from articles of voluntary rather than of necessary use, exempting everything that enters into the process of domestic industry, and taxing only those articles of which consumers may even be deprived of some part on account of the cost, and yet not be in any degree harmed or prevented from doing the most effective work of which they are capable; our object being to leave them free, so as to be able to obtain the largest annual product either by the application of the labor of the people of the country to its own resources, or indirectly by devoting their labor and capital to exchanging their own products for articles of necessity which may be of foreign origin, thus securing every article of necessity at the lowest cost, whether of foreign or of domestic origin. We could then raise all the necessary revenue from spirits, wines, beer, sugar, tea, coffee, silks, the finer textile fabrics of wool and cotton, laces, embroideries, furs, and fancy goods.
In order to apply this theory to our present condition, we may take as our basis the estimates of the Secretary of the Treasury for the ensuing fiscal year; but in so doing we must bear in mind that there has scarcely been a single estimate of prospective revenue submitted by any Secretary for the last twenty-five years which has not been exceeded in result; we must also bear in mind, in considering estimates of expenditure, that the recommendations of the Secretary of the Treasury have been more apt to be cut down by Congress than to be increased. At the present time, however, when our legislators are so anxious to dispose of a surplus in order that they may not be called upon to reduce taxation, we may find an exception to this latter rule; but for the purposes of study the ordinary conditions may be applied to the present case.
I might have attempted to lay down the basis for an act for the collection of our national revenue consistently with theory; of course, our condition will not permit the immediate application of this theory in its full force on account of our present conditions. A beginning, however, may be made; and, as the effects of the changes upon the progress of the country are developed, the work can proceed more and more rapidly.
No one can yet venture to forecast the prosperity of this country which would ensue the moment all crude and partly manufactured materials which are necessary in the main processes of our domestic industry were made free from duties, and were therefore supplied to our domestic manufacturers on even terms with our competitors in other countries. As one can not forecast the beneficial effect of the removal of these taxes, so no one can measure the injury which has been inflicted in consequence of the higher price of iron, steel, copper, lead, and other metals, of wool, chemicals and dye-stuffs, through this long term of high-tariff obstruction.