The Tariff Commission

During the controversy over the tariff that ensued Taft's inauguration, another controversy arose over having a "tariff board."  Taft favored having an expert commission investigate tariff rates with a view toward lowering them.  The Democrats were hostile to this idea.  Here are their contrasting views as explained in The Outlook, September 9, 1911: 53-54

I recognize the general demand throughout the country for a general reduction of duties so far as that reduction can be made consistent with the maintenance of a measure of protection that shall enable the industries of the country to live. The time of the Chinese Wall and duties exceeding the difference between the cost of production here and the cost of production abroad has passed, and we of the Republican party are under an obligation, as soon as the opportunity comes, to advocate and carry through a revision of the tariff which shall meet the present popular demand and to which we are really pledged.. Therefore, when the Tariff Board shall make its report in December on wool and cotton, I expect to submit to Congress recommendations, based on their report, for a revision of both schedules. I have already expressed my opinion that the woolen schedule is too high, that it has prevailed for so many years that it ought to be revised, and is the subject of complaint, not only by consumers, but also by those who are engaged in the industries affected. So far as I can help it, however, no such revision will take place unless it is made with a full knowledge of the facts as found by an impartial investigation.


It might as well be understood now as later that if the Tariff Board is to be used as a pretext for delaying tariff revision downward, as the President is now using it, instead of expediting genuine and salutary tariff revision, its days will be few, for we will cut off its supplies. This Board has already cost $300,000 or $400,000, and has not given to Congress any information to aid in revision of the tariff. Mr. Underwood and I did say that we would gladly receive information on the tariff from anybody possessing it; but we never did say and never will say that we, together with other members well informed on the subject, must wait until the President’s Board or any other board got ready to make recommendations.

(Champ Clark, a Democrat, was Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1911, and himself a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912.