Summary of Debates with John Calhoun and Alfred W. Cavarly in Springfield, Illinois, [March 20-25, 1844]1
Never have the Whigs since their organization as a party been more dismayed than they are at the present time; and never since the organization of the government, never in any previous contest have we observed more certain indications of success than we now find throughout the Union. The Whigs previous to the election of 1840 kept their press fettered and their orators silent. Their principles were unknown, and their objects indiscoverable, and their entire system of policy a profound mystery and their great principle and rallying cry opposition to Mr. Van Buren, and a determination to leave no means untried however unfair, to give that opposition the fullest effect.
But the extra-session of ’41 [1841]and the long session of ’42[1842] disclosed all; they then displayed the cloven foot. And in a manner characteristic of Whiggery they are doing their utmost to avoid discussion and check investigation into the odious measures of that Whig Congress.
The recent developments made by Mr. Calhoun in the course of the debate, noticed in the Register of last week, have stricken terror into all ranks of that party; orators, drummers, “shingle clappers,” Satraps and pack horses.
I do not propose giving an extended view of the discussion, as I should thereby encroach upon space which might be better employed. I shall content myself by presenting a synopsis of Mr. Calhoun’s leading arguments with Mr. Lincoln’s “sneers” at them.
Mr. Calhoun’s first speech on Wednesday evening was luminous, convincing and unanswerable. His statements were supported by an array of facts which no man will deny, and from which he deduced arguments, which no Whig in existence, from Mr. Clay down to Mr. Baker, can disprove.
In discussing the tariff, Mr. Calhoun proved beyond all cavil that in its operation the entire burden fell upon the consumer. He totally annihilated that absurd and ridiculous paradox, so utterly at variance with all experience and common sense:—that high prices—the necessary consequence of a high tariff—make cheap goods.
Though Mr. Calhoun triumphantly established the first proposition, yet Mr. Lincoln had the hardihood to assert that it might probably fall upon the manufacturer, after Mr. Calhoun had shown that it positively fell upon the consumer. Will Mr. L. tell us who paid the duty on Dr. Shields’ knives? But this being a fact which he dare not deny and cannot controvert, he passes over with a “sneer!”
As to the second: Notwithstanding that it is so superlatively foolish, and carries with its own refutation, Mr. Lincoln had the presumption to insult the understandings of his hearers, by re-asserting that such was the case.
Probably his pack-horse may believe this. The “shingle-clappers” by whom he was surrounded, no doubt, received it with implicit faith and credit; but what must have been Mr. Lincoln’s opinion of the intelligence of his auditory if he expected them to swallow that? If he found believers, it is in vain to argue with such—their ignorance is too prejudiced to be taught and their prejudice too contemptible to be combatted:
Mr. Lincoln very candidly acknowledged his inability to prove that the tariff had anything to do with the late low prices throughout this country and Europe. I say late low prices, because goods are now rapidly advancing to the standard of oppressive and tyranical extortion contemplated by the framers of that villanous law. As the following table taken from a New York paper will show.
Prices of cotton goods at Boston and New York in the early part of the year 1843, and ‘44.
27 in.[inch] Brown Shirtings. 4 a 4 1-2 5 1-2 a 6
30 "brow"wn shir"very stout 5 a 5 1-2 6 1-2 a 7 1-4
37 " Brown Sheetings 5 1-4 a 6 7 1-2 a 8
37 "brow"wn shir"very stout 6 1-2 a 7 8 a 8 1-4
40 "brow"wn shir"very sto" 7 a 7 1-2 10 1-2 a 11 1-4
40 "brow"wn shir"fine 9 a 10 10 a 10 1-2
30 "brow" 11Drillings 6 1-2 a 7 8 a 8 1-2
28 " Bleached 7 a 8 8 1-2 a 9
Negro Plain Cottons 8 a 10 10 a 11
ne" ro plLinseys 16 a 20 20 a 24
PRICES IN NEW YORK. Feb. 1843. Feb. 1844.
Cabot C, bleached 5 3-4 a 6 7 1-2 a 7 3-4
Great Falls S, Bleached 6 1-2 a — 8 3-4 a —
Bartlett Mills 9 a — 11 1-4 a —
Chicopee D, unbleached 6 1-4 a 6 1-2 8 1-4 a 8 3-4
Cabot A 6 1-4 a 6 1-2 8 a 8 3-4
Lawrence C 6 1-4 a — 8 3-4 a —
Indian heads 6 1-4 a — 8 a —
Madder prints, colored Cottons 6 a 6 1-2 9 1-4 a 10 1-2
Plate r prints, colo"lored co" 10 a 11 13 1-2 a 14 3-4
Chintz 10 1-2 a 11 14 a 15
Whoever will make the calculation will find an advance in the above prices of from 20 to 58 per cent.
This law was passed in 1842, that is one fact.2 Goods began to fall about that time, this is another fact, but I defy Mr. L. or any man living to prove that the relation of cause and effect subsists between them. They are merely coincident. The second is by means a consequence of the first.
Old women tell us that when a ram turns his tail to the wind, or when a pig is seen with a straw in his mouth that these are certain and invariable signs of rain. Now will Mr. L. contend that if the rain follows, it is a necessary and inevitable consequence of the motions of those animals? Yet his argument in support of the tariff is just as sound; and he has certainly predicated it upon the lessons he received from his nurse.
Whiggery may well exclaim—save me from my friends! A more complete and perfect expose of the iniquity and absurdity of the tariff system, could not be desired than was unwittingly furnished by Mr. Lincoln himself. It stands very much in need of another advocate to protect it from Mr. L’s defence.
J. R. D.
1In addition to this summary, Democratic Illinois State Register published another summary of the debates in its March 22, 1844 edition. The Whig Sangamo Journal also published a summary of the political debates held during the week of March 18-25, 1844.
2On August 30, 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.

Printed Document, 1 page(s), Illinois State Register (Springfield), 29 March 1844, 2:6.