The Great Conspiracy

Out of that vast and fertile, but Slave-ridden old French Colony of
“Louisiana” were developed in due time the rich and flourishing Slave
States of Louisiana, Missouri and Arkansas.

It will have been observed that this acquisition of the Colony of
Louisiana and the contemporaneous inventions of the cotton-gin, improved
cotton-spinning machinery, and the application to it of steam power, had
already completely neutralized the wisdom of the Fathers in securing, as
they thought, the gradual but certain extinction of Slavery in the
United States, by that provision in the Constitution which enabled
Congress, after an interval of twenty years, to prohibit the African
Slave Trade; and which led the Congress, on March 22, 1794, to pass an
Act prohibiting it; to supplement it in 1800 with another Act in the
same direction; and on March 2, 1807, to pass another supplemental Act–
to take effect January 1, 1808–still more stringent, and covering any
such illicit traffic, whether to the United States or with other
countries. Never was the adage that, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’
men gang aft agley,” more painfully apparent. Slaves increased and
multiplied within the land, and enriched their white owners to such a
degree that, as the years rolled by, instead of compunctions of
conscience on the subject of African Slavery in America, the Southern
leaders ultimately persuaded themselves to the belief that it was not
only moral, and sanctioned by Divine Law, but that to perpetuate it was
a philanthropic duty, beneficial to both races! In fact one of them
declared it to be “the highest type of civilization.”

In 1812, the State of Louisiana, organized from the purchased Colony of
the same name, was admitted to the Union, and the balance of the
Louisiana purchase was thereafter known as the Territory of Missouri.

In 1818 commenced the heated and protracted struggle in Congress over
the admission of the State of Missouri–created from the Territory of
that name–as a Slave State, which finally culminated in 1820 in the
settlement known thereafter as the “Missouri Compromise.”

Briefly stated, that struggle may be said to have consisted in the
efforts of the House on the one side, to restrict Slavery in the State
of Missouri, and the efforts of the Senate on the other, to give it free
rein. The House insisted on a clause in the Act of admission providing,
“That the introduction of Slavery or involuntary servitude be
prohibited, except for the punishment of crimes whereof the party has
been duly convicted; and that all children born within the said State,
after the admission thereof into the Union, shall be declared Free at
the age of twenty-five years.” The Senate resisted it–and the Bill
fell. In the meantime, however, a Bill passed both Houses forming the
Territory of Arkansas out of that portion of the Territory of Missouri
not included in the proposed State of Missouri, without any such
restriction upon Slavery. Subsequently, the House having passed a Bill
to admit the State of Maine to the Union, the Senate amended it by
tacking on a provision authorizing the people of Missouri to organize a
State Government, without restriction as to Slavery. The House
decidedly refused to accede to the Senate proposition, and the result of
the disagreement was a Committee of Conference between the two Houses,
and the celebrated “Missouri Compromise,” which, in the language of
another–[Hon. John Holmes of Massachusetts, of said Committee on
Conference, March 2, 1820.]–, was: “that the Senate should give up its
combination of Missouri with Maine; that the House should abandon its
attempt to restrict Slavery in Missouri; and that both Houses should
concur in passing the Bill to admit Missouri as a State, with” a
“restriction or proviso, excluding Slavery from all territory north and
west of the new State”–that “restriction or proviso” being in these
words: “That in all that territory ceded by France to the United States
under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees,
thirty minutes north latitude, excepting only such part thereof as is
included within the limits of the State contemplated by this act,
Slavery and involuntary servitude, otherwise than in the punishment of
crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall be and is
hereby forever prohibited; Provided always, that any person escaping
into the same, from whom labor and service is lawfully claimed in any
State or Territory of the United States, such Fugitive may be lawfully
reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or
service, as aforesaid.” At a subsequent session of Congress, at which
Missouri asked admission as a State with a Constitution prohibiting her
Legislature from passing emancipation laws, or such as would prevent the
immigration of Slaves, while requiring it to enact such as would
absolutely prevent the immigration of Free Negroes or Mulattoes, a
further Compromise was agreed to by Congress under the inspiration of
Mr. Clay, by which it was laid down as a condition precedent to her
admission as a State–a condition subsequently complied with–that
Missouri must pledge herself that her Legislature should pass no act “by
which any of the citizens of either of the States should be excluded
from the enjoyment of the privileges and immunities to which they are
entitled under the Constitution of the United States.”

