Robert J. Walker, formerly a Democratic senator from Mississippi, was named by James K. Polk to serve as secretary of the treasury. He is generally regarded as one of the most talented individuals to hold that position.
Walker induced Congress to enact a new tariff measure in 1846, bringing about a moderate lowering of many rates. Representatives from Northern manufacturing states found themselves outvoted as Westerners deserted protectionism in the hope of opening foreign markets to purchase their grains and other products.
The Walker Tariff was a success from two vantage points. First, trade was stimulated and brought needed revenue to the Treasury. Second, relations with Britain, which recently had been severely strained over the Oregon question, improved markedly with a flourishing trade between the two nations.
The Tariff of 1846 was a departure from the previous measure sponsored by the Tyler conservatives in 1842. The trend toward downward revision would continue in 1857, but at the price of bitterly strained relations between North and South.
What is a tariff? Also see tariff table summary.
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