H-Diplo Roundtable XVIII, 16 on The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade: The Anglo-American Struggle over Empire and Economic Globalisation, 1846-1896

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Roundtable Review
Volume XVIII, No. 16
13 February 2017

Roundtable Editors:  Thomas Maddux and Diane Labrosse
Roundtable and Web Production Editor:  George Fujii
Introduction by Jay Sexton

Marc-William Palen.  The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade:  The Anglo-American Struggle over Empire and Economic Globalisation, 1846-1896.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016.  Xxxviii + 295pp. £64.99 (hardback).  ISBN:  9781107109124.

URL:  http://www.tiny.cc/Roundtable-XVIII-16


© 2017 The Authors.

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Introduction by Jay Sexton, Kinder Institute, University of Missouri

Nineteenth-century Americans were obsessed by the tariff. They spilled vast quantities of ink making the case for tariff reductions or increases, debated it endlessly in Congress, framed elections around it, and even viewed foreign relations through the prism of ad valorem duties. Yet modern students of the history of the nineteenth century might not know this for, until very recently, the tariff has been conspicuous for its absence in the historiography. The lack of scholarship on the topic is, in part, a reaction to discredited interpretations of the Civil-war period that emphasized the role of the tariff as a motive for secession. But, in the bigger picture, this lacunae is part of a broader marginalization of high politics and economics in the historiography. Fortunately, recent years have seen a revival of interest in the tariff, political economy, and the general theme of ‘capitalism’. This trend will be given a great boost by the publication of the subject of this round-table review, Marc-William Palen’s The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade: The Anglo-American Struggle over Empire and Economic Globalisation, 1846-1896.

All of the reviewers in this round-table commend Palen for bringing the tariff back onto historians’ radar. All also predict that Palen’s ambitious study, “a challenging and persuasive book” in the words of Ian Tyrrell, will reignite interest in this timely topic and spawn further studies of the tariff in the nineteenth century and beyond. Several of the reviewers begin to sketch out how Palen’s interpretation of the nineteenth-century debate over protectionism might have echoes in later periods, though David Sim wonders if the path from the nineteengh century to current times is “as clear cut as Palen describes.”

The reviewers also found much to praise in how Palen links debates over trade and protectionism to the imperial projects of the nineteenth century. In Palen’s account, the debate about tariffs structured two types of Victorian imperialism: first, the commercial project of British ‘free trade imperialism’; and, second, its rival form of a U.S. empire committed to economic nationalism. Palen develops this latter point with a sharp historiographical edge in that he seeks to counter the old view of the New Left that emphasized the open commercial underpinnings of American expansion.[1] Tyrrell contends that this dimension of Palen’s argument makes a “severe dent in the Open-Door thesis.”

The reviewers raise interesting questions and, in the case of Alfred Eckes, develop critiques of Palen’s arguments and methods. Many of these questions concern Palen’s emphasis on the ideological nature of the debate over protectionism and its connections to grand processes of imperial expansion and innovation. The reviewers wonder if other dimensions of the tariff debate merit more emphasis. Daniel Peart and Eckes both make the case for placing Congress and the messy political process of tariff legislation-making at the center of the story. As Eckes put it, “on tariff matters legislators generally respond to specific needs and requests from constituents and lobbyists, not to the words of propagandists and ideologues.” Eckes wonders how the story might look different had Congress been given more attention and if other sources, namely the Victorian free trade publication The Economist, been consulted.

Another line of questions raised in the reviews concerns Palen’s framework for viewing the American tariff debate as an outgrowth of the dueling ideas of the English free-trader Richard Cobden and the German advocate of protectionism Friedrich List. Throughout the text, Palen labels American protectionists ‘Listian’ and free-traders ‘Cobdenites’. The reviewers applaud Palen’s emphasis on the transnational dimensions of the tariff debate and, in particular, his charting of free trade ‘Cobden clubs’ in the United States. But the reviewers raise two general questions about the book’s Listian/Cobdenite framework. First, are List and Cobden the key theorists behind the U.S. tariff debate? Eckes wonders about the influence of classical theorists, such as David Ricardo, whereas Peart draws attention to home-grown advocates of free trade from Southern Jeffersonians to Northeastern mercantile constituencies in the Jacksonian period. Second, the reviewers wonder if the gap between ‘Listian’ protectionists and ‘Cobdenite’ free traders was as deep as Palen suggests. After all, Victorian era ‘free traders’ embraced revenue-generating duties and, on the other end of the spectrum, many protectionists, including List, viewed tariffs as temporary measures to redress asymmetries in the international system. “One might question whether the great debate between protectionists and free traders in the nineteenth century was as significant as Palen’s account suggests,” Eckes writes.

This roundtable review is very much worth reading. Its richness is testament to the quality of The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade. Thanks to Palen’s imaginative and ambitious study, scholarship on the old topic of the tariff will be reignited. And just in time. The recent (and frightening) re-emergence of protectionism in our current age demands that scholars look again at the historical roots of debates over tariffs and trade.


