The Tariff Issue


 “The Good Samaritan”
  Cartoonist:  Udo J. Keppler
  Source:  Puck
  Date:  October 9, 1912

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This Puck cartoon applies the biblical analogy of the Good Samaritan to the tariff issue. The New Testament parable tells of an injured man ignored by several men passing by on the same road (who feared being robbed), but finally assisted by a despised Samaritan. Here, the injured man is the American consumer who suffers the economic ill effects of high protective tariffs. Democratic presidential nominee Woodrow Wilson is the Good Samaritan, who will nurse the consumer back to health by lowering tariff rates. Walking away from the scene are Progressive presidential nominee Theodore Roosevelt (in the distance) and Republican presidential nominee William Howard Taft.

In 1908, candidate Taft had broken Republican tradition by promising to revise the tariff, which was partly fulfilled in the first year of his presidential administration. The Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909 lowered the overall tariff rate by five percent (to 41%), but actually raised rates on crucial resources like coal and iron ore. In 1912, the Republican platform reaffirmed its longtime commitment to protective tariffs, while admitting that some duties (unspecified) were too high and should be adjusted. Likewise, Roosevelt stood firm in 1912 for protective tariffs, but called for a permanent tariff commission to adjudicate rates in favor of consumers, not as special privileges for industries. The Democratic platform took a very different stance, arguing that the Constitution only allowed the federal government to collect tariffs to raise revenue, not to protect industries. After he was elected president, Wilson signed into law the Underwood Tariff Act of 1913, which reduced the average rate from 41% to 27% and expanded the free list to include steel, iron, and other major items.













Website design © 2001-2008 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2008 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to