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Tariff of 1857: Increasing Sectional Friction

The Panic of 1857 yielded a major depression in the United States and later in many other parts of the globe. One result of the worldwide economic difficulties was a general stagnation in trade.

Advocates of downward tariff reform in the U.S. argued that the country would benefit from the availability of cheaper foreign imports and would profit from the ability of domestic farmers and manufacturers to sell their products in distant markets.

In 1857, the average rate was reduced to the neighborhood of 20 percent. The trend toward lower tariffs had begun most recently in the Walker Tariff of 1846, but would be abruptly halted by wartime tariff measures.

The Tariff of 1857 was warmly greeted in the South and roundly derided in the North. The tariff was one of a number of major issues that was dangerously increasing the tension between the two regions.

What is a Tariff? Also see tariff table summary.