Summary of Debates with John Calhoun and Alfred W. Cavarly in Springfield, Illinois, 18-25 March 18441
This being the first week of our Circuit Court, arrangements have been made by the public speakers, of both parties, to devote the evening hours, to the discussion of the great questions involved in the coming Presidential election.
On Monday evening Judge Cavarly (one of the democratic electors) delivered an able and interesting address to a densely crowded house. He confined his remarks almost entirely to the existing Tariff law2—and demonstrated, by documentary evidence, that it was unequal and unjust in its operations—oppressing the agricultural interests of the country, to feed with gold spoons, the proud, rich aristocratic manufacturer, who burnt blue-lights during the last war.3 Mr. C. in the course of his argument, quoted, from memory, from a speech of Mr. Stuart, made in Congress,4 an admission that the consumer of imported articles paid the duty or tax, which was concealed in the retail price of the goods. Mr. Stuart doubted the correctness of the quotation. His speech was produced and it was shown that Mr. Cavarly was correct in his quotation. This only bright spot in Mr. Stuart’s speech, so disturbed Mr. Lincoln, that he promised to forfeit his “ears” and his “legs” if he did not demonstrate, that protected articles have been cheaper since the late Tariff than before, designing to create the impression that the imposition of taxes on imports made them cheaper to the consumer. And, to our surprise, Judge Logan, endorsed Lincoln’s promise.
Will Mr. Lincoln or Judge Logan, say they believe that the late Tariff law was the cause of the diminution in the price of manufactured articles last spring? We think not. They are not quite ready to acknowledge themselves to be demagogues. We admit they can show that the price of merchandise has been lower (not cheaper) since the adoption of the late Tariff than immediately before, But, was the late Tariff the legitimate cause? This is the great question. Judge Logan with all his acknowledged ability, would not undertake to defend the affirmative, before an enlightened people. What was the cause of the depreciation in the price of goods last spring? Several powerful causes to wit:
1st—In anticipation of the passage of a tariff of increased duties, the importers procured a double amount of goods from abroad, that they might realize the advance of the new tariff.
2d—The domestic manufacturers, on the passage of the law, all went to work, and manufactured double or treble the usual amount of their fabrics, in anticipation of higher prices.
3d—Thousands of Merchanis[Merchants] took the benefit of the Bankrupt law, and their goods were thrown into the auction rooms to be sold to the highest bidder:5
4th—The Bankrupt law destroyed, or suspended for the time being, the credit system and reduced the price of goods to the cash standard—always fifty per cent lower than the credit price.—For the wholesale merchant adds when he sells on credit, a certain per cent for losses—and the retail merchant adds on the same goods, another per cent. for losses, [etc]
5th—The banks resumed specie payments; and the exchanges, which were enormous, and which had been added to the price of goods, was brought down to scarcely nothing.
These extraordinary causes uniting at one point, produced the effect which demagogues would attribute to the tariff, to mislead an honest people.—The market was so overstocked with goods, the supply was so much greater than the demand, that millions of goods were sold at cost.
When these combined powerful causes shall cease, if the tariff be not repealed, its effects will be felt and seen by a plundered yeomanry. The prices of protected articles have been and are advancing at a more rapid rate than since the formation of the government. This growing increase is the legitimate effect of the tariff, and just as the restraining causes alluded to, diminish, will the natural effects, (enormous prices,) of the tariff be developed. Our fathers thought a tax of three cents on a pound of tea for the support of government was an oppression too great to be borne;6 yet many of their degenerate children, would fasten a tax twenty times greater upon the people, not to support government, but to clothe rich aristocrats in purple and fine linen. The eyes of the people are opening to their multiplied wrongs. They can no longer be sung to sleep by filthy coon songs, fit only for sinks of prostitution. The people will not longer be gulled by demagogues who would advise them to support a candidate for the Presidency “without a why or wherefore.”
