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.
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