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 5

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Page 5

Secondary Scholarship | 2007
Transcription commencement of the commercial and financial career of the new
Confederacy." 11 Simms questioned the assumption of proponents of the
export duty that the ultimate cost would be paid by foreign consumers to the
benefit of the Confederate government. The price of cotton in the world
market, Simms informed the reader, was determined by the law of supply
and demand. Placing an export duty on cotton in Southern ports would have
no effect upon the demand for it and thus would not affect its price. The end
result would be a financial burden on the cotton planter who would simply
gain less for his cotton than he would if there had been no export duty. The
same would apply if the planter sold to a domestic purchaser who looked to
sell abroad. "Either way the burden of the tax would fall upon the planter."12
This policy would, Simms feared; result in, "a partial destruction of the
most important branch of our productive industry." 13 He accepted that it
could cause the diversion of resources to other pursuits. This would reduce
the amount of cotton which was planted and exported and thus raise prices,
but this would only be temporary as the reduction would raise the price and
bring those resources back into cotton. Thus, this rise in prices would also be
temporary. Still, there was something to recommend an export duty.
"Though not a direct tax," Simms said, "it is much more like one than a duty
on imports."14 It would be clear to producers who pay the cost of the export
duty why they are doing so and to whom the payment goes; unlike with
imports when consumers do not always understand why an item costs what it
does. For Simms, an export duty had the beneficial feature of forestalling
oppressive taxation as citizens paid the tax directly and would be more likely
to resist overly high taxes than with an indirect tax. This was certainly a
novel argument in favor of the export tariff, and it can be fairly easily
viewed in the context of the other public-spirited and patriotic sentiments
Simms expressed at the time. It was the product of a man feeling the
excitement of the moment, the birth of a new nation to which he was already
fully devoted.
Import duties also had their faults, Simms pointed out, but some system
of revenue generation was necessary. The question was to its form. What
was apparently being put in place, so far as Simms could determine, was one
which featured both import and export duties. This was what he found most
objectionable. The export tariff was preferable to the import but, as Simms
said, "let us have one or the other, but not both." 15 If both were in place
cotton planters would be twice burdened by the cost of exporting their crop
and the elevated price of imported goods. For the Confederacy to institute

11 Charleston Mercury, 2 March 1861.
12 Ibid.
13 Ibid.
14 Ibid.
15 Ibid.