Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Visualizing Tariff Revenues

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on February 26, 2013

Earlier today my Austin colleague Eric Calistri shared a link to an Excel spreadsheet, distributed by the Economic History Association (download at your own risk), that detailed gross revenues, expenses and net revenues for ports of entry around the United States in the late 1850s. The data is abstracted from a report from the Secretary of the Treasury to the 36th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Executive Document No. 33.

To help visualize that, I’ve taken the gross revenue data for selected ports for FY 1859, and shown how those various ports stack up (ahem!) against one another:

Tariff01_720

Recall that Professor Williams said that “Southern ports paid 75 percent of tariffs in 1859.″ Sure doesn’t look like it to me. Tariff revenues at New Orleans are similar to those at Philadelphia, but no other Southern port comes anywhere close. Even the second Southern port, Charleston, is only about a tenth the size.

Sometimes it helps to see a thing to really understand it. Full-size image here.

___________

GeneralStarsGray

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36 Responses

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  1. Donald R. Shaffer said, on February 26, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    An interesting visual, but since tariffs are an indirect tax could it be that southerners were still shouldering more than their fair share of the tariff burden since although New York City was by far the busiest port in the U.S. judged by the value of tariffs collected, it was still ultimately the consumer that paid the tariff since it became part of the final purchase price of imported goods?. Where did imports that came in through NYC ultimately end up? I really don’t know for certain, but it is a way of reconciling the contradictory assertions featured here. Also, if you look at this issue in terms of exports, just over 50 percent of the value of American exports in the 1850s was southern cotton. So it can be argued southerners (or really their slaves) bore a disproportionate burden of paying for American imports in the decade before the Civil War. Just saying. :-)

    • Andy Hall said, on February 26, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      Tariffs generally were reduced by legislation in 1846 and 1857, both times passed by Democrats. I’ve heard it said over and over that Southerners, as the end consumers, paid a disproportionate share of the (indirect, passed-along) cost of tariffs. But I’ve yet to see any actual numbers to support that. I don’t doubt that Southerners believed they were paying an undue burden, but there ought to be data that show that.

      And as I mentioned in the comments on the earlier thread, those same tariff laws protected raw commodities produced in the South, including sugar, rice, tobacco, hides and timber.

      • Bob Nelson said, on February 27, 2013 at 1:53 pm

        Nice graphic, Andy. Have never seen it put quite so simply and so clearly. So how does one account for the irrational fear in the South over the proposed Morrill Tariff? I suppose by the same logic that led Southerners to have irrational fears about the ending of slavery, hence the need to secede. IIRC, it was Stephens who argued that the South was better off in the Union than out of it. Southerners could control Congress and did control the Supreme Court.

  2. Jimmy Dick said, on February 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    The whole thing is about perception and the real perception during the secession winter had next to nothing to do with the tariff. This has been an ongoing argument in our university’s historical society’s Facebook page and so far we have two graduates with MAs in American History defending modern historian’s perceptions on the issue against a bunch of undergrads who keep repeating the same thing over and over again while presenting little evidence to support their arguments. We’ve pointed out everything but the actual numbers and have gotten nowhere in convincing them that they’re wrong. One guy who actually is a grad student is a devotee and employee of the Mises Institute so he naturally brings up the Thornton book which is really just an extension of DiLorenzo although to give Thornton credit he acknowledges the role of slavery in the cause of the war while DiLorenzo neglects it.

    I specifically brought up the subject of text searching the documents of the past which have revealed the almost complete lack of emphasis on any other subject that wasn’t slavery in that secession winter and was ignored completely. It’s just another case where the dregs of the Lost Cause mentality are lingering on. We hoped a professor would drop in to add their two cents, but that has failed to happen. I don’t think they actually see the page in the first place, but it would be a great way for them to make a teaching moment.

  3. jfepperson said, on February 27, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Tariffs were paid by the consumers, and there were a lot more consumers in the North.

  4. dmfant said, on February 27, 2013 at 9:38 am

    love the model takes me back to the pre-cad design studios my dad used to teach in, thought this might be of interest:

    http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2013-02-27/readers-review-march-el-doctorow

  5. Drew said, on February 27, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Andy, this is a really neat visual – kudos. But the map is missing something that IMO is relevant to the debate here (and elsewhere). That something is the Erie Canal, completed in 1825. It opened the midwest to water travel via Albany, obviously, and that is likely where a significant portion of imported goods were headed. So I doubt that the Southern consumer was a very high proportional payer of import tariffs generated in the Port of New York.