This, in a nut-shell, was the memorable Missouri Struggle, and the
“Compromise” or Compromises which settled and ended it. But during that
struggle–as during the formation of the Federal Constitution and at
various times in the interval when exciting questions had arisen–the
bands of National Union were more than once rudely strained, and this
time to such a degree as even to shake the faith of some of the firmest
believers in the perpetuity of that Union. It was during this bitter
struggle that John Adams wrote to Jefferson: “I am sometimes Cassandra
enough to dream that another Hamilton, another Burr, may rend this
mighty fabric in twain, or perhaps into a leash, and a few more choice
spirits of the same stamp might produce as many Nations in North America
as there are in Europe.”

It is true that we had “sown the wind,” but we had not yet “reaped the


We have seen that the first Federal Congress met at New York in March,
1789. It organized April 6th. None knew better than its members that
the war of the Americana Revolution chiefly grew out of the efforts of
Great Britain to cripple and destroy our Colonial industries to the
benefit of the British trader, and that the Independence conquered, was
an Industrial as well as Political Independence; and none knew better
than they, that the failure of the subsequent political Confederation of
States was due mainly to its failure to encourage and protect the
budding domestic manufactures of those States. Hence they hastened,
under the leadership of James Madison, to pass “An Act laying a duty on
goods, wares and merchandize imported into the United States,” with a
preamble, declaring it to be “necessary” for the “discharge of the debt
of the United States and the encouragement and protection of
manufactures.” It was approved by President Washington July 4, 1789–a
date not without its significance–and levied imports both specific and
ad valorem. It was not only our first Tariff Act, but, next to that
prescribing the oath used in organizing the Government, the first Act of
the first Federal Congress; and was passed in pursuance of the
declaration of President Washington in his first Message, that “The
safety and interest of the People” required it. Under the inspiration
of Alexander Hamilton the Tariff of 1790 was enacted at the second
session of the same Congress, confirming the previous Act and increasing
some of the protective duties thereby imposed.

An analysis of the vote in the House of Representatives on this Tariff
Bill discloses the fact that of the 39 votes for it, 21 were from
Southern States, 13 from the Middle States, and 5 from New England
States; while of the 13 votes against it, 9 were from New England
States, 3 from Southern States, and 1 from Middle States. In other
words, while the Southern States were for the Bill in the proportion of
21 to 3, and the Middle States by 13 to 1, New England was against it by
9 to 5; or again, while 10 of the 13 votes against it were from the New
England and Middle States, 21 (or more than half) of the 39 votes for it
were from Southern States.

It will thus be seen-singularly enough in view of subsequent events–
that we not only mainly owe our first steps in Protective Tariff
legislation to the almost solid Southern vote, but that it was thus
secured for us despite the opposition of New England. Nor did our
indebtedness to Southern statesmen and Southern votes for the
institution of the now fully established American System of Protection
cease here, as we shall presently see.

That Jefferson, as well as Washington and Madison, agreed with the views
of Alexander Hamilton on Protection to our domestic manufactures as
against those of foreign Nations, is evident in his Annual Message of
December 14, 1806, wherein-discussing an anticipated surplus of Federal
revenue above the expenditures, and enumerating the purposes of
education and internal improvement to which he thinks the “whole surplus
of impost” should during times of peace be applied; by which application
of such surplus he prognosticates that “new channels of communication
will be opened between the States; the lines of separation will
disappear; their interests will be identified, and their Union cemented
by new and indissoluble ties”–he says: “Shall we suppress the impost
and give that advantage to foreign over domestic manufactures. On a few
articles of more general and necessary use, the suppression in due
season, will doubtless be right; but the great mass of the articles on
which impost is paid is foreign luxuries, purchased by those only who
are rich enough to afford themselves the use of them.” But his embargo
and other retaliatory measures, put in force in 1807 and 1808, and the
War of 1812-15 with Great Britain, which closely followed, furnished
Protection in another manner, by shutting the door to foreign imports
and throwing our people upon their own resources, and contributed
greatly to the encouragement and increase of our home manufactures–
especially those of wool, cotton, and hemp.