Marc-William Palen is a historian at the University of Exeter. His articles have appeared in Diplomatic History, the Journal of Imperial & Commonwealth History, the Historical Journal, the Journal of the Civil War Era, and the Journal of the History of Economic Thought, among others. He is editor of the history blog The Imperial & Global Forum, and is currently writing an international economic history of the twentieth-century peace movement.

Jay Sexton is Kinder Institute Chair and Professor of History at the University of Missouri, as well as Emeritus Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He is currently at work on a study of the transnational and transimperial steam networks of the second half of the nineteenth century.

Alfred E. Eckes, Jr., is Eminent Research Professor Emeritus in History, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio. From 1981 to 1990 he was a Commissioner (Chairman, 1982-1984) on the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC). Eckes is the author of nine books on economic and international trade history. They include The Contemporary Global Economy: A History since 1980 (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), U.S. Trade Issues: A Reference Handbook (ABC-CLIO, 2009), and Opening America’s Market: U.S. Foreign Trade Policy since 1776 (University of North Carolina, 1995).

Daniel Peart is a Lecturer in American History at Queen Mary University of London. He received his doctorate from University College London in 2011. His first book, Era of Experimentation: American Political Practices in the Early Republic was published by University of Virginia Press in 2014, and was followed by an essay collection, Practicing Democracy: Popular Politics in the United States from the Constitution to the Civil War, co-edited with Adam I.P. Smith and published by the same press in 2015. He has also published in Journal of the Early Republic, and has articles forthcoming in Journal of the Civil War Era and Common-Place. His current project examines lobbying and the making of U.S. tariff policy between the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

David Sim is Lecturer in U.S. History at University College London, specialising in U.S. foreign relations in the long nineteenth century. He received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 2011. A Union Forever: the Irish Question and U.S. Foreign Relations in the Victorian Age was published by Cornell University Press in late 2013. He is currently conducting research for a project looking at the statecraft of William H. Seward and his place in narratives of American imperialism.

Ian Tyrrell is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. His books include Woman’s World/Woman’s Empire: The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in International Perspective, 1880-1930 (1991); Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire (2010); and Transnational Nation: United States History in Global Perspective since 1789 (rev. edn., 2015). He is working on a history of American Exceptionalism as an idea.


Congratulations to Marc-William Palen for his effort to revive interest among historians in nineteenth-century tariff and trade policy. His interpretation offers another thoughtful response to those Open-Door revisionists who have interpreted United States expansionism as the imperialism of free trade. Palen, a scholar of imperial history, claims it was an imperialism of economic nationalism, and he identifies German economist-polemicist Friedrich List as an important, intellectual influence on American policy.

I like the way Palen has restructured, and personalized, the longstanding debate between advocates of free trade and protectionism. He turns the spotlight on two rival trade propagandists–Richard Cobden, the English textile manufacturer and free trader, and List, the German-American economist, who argued that backward industrial countries required tariff protection until they had climbed the ladder to compete successfully with established industrial countries, like Great Britain. Palen presents the conflict between these two individuals, and their followers, as an ideological, political struggle. It is Cobden’s cosmopolitanism against List’s economic nationalism, a conflict that arguably continues into the twenty-first century.

Palen shows that Cobden and his followers established transatlantic Cobden Clubs to promote free trade, and that List’s nationalistic arguments also empowered anti-Cobden groups. In the 1884 the Cobdenites succeeded in helping to elect Democrat Grover Cleveland, and Palin shows that Cobden-Club members in the President’s cabinet and among the his close advisors shaped his tariff recommendations and the anti-imperialism of his foreign policy.

In Palen’s view, much Republican support for high tariffs in late nineteenth-century America should be described as Listian nationalism. He identifies public officials James G. Blaine and William McKinley, as well as economist Henry C. Carey, as the period’s leading Listian “protectionist intellectuals” (xvi). But, Palen does not demonstrate that Blaine and McKinley were familiar with, or inspired by, List’s writings.

This book may appeal to diplomatic historians and historians of British imperial history. For readers with a foundation in economic thought, and familiarity with tariff terminology and congressional tariff writing, the book’s analytical and research shortcomings will be more apparent. Palen does not define rigorously, or explain persuasively the theoretical case for, free trade. Nor does he attempt to evaluate the economic soundness of the Cobdenite arguments. He indicates simply that Cobden, the propagandist, believed that free trade promoted international peace and domestic prosperity.

I am surprised that Palen does not focus more on the classical economists who provided the intellectual foundation for the free-trade crusade. He might have summarized Adam Smith’s arguments for specialization of production or absolute advantage, and commented on David Ricardo, the stock broker, who devised the theory of comparative advantage, one of the keys to free-trade theory. The omission of Ricardo from this book is noteworthy, for in his famous two-country, two-product model involving Britain and Portugal, Ricardo demonstrated deductively how a country could benefit from free trade even if it was less efficient in the production of both products. It is not clear from Palen’s account whether Cobden and his followers understood the theoretical arguments of Smith, Ricardo, and other classical economists, but these economists made the case for free trade compelling to many intellectuals and government officials on both sides of the Atlantic.

