Morrill Tariff

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The Morrill Tariff of 1861 was an American protective tariff law adopted on March 2, 1861 during the Buchanan Administration and signed into law by President James Buchanan, a Democrat. The act is named after its sponsor, Representative Justin Morrill of Vermont, who drafted it with the advice of Pennsylvania economist Henry C. Carey. Passage was possible because many low-tariff Southerners had left Congress after their states declared their secession. The Morrill Tariff raised rates to protect and encourage industry and the high wages of industrial workers. It replaced the low Tariff of 1857, which was written to benefit the South. Two additional tariffs sponsored by Morrill, each one higher, were passed during Abraham Lincoln's administration to raise urgently needed revenue during the Civil War.

The high rates of the Morrill tariff inaugurated a period of continuous trade protection in the United States that lasted until the Underwood Tariff of 1913. The schedule of the Morrill Tariff and its two successor bills were retained long after the end of the Civil War.




A high tariff to encourage the development of domestic industry had been advocated for many years, especially by the Whig Party and its long-time leader Henry Clay. They enacted such a tariff in 1842, but in 1846 the Democrats enacted the Walker Tariff, cutting tariff rates substantially. The Democrats cut rates even further in the Tariff of 1857, which was highly favorable to the South.

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