History of Domestic and Foreign Commerce of the United States - Vol. 1

By Emory R. Johnson; T. W. Van Metre et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, 1860 TO 1900.
Changes produced by the Civil War , 254.
Development of the United States from 1860 to 1900 in population and wealth, 256;
in agriculture , 257;
in mining , 262 ;
in lumbering , 263;
in manufacturing , 263;
in transportation , 266.

The Civil War marked a notable turning-point in the economic history of the United States. National development since 1860 has been shaped to a large degree by fundamental political and economic changes that occurred during the war--changes which were, for the most part, the effect of various expedients resorted to by the Federal Government to enable it to bring the struggle for the preservation of the Union to a successful issue. To crush the military strength of the South the Federal authorities adopted the expedient of the abolition of slavery and, to the surprise of both the North and the South, "the cause of the conflict ceased before the conflict itself," and the country emerged from the war freed of the greatest obstacle to its social homogeneity. To secure revenue for the prosecution of the war, the duties on imports were raised between 1861 and 1866 to an unprecedented point, and when Congress failed, after the return of peace, to reduce the tariff schedules to their old level, manufacturing interests found themselves protected by a tariff so high that foreign competition was largely eliminated. To secure needed aid in financing the costly struggle, Congress established the national banking system, which gave more uniformity to the currency and brought the financial centers of the country into closer relation. The anxiety to connect the Atlantic and Pacific coasts by rail led the Federal Government to adopt the practice of granting large subsidies to the builders of great transcontinental railway lines. The stimulation which the war gave to manufacturing and transportation in the North and the shrewd manipulation of the money market during the years of the national crisis made possible the accumulation and concentration of large quantities of capital funds under the control of a small number of persons.

It was inevitable that such radical changes would modify the course of industrial progress. Because of the importance of slavery as the underlying cause of the war, there has been a natural tendency to regard its abolition as the most striking and significant net result of the great conflict, but it is to be doubted whether the emanicipation of the negro had as great an effect on subsequent economic development as the other innovations, which were so obscured by the turmoil of the war that they received but little attention and were regarded as being of much less significance. The complete transformation in the tariff

-254-

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