• 1844 Tariff Fight In Congress Leaves Only One In Favor of Protection

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    Pro- and anti-tariff forces have dominated discussion during many congressional sessions.  The country was in turmoil over various tariffs when PRESIDENT JOHN TYLER occupied the White House from 1841 to 1845.  He recognized the need for higher tariffs but wanted to remain within the 20 percent rate created by the 1833 Compromise Tariff. The Whigs supported high protectionist tariffs.  The discussion was spurred by the economic crisis, resulting from the Panic of 1837. Southern States disliked tariffs while the Northern States welcomed them, which protected their infant industries.  Tyler lamented that it would be necessary to raise rates beyond the 20 percent limit.  At one point, impeachment proceedings were initiated against Tyler, which ultimately failed.

     

    DAVID LOWREY SEYMOUR (1803-1867) served as Democratic Representative from New York’s 12th district in the 28th and the 32nd Congresses (1843-1845 and 1851-1853). He graduated from Yale in 1826 and before entering politics practiced law in Troy, NY.

     

    3 pp, ALS, January 4, 1844, Washington, to constituent Stephen Warren, Esq. of Troy and beautifully addressed and free franked on verso.  Seymour writes about a vote “taken yesterday relative to instructions to the Com. of Ways and Means against the tariff.” The result was too close for comfort—“a majority of only one in favour of our protection.”

     

    “…I must confess that I came down from the House last night feeling rather sad—But when the tariff men had looked around and saw that the vote taken…or the House was ready to adjourn and when indeed some of the members had already left…men were a few also who voted against us whom we supposed did not really understand the question. We took the pains to see them this morning before the vote, we free trade men came into the House this morning in high spirits. They had a move…for a final vote on Mr. Dowell’s resolution to make a more balanced tariff & which resolution was pending when we adjourned yesterday…They moved a call of the House…The vote was taken and it stood as you will perceive, 84 for instructing the committee…102 against it…There were several members absent yet I do not think the result would have been materially varied by their presence. I came here prepared to find the South anti-tariff—but I did not expect to meet a free trade West. But almost every Democrat from the Western states is rank free trade, some for a horizontal tariff, some for a discriminating tariff, but all for a tariff for revenue merely and totally unwilling to reconsider protection.” Whatever their reasons, and Seymour cites many, “they are radical—bold inflexible.”  Looking ahead, he predicts that protectionism will be “saved to the East and North by the South from the ultra free trade doctrines of the West.”

     

    Folds, toning and a tear on the verso reinforced with archival tape.  Very fine piece of history with nice postal markings and Seymour’s Free Frank in manuscript and stamp.

     

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