republicans opposed a decrease in taxes -- 12/22/17

Today's selection -- from Benjamin Harrison by Charles W. Calhoun. In the late 1800s, Republicans were in favor of protectionism to ensure high wages for labor, and federal aid to education and large public works projects:

"One of the principal problems confronting the nation in Harrison's time was the federal government's collection of an excess revenue, which withdrew money from the private economy. During the Civil War, Congress had greatly increased import tariffs and internal duties to meet military expenses. Al­though taxes had been lowered somewhat after the war, every year since 1866 the government had collected a surplus of revenue, often far beyond current expenditures. Democrats, true to the long­standing doctrine of their southern wing, favored cutting the tariff to reduce the revenue. Republicans opposed any deep cuts that would jeopardize the protection of American producers from for­eign competition. The issue had played an important part in the 1880 election, and now, as a senator, Harrison defended protection­ism. Although he would accept the reduction of some rates, he was much more willing to reduce the revenue through the elimination of internal duties on nearly all commodities except alcohol and tobacco.

Campaign poster for the presidential election of 1888

"In addition, from a political standpoint, defending tariff protec­tionism offered a way for Harrison to offset his 'kid-gloves' image and ally himself with American labor. A tariff for revenue only, which the Democrats advocated, 'means less work and lower wages,' he argued. 'I do not say that labor has its full reward here. I do not deny that the avarice of the mill owner too often clips the edge of comfort from the wages of his operative .... But in spite of all this I do affirm that there is more comfort and more hope for a laboring man or woman in this country than in any other.' Without the protective tariff, he insisted, that comfort and hope would be gone.

"Rather than jeopardize protection to reduce the surplus, Harri­son thought the government could spend much of the excess rev­enue in beneficial ways. He particularly advocated a generous pension policy for Union veterans of the Civil War. He sponsored 101 special pension bills as well as a general bill to pension all dis­abled veterans, which in 1884 passed the Senate but failed in the Democratic House. He supported expenditure on national public works, such as improving the navigation of the Mississippi River, although he opposed federal funding of land reclamation along the river, which he saw as the states' responsibility under the Constitu­tion. In 1882 he voted against the annual Rivers and Harbors Bill, so notorious for local pork-barrel schemes that it drew President Arthur's veto, though in subsequent years Harrison tended to favor such bills, particularly if they included Indiana projects.

"Harrison also supported federal aid to education, aimed primar­ily at the South's illiterate population. On the Senate floor, he secured amendments that tightened pending legislation in impor­tant ways. One called for the appropriation of money on a matching basis to encourage the states themselves to increase their education spending."



Charles W. Calhoun


Benjamin Harrison


Times Books, Henry Holt and Company, LLC


Copyright 2005 by Charles W. Calhoun


barns and noble booksellers
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

All delanceyplace profits are donated to charity and support children’s literacy projects.


Sign in or create an account to comment