In 1816, soon after the end of the War of 1812, the British, who had failed to defeat the Americans in battle, attempted to shut down the newly formed American manufacturing business. They were sending over materials to the U.S. and extremely low prices in an effort to crate a stronghold over the U.S. These actions lead to the Tariff of 1816, which placed a 20-30% tax on all imported goods, in an attempt to protect U.S. industries. Strong debate arose over these issues in Congress, and strong leaders came about with those debates, in order to represent the feelings of the different areas in America. These three leaders were Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster.
Webster was a representative from the North, a New Hampshire resident, who strongly opposed the Tariff of 1816. The view of the New England territory was for some protection, but not the entire amount outlined in the tariff. Their reasoning was that New England still maintained many of its reliance’s on shipping and trade. Industry had not completely taken over in those areas, and because the tariff would limit trade in the New England ports, it would directly effect the New England economy. Webster took a strong stand in opposing this tariff for these very reasons, he in order to maintaining the well being of the northern states. Webster also stood against Clay’s insistence for better transportation amongst the states. He went along with the New England belief that better roads would encourage migration towards the lands of the West, therefore dwindling the population of the Northern states.
John Calhoun, a representative from South Carolina, also played a large roll in the congressional debates in the early 1800’s. A fierce nationalist and former warhawk, he was much in favor of the Tariff of 1816. He believed that the South’s future lay in the hands of manufacturing of cotton and other such products. With England trying to crush these industries, he saw the tariff as a helpful resource for his region. He later changed his position, opposing the tariff as he came to believe that the tariff only benefited the wealthy factory owners of the North, and did little to help the South. He looked out for the best interest of his state and the other states of the South.
Henry Clay was another strong supporter of the Tariff of 1816. He was a western representative who believed in a system called the “American System.” This system entailed first, the protective tariff, and then with the benefits of the tariff and increase in national industry, the money could then be used to improve roads and transportation among the states. This would increase population flow and the transportation of manufactured goods and raw materials between the various regions. His strong urging for the American System was passed into bill in 1817, but was then vetoed immediately by President Madison. Clay also played an important role in the Missouri compromise of 1820. He proposed that Missouri be admitted as a slave state, and Maine could then be added a free state, evening the number of slave states and free states. This compromise held the country together by a loose string for many years until it was finally broken at the dawn of the Civil War.
Clay, Calhoun, and Webster could all be accurately described as spokesmen for their respective regions. Their views reflected those of the general population and they were only looking out for the good of the nation.