Effects of Repealing the Tariff

Pittsburgh Post, April 2, 1861

The Republicans, having divided the country, and placed its great interests in direct antagonism, are boldly and strongly advocating an entire sacrifice of the interests of the manufacturing States, in order to sustain and strengthen the hands of a partizan government. The Republican newspapers of New York and the North-west, are in a paroxysm about the Morrill tariff, and insist that Mr. Lincoln shall call an extra session of Congress to repeal it, before it has had a fair trial. It is true that the government is a borrower and wants a revenue, but what of that? The triumph of sectionalism has thrown immense commercial advantages into the hands of the South, and the jobbers of New York see that their calling is in danger, and their princely revenues like to be cut off. The great North-west, which might have defeated sectionalism but would not, can take advantage of Southern free trade and buy goods cheaper in St. Louis and New Orleans than New York, and therefore, cares for no protection to the manufacturers and producers of such unimportant States as Pennsylvania. The complications of sectionalism, which have dissevered the Union, are fast arraying State interest against State interest, and the great error of Republicanism, which has caused disunion between the sections, is working its mission of placing States in antagonism. "Each for itself and the devil take the hindmost," is the practical effect of the dogmas of the Chicago platform. The manufacturers and workingmen of Pennsylvania, must be sacrificed that the nabob importers of New York may grow fatter with riches; and all because the Republican party persistently refuse to grant to all the States their rights under a common Constitution and bond of agreement, the spirit of which the fanatics of the North have so fatally violated.

But will the repeal of the Morrill tariff bill in any degree remedy or modify the ills which sectionalism has brought upon the people of the country? Manifestly not.—The argument is, that by repealing the tariff, the commerce of the North may be enabled to compete with the commerce of the South upon equal footing. Repeal the tariff and place the commercial interests of the nations upon the same footing, and still the North would be the loser and not the gainer thereby.

Over two hundred millions of dollars in value annually, are exported from the Confederated States in cotton, rice, tobacco, sugar, naval stores, lumber, minerals, &c., to Europe and the other States. A ten per cent tariff on this would produce $20,000,000, enough for the peace expenditures of the new Confederacy. The remaining eight slave States consume at least $250,000,000 annually, and if these are permitted to drift into the new Confederacy, as they naturally will, if the Republican party persists in its present policy, a revenue of 545,000,000, would be created. But even if the border States do not join the new Republic, the fact that their sentiments, their sympathies and their great interests, are with it, would induce them to throw all their trade South, and make all their purchases there, even if the tariffs were the same in both sections.—The South would be a customer for four hundred and fifty millions of dollars annually, and Europe would certainly profit by such a customer instead of us. Meantime, at our own doors, the products of the cheap labor of Europe would be sold cheaper than our manufacturers could produce them, and the manufacturing States would be deprived of both a home and a Southern market for their products. The race for commerce under a low tariff might suit New York, but where would Pennsylvania find herself under such a regulation[?] Idleness would stalk through her workshops, her mills, her foundries and her mines, and with no employment for labor, and with capital tied up and utterly unproductive, the necessities of the Government would impose direct taxation upon our people. The South is a planting country and the consumption of each year affords a constant market and creates a constant demand for its products. The North cannot go into the raising of rice, cotton and tobacco, in rivalry of the South; but the South can go into manufacturing in rivalry of the North, and she will. The repeal of the Morrill Tariff would only render the relative position of the two sections worse rather than better. In a free trade fight the South would have the advantage of the North, for while the quantity of her own material products would neither diminish in quantity nor decrease in value, the productive interests of the North would be utterly destroyed by inability to manufacture or sell goods as cheap and as good as England would send across the water to supply both the North and the South. What it now buys from Northern manufacturers the South would, under a nominal tariff, buy cheaper from European sources, and its own forty-five hundred millions of dollars of products would have as good a market as they ever had. To repeal the tariff to prevent the South from selling us imported goods cheaper than we can buy them in New York, is to strike at once a death blow to Northern manufacturers, and to drive Northern manufacturing capital into the South to develope its acknowledged resources.

The great North-west, being like the South, an agricultural rather than a manufacturing country, prefers to buy goods as cheap as possible so long as the price of its own products is not affected. But New York and the West must consider that commerce and agriculture are but two of the great interests of the people of a nation. The third sister, manufactures, should go hand in hand with them, and the people who have joined their fortunes to the latter are entitled to equal consideration at the hands of the common government with those who depend on the former.

The true remedy of the evils which have fallen upon the country, and are threatening its destruction is, not to repeal the Morrill Tariff; but to repeal the obnoxious features of the Chicago Platform. This would restore peace and prosperity to the country, and restore the Union. If the Republican party are not disunionists let them meet the issue like men, and by acknowledging the great mistake of sectionalism, and granting only that to the South which is her right under the Constitution, restore the power of the government to protect its citizens against destructive foreign competition in trade, commerce and manufactures at our own doors.