President of the United States.
Autograph Letter Signed, two pages, legal folio, Hermitage, June 25, 1827. To Henry Daniel.
Andrew Jackson outlines his belief and policy that a strictly even-handed approach was the key to maintaining harmony in the Union; he wanted a bill fair to both North and South, who were drawing the lines which led to the Civil War: “Your letter of the 9th Inst, has been recd in which you ask of me some explanation relative to the duty imposed in 1824 on cotton Bagging. I have a thorough recollection of the circumstances of that bill, particularly of the proceedings which took place as to the article of Bagging.
“When the bill came to the Senate from the House of Representatives my attention was directed principally towards those items which I considered essential and necessary to our prosperity in times of war, whereof Hemp, & articles made of Hemp stood prominent. Duck was necessary in war, as constituting a material article on the preparation of our Ships. With a view to our uniform & equal operation of the Tariff in different sections of our country, it seemed proper that a relative and corresponding duty should be placed on all & every article of which Hemp was the material part: & this object appeared to have been regarded by the House of Representatives, looking to the shape in which the Bill came to the Senate.
“An increased duty on Russian & Holland Duck going to effect the Shipping interest of New England was objected to the amount at which it had been placed by the house of Representatives was stricken out, & the ad valorum duty reduced to 15 pr cent. Acting with a view to uniform Justice between the north & south, I could not deserve the propriety of placing Duck, needful to our merchant ships, at a low rate. Of duty; & Bagging made of the same material at a more advanced duty. You will accordingly find that on the first application to reduce the 4 / cents duty on Bagging I voted against it; I did likewise vote against reducing Russian & Holland ducks to the ad valorum duty of 15 pr cent. The motion to reduce, however, succeeded, after which time I deemed it right & so voted to make a correspondent reduction on Bagging. The two Houses remained divided between 4 / & 3/12. This in the end was settled by a committee of conference at 3 to which I agreed, & for which sum I voted; & likewise for the entire bill on its find passage.
Another consideration operated; The House of Representatives had placed the duty on Hemp at 2 cents a pound. This the Senate had stricken out & reduced, contrary to my vote & wishes, to I think $55 a ton making about 25 percent deduction. Uniformity being essential & right, it seemed to be proper, that as the raw material was reduced, so likewise should there be a correspondent reduction on the manufactured article. These are concisely the considerations & reasons which operated upon me on that part of the Tarriff of 1824 about which you have solicited my views & opinions.”
The question of tariffs dominated politics during the 1820s and 1830s, and marked the sharpening of the split between North and South that ultimately led to the Civil War. The tariff discussed in the present letter was passed in May 1824, when Andrew Jackson was a U.S. senator. It rankled the South because the finished cotton it needed to clothe its slaves was subjected to a high tariff, which protected the textile industry in the North but raised prices in the South, which goods the North used, like duck for its ships (few of which were produced in the non-industrialized south), had a low tariff. The South thus saw tariffs as a club the North was wielding to impoverish it. Just two weeks before this letter was written (which undoubtedly prompted Daniel’s letter of Jackson), a bill placing such a high tariff on wool that it virtually prohibited its importation was passed by the House. This again split north and south, but the bill was killed in the Senate by the efforts of Calhoun. The following year the so-called Tariff of Abominations was passed, further aggravating the situation. While he was president in 1833, Andrew Jackson worked out a tariff that was less exacting than the Tariff of Abominations, but failed to satisfy South Carolina, which passed an Ordnance of Nullification. Jackson described this act as the first step towards treason, and threatened to send troops to South Carolina to see to it that Federal laws were enforced there. Finally Henry Clay worked out a compromise, but the first lines had been drawn in the sand and secession was just a few decades away.
This item is associated with these categories in our inventory:
- Civil War