Phillip W. Magness

Historian – 19th century United States

On Tariffs and the American Civil War

A new piece that I wrote on the role of tariffs in the American Civil War era is now available at the Essential Civil War Curriculum, hosted by Virginia Tech. This article is an encyclopedia-style overview of my research on the subject as well as what other scholars have written, but it provides a short primer on a subject that is often muddled in confusion and erroneous claims.

If you ever encounter the argument that “tariffs caused the Civil War,” I’d simply urge to you read this piece first to see why the line of reasoning behind that claim is both in error and representative of a false “Lost Cause” historiography that came out of the Reconstruction era. At the same time though, I detail the history of the tariff issue’s role in antebellum economic debates and show how this culminated in an ancillary controversy, after slavery, on the eve of the Civil War.


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