It is also difficult to understand why Palen ignores the London-based Economist, the prestigious news weekly founded in August 1843 for the purpose of espousing free trade to readers in Britain and overseas. Cobden, as major financial supporter, was instrumental to the launching of that publication.

Palen chooses to identify List as the archetypical protectionist, yet in his writings, as Palen acknowledges, List saw free trade as the ultimate objective after a period of infant industry development. Henry Carey (1793-1879) of Philadelphia arguably had far greater influence on U.S. public policy after the Civil War than did List who died in 1846.

It is not clear how, if at all, Cobdenism and Listian nationalism shaped congressional tariff debates or the writing of individual tariff bills. It has been my experience in government that on tariff matters legislators generally respond to specific needs and requests from constituents and lobbyists, not to the words of propagandists and ideologues.

The book’s discussion of tariffs would have benefitted from more precise language. For example, he says that the McKinley Tariff had “an ad valorem rate of nearly 50%” (207). But, the McKinley Tariff was composed of both specific duties (for example, 2 cents per pound) and ad valorem duties (as a percentage of value). The 50% rate is an ad valorem equivalent rate, a calculation that involves translating specific duties to ad valorem duties and combining the results. Because over half of U.S. imports under the McKinley Tariff arrived duty free, it is important to note that the average ad valorem tariff equivalent on both dutiable and non-dutiable goods was about 23%, quite different from the 50% rate that Palen states. Of course, neither of the approaches described above captures the protective effect of goods effectively excluded from the U.S. market.[2]  

This technical point raises a larger issue. Were the American Cobdenites really free traders, or were many of them cryptic protectionists? As Palen notes, free traders in the nineteenth century were not usually purists who favored zero duties. Instead, many of them favored a tariff for revenue-only, a very imprecise concept. In 1846 tariff-for-revenue-only advocates accepted a 20% ad valorem equivalent in the Walker Tariff.[3] The foreign press did not always understand the difficulty of lowering U.S. tariffs toward free-trade levels. During the election of 1888, for example, The Economist alleged that free-trade Democrats who sponsored the so-called Mills bill lowering average tariffs on taxed goods from 47% to 42.5% were protectionists, not free traders.[4] One might question whether the great debate between protectionists and free traders in the nineteenth century was as significant as Palen’s account suggests.

By today’s standards all but the free-trade purists in the nineteenth century were protectionists. In the twenty-first century average ad valorem equivalents for the tariffs of major tradingcountries are less than 3 percent according to the World Bank.[5] Today one is labeled a protectionist if he or she favors a higher rate, even one less than many nineteenth-century free traders considered to have been free trade.

Upon first reading I was impressed with the breadth of Palen’s research and his extensive footnotes. It seemed that he had successfully used newly available digital databases and turned up everything relevant to free trade and protectionism. For scholars of my generation who endured long hours in the library examining pages of microfilm with resulting headaches and eye strain, the new tools are awe inspiring. Unfortunately, the new approach also has pitfalls, as I discovered when looking carefully at Palen’s notes. He apparently relied on databases that do not include articles published in The Economist, for I do not find that publication mentioned in his bibliography, index, or voluminous footnotes. This is difficult to explain since The Economist has covered trade debates over a longer period of time than any other English-language publication. My own Boolean searches of The Economist’s online archive revealed 715 articles containing the terms “free trade” and “America” between 1846 and 1896, and 2,276 including the words “tariffs” and the “United States” during the same period. There are also 140 articles dealing with “Cobden Clubs”. Thus, I am amazed that one would attempt to write a book or dissertation on Cobdenism and free trade without utilizing extensively back issues of this leading publication.[6]

Nonetheless Palen has done much good research, some of which is available only online from Cambridge University Press. In an online appendix I found a carefully prepared listing of Cobden-Club members. He identifies over 200 prominent members of the U.S. Cobden Clubs and provides biographical information. I was not surprised to find that the list included Professor Frank Taussig, the prominent Harvard University political economist and tariff scholar. He supervised the doctoral dissertations of many influential international economists, including Harry Dexter White, Jacob Viner, and others, who shaped U.S. trade and international economic policy in the mid-twentieth century.

Taussig was a major figure in U.S. trade history both because of his writings and his government service. In 1917 President Woodrow Wilson, a low-tariff enthusiast, named him the first chairman of the U.S. Tariff Commission. The president did so, apparently thinking that Taussig would advance and extend the free-trade agenda of the low-tariff Manchester School. Thus, Palen’s research on Cobdenism may help scholars understand some of the intellectual influences on trade policy in the interwar period. By the 1930s students of the academic Cobdenites were on the front lines of government waging Secretary of State Cordell Hull’s crusade for freer trade.


In The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade, Marc-William Palen explores how an ideological struggle over free trade versus protectionism meshed with contemporaneous debates about imperialism within a context of Anglo-American rivalry on a global stage, and what impact that struggle had on United States politics and policymaking, both foreign and domestic, across the latter half of the nineteenth century. And he does all this in under 350 pages. That alone is a remarkable achievement, but Palen deserves further credit for not only providing a new synthesis of these several inter-connected topics, but also offering a convincing challenge to the conventional identification of Gilded Age America with a bipartisan commitment to laissez-faire government at home and ‘open door’ economic expansion abroad.

