President’s Day: Woodrow Wilson – The Tariff – 1912 – Past Daily: Presidents Being Presidential
In honor of Presidents Day, and maybe a President who doesn’t spring instantly to mind as one of the top 10 – Woodrow Wilson was a significant President who was around during tumultuous times and is ranked as one of the greatest U.S. Presidents by scholars and historians. In addition to being President of the U.S. during World War 1, he was also advocate for many of the programs which would anticipate The New Deal decades later. He did introduce the concept of the Income Tax but he also championed the idea of the Federal Reserve and presided over passage of the Federal Reserve Act in addition to establishing the Federal Trade Commission and passing various Anti-Trust acts.
In 1912, during a particularly grueling election campaign, Wilson took advantage of the new technology of the day and released a number of policy addresses on disc. In 1912 this was pretty modern and forward-thinking, just like a lot of Wilson’s proposed policies of the day.
Here is one; recorded on September 24, 1912 and issued shortly after by RCA-Victor records, titled The Tariff:
Woodrow Wilson: “We stand in the presence of an awakened nation. Plainly it is a new age. There are two great things to do. One is to set up the rule of justice and right in such matters as the tariff, the regulation of trust, and the prevention of monopoly. The business of government is to separate special and particular interests from the general interests of wide community. The initial task this year is to get our government in such shape that we can use it for our own purpose, not against anybody in particular, but for everybody in general. We want to establish a real partnership between all the people and the federal government instead of between special interests and the federal government. We must affect a great readjustment and get the forces of the whole people once more into play. The tariff question as dealt with in our time has not been business; it has been politics. The tariff has become a system of favors. Tariff schedules have been determined in committee rooms and in conferences. The tariff becomes a matter of legitimate business only when the understanding it represents is between the leaders of Congress and the whole people of the United States, instead of between the leaders of Congress and small groups of manufacturers demanding special recognition and consideration. That is the heart of the whole affair. It is at bottom a question of good faith and morals. Our conviction as Democrats is that the only legitimate object of tariff duties is to raise revenue for the support of the government. We denounce the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act as the most conspicuous example ever recorded of the special favors and monopolistic advantages which the leaders of the Republican party have too often shown themselves willing to extend to those to whom they look for campaign contributions. The changes which we make should be made only at such a rate, and in such a way, as will least interfere with the normal and healthful course of commerce and manufacture. There should be an immediate revision downward. It should begin with the schedules most obviously used to kill competition and raise prices in the United States and should be extended to every item which affords opportunity for monopoly and special advantage, until special favors shall have been absolutely withdrawn and our laws of taxation transformed from a system of governmental patronage into a system of just and reasonable charges which shall fall where they will create the least burden. The Republican party does not propose to change any of the essential conditions which mark our present difficulties. Mr. Roosevelt proposes in his platform not to abolish monopoly, but to take it under the legal protection of the government and to regulate it, to take the very men into partnership who have been making it impossible to carry out these great programs by which all of us wish to help the people. We do not wish to disturb the industry of the country, but to destroy the control over the industry of other people which these men have established and which makes it impossible that we should give ourselves a free field of public service. “
This address is available via a number of sites – since it was a commercial recording and many thousands were made and sold. This is my original 78 disc, so it may sound a bit different than the others – it’s the same recording.