Tariffs and the American Civil War

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Tariffs and the American Civil War
Tariffs, Sectionalism, Secession, and Civil War

Tariffs and the American Civil War
Sectionalism, Secession, and Civil War

Tariffs fueled sectionalism, which was followed by secession and the American Civil War.

A tariff is a tax or duty to be paid on a particular class of imports or exports.

Between the years 1800 and 1860, arguments between the North and South grew more intense, which was known as Sectionalism. One of the main quarrels was about taxes paid on foreign goods: this tax was referred to as a tariff. Southerners believed that these tariffs were unfair and aimed toward them because they imported a wider variety of goods compared to the North's imports. South Carolina would eventually disavow one such tariff in what would become known as the Nullification Crisis. Taxes were also levied on many Southern exports, an expense that was not always applied to Northern goods of equal value; an awkward economic structure allowed states and private transportation companies to accomplish this. Consequently, this affected Southern banks because they found themselves paying higher interest rates on loans made with banks in the North. The situation grew worse after several "panics", including one in 1857 that affected more Northern banks than Southern banks. Southern financiers found themselves burdened with high payments just to save Northern banks that had suffered financial losses through poor investments. See also American Tariffs and Sectionalism.

Recommended Reading: What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (Oxford History of the United States) (Hardcover: 928 pages). Review: The newest volume in the renowned Oxford History of the United States-- A brilliant portrait of an era that saw dramatic transformations in American life The Oxford History of the United States is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes two Pulitzer Prize winners, two New York Times bestsellers, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. Now, in What Hath God Wrought, historian Daniel Walker Howe illuminates the period from the battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American War, an era when the United States expanded to the Pacific and won control over the richest part of the North American continent. Continued below…

Howe's panoramic narrative portrays revolutionary improvements in transportation and communications that accelerated the extension of the American empire. Railroads, canals, newspapers, and the telegraph dramatically lowered travel times and spurred the spread of information. These innovations prompted the emergence of mass political parties and stimulated America's economic development from an overwhelmingly rural country to a diversified economy in which commerce and industry took their place alongside agriculture. In his story, the author weaves together political and military events with social, economic, and cultural history. He examines the rise of Andrew Jackson and his Democratic party, but contends that John Quincy Adams and other Whigs--advocates of public education and economic integration, defenders of the rights of Indians, women, and African-Americans--were the true prophets of America's future. He reveals the power of religion to shape many aspects of American life during this period, including slavery and antislavery, women's rights and other reform movements, politics, education, and literature. Howe's story of American expansion -- Manifest Destiny -- culminates in the bitterly controversial but brilliantly executed war waged against Mexico to gain California and Texas for the United States. By 1848, America had been transformed. What Hath God Wrought provides a monumental narrative of this formative period in United States history.

Related Reading:
 
American Tariffs What caused the Civil War What started the Civil War
Sectionalism Causes and Origins of the American Civil War
Sectionalism and Southern Secession Why did the South Secede
Nullification Crisis of South Carolina Nullification Proclamation: High Tariffs Taxes
Secession: Constitution and Legality and United States Constitution
Order of Secession of Southern States and the US Constitution

Recommended Reading: The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (Paperback), by David M. Potter. Review: Professor Potter treats an incredibly complicated and misinterpreted time period with unparalleled objectivity and insight. Potter masterfully explains the climatic events that led to Southern secession – a greatly divided nation – and the Civil War: the social, political and ideological conflicts; culture; American expansionism, sectionalism and popular sovereignty; economic and tariff systems; and slavery. In other words, Potter places under the microscope the root causes and origins of the Civil War, the conflict that caused the greatest loss of life in the history of the continent. He also conveys the subjects in easy to understand language which makes the work a welcome addition to any library. This study is not at all some boring piece on American history, but it is nice read on the mindset of the nation and what caused the American Civil War. Delving beyond surface meanings and interpretations, this book analyzes not only the history, but the historiography of the time period as well. Continued below…

Professor Potter rejects the historian's tendency to review the period with all the benefits of hindsight. He simply traces the events, allowing the reader a step-by-step walk through time, the various views, and contemplates the interpretations of contemporaries and other historians. Potter then moves forward with his analysis. The Impending Crisis is the absolute gold-standard of historical writing… This simply is the book by which, not only other antebellum era books, but all history books should be judged.

