that 20
per cent, will give more revenue than cith
er, I still think, lhat as this bill is a reduction
on the act ol 1642, it will give more revenue;
and for the reason, simply, that it is less pro
But, Mr. President, although wc shall be
told, that under this bill there will be great
reductions of the revenue, not one of those
making the objection will admit that it is be
cause the rate of duty is to any extent pro
hibitory. Prohibition iso term not admitted
into their vocabulary. On the contrary,
one portion of them will attack this bill be
cause it will not raise enough revenue, while
another portion will cry out, that by redu
cing the duties, we shall be flooded with
English goods, and that the manufactures
of the coun'ry are to be completely inunda
ted with the abundance of importations.
Now, both of these propositions cannot bo
true. If we are inundated with English
goods, we must also be inundated with reve.
nue. In my opinion, the inundation will
not be as great as it ought to be, either for
the purposes of unrestricted trade or of in
creased revenue. As I have before said, a
still lower rate of duty would give us a great
er importation and more revenue. There
fore, while I do not look for a heavy inun
dation, I expect one sufficient to give us
twenty-eight or thirty millions of revenue.
No man, sir, can look over the statistics
of our trade and revenue, and remain un
convinced of the justice of this expectation.
While we have reduced, by this bill, the
higher rate of duties, many of them prohibi
tory, we have placed duties on a very heavy
list of free articles—on almost everything,
except it be tea and coflee and special. On
many of these free articles we have imposed
very high rates of duty, and thus the aver
nge rate of duty under the present bill is but
little reduced below that of 1842, while it is
indefinitely belter arrunged for all the purpo.
ses of revenue. The importations, it is true,
carry but a little less weight, but that weight
is much better adjusted, and therefore will
be less oppressively borne.
What will be tho exact amount ol revenue
under this bill is of course entirely conjec
tural, and every one is entitled to the privi
lege of guessing. I have made an estimate
with great care, entirely independent ol the
Treasury, hut with all the aid I could find,
and with the fullest information the short
time allowed me to collect; and though I do
not promise myself even on approximation
to the accuracy of the estimates which may
shortly be expected from the Treasury De
partment, I shall frankly submit my estimate
to the Senate for what it is worth. Found
ing my estimates on the importations of
1945, and assuming the rates of duly impos
ed by this bill, I calculate the revenue which
would accrue on those importations at $23,
886. 657—within a small fraction of twenty,
four millions.
[Mr. Cameron. On what do you base
your calculation ?J
Mr. Lewis. On the importations of last
vear, after deducting the articles reexported.
But will there be, under this bill, an increase
of importations T This is an important ques
tion, which every Senator must decide for
himself. I think there will be a very con
siderable increase ; and in tha^tpininn I
am persuaded a majority of thisftmdy mutt
concur. On what do I ground tnis opinion]
The answer is,—
First. An increase of importations cor.
• I have since found that tho average is nearer
23 1-2 per cent.

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