Palen sets out to answer three questions: “how Victorian free-trade cosmopolitanism reached and influenced American domestic and foreign relations; how economic nationalists opposed Cobdenism in the United States and the British Empire; and how these conflicting ideologies shaped Anglo-American relations, imperial expansion, and economic globalization” (xviii-xix). Throughout the book these conflicting ideologies are classified by two figureheads. Richard Cobden, “Victorian England’s free-trade apostle,” provided the name and inspiration for an “influential group of Victorian America’s liberal reformers” who believed that “international freedom of trade and a non-interventionist foreign policy would lead to domestic prosperity and world peace” (xvi). In the opposing corner, it was the lesser-known German-American economist Friedrich List who laid the intellectual groundwork for a “progressive (i.e. forward-looking and reform-oriented) economic nationalist doctrine that viewed free trade as an ultimate ideal stage of economic development, and the coercive acquisition of foreign markets an eventual necessity for surplus goods and capital” (xvi-xvii). This faith in overseas markets set its adherents apart from the orthodox home-market protectionists who had predominated during the antebellum era, but crucially both groups continued to argue for the importance of tariff barriers to sustain and encourage American producers, a device that was anathema to their free-trade adversaries. And it was the final victory of Listian nationalism, Palen argues, that “paved the way for the positivist and activist Republican imperial governance of the early twentieth century” (269). Cobdenite cosmopolitans, far from endorsing a “bipartisan market-driven course to empire” as previous historians have assumed, actually fought long, hard, and ultimately in vain against the “regionalized, protectionist, closed-door imperial approach to American global economic integration” that was embraced by the McKinley administration following the pivotal election of 1896 (269-270).

This is a fascinating story, and its one that Palen tells with admirable clarity and concision. Each of the nine main chapters deals with a different, and often quite diverse, subject, but the central organising theme of Cobdenite-Listian conflict remains always in focus. The first chapter seeks the origins of that conflict in the antebellum United States, and shows how the two rival camps were able to temporarily submerge their differences in the North under the anti-slavery banner of the Republican Party. Chapter Two examines the efforts made by Southerners and their sympathisers elsewhere to present sectional divisions over trade policy, rather than slavery, as the true cause of the Civil War, efforts that were encouraged by the unpopularity abroad of the highly-protectionist Morrill Tariff. Chapter Three traces the postbellum proliferation of the transatlantic free trade movement, exemplified by American membership in London’s Cobden Club and the creation of the American Free Trade League in New York, which was met in turn by protectionist charges of conspiracy that played to a persistent Anglophobic strain in American politics. The fourth chapter then tracks continuing debates over the tariff through the party realignments of the 1870s and early 1880s, during which time “free-trade independent Republicans became vocal anti-imperial critics of the Republican party’s early implementation of the imperialism of economic nationalism” (86).

Ideological divisions over empire gain additional importance in the second half of the book, as the United States begins to flex its muscles beyond its continental borders. Chapter Five tackles the first presidency of Grover Cleveland, the only Democrat in the White House during this period, and shows the influence that free traders exerted in steering his administration away from the aggressive Open-Door policy pursued by his Republican counterparts. Chapter Six offers a different perspective by exploring the concurrent struggle between Cobdenite and Listian forces across the border in British North America, which centred on the question of whether to seek commercial union with the United States or further integration within the Empire. The seventh chapter returns to Washington, where “from the McKinley Tariff to imperial designs in the Caribbean and the Pacific, the Harrison administration’s imperialism of economic nationalism…laid the progressive protectionist groundwork for the American empire building of 1898 and beyond” (204-205). Chapter Eight provides “a global history of the McKinley Tariff’s impact upon the British Empire,” which Palen identifies as enhancing intercolonial unity and encouraging the beginnings of a reaction against the free-trade consensus which had reigned in Westminster for the previous half century (209). Finally, Chapter Nine brings the period, and Palen’s thesis, to its conclusion by telling how American Cobdenites once again set aside their differences with their Listian counterparts to put down an economically-unsound Populist insurgency in the 1896 election, but at the cost of elevating the author of the McKinley Tariff to the presidency and leaving protectionist-imperialists firmly in control of the nation’s future.

Having praised Palen for accomplishing so much, it seems churlish to criticise him for omitting anything; I trust therefore he will excuse the churlishness which follows as testament to the enthusiasm which The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade inspires for its subject. As someone whose interest in policymaking is matched by his ignorance of Gilded Age politics, the most important dimension that I would like to know more about is that of power, and specifically its exercise through the agency of the men who made American policy during this period and the processes which governed their actions. As Palen makes explicit at the outset, his book offers “an ideological approach to understanding nineteenth-century Anglo-American imperial expansion, politics, and economic globalization” (xix–my italics). Institutions and interests – the two other elements to the policymaking equation that most frequently attract the attention of historians and political scientists – receive comparatively little notice. Indeed, while Palen introduces us to a vast cast of characters – economists, intellectuals, editors, diplomats, presidents and their administrations – very few belong to the class of lawmakers entrusted with the task of actually writing and enacting tariff legislation in Congress, or the “special interest groups and lobbyists” that, as the author acknowledges, “wielded great influence upon government policies and agencies” (xxvii).