Recommended Reading: When in the Course of Human Events: Arguing the Case for Southern Secession. Review: As a historian, I have learned that the heart of any great work in history lies in the ample and accurate use of primary sources, and primary sources are the great strength of this work. While countless tomes have debated the perceived moral sides of the Civil War and the motivations of the various actors, this work investigates the motives of the primary players in the era and in their own words and writings. This gives the work an excellent realism and accuracy. The author, Charles Adams, has earned a reputation as one of the leading economic historians in the field, particularly in the area of taxes. He utilizes this background to investigate the American Civil War, and comes to some very striking conclusions, many that defy the politically-correct history of today. His thesis postulates that the Civil War had its primary cause not in slavery or state's rights, but rather in cold, hard economic concerns. Continued below...

He shows that the North used its supremacy in Congress to push through massive tariffs to fund the government, and that these tariffs fell much harder on the export-dependent South than upon the insular north. In fact, the total revenue from the "Compromise" Tariffs on the 1830s and 40s amounted to $107.5 million, of which $90 million came from the South. The majority of the revenue, moreover, was spent on projects “far from the South.” According to Adams, this disparity finally pushed the South to seek its own independence. Supporting this conclusion is the fact that the South enacted extremely low tariffs throughout the war, whereas the north enacted the Morrill Tariff of 1861, which enacted tariffs as high as 50 percent on some goods. Adams also chronicles the oft-overlooked excesses of the Lincoln Administration, and compares them to the actions of Julius Caesar. Using the letters and reports of the times, he tells how Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, trod roughshod over the Constitution, jailed thousands of U.S. citizens who dared disagree with him and even wrote a warrant for the arrest of the Chief Justice of the United States. Adams also ably uses the viewpoints of British and other Europeans to describe different contemporary views on the struggle. These provide excellent outside insight. On the whole, readers will find the book a superb and scholarly analysis, providing fresh insights into the motivations and causes of the defining war in American history. AWARDED 5 STARS by americancivilwarhistory.org

 

Recommended Reading: Prelude to Civil War: The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, 1816-1836. Review: When William Freehling's Prelude to Civil War first appeared in 1965 it was immediately hailed as a brilliant and incisive study of the origins of the Civil War. Book Week called it "fresh, exciting, and convincing," while The Virginia Quarterly Review praised it as, quite simply, "history at its best." It was equally well-received by historical societies, garnering the Allan Nevins History Prize as well as a Bancroft Prize, the most prestigious history award of all. Now once again available, Prelude to Civil War is still the definitive work on the subject, and one of the most important in antebellum studies. It tells the story of the Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, describing how from 1816 to 1836 aristocratic planters of the Palmetto State tumbled from a contented and prosperous life of elegant balls and fine Madeira wines to a world rife with economic distress, guilt over slavery, and apprehension of slave rebellion. It shows in compelling detail how this reversal of fortune led the political leaders of South Carolina down the path to ever more radical states rights doctrines: in 1832 they were seeking to nullify federal law by refusing to obey it; four years later some of them were considering secession. Continued below…

As the story unfolds, we meet a colorful and skillfully drawn cast of characters, among them John C. Calhoun, who hoped that nullification would save both his highest priority, slavery, and his next priority, union; President Andrew Jackson, who threatened to hang Calhoun and lead federal troops into South Carolina; Denmark Vesey, who organized and nearly brought off a slave conspiracy; and Martin Van Buren, the "Little Magician," who plotted craftily to replace Calhoun in Jackson's esteem. These and other important figures come to life in these pages, and help to tell a tale--often in their own words--central to an understanding of the war which eventually engulfed the United States. Demonstrating how a profound sensitivity to the still-shadowy slavery issue--not serious economic problems alone--led to the Nullification Controversy, Freehling revises many theories previously held by historians. He describes how fear of abolitionists and their lobbying power in Congress prompted South Carolina's leaders to ban virtually any public discussion of the South's "peculiar institution," and shows that while the Civil War had many beginnings, none was more significant than this single, passionate controversy. Written in a lively and eminently readable style, Prelude to Civil War is must reading for anyone trying to discover the roots of the conflict that soon would tear the Union apart.

