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The Tariff of 1857 was a major tax reduction in the United States that amended the Walker Tariff of 1846 by lowering rates to between 15% and 24%.[1][2]

The Tariff of 1857 was developed in response to a federal budget surplus in the mid-1850s.[2] The first version was authored by Representative Lewis D. Campbell and contained provisions only for an increased number of goods that could be imported without duties being leveed.[2] After protests primarily from agricultural interests, Senator Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter introduced a new version of the bill, which in addition to removing duties from some imports decreased all tariffs by between 20% and 25%.[2] The bill was signed into law on 3 March 1857.[2]

Support for the bill did not come from any political or geographic bloc as a whole, but was driven primarily by local economic interests—for example, Northeastern wool processors supported the bill, as they had been suffering under high duties on their goods, while Northern manufacturers advocated high protectionist tariffs.[2] Southern agricultural interests generally supported the lower tariffs, as they had long felt that tariffs advocated by Northern industry led to unfairly high by high costs of the goods farmers consumed.[2] According to historian Kenneth M. Stampp, the bill "was possible because it did not represent a victory of one section over the other; nor did it produce a clear division between parties. Its supporters included Democrats, Republicans, and Americans; representatives of northern merchants, manufacturers, and railroad interests; and spokesmen for southern farmers and planters. Opposition came largely from two economic groups: the iron manufacturers of Pennsylvania and the wool growers of New England and the West."[2]

When the Panic of 1857 struck later that year, protectionists, led by economist Henry C. Carey, blamed the downturn on the new tariff.[3] The Tariff of 1857's cuts lasted only a few years, as the highly protectionist Morrill Tariff was signed into law in March 1861.[4]


  1. ^ "COMMERCE OF THE UNITED STATES.; The Tariff Act of 1857". The New York Times. March 15, 1862. Retrieved April 15, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Stampp, Kenneth (1992). America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195074819.
  3. ^ Huston, James (1999). The Panic of 1857 and the Coming of the Civil War. LSU Press. ISBN 978-0807124925.
  4. ^ Northrup, Cynthia; Turney, Elaine (2003). Encyclopedia of Tariffs and Trade in U.S. History: The encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0313319433.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)