Palen’s approach is perfectly reasonable, since space is at a premium, and he makes no claim to have detailed every minute aspect of policymaking during this period; the McKinley Tariff, central to his thesis, receives only seven pages coverage, and all the remainder combined probably do not add up to another ten. However, on occasion it does make some of his explanations of causation less convincing, or leaves the impression that something important is missing. So for example, after spending several pages discussing how efforts to mobilise public opinion over William R. Morrison’s ‘Peelite’ tariff reduction bill of 1884 were tied in with legacies of the antislavery movement, Palen notes almost in passing that it was actually “massive wage cuts and strikes owing to another economic downturn alongside the intractability of economic nationalists in Congress” which “made certain that the bill would not become law” (126). Similar, but even more important for his thesis that “the future of American economic globalization…rested upon this political-ideological debate [between Cobdenites and Listians],” is the case of the 1896 election (270). As Palen’s final chapter reveals, McKinley won that election with the support of many Cobdenites, following a campaign in which the tariff question was completely subordinated to the titanic struggle over ‘free silver’ versus the gold standard. Would it not be truer to say, then, that rather than winning the political-ideological debate, Listians simply won the political power that allowed them to transform their rhetoric into reality, making the debate itself, practically speaking, irrelevant? Perhaps leading Cobden Club member Edward Atkinson was right when he lamented, following defeat of the Morrison Bill in 1884, that in American politics “reason will not prevail” (127).

My second observation, which reflects my own interest in the antebellum era, concerns the origins of Cobdenism in the United States. Palen sets up that ideology in counterpoint not just to the protectionism of its Listian opponents, but also to a ‘Jeffersonian’ free trade tradition which preceded it. “American Cobdenism’s first subscribers came primarily from the country’s growing manufacturing centers in the Northeast and West rather than in the South, where the agrarian-based free-trade tradition of Jeffersonianism had held sway for so long,” he explains, adding that “Cobdenism was a different strain of free-trade ideology, one that took root in the 1840s among northeastern abolitionist Anglophiles rather than within the slaveholding Anglophobic South” (268). By dating this development to the 1840s, however, and making Cobden its transatlantic idol, Palen disregards a homegrown mercantile free-trade constituency that had taken root in Northeastern cities like New York and Philadelphia, as well as much of New England, at least as early as the Revolution. The Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce organised the United States’ first general free-trade convention in 1820; only twenty-three delegates attended, from eight states, but it still predated national party nominating conventions by a decade.[7] In 1831 a second free trade convention, also in Philadelphia, attracted over two hundred delegates from fifteen states, half of them north of the Mason-Dixon Line, and its memorial to Congress was written by the septuagenarian Albert Gallatin, who had served as Secretary of the Treasury to the Jefferson and Madison administrations.[8] The contribution that this earlier generation of Northern free traders made to debates over the tariff, albeit at a time when protectionism was in the ascendancy, should not be neglected.

I also doubt whether the ‘Jeffersonian’ and ‘Cobdenite’ traditions are as distinct in practice as Palen suggests. John C. Calhoun was a Southerner, and certainly no abolitionist (nor, incidentally, a devotee of Jefferson), but he admired Cobden, sent him copies of his free-trade speeches, and enthused about the possibility of an American delegation attending the international Free Trade Congress in Brussels in 1847.[9] And Cobden himself also hesitated to adopt the same clear identification of free trade with American antislavery that Palen argues for here. “We [the English] observe a mighty quarrel: on one side protectionists, on the other slave-owners,” he wrote to a transatlantic correspondent on the outbreak of the Civil War. “The protectionists say they do not seek to put down slavery. The slave-owners say they want Free Trade. Need you wonder at the confusion in John Bull’s poor head?” (40). It is beyond dispute that the American Free Trade League and its Gilded Age auxiliaries were dominated by Northerners from an antislavery background, but then how many proslavery Southerners would you expect to find in any area of national public life following the Civil War? The distinction that Palen draws between the expansionist pretensions of Calhoun’s slaveholding masterclass and the anti-imperial preferences of Cobdenism is a useful distinction in principle, but the geographic composition of the postwar free-trade movement probably reflected practical political realities more than any ideological incompatibility with Southern values. As Palen acknowledges, “the South, undergoing its own vast economic, political, and social upheaval, had ample issues besides that of free trade to keep its attention” (71).

In essence then, the issues I have with The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade derive from its ideological approach, and the difficulty of mapping those neat distinctions of principle onto the messy business of policymaking. Paul Conkin concludes his study of America’s First Political Economists, which in some respects provides an antebellum counterpart to Palen’s work, by voicing his “doubt that arguments drawn from one or another system of political economy had much to do with the basic policy preferences of politicians,” and I share that scepticism.[10] But that still does not diminish my enthusiasm for a book which effectively conveys the drama inherent in a clash of two competing ideologies, expertly translates complex matters of dry political economy into highly readable prose, and offers a fresh, transnational perspective on a topics that will previously have been familiar to most American historians only in isolation.


