The South and the Tariff

July 5, 1928

Report Outline
The Anti-Protectionist South
Growth of Tariff Sentiment in the South
Factors Basic to the Shift in Tariff Attitude
Special Focus

The tariff plank adopted by the Democrats for 1928 at the recent Houston convention differs considerably from that embodied in the platform offered by the party in 1924. In the 1924 tariff plank there was severe criticism of the Fordney-McCumber tariff of 1922 and a declaration in favor of a “tax on commodities entering the customs house that will promote effective competition, protect against monopoly and at the same time produce a fair revenue to support the government”. This latter statement is repeated in the 1928 platform and there is added to it the following sentence, “Actual difference between the cost of production at home and abroad, with adequate safeguard for the wage of the American laborer, must be the extreme measure of every tariff rate”. In addition it is stated that there should be “equitable distribution of the benefits and burdens of the tariff among all,” and that agricultural groups and legitimate business in general have “everything to gain from a Democratic tariff based on justice to all”. The. Fordney-McCumber tariff is not named, nor is there denunciation of the principle of tariff protection, a feature of many former Democratic platforms.

Adoption of this tariff plank, which brings in - for the first time in Democratic history - the Republican principle of “equalization of production costs at home and abroad” as one measure of tariff justice and gives assurance to legitimate business that the party will not undertake radical downward revision of a kind to occasion alarm, confirms pre-convention forecasts that the party would take a moderate stand on the tariff during the 1928 campaign.

Shifting Tariff Attitude in the South

Prior to the Houston convention many Democrats were openly calling for adoption of the principle of protection. Among these was James W. Gerard, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and former Ambassador to Germany, who asserted on June 23 that the tariff was “no longer a partisan political issue and ought not to be so regarded by the people and the Democratic party. I am one of many Democrats,” he added, “who are not afraid to say that protection without robbery schedules is essential to industrial prosperity and the continued employment of labor.” Mr. Gerard's statement called forth favorable comment from southern as well as northern Democratic leaders and it is evident from the Democratic tariff plank that his views must have found strong support among the framers of the platform. Among the southern leaders who were members of the Resolutions Committee that drew up the platform were Senator Caraway of Arkansas, Senator Tydings of Maryland, Senator Harrison of Mississippi, Senator Blease of South Carolina, Governor Dan Moody of Texas, Senator Glass of Virginia, Josephus Daniels of North Carolina and Edward Maddox of Georgia.

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