 

Recommended Reading: The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War. Description: It hardly seems possible that there is more to say about someone who has been subjected to such minute scrutiny in thousands of books and articles. Yet, Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s The Real Lincoln manages to raise fresh and morally probing questions, challenging the image of the martyred 16th president that has been fashioned carefully in marble and bronze, sentimentalism and myth. In doing so, DiLorenzo does not follow the lead of M. E. Bradford or other Southern agrarians. He writes primarily not as a defender of the Old South and its institutions, culture, and traditions, but as a libertarian enemy of the Leviathan state. Continued below...

DiLorenzo holds Lincoln and his war responsible for the triumph of "big government" and the birth of the ubiquitous, suffocating modern U.S. state. He seeks to replace the nation’s memory of Lincoln as the “Great Emancipator” with the record of Lincoln as the “Great Centralizer.”

 

Recommended Reading: The Great Tax Wars: Lincoln--Teddy Roosevelt--Wilson How the Income Tax Transformed America (432 pages) (Simon & Schuster). Review: A major work of history, The Great Tax Wars is the gripping, epic story of six decades of often violent conflict over wealth, power, and fairness that gave America the income tax. It's the story of a tumultuous period of radical change, from Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War through the progressive era under Theodore Roosevelt and ending with Woodrow Wilson and World War I. During these years of upheaval, America was transformed from an agrarian society into a mighty industrial nation, great fortunes were amassed, farmers and workers rebelled, class war was narrowly averted, and America emerged as a global power. Continued below...

The Great Tax Wars features an extraordinary cast of characters, including the men who built the nation's industries and the politicians and reformers who battled them -- from J. P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie to Lincoln, T. R., Wilson, William Jennings Bryan, and Eugene Debs. From their ferocious battles emerged a more flexible definition of democracy, economic justice, and free enterprise largely framed by a more progressive tax system. In this groundbreaking book, Weisman shows how the ever controversial income tax transformed America and how today's debates about the tax echo those of the past. About the Author: Steven R. Weisman has covered politics, economics, and international affairs for The New York Times for more than thirty years. Previously a deputy foreign editor at the Times, he now writes editorials for the paper about government, politics, and international subjects, including the battles over taxes in the last two presidential elections. He lives with his wife, Elisabeth Bumiller, and family in the Washington, D.C., area.

 

Recommended Reading: Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War (The American Crisis: Books on the Civil War Era). Review: What role did economics play in leading the United States into the Civil War in the 1860s, and how did the war affect the economies of the North and the South? Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation uses contemporary economic analyses such as supply and demand, modern market theory, and the economics of politics to interpret events of the Civil War. Simplifying the sometimes complex intricacies of the subject matter, Thornton and Ekelund have penned a nontechnical primer that is jargon-free and accessible. Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation also takes a comprehensive approach to its topic. It offers a cohesive and a persuasive explanation of the how, what, and why behind the many factors at work on both sides of the contest. Continued below... 

While most books only delve into a particular aspect of the war, this title effectively bridges the gap by offering an all-encompassing, yet relatively brief, introduction to the essential economics of the Civil War. This book starts out with a look at the reasons for the beginning of the Civil War, including explaining why the war began when it did. It then examines the economic realities in both the North and South. Also covered are the different financial strategies implemented by both the Union and the Confederacy to fund the war and the reasons behind what ultimately led to Southern defeat. Finally, the economic effect of Reconstruction is discussed, including the impact it had on the former slave population. This book includes the related Tariff Acts, Tariff Panics, and so-called excessive Tariffs... what is presently referred to as “High Taxes and Taxation.” It is an interesting read for the casual reader as well as the Civil War buff!

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