Congress, says, speaking of the increase of duties on imports by the tariff act of July 14, 1862, that it "shut out still more conclusively all competition from foreign fabrics. The increased cost was charged to the consumer." Mr. McKinley, in 1890, in a report introducing a bill for revision of the tariff of the United States, in the direction of increased rates of duties on imports, said it was not the intent of the bill "to further cut down prices," that the people were "already suffering from low prices," and would not be satisfied "with legislation which will result in lower prices." In an elaborate opinion given by the New York Court of Appeals in 1851 (see vol. iv, New York Reports), in which there was no suspicion of any issue of free trade or protection, the courts, in carefully considering the relative powers of the legislature and the judiciary in respect to taxation, assumed the proposition that "all duties on imported goods are taxes on the class of consumers" to be in the nature of a self-evident truth or economic axiom.
Henry Clay, in a celebrated speech in the United States House of Representatives in 1833, in advocacy of a protective tariff policy, candidly admitted that "in general it may be taken as a rule that the duty upon an article forms a portion of its price." But he subsequently qualified such admission by claiming that it does not follow that any consequent enhancement of its price is a tax on consumers, inasmuch as "directly or indirectly, in one form or another, all consumers of protected articles, enhanced in price," will get an equivalent. But this may be equally affirmed of all necessary and equitable taxation, and does not in any way antagonize the theory that the final incidence of the class of taxes under consideration falls on consumption.
But, notwithstanding these conclusions and the incontrovertible evidence by which they are supported, not a few persons occupying places of great legislative influence, and no small part of the general public, hold to the view that taxes on imports are really in the nature of premiums paid by foreigners for the privilege of selling their goods in the markets of the importing country, and do not fall on its people who consume them. That means that if the foreigner has a yard of cloth, or other commodity, which he sells at home for one dollar, and the United States imposes a tariff of fifty cents on it, he will then sell it for export to America at fifty cents. There is no instance mentioned in history where this has ever been done, but history unfortunately is rarely taken into account by the public in the discussion of these questions. In this connection the following historical incident is interesting and instructive: In 1782 an attempt by the Congress of the Confederation of the several American States to provide a system of revenue to defray the general expenses of the