When I started as a graduate student, a senior member of the profession told me that the only thing worth studying in the nineteenth century was the Civil War. Then he paused, sneered, and added “that and the tariff, I suppose.” It is to Marc-William Palen’s great credit that he has written a book about the latter that dismisses that dismissal. In this sweeping study of the transatlantic contest over free trade and protectionist ideas Palen takes in the rich associational life of anti-slavery activists; the antebellum peace movement; the diplomacy of the Confederacy; the shifting ideological outlook of the Republican Party; transatlantic communications; the retooling of antislavery rhetoric in the service of both free trade and protectionist politics in the 1880s; the redirection of abolitionist energies after the Civil War; imperial federation; and, most importantly, the way in which historians write about American empire.

Palen’s goal is “to offer a much-needed reinterpretation of Anglo-American political economy, ideology, and empire” that debunks the image of the period as one of “laissez-faire and free trade, a misimpression that has seeped into the dominant American imperial narrative” (xv-xvi). The book focuses on two competing visions - “Cobdenite cosmopolitanism” and “Listian nationalism”—that framed the debate over economic globalisation in the second half of the nineteenth century (xvi). The former prioritised “international freedom of trade and a non-interventionist foreign policy” in the belief that peaceful international relations would shadow increased commercial interaction (xvi). The latter combined Anglophobia, a commitment to shielding infant industries, and the faith that, whilst free trade was the “ideal stage of economic development” its adoption in the short-term would stunt U.S. economic growth (xvi). This came with two corollaries: one was a commitment to “the coercive acquisition of foreign markets… for surplus goods and capital” (xvi-xvii). The other was the misplaced conviction that those Americans pushing free trade were “part of a vast, British-inspired… conspiracy” (xix).

As this suggests, The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade covers a great deal of ground. Chapter One introduces Cobden and List and explores the percolation of their ideas in the 1830s and 1840s. Support for Cobden’s ideas, Palen writes, overlapped significantly with support for anti-slavery politics and competed with an older, Jeffersonian tradition that made central the economy of the plantation south. A commitment to free soil, free labor and free men led Listians and Cobdenites—otherwise ideological antipodeans—into “a fair-weather friendship” under the banner of the Republican Party in the mid-1850s (29). Chapter Two demonstrates that the adoption of the protectionist Morrill Tariff sowed confusion amongst British observers hoping to discern the true cause of the Civil War and, more importantly for Palen’s narrative, began the process of alienating free-trade Republicans.

Chapter Three focuses on the activities of the American Free Trade League in 1866, its connections with London’s Cobden Club, and the development of a conspiracist critique of American free traders. Chapter Four outlines their failed efforts to remake the postbellum Republican party “into one of free trade, anti-imperialism, and civil service reform” (83). This chapter contains some of the most interesting and compelling parts of Palen’s analysis, as Republican Listians began to squeeze more conventional home-market protectionists and the handful of remaining free-traders out of the party. Ironically, this occurred shortly after Cobden Club member James Garfield had secured the Republican Party’s nomination as president. Whether his free trade proclivities would have been given free rein in the White House or not—and Palen is ambivalent on this point—his untimely death in September 1881 came at just the point that ‘Listian nationalists’ like Republican statesmen James Blaine and John Kasson were sharpening their critique of British informal imperialism in Latin America.

Chapter Five details the contest between Blaine and Grover Cleveland in 1884 and outlines the latter’s “non-interventionist approach to foreign affairs” (135). Chapter Six asks the provocative (and, for British and Irish readers, timely) question as to whether one place can belong to two unions at the same time, as it focuses on Canadian and U.S. debates around ideas of imperial federation and closer U.S.-Canadian commercial union. Chapters Seven and Eight examine the formulation, passage and impact of the McKinley tariff. Of particular interest here is the way in which the tariff further animated ongoing debates about imperial federation, an idea which moved from the fringes to the mainstream of political discourse with long-term implications for London’s relations with Britain’s white settler colonies. Chapter Nine rounds out the book as the contest over free trade was eclipsed by that over the gold standard, with the Cobden Club going as far as to admit its relief at the election of the protectionist McKinley over his pro-free-trade opponent, William Jennings Bryan (266).

Palen’s key argument comes in two parts. The first sees a return to Oliver MacDonagh’s critique of Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher’s work on British informal imperialism, published as “The Anti-Imperialism of Free Trade” in 1962, and its revival in U.S. historiography (xxxv).[11] MacDonagh argued that Robinson and Gallagher’s elision of formal and informal imperialism was unhelpful in understanding the contingency of British imperial expansion in the nineteenth century, and that mid-Victorian free traders were often strong critics of both flavours of imperial power. Palen is similarly critical of the fuzziness that accompanies that elision, which leads historians to emphasise consensus over contest. Thus, The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade offers a cautious upwards revision of Grover Cleveland’s reputation, noting that contemporaries did not identify the imperial continuities with Presidents Chester A. Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, and William McKinley that revisionist historians like William Appleman Williams argue for in their histories of late nineteenth century imperialism.[12]

