Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 15: No 1) >> The Pen as Sword: Simms and the Beginning of the War — Rediscovered Writings from 1861 >> Page 4

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Secondary Scholarship | 2007
Transcription and extend the export duty began. The chief advocate of doing so was
Christopher Memminger of South Carolina who was serving as Secretary of
the Treasury.
The Confederate Congress implemented minor modifications to the 1857
tariff structure before passing a new, comprehensive tariff policy for the
Confederacy on 21 May 1861.10 The new tariff reflected Southern attitudes
toward trade now freed from the need to compromise with Northern
congressmen who represented industrial interests seeking protection. Those
Northern congressmen had also been freed from Southern opponents of
protectionism, and the Morrill Tariff, also passed in 1861, worked more
directly to protect Northern industry. The permanent Confederate
Constitution, to further illustrate the contrast, specifically prohibited a
protective tariff. The new Confederate tariff featured lower rates on the same
items as the Morrill Tariff and lower rates than the Tariff of 1857, but it did
require that some items which had previously been free of import duties now
be charged. In brief, the advocates of a revenue tariff triumphed.
The issue of an export duty was more controversial. There was vigorous
opposition to the export duty on principle as well as to the proposed rate and
means of application. The debate was in many respects a continuation of the
same argument regarding export duties which had transpired in the South
before 1861. Advocates of the export duty generally believed that the
demand for cotton in the world market outran supply and thus the cost of a
moderate export duty would only slightly raise prices and 'would fall
primarily on foreign consumers. This would not adversely affect Southern
cotton planters and would generate needed revenue. Opponents of the export
duty disagreed with the premise of this argument, and its chief opponent had
been none other than John C. Calhoun who had argued that the South did not.
have as secure a hold on the cotton supply as many believed. Other regions
in the world could also grow the fiber. The South needed to produce large
quantities in order to maintain its market position. Efforts to influence the
price could result in those other regions cutting into the South's market
share. Calhoun was farseeing in this regard. During the war, as the Union
blockade essentially stopped the flow of Southern cotton into English mills,
the British found new sources of cotton in India and Egypt.
Simms's letter in the Mercury is a balanced critique of both sides of the
argument. Noting that the provisional constitution allowed for an export
duty, something specifically prohibited in the United States Constitution,
Simms surmised correctly that an export duty was being considered in
Montgomery. He began his criticism of the export duty by saying, "The
imposition of such a duty . would certainly be a somewhat startling


10 Richard Cecil Todd, Confederate Finance, (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1954), 123.
Press, 1954), 123.