    • Andy Hall said, on February 27, 2013 at 3:21 pm

      You’re right about the Erie Canal, and I shoulda’ caught that. But (looking now) the FY1859 gross receipts at Buffalo, at the lake end of the canal, were only a little over $11K, about the same as Champlain/Plattsburgh, and they were running a deficit after expenses. Would it be fair to say by the late 1850s the canal wasn’t keeping up with the expanded railroads?

      • Drew said, on February 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm

        Perhaps, but the decline came after the war, I think.

        “In 1855, at the canal’s height as a thoroughfare for goods and people, 33,241 shipments passed through the lock at Frankfort, 54 miles east of Syracuse, according to Craig Williams, history curator at the New York State Museum in Albany.”

        – Hints of Comeback for Nation’s First Superhighway, New York Times, November 2, 2008

        Not a primary source, of course, but good enough to suggest the Canal was peaking out during the time period we’re talking about with respect to tariffs. Heck of a long way out of the way if you were headed south to peddle your wares, that is for sure.

      • Pat Young said, on February 27, 2013 at 5:35 pm

        Andy, there would not have been a tariff in Buffalo on goods landed in NYC and headed for Ohio or points west. That tariff would have already been paid in NYC.

        • Pat Young said, on February 27, 2013 at 5:38 pm

          New york state’s website on the Erie Canal says that the canal’s best year for tolls was 1862. the largest amount of freight carried was in 1880. So the canal was still a major transport line in the period under consideration.

          http://www.archives.nysed.gov/projects/eriecanal/essays/ec_larkin4.shtml

          • Andy Hall said, on February 27, 2013 at 5:55 pm

            OK, but that underscore the canal as part of coastwise trade.

            • Pat Young said, on February 27, 2013 at 6:52 pm

              Not really, goods coming in from Europe would arrive in NYC, be put on steamships or sloops and transported to Albany where the would be put on canal barges, shipped to Buffalo and then put onto vessels on the great Lakes for shipments to the midwest. So they were really European goods going to the Midwest, but they were paying the tariff in NYC.

              • Andy Hall said, on February 27, 2013 at 7:09 pm

                That’s still considered coastwise trade.

        • Andy Hall said, on February 27, 2013 at 5:39 pm

          I was thinking about goods coming from across the lake.

  6. Pat Young said, on February 27, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Cool. What software did you use?

  7. Hank Clark said, on March 2, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    IIRC, the most heavily tariffed item was railroad iron. not much of that went south…

    • Billy Ross said, on May 19, 2013 at 11:42 am

      But that tariff evidently help line the pockets of Congressman Thaddeus Stevens who owned the Caledonia Iron Works.

      • Andy Hall said, on May 19, 2013 at 11:58 am

        Tariffs cut both ways, and many of them raised prices on the agricultural goods produced in the South. Raw sugar was tariffed at 24%. Raw tobacco was tariffed at 24%, and manufactured tobacco products at 30%. Rice was tariffed at 15%. Timber was tariffed at 15%. Raw tallow was tariffed at 8%. Raw hides were tariffed at 4%, and tanned hides at 15%. Salt was tariffed at 15%. Beef and pork was both tariffed at 15%. The Southern states were well-served by the tariffs in existence in the mid-19th century.

        The South felt put-upon because tariffs on imported manufactured goods increased the prices they had to pay, and so benefited manufacturers in the North. And of course, Northerners paid prices for domestically-produced manufactured goods that were inflated by sme degree due to those protective tariffs, too.

        On the other hand, I imagine that manufacturers in the North were unhappy that tariffs on raw materials produced in the South kept the prices they paid artificially high, too. If you’re a distiller in New England who needs large quantities of raw sugar, you’re not going to be happy with a 24% tariff on that product coming from the West Indies, or with buying it from some planter in Texas or Louisiana who’s upped his prices accordingly.

        Now would be a good time for you to state, succinctly, what your core point is.

        If you’re arguing that Southerners — like everyone else in the United States — indirectly bore the costs of tariffs on imported goods they bought and consumed, fine — we agree.

