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Lobbyists and the Making of US Tariff Policy, 1816−1861

Since the 2008 global economic crisis, historians have embraced the challenge of making visible the invisible hand of the market. This renewed interest in the politics of political economy makes it all the more timely to remind ourselves that debates over free trade and protection were just as controversial in the early United States as they have once again become, and that lobbying, then as now, played an important part in Lincoln's government "of the people, by the people, for the people."

In Lobbyists and the Making of US Tariff Policy, 18161861, Daniel Peart reveals how active lobbyists were in Washington throughout the antebellum era. He describes how they involved themselves at every stage of the making of tariff policy, from setting the congressional agenda, through the writing of legislation in committee, to the final vote. Considering policymaking as a process, Peart focuses on the importance of rules and timing, the critical roles played by individual lawmakers and lobbyists, and the high degree of uncertainty that characterized this formative period in American political development.

The debate about tariff policy, Peart explains, is an unbroken thread that runs throughout the pre–Civil War era, connecting disparate individuals and events and shaping the development of the United States in myriad ways. Duties levied on imports provided the federal government with the major part of its revenue from the ratification of the Constitution to the close of the nineteenth century. More controversially, they also offered protection to domestic producers against foreign competition, at the expense of increased costs for consumers and the risk of retaliation from international trade partners. Ultimately, this book uses the tariff issue to illustrate the critical role that lobbying played within the antebellum policymaking process.

About the Author

Daniel Peart is a senior lecturer in American history at Queen Mary University of London. He is the author of Era of Experimentation: American Political Practices in the Early Republic and the coeditor of Practicing Democracy: Popular Politics in the United States from the Constitution to the Civil War.

Endorsements

"An excellent original contribution to the reinvigorated field of American political history. Peart has terrific command of the details of congressional maneuvering and tariff policy and explains them with ease."

- Rachel A. Shelden, University of Oklahoma, author of Washington Brotherhood: Politics, Social Life, and the Coming of the Civil War

"A very important and valuable book. Peart has provided the clearest and most comprehensive account ever of the efforts to promote (or thwart) the encouragement of American manufacturing through national policy from the end of the War of 1812 to the start of the Civil War. Students and scholars of the history of capitalism, political economy, and antebellum party politics are all in Peart's debt and will greatly benefit from his work."

- Andrew Shankman, Rutgers University–Camden, author of Original Intents: Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison, and the American Founding

"In the best book about tariffs in the early republic since F. W. Taussig's classic study, Daniel Peart has cast a keen light on the evolution of lobbying before the Civil War. While its discoveries impose a specific duty on every student of political economy in the antebellum period to read it, prose this graceful makes the task feel duty-free."

- Mark Wahlgren Summers, University of Kentucky, author of A Dangerous Stir: Fear, Paranoia, and the Making of Reconstruction

"Good books often teach us something new about subjects which we thought we already knew. Daniel Peart's magnificently researched and most enlightening Lobbyists and the Making of US Tariff Policy, 18161861 is one such book. It clearly demonstrates that outside lobbyists, whether self-appointed or delegated, had as much, if not more, to do with the formulation of pre–Civil War tariff policy as either party or sectional affiliation."

- Michael F. Holt, University of Virginia, author of The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War

"Of all the economic issues that bedeviled the early American republic, the tariff stands foremost—and is also foremost among the topics neglected by historians. Daniel Peart’s book is a significant contribution to understanding the American tariff upheavals of the nineteenth century. By focusing on lobbying efforts of protectionists, he profoundly adds to our knowledge of how tariffs were crafted. What is amazing, and thoroughly welcome, is that he achieves this feat in graceful prose."

- James L. Huston, Oklahoma State University, author of The British Gentry, the Southern Planter, and the Northern Family Farmer: Agriculture and Sectional Antagonism in North America

"Hurrah! At last a thoroughly researched and lucidly written book that graphically explains the most persistent political issue of the nineteenth century and, in the process, gives us sharp insights into how Congress actually worked before the Civil War."

- Donald Ratcliffe, University of Oxford, author of The One-Party Presidential Contest: Adams, Jackson, and 1824's Five-Horse Race

"Essential reading for students of nineteenth-century politics, and of American tax and lobbying history more broadly. Peart’s masterfully researched, elegantly constructed book reveals the drama of how special interest lobbying, party, and section interacted to shape antebellum America’s critically important, hotly contested tariff policymaking."

- Corey M. Brooks, York College of Pennsylvania, author of Liberty Power: Antislavery Third Parties and the Transformation of American Politics
Johns Hopkins University Press
Studies in Early American Economy and Society from the Library Company of Philadelphia
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