On Tuesday evening, Judge Brown, (whig elector) replied to Mr. Cavarly. Judge Brown is a good speaker. He spoke of the “standing army,” “defaulters,” “extravagance,” and the other humbugs of 1840. He boldly avowed Mr. Clay to be the father of the great American System, and declared that it would be perpetuated in the event of Mr. Clay’s election. He labored, like a lawyer with a bad cause, with all the sophistry he was master of, to hide the glaring injustice of the present Tariff law; but, to no purpose, other than gratifying those who love darkness rather than light. It is evident from the speeches of the whig orators, that they do not expect to succeed by brightening the intelligence and cultivating the virtue of the people—but by appeals to their prejudices and passions—by concealing the truth, and telling deliberate falsehoods. Their policy is to blindfold the people and then spur them on to destruction, like the unthinking horse into battle.
On Wednesday evening, Mr. Calhoun, (democratic elector,) developed the hidden mysteries of the Tariff, and leading measures of the whigs, to the public gaze. So completely did he expose modern whiggery and its anti-republican measures, that Baker himself turned pale, and Lincoln trembled at the thought of loosing his legs and his ears. Mr. Calhoun, on the great questions agitating the country, is more than a match for all the nine whig candidates for electors. It is up hill business, in this State, for the most learned whigs to justify, a high Tariff, a U.S. Bank, or Mr. Clay’s beautiful Bankrupt Law. And Mr. Calhoun’s speech was like rolling rocks down hill upon the enemies of democracy, crushing beneath their ponderous weight coons, log cabins, and cider barrels.7
1In addition to this summary of a week’s worth of political debates held in the city from March 18 through March 25, another appeared the Illinois State Register of March 29, and another appeared in the Sangamo Journal on March 28.
2In 1842, a Whig-majority Congress had passed an increased tariff to expand government revenues and reverse the imbalance of import and export trading.
“An Act to Provide Revenue from Imports, and to Change and Modify Existing Laws Imposing Duties on Imports, and for Other Purposes,” 30 August 1842, Statutes at Large of the United States, 5 (1856):548-67; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 166-67.
3This is a reference to “blue-light Federalists,” a derogatory term used by those who believed some Federalists assisted British ships running blockades during the War of 1812.
Webb Garrison and Cheryl Garrison, The Encyclopedia of Civil War Usage (Nashville: Cumberland House, 2001), 30.
4On July 9, 1842, John T. Stuart gave a speech in Congress in favor of an increased tariff. In the speech, he admitted “The tax thus paid, it is true, goes to increase the cost of the article to the consumer, and the consumer, in reality pays the tax.”
Sangamo Journal (Springfield, IL), 26 August 1842, 1:5.
5In 1841, the U.S. Congress responded to the Panic of 1837 by passing the first bankruptcy legislation in American history. Beginning on February 1, 1842, Americans could apply for bankruptcy relief in the U.S. District Court. The law was repealed just over a year later.
“An Act to Establish a Uniform System of Bankruptcy throughout the United States,” 19 August 1841, Statutes at Large of the United States 5 (1856):440-49; “An Act to Repeal the Bankrupt Act,” 3 March 1843, Statutes at Large of the United States 5 (1856):614.
6Reference to the Townshend Duties of 1767, which included a three pence tax on tea. Opposition to this tax and the passage of the Tea Act of 1773 led to the Boston Tea Party.
Benjamin W. Larabee, Catalyst for Revolution: The Boston Tea Party 1773 (Boston: Massachusetts Bicentennial Publication, December 1973), 6-19.
7“Coon” was a symbol used to refer to Henry Clay during the presidential campaign of 1844; log cabins and hard cider were slogans/symbols employed in the presidential election of 1840.
Robert V. Remini, Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991), 638, 651, 652, 657; Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, 89, 106.

Printed Document, 1 page(s), Illinois State Register (Springfield), 22 March 1844, 2:3.