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Mason of Barnet - a letter worth preserving if only to show how independent of convention, alike in spelling and punctuation, a vigorous style may be:
BARNET, V1., August 21, 1856 DEAR SIR
The news that the friends of Freedom in Congress have effectually prevented the application of the People's money from being appropriated to the payment of border ruffians and border ruffianism - is receaved here with perfect satisfaction and I might say with delight amongst the friends of Constitutional freedom - indeed when it is known that the American Congress will reather disband there wholl army than pay one cent to the demands of a wicked Slavery extention Oligarchy – it will be veiwed as a bright spot in the history of America - it will be receaved as a sure evidence that the constitution will be mentained and the Union preserved — the people will honer the names of those who have — thus — put a stop to the mad scheams and Suiciditcal policy of a recreant administration we are full of hopes — that you will finish at the extra session — that good work which ye have so auspiciously begun - for the active part you have taken and well aimed blows you have dealt in this battle between Slavery and freedom accept of my highest regard and esteem
GEORGE MASON These patriots wanted slavery lambasted and earnestly desired also that President Buchanan should not escape his share of punishment. “Was ever man guilty of penning such a lying document as the President's message on the subject?" (the Lecompton Bill) asks one. A citizen of Putney has no doubts: “He is a rotten-hearted old fogy. If Providence were not indeed long-suffering he would have received a just recompense ... long ago.” A mild letter almost heightens the effect: “I am sorry to say," writes a cautious voter, “that I think Mr. Bucanan (sic) less a statesman that he ought to be for a man of his years and experience.” But the general tone is harsh: nearer the key is the indignant cor
respondent who asks, “Is the Administration demented or mad with power? God save our country from the folly of our rulers.”
Naturally enough, with such sentiments, when the time came they voted solidly for their representative. The election of 1858 gave a proof of his strength. Although there was some talk of rival candidates, this died down when the convention met, and in the first issues after election the “Burlington Free Press” could say, "In almost every town heard from Mr. Morrill's vote is ahead of the Republican ticket.”
Morrill returned to Washington in December with the increased prestige of election to a third term. He was no longer a beginner, but was on the way to being numbered among the veterans. Length of service carries weight and gives influence in any association, but in Congress, where precedence and authority depend so largely on seniority, this is doubly so. The House especially is so huge an organism, so slow to move, that a new member has little power; in fact he must serve at least two terms in order to convince the body that he is to be regarded seriously as a member and not a mere transient sent to Washington by the accident of a single election. It is a penetrating remark that Blaine makes: “Except in a few marked instances the House has always been led by men whose reputation has been acquired in its service. Entering unheralded, .... a clever man is sure to receive more credit than is really his due when he is so fortunate as to arrest the attention of members in his first speech. Thenceforward, if he be discreet enough to move slowly and modestly, he acquires a secure standing and may reach the highest honors which the House can confer.”
Morrill had passed the early stages of such a progress and was now moving forward into a place of acknowledged leadership. He had formed friendships with the ablest men
of his party, Fessenden and Grimes, Collamer and Sherman, Colfax and “Thad” Stevens; he was assured of a lease of legislative life of more than two years; he was warranted in making a programme, and he planned to bring to fruition two measures — the Land Grant College Act and a revision of the tariff, both of which merit separate and full consideration.
THE MORRILL TARIFF
The fashion which was set in the latter part of Morrill's life of describing him as a member of the “Old Guard,” and as an uncompromising protectionist, tended to give a false impression. True it was that he belonged to the older and more conservative wing of his party and set his face like flint against new-fangled notions of finance and sovereignty; true also that he was an unwavering supporter of the doctrine of protection; but he was never an advocate of extreme high tariffs. Here, as in all else, he was a moderate, and he himself told in later life of the remark which Garfield made to him after joining the Ways and Means Committee, “I thought you were an extreme protectionist, but I find that in the hearings before the committee, you are fighting against too much protection continually.”
The panic of 1857 had thrown not only the people but the Government also into financial distress. There was not revenue enough to meet the current expenditure and Buchanan's Administration was obliged to borrow money for daily requirements. The remedy proposed was threefold to provide for the outstanding Treasury notes, to raise a loan, and to increase the revenues by raising the taxes on imports. The matter was referred to the Ways and Means Committee and, said Morrill, "I was made one of the subcommittee to continue the work of altering the schedules and producing an orderly protective tariff.... Associated with me were Henry Winter Davis of Maryland and William A. Howard of Michigan, the latter a cogent, clear person to express a case, while Davis was of all the men I have ever
known in public life, the most extraordinary orator. ... We entered into the preparation of the bill with diligence. I wrote all the bill; the other two diligently conferred with me." It was a task of great labor, demanding patience, accuracy, and that detailed knowledge of goods and prices which few members of Congress possess - a task for which Morrill's early training had given him incomparable preparation. He and his associates labored upon it throughout the session and, as a letter from Davis shows, he at least continued to labor on it during the recess. It was already his bill. “I wish you all success," writes Davis from Baltimore on the 20th of August, 1859, "in your hunt for new facts and methods for the improvement of your bill. I fear I cannot add much to them, but I shall be only too glad to have the honor of doing battle for your work. It was rightly named [the Morrill Bill]: no one in the House of Representatives but you could have prepared it. ... I suppose some intriguers will propose procrastination till after the Presidential election; but how can the imputation of faithlessness be met after such conduct? We must pass a bill in the House and force the Senate to accept or defeat it; it is sound policy - a necessity - nay, more — honesty. I feel confident you can strengthen your bill in more points than one by returning to the more moderate rates you, Howard, and I all preferred: and driving discontented and arrogant interests to present their extreme claims as separate amendments; if they fail, so much the better — they have gotten the best they could: if they pass, we have gotten the best we could. But passed in one shape or another it ought to be. We are now independent of Penn. Locofocos, and all rotten sticks."
It is a commonplace that no form of legislation is more difficult of enactment than a tariff measure because it touches every interest. Every Congressman feels obliged to give such a bill the closest attention lest some manufacturer