        If, on the other hand, you’re arguing that Southerners bore a disproportionate burden from tariffs as a whole, then you’d better get researching and provide some hard evidence of that.

        • Scott Cohen said, on February 2, 2014 at 3:53 pm

          Please provide your source on the tariff percentages provided above.

          It would be helpful if you would provide the source in a form that enables me to access it…preferably online. In another comment you provided a link to PDF pages that, while looking authentic, did not identify the source.

          Thanks.

          • Andy Hall said, on February 2, 2014 at 4:05 pm

            The data used to construct the illustration are in the Excel document:

            http://eh.net/database/u-s-customs-house-data-1854-59/

            See Column S, revenue for FY1859. As before, download at your own risk.

            In the earlier post, the PDF pages are (as clearly stated) extracted from the Annual Report of the Chamber of Commerce of the State of New York, for the Year 1860-61 (New York: John Amerman, 1861), a copy of which is linked on Google Books.

  8. Billy Ross said, on May 18, 2013 at 7:24 am

    The graphic is misleading because only a small fraction of imports into the southern states arrived directly from overseas ports. They were typically delivered first to New York and then trans-shipped to the South by railroads, costal steamers, or inland waterways.*

    =============

    *Wise, Stephen R. *Lifeline of the Confederacy*, p. 12 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988)

    • Andy Hall said, on May 18, 2013 at 7:47 am

      The chart shows tariff revenue, not end consumers. I’m aware that many imports ended up in Southern states. The claim, by Williams and others, was that Southern ports collected the overwhelming majority of tariffs, and thus generated the overwhelming majority of federal revenue. It’s simply not true.

      I’m familiar with Wise, but I’ve never seen real data on end consumption of imported goods. I’m not sure it exists, or how in the 1850s it would be tracked.

      • Jimmy Dick said, on May 18, 2013 at 9:56 am

        Something important to consider here regarding tariffs on imports. The North had more people therefore it when it comes right down to it more of the luxuries stayed in the North. The South had a very large number of its population in bondage therefore they were not buying or consuming very much of anything that would incur the tariff. Add in the fact that the South did not import much in the way of raw materials for manufacturing (railroad iron, etc.) and it’s pretty obvious that the South didn’t pay much of the overall percentage of the tariff. The issue is also practically ignored in the many pages and documents from the secession winter as well.

        The tariff is just the usual diversion thrown out to distract people from the real reason the Civil War occurred and that issue was slavery.

      • Billy Ross said, on May 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm

        Whether or not real data exists on the proportion of the the tariff burden borne by the Southern states is available, it is an sizable under-representation to suggest that only the tariff revenues *collected* in the South represent that burden. Wise estimates that only a *small fraction* of overseas goods were directly imported into the South.

        You are using a technicality to disguise the truth.

        It is much like a statement that fewer than ten percent of Southerners owned slaves whereas it is more meaningful to note that about one-third of Southern families owned slaves. Based upon your posts on other threads it is certain that you would not permit anyone to the percent ratio as a figure-of-merit

        • Andy Hall said, on May 18, 2013 at 6:40 pm

          “Whether or not real data exists on the proportion of the the tariff burden borne by the Southern states is available, it is an sizable under-representation to suggest that only the tariff revenues *collected* in the South represent that burden.”

          I never suggested that the tariffs collected at Southern ports represent the ultimate — and indirect — burden of them passed along to consumers. You’re trying to refute something I never claimed.

          I would actually be interested to know what proportion of imported goods ultimately made their way into the South. But that’s not what this chart either shows, or implies.

        • Jimmy Dick said, on May 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm

          The number of slave owning families depends on the region. The extended kinship network is important to take into consideration. Glatthaar’s small sampling of the Army of Northern Virginia places the men who served in that army and were from slave owning families just below 50%. More statistical studies are being done for that army as well as others and one day we will have a more accurate picture. The less than 10% figure is definitely out of context for what was really taking place in the past.

          Your idea that the South paid too much in tariffs relies on guesswork to sustain its conclusion. When you stop to examine what the South imported whether through Southern ports or Northern ports and then realize that the South didn’t pay that much compared to the rest of the country plus the fact that the South exported most of its production while importing from the North things that were part of the domestic trade and therefore not subject to a tariff you begin to see a bad trade balance. That bad balance was on the part of the South and its residents, not the North. The bad balance was a result of their decisions, not external factors forced on them.