At the close of that War the traders of Great Britain determined, even
at a temporary loss to themselves, to glut our market with their goods
and thus break down forever, as they hoped, our infant manufactures.
Their purpose and object were boldly announced in the House of Commons
by Mr. Brougham, when he said: “Is it worth while to incur a loss upon
the first importation, in order by the glut to stifle in the cradle
those rising manufactures in the United States which the War had forced
into existence contrary to the natural course of things.” Against this
threatened ruin, our manufacturers all over the United States–the sugar
planters of Louisiana among them–clamored for Protection, and Congress
at once responded with the Tariff Act of 1816.

This law greatly extended and increased specific duties on, and
diminished the application of the ad valorem principle to, foreign
imports; and it has been well described as “the practical foundation of
the American policy of encouragement of home manufactures–the practical
establishment of the great industrial system upon which rests our
present National wealth, and the power and the prosperity and happiness
of our whole people.” While Henry Clay of Kentucky, William Loundes of
South Carolina, and Henry St. George Tucker of Virginia supported the
Bill most effectively, no man labored harder and did more effective
service in securing its passage than John C. Calhoun of South Carolina.
The contention on their part was not for a mere “incidental protection”
–much less a “Tariff for revenue only”–but for “Protection” in its
broadest sense, and especially the protection of their cotton
manufactures. Indeed Calhoun’s defense of Protection, from the assaults
of those from New England and elsewhere who assailed it on the narrow
ground that it was inimical to commerce and navigation, was a notable
one. He declared that:

“It (the encouragement of manufactures) produced a system strictly
American, as much so as agriculture, in which it had the decided
advantage of commerce and navigation. The country will from this derive
much advantage. Again it is calculated to bind together more closely
our wide-spread Republic. It will greatly increase our mutual
dependence and intercourse, and will, as a necessary consequence, excite
an increased attention to internal improvements–a subject every way so
intimately connected with the ultimate attainment of national strength
and the perfection of our political institutions.”

He regarded the fact that it would make the parts adhere more closely;
that it would form a new and most powerful cement far outweighing any
political objections that might be urged against the system. In his
opinion “the liberty and the union of the country were inseparably
united; that as the destruction of the latter would most certainly
involve the former, so its maintenance will with equal certainty
preserve it;” and he closed with an impressive warning to the Nation of
a “new and terrible danger” which threatened it, to wit: “disunion.”
Nobly as he stood up then–during the last term of his service in the
House of Representatives–for the great principles of, the American
System of Protection to manufactures, for the perpetuity of the Union,
and for the increase of “National strength,” it seems like the very
irony of fate that a few years later should find him battling against
Protection as “unconstitutional,” upholding Nullification as a “reserved
right” of his State, and championing at the risk of his neck that very
“danger” to the “liberties” and life of his Country against which his
prophetic words had already given solemn warning.

Strange was it also, in view of the subsequent attitudes of the South
and New England, that this essentially Protective Tariff Act of 1816
should have been vigorously protested and voted against by New England,
while it was ably advocated and voted for by the South–the 25 votes of
the latter which secured its passage being more than sufficient to have
secured its defeat had they been so inclined.

The Tariff Acts of 1824 and 1828 followed the great American principle
of Protection laid down and supported by the South in the Act of 1816,
while widening, increasing, and strengthening it. Under their
operation-especially under that of 1828, with its high duties on wool,
hemp, iron, lead, and other staples–great prosperity smiled upon the
land, and particularly upon the Free States.

In the cotton-growing belt of the South, however, where the prosperity
was relatively less, owing to the blight of Slavery, the very contrast
bred discontent; and, instead of attributing it to the real cause, the
advocates of Free Trade within that region insisted that the Protective
Tariff was responsible for the condition of things existing there.

A few restless and discontented spirits in the South had indeed agitated
the subject of Free Trade as against Protected manufactures as early as
1797, and, hand in hand with it, the doctrine of States Rights. And
Jefferson himself, although, as we have already seen, attached to the
American System of Protection and believing in its Constitutionality,
unwittingly played into the hands of these Free Traders by drawing up
the famous Kentucky Resolutions of ’98 touching States Rights, which
were closely followed by the Virginia Resolutions of 1799 in the same
vein by Madison, also an out-and-out Protectionist. It was mainly in
condemnation of the Alien and Sedition Laws, then so unpopular
everywhere, that these resolutions were professedly fulminated, but they
gave to the agitating Free Traders a States-Rights-Secession-weapon of
which they quickly availed themselves.

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