Second, Palen gives us a history of the evolution of his concept of “the imperialism of economic nationalism,” which featured in his article for Diplomatic History in January 2015.[13] There he investigated the way in which this combination of high tariffs and the opening of new markets through aggressively-framed reciprocity agreements led the Republican Party towards formal imperialism in the late 1890s. Here, Palen offers a useful genealogy of the concept, noting the intraparty battles and the intellectual debates from which it emerged. One of the effects of more sharply delineating the Democratic and Republican parties—and the debates within them—is to heighten the importance of contingency in the development of American imperial practice. Put another way, Palen gives us a clear account of Listian economic thought and the way in which Republican policymakers conceptualised it through the late nineteenth century, but translating those ideas into practice was a messy, uncertain process, relying on shifting coalitions and domestic electoral success.

It is to his credit that, despite this wide range, the book never feels superficial. Nevertheless, because of its wide range it necessarily raises big questions. Palen is convincing in pointing to the tariff as an understudied topic with important resonance in multiple fields of nineteenth-century history, and his thoughtful resuscitation of the history of political economy is welcome. However, given his attentiveness to the literature on what is often called the British world, I would have liked to have seen a little more reflection on the ‘new imperial histories’ and their emphasis on seeing the centre and the periphery in the same frame.[14] Specifically, what happens if we eschew an inside-out account of U.S. imperial power in favour of one that emphasises collaboration, collusion and syncretism? What did those who were subjects of American economic policy in the rest of the Americas make of this ongoing contest over Listian and Cobdenite ideas, and did they make efforts to cultivate particular intellectual and political relationships with this debate in mind? Was there a Cobden Club in Buenos Aires? Or Mexico City? And, whatever the answer is, does it strengthen or undercut the idea of a ‘British world’, a notion that historians—though not Palen—sometimes use reflexively and without precise definition.

In addition, I wondered about the links with contemporary debates over protectionism and the limits of globalization.[15] My bet is that the connection between the Victorian “free-trade tradition” and “today’s… neoliberal order” is not quite as clear-cut as Palen describes (xi). Might we trace a competing “Listian” narrative? In this alternative reading, capitalists, fearing diminishing returns in the face of constrained markets and labour militancy, turned to state power in order to prise open new markets and neuter worker unrest. Rather than the cosmopolitanism of free traders being the central story, perhaps we should focus on the connection, imperfect as it might be, of capital and state power—not to restate the arguments of William Appleman Williams and other New Left scholars that Palen so effectively critiques, but to better appreciate the relationships that shape our political economy.


Tariff Matters: U.S. Free Trade and Protectionist Policies in the Late Nineteenth Century and their Global Implications

Tariffs did matter. Marc-William Palen shows as much in this challenging and persuasive book on trade politics in the British and American world of the nineteenth century. For a generation, historians of the United States regarded the tariff as a deadly dull issue that reflected parish-pump politics and the principle that all politics is local. ‘Infant’ American industry demanded high tariffs, and among these economic interests were many uncompetitive or minor businesses. This highly politicized question certainly produced long and complicated tariff schedules, and the debates in Congress over tariff bills took up many pages of the Congressional Record while filling the Senate and House of Representatives with a great deal of hot air. Though principles were invoked, historians suspected that bare-faced, special interests prevailed in a nineteenth-century parceling up of the pork barrel. These unseemly deals would interest a Charles Beard familiar with the nitty-gritty of economic and political ‘interests’, but the generation of historians from the mid-1970s to early 1990s mostly steered clear.[16] Since that time, work by Steven Topik, Paul Wolman, Mary Speck and others has rekindled interest. The impact of post-1980s globalization is detectable in this revived concern, which has also led American historians to put the tariff question in a more comparative and international history frame.[17] Palen’s work is exemplary of the new approach.

Modern economists have told us that tariffs are not only inefficient, but also ineffective, and, at most, minor contributors to economic growth.[18] Palen indirectly comments on this technical and theoretical issue by grounding free-trade ideas in social and political processes better than existing accounts do, but he more easily demonstrates the political importance of tariffs and the cultures attached to them. He ably sketches the shifts in the coalitions supporting or opposing free trade and takes the arguments of advocates with admirable seriousness to convey the context of the debates.

Despite modern economic theory, tariffs did add value to particular industries and regions, and they had international ramifications. One of the key strengths of Palen’s book is that he does attempt an international history of the U.S. tariff struggles of the era of Republican ascendency, particularly the 1870s to 1890s. He characterizes the Republican Party’s growing attachment to the issue as a response not only to shifting internal American conditions but also to the economic context of a global economic trough that, he argues, covered the period from 1873 to 1896 (86, 207). Palen shows the impact of stiffening U.S. trade policy on Britain and its empire in this period. While this question cannot be considered to be separate from the tariff policies of European countries, Palen demonstrates the American tariff’s global implications for political democracy and global growth principally through the impact on Britain and its colonies such as Australia and Canada. The latter naturally receives considerable attention as the nation’s northern neighbor. Tariffs were used as a weapon in the struggle for imperial domination of the new, globalizing economy, a conflict with political ramifications.

