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Wartime Tariff Legislation

Justin Morrill, Representative from Vermont, gained approval for a sharply increased tariff measure on March 2, 1861, two days before Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated. Little opposition had been raised against the proposal, given that seven Southern states had seceded. The South had vainly, and probably accurately, argued that they paid a major portion of the tariff burden, but the revenue generated from the duties was spent overwhelmingly in the North. The Morrill Tariff of 1861, an abrupt departure from the earlier Walker Tariff, was signed into law as one of the last acts of the outgoing president, James Buchanan. Other wartime tariff measures would bring the average rate to about 47 percent by war’s end—approximately the same level as the Tariff of Abominations in 1828. A reversal in policy would not occur until the relatively mild reform tariffs of the Reconstruction era.

What is a Tariff? Also see tariff table summary.