Federal Government’s Response to Economic Issues of Tariff

One outstanding feature of the railway transport during the 1880’s was reduction of freight charges to large shippers, a fact that was disadvantageous to small shippers. Railway transport was also infamous for excessive charges between destinations that were served by one railway line. Moreover, some railroads   demanded more payment from some shippers than from others, for the same distance covered (Brinkley et.al 1995).

When Cleverland assumed office for the first time, his administration passed the first Interstate Commercial Act that primarily regulated transportation by railway line, in addition to creating an Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) that protected against any violations of the Act.

The Act also prevented levying of extra charges, and discrimination in rates and rebates. Cleverland played an active role in effecting reduction of the high Tariffs. (Brinkley et.al 1995) He believed that high tariffs were the reason behind the high cost of living and for the rapid manner in which trusts were developing.  In 1887 and 1888, he made attempts to lower rates of protective tariff. These attempts were however, unsuccessful (Farmer, 2005).

His   second term in office as the president was characterized by severe economic and financial crisis brought by collapse in the stock market. However, despite the crisis, Cleverland’s administration also saw the passing of The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act of 1894. This law had important concessions to protectionism, in addition to reducing the rates of Tariff. (Brinkley et.al 1995)

When Harrison became the president in 1889, his Government, in order to fulfill election promises, passed the McKinley tariff Act, This Act sought to protect established industries and to encourage growth of emerging industries (Farmer, 2005). The McKinley Tariff however became unpopular especially with farmers and consumers since it occasioned a rise in retail prices and led to increase in the import rates in industrial goods. However, during Harrison’s term in office, eight treaties that led to reduction in tariff rates were negotiated.

Harrison’s tenure also saw the passing of the famous Sherman Anti-Trust Act, which vested the government with powers of filing lawsuits against business organizers whose actions restrained competition. This law was however, not enforced and the concentration of trusts went on as before (Brinkley et.al 1995).


1.      Brinkley, A., Freidel, F., Williams, H. T. (1995). American History: A Survey. (9th ed). New York. McGraw Hill.

2.      Farmer, B.R. (2005). American Conservatism: History Theory and Practice. England. Cambridge Scholars Press.