The First New Deal

A calm image of businessmen and clerks engaged in the buying and selling of cotton on the New Orleans Cotton Exchange is not what you expect to find on the dust jackets of books about the Civil War.  The Edgar Degas painting that graces the cover of Tariffs, Blockades, and Inflation, however, tells the reader that this is no ordinary book on the War Between the States.  One searches its pages in vain for depictions of battle scenes, accounts of heroic acts, or descriptions of weapons and uniforms.  Instead, there are clear explanations of how economic issues were driving forces behind the causes of the Civil War.

Mark Thornton and Robert Ekelund have collaborated on many articles on the Civil War that have appeared in a variety of publications.  Both are economists who write extensively in their field.  The authors believe that the War Between the States drastically altered “the very substance and concept of the American nation.”  They see it as a sectional conflict with a number of related parallels: the Jeffersonian tradition versus the Hamiltonian one, agrarianism versus industrialism, states’ rights versus governmental centralism.  These dichotomies are all explored in their book, together with the misguided economic policies adopted by both sides, to their detriment.

The authors’ discussion of the tariff question is...

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