Prelude to Trade Wars: American Tariff Policy, 1890-1922

Prelude to Trade Wars: American Tariff Policy, 1890-1922

Prelude to Trade Wars: American Tariff Policy, 1890-1922

Prelude to Trade Wars: American Tariff Policy, 1890-1922


The tariff policies of the 1890-1922 led to the development of tariff rates that launched the United States on a path that led to later trade wars. The Republican Party and Porter McCumber took the lead in promoting these policies, claiming that the tariff would protect new and struggling industries. In many instances, items subjected to high tariffs were not in conflict with industries in the United States. In addition, although the tariff covered agricultural products, it was not sufficient to halt an agricultural decline. This work traces the course of U.S. policy through five tariffs which preceded the Fordney-McCumber tariff of 1922, when the tariff was used for both protection and revenue. McCumber's economic nationalism combined with his internationalism in other areas is detailed in the work.


Tariffs have played an integral part of American history. They were a major issue between the Federalists and Jeffersonians in the early years of the Republic. The controversy over the "Tariff of Abominations" produced the first significant challenge to national supremacy. The tariff became a major issue in the defense of the southern way of life.

The rise of the United States as an industrial power, has been attributed, in part, to the ability of the Republican leadership to pass laws that raised rates on many manufactured goods. Both the McKinley and the Dingley tariffs represented the efforts of the Republicans, the business oriented party, to restrict foreign competition. The Payne- Aldrich Tariff is cited by historians as the last triumph of the business community before the Progressive Movement reached zenith under Woodrow Wilson. The Underwood-Simmons Tariff, passed during the Wilson administration, reversed many of the rates raised by the Payne- Aldrich Tariff. Both the Fordney-McCumber Tariff in 1922 and the Smoot-Hawley Tariff in 1930, contributed to the Great Depression.

In the 1990s political disputes over trade, once again, dominate American politics. In 1993, the controversy concerns the North American Free Trade Agreement and the general state of United States tariff policy relative to such countries as Japan. In each instance, free trade versus protectionism have once again become major political issues. Should readers encounter this book in the future, they will no doubt be able to relate it to the controversy of their period.

The history of the Fordney-McCumber Tariff, and the tariff laws preceding it, is also the story of Porter J. McCumber's political career. McCumber was a typical politician of the period, a product of the . . .

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