Economic History of the United States

By Chester W. Wright | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXIV
MANUFACTURING SINCE 1860 (Continued)

The History of the Tariff to 1890. High Protection Established. Though the tariff affects products of the extractive industries as well as those of manufacturing and also has some bearing on the fiscal history of the government, it can best be considered here since its history during this period was chiefly determined by the desire to foster and protect manufacturing industries. As has already been seen, the Civil War brought with it a rapid advance in tariff duties resulting in a level of 47 per cent at the end of the war, as compared with about 20 per cent in 1860. The immediate cause for this advance had been the fiscal needs of the government. Hence it was generally assumed that after the war was over the duties would be reduced. Yet, as events turned out, such was not destined to be the case, at least as regards the duties that were essentially protective rather than revenue producing in character. In consequence these years mark the beginning of a new period in our tariff history, the period of high protection, which, with but brief intermissions, has continued down to date.

As soon as the war ended and it was evident that the revenue exceeded the needs of the government, there arose an insistent demand for relief from the heavy burden of taxes with the result that by 1872 most of the internal taxes imposed during the war had been abolished except for those on liquors, manufactures of tobacco, and a few minor items. As the internal revenue taxes on manufactured goods were removed, it was expected that the tariff duties on similar products, which had been increased to offset these internal taxes, would be reduced. Yet when this was proposed general opposition from the interests affected at once developed. This opposition was in part based on the fact that after the war many industries faced a trying period of readjustment; some had become overexpanded in meeting wartime demands and all felt the depressing effects of the decline in the general price level. Indeed the situation was such that several industries even sought to secure an increase in the protective duties. Thus, in 1867, the Wool and Woolens Tariff Act raised the duties on raw wool and manufactures of wool to a much higher level than ever before. Shortly afterwards the duties on marble, nickel, copper, and steel rails were considerably increased; in the

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