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INCIDENTAL PROTECTION: AN EXAMINATION OF THE MORRILL TARIFF

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Author(s): Jane Flaherty

Journal: Essays in Economic & Business History
ISSN 0896-226X

Volume: 19;
Issue: 1;
Date: 2001;
Original page

ABSTRACT
Historians refer to the Morrill Tariff as the first statement of the nascent Republican party’s protectionist agenda, yet an analysis of the measure reveals that this enduring icon of historiography needs modification. Implemented as a direct response to the fiscal crisis created by the Buchanan administration, the Morrill Tariff represents a bipartisan effort to augment federal revenue for a depleted Treasury. Both President James Buchanan and many of his Democratic colleagues in Congress urged revising the Tariff of 1857 to arrest the growth of the federal deficit. However, the bitter rhetoric that accompanied the secession crisis has obscured the true nature of this short-lived, but important, revenue measure. An examination of the Morrill Tariff and the circumstances surrounding its passage demonstrate that it re-established the rates from the free trade Tariff of 1846 while providing incidental protection for select industries, a practice accepted, even advocated, by the Democratic party for over a decade.
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