Friday, March 20, 2009

The Dallas Tariff of 1816
Upon hearing the news that Treasury Secretary Alexander Dallas had recommended a tariff on British goods in order to protect American manufacturing, New Hampshire resident Roger Sullivan and his wife Martha drank a toast to the future success of their family’s textile concern. After polishing off three pickle jars of rum Martha collapsed on the kitchen table, knocking a lantern to the floor and igniting a blaze that would, several hours later, destroy both the Sullivan homestead and the family’s textile concern.

Editorial cartoon, early 20th century.

The Tariff of 1828, a.k.a. the Tariff of Abominations
The 1828 tariff’s impact on Southern cotton exports caused Arnett Lee Burgess to have a civil conversation with his brother Harper, the first time the two men had spoken since a terrible misunderstanding regarding the affections of Miss Sarah Jane Callew in 1826.

The Walker–Tariff of 1846
Trade with Great Britain increased under the Walker Tariff, which meant Kentucky tobacco farmer William Bennett was able to purchase two cows for his wife to milk. Bennett’s son Henry became quite attached to one of these cows, the smaller one, whom he named Belle. Many years later Henry Bennett would write in his diary: “Ah sweet Belle, so fondly I remember your kind eyes and gentle heart, for I do believe you were my only true friend.”

The Cayley–Galt Tariff of 1858
Canada’s first protective tariff caused quite a stir in the tiny Ontario village of Smiths Falls, where local leaders declared it “An Act of Unpardonable Rudeness” and began writing letters of apology to the president of the United States. Residents have continued the tradition to this day, although they have yet to receive a response.

The Dingley Act of 1897
Dartmouth College alum Nelson Dingley Jr.’s attempt to raise tariff rates was hailed by many, including one of his old Zeta Psi brothers, who bragged in a New York tavern that he’d once seen the chairman of the Ways and Means committee with his head in a barrel of beer. Another patron bet this was a lie. A scuffle ensued, and the night ended with six men in jail.

The Fordney–McCumber Tariff of 1922
Every Christmas Porter McCumber’s relatives were subjected to a detailed account of the Fordney–McCumber Tariff bill’s origins, an account that seemed to grow longer and longer with each passing year, despite tactful attempts to steer the conversation in other directions. The strain finally took its toll in 1929, when everyone agreed to cancel the family dinner.

Mary Phillips-Sandy lives, writes, frolics, and rages in Brooklyn, though she is originally from Maine and has a tattoo to prove it. She has written for BUST, KGB Bar Lit, BITEMagazine, A Cautionary Tale, The Edward Society, and other fine publications. If you are at all interested in Grover Cleveland, you should visit her website,

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