          Regardless of this, we have overwhelming proof from the documents of the past that the tariff in effect in 1860 was one of the lowest in American history. Had the Lower South not seceded, the Morrill Tariff of 1861 would not have passed. The records from Congress prove this. That’s why the tariff wasn’t the issue.

          • Billy Ross said, on May 19, 2013 at 5:58 am

            “The number of slave owning families depends on the region…The less than 10% figure is definitely out of context for what was really taking place in the past.”

            My comment about the 10% ratio was merely to point-out that it *is* out of context and that nobody around here would permit it to be used *without* proclaiming it to be out of context because it is misleading owing to the fact that one-thrid of Southern families owned slaves.

            However, the *obvious* implication of Calistri’s map is that the the tariffs collected at the Northern ports are representative of the proportional amounts of tariffs paid is also out of context and an equally false indicator of the true situation.

            • Andy Hall said, on May 19, 2013 at 9:39 am

              “However, the *obvious* implication of Calistri’s map is that the the tariffs collected at the Northern ports are representative of the proportional amounts of tariffs paid is also out of context and an equally false indicator of the true situation.”

              1. It’s my map, not Calistri’s. He only pointed to the data used in it.

              2. Tariffs on imports are paid by the importing merchants, in the customs districts (i.e., ports) where they reach the United States. “The South” did not pay tariffs, any more than “the North” or individual consumers.

              3. This “obvious implication’ of this map exists only in your imagination. It represents exactly what it says to, and nothing more — specifically, gross tariff revenues at selected U.S. ports for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1859. As the post indicates, it’s a follow-up to an earlier post discussing the ludicrous claim by Walter Williams that “Southern ports paid 75 percent of tariffs in 1859.” That’s not wrong, but grossly so.

              As I said before, I’d like to see actual data on the geography of end consumers of imported goods. If you have it, post a link to it and we can discuss it.

              • Billy Ross said, on May 19, 2013 at 11:39 am

                My original post explained that the proportion of tariffs collected in the Northern ports could not be used as proxy for the proportion of of tariff burden borne by Northern consumers because only “a small fraction” of overseas imports were directly shipped into the Southern states.

                This false implication — that you deny — was also evidently picked-up by Bob Nelson above who said “Nice graphic, Andy…So, how does one account for the irrational fear in the South over the proposed Morrill Tariff?”

                At that point you had an opportunity to clarify for Nelson that the map under-represented the amount of tarfiff burden borne by Southern consumers , but you failed to do so.

              • Andy Hall said, on May 19, 2013 at 11:47 am

                “My original post explained that the proportion of tariffs collected in the Northern ports could not be used as proxy for the proportion of of tariff burden borne by Northern consumers because only “a small fraction” of overseas imports were directly shipped into the Southern states.”

                The chart is not intended as a “proxy” for that. Period.

                Once again, if you want to make a specific point about the (indirect) burden of tariffs on Southern consumers, then let’s see some real numbers. No one denies that consumers (north, south and in-between) ultimately bore the costs of tariffs on imported goods, but if you are arguing (as it seems) that Southerners bore an inordinate share of that, then make your actual case with data.

  9. Billy Ross said, on May 19, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    The chart is not intended as a “proxy” for [the relative geographic sectional tariff burden] Period.”

    If that is so, why did you not correct Nelson from erroneously drawing that very conclusion?

    • Andy Hall said, on May 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm

      I didn’t read that comment to mean that.

      But I will also note that you didn’t bother to reply to Nelson, but to the post (and thus to me).

      I don’t see this discussion going anywhere much constructive.

      • Billy Ross said, on May 19, 2013 at 2:59 pm

        Whatever you say. It is your board.

        Nonetheless, you would not fail to challenge as misleading those you refer to as “Neo-Confederates” when they represent slave ownership in the South at under ten percent, because it is not an accurate figure-of-merit since the head of the household was the official owner in slaveholding families. No doubt you would charge such claims as a deliberate misrepresentation of the true situation.

        Likewise your map is an equally deliberate misrepresentation of the geographic distribution of the tariff burden. But you are an “historian” and should be held to a higher standard than those you often recklessly and derisively label as “Neo-Confederates”.


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