Republicans hoping to attract western states in the 1888 election contributed to tariffs that, for example in the case of those on wool, damaged the sheep industry in other countries, notably Australia (219-220). According to Palen, the push for imperial federation and empire tariff reciprocity grew from such economic impacts. Moreover, the decision to create all-red (imperial) shipping and cable routes received impetus from the perceived need to guard against growing American economic and political power enhanced by Republican Party tariff maneuvers. Yet there were also strategic aims in such telegraphic and transportation infrastructure. The Spanish-American War revealed the difficulties of communicating quickly to faraway fleets and spurred the decision to create an all-American cable route, at approximately the same time as the British cable across the Pacific to British Columbia was laid. Geopolitics thrived in the high tariff environment, and vice versa.

To state the obvious, while the power of the U.S. tariff to do damage outside the country was palpable, foreigners did not vote in American elections. Within the United States, protectionists held sway for most of the time from the 1860s through to World War II. Palen is not simply considering here customs tariffs, which had much earlier existed in the United States but the development of what he calls “economic nationalists” and their “Listian” system – with an intellectual inheritance going back to the German political economist Friedrich List. Other authors have noted the influence of List but Palen goes further in elaborating on the influence of their ideas as a system of thought, not simply a particular economic interest.[19]

American Listians aimed at the hoarding of national wealth and promotion of economic growth in which the state used high tariffs as weapons to lever open foreign markets. “Listian” serves well as an authorial shorthand to convey the cluster of trade and related issues discussed, though some historians will doubtless wish to contend over how coherent in the face of practical political pressures the Listian system was. Palen’s book itself illustrates these complexities. And, as I argue below, one needs to take account of “Listian” tendencies as a broader reform agenda beyond the economic and political realms of the tariff, and beyond the period of his study. Palen shows that it would be wrong to see these arrangements as simply concerned with freer trade. They aimed at promoting American exports while making sure that tariffs encouraged the kinds of imports that supplemented rather than competed with American industry, thus making the American nation and proto-empire stronger.

This is the most important argument in the book because it enables Palen to make a severe dent in the Open-Door thesis as an underlying explanation for U.S. foreign policy. He demonstrates the importance of economic nationalism and the use of tariff and reciprocity treaty policy in the shaping of a distinctive American empire based on a strong home market and exports that were disruptive for the world economy through punitive reciprocity provisions for imports, where American access abroad was denied or inhibited.

At the same time, Palen is able to portray the advocates of free trade as self-conscious, internationally oriented Cobdenites. Favouring limited government and the free trade policies espoused by British parliamentarian and manufacturer Richard Cobden, the American Cobdenites’ association with British free trade models made them targets for the Anglophobia frequently raised in nineteenth-century American elections. Such tactical moves related to the charge Listians made that free trade was a ‘conspiracy’ of the British empire to dominate the world. The role of the Irish question in sustaining small ‘r’ republican sympathies and anti-British feeling is well known, but Palen shows how Anglophobia could be harnessed to an economic issue other than the well-known examples of banking and investment. The relationship between Anglophobia and the combatants in the trade politics of the United States was evidently a complex and shifting one, though, since acquiring overseas colonies brought American Listians to a greater appreciation of Anglo-Saxonism in the 1890s.

The American Cobdenites’ natural inclination and logical pathway was to oppose a series of American imperialist activities post-Civil War. These ranged from the proposed annexation of Santo Domingo in the early 1870s to the establishment of formal colonies and protectorates in the Pacific and Caribbean in 1898-99. This portrait enriches our understanding of anti-imperialism’s importance as a doctrine in American foreign policy, especially during the two terms of Grover Cleveland. Advocates of free trade, such as prominent businessman Edward Atkinson, were adamant that the United States should not engage in territorial acquisitions abroad. He argued that free trade would prevent wars and also provide the United States with enhanced foreign markets for manufacturing.

The implications of Palen’s book are intriguing for the period that immediately succeeded the Gilded-Age focus of his study, the Progressive Era. Imperialism ought not to be considered purely in terms of wars and territorial acquisition, to be sure. The American empire possessed these characteristic aspects of formal empire in the colonial moment of 1898, but moved the balance by 1910 towards indirect financial controls as the preferred option. It is not clear that American Cobdenites, at least those in Congress, would have opposed such moves in the way they did formal sovereignty. Some turn of the twentieth-century anti-imperialists drew a distinction on this point, as the Democratic Party platform of 1900 showed. It opposed U.S. acquisition of overseas colonies and pursuit of high tariffs, but favored “the immediate construction, ownership and control of the [proposed] Nicaraguan Canal by the United States” and took a similar line on the 1900 draft of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty (1901), to protect coastal U.S. shipping interests through preferential treatment.[20]

The economic nationalist thesis also has relevance for the issue of rational allocation regarding so–called ‘natural’ resources in the early 1900s, and perhaps earlier too. Though not discussed in this book because it goes beyond the chronological limits and topical conceptualization, the American conservationist movement seems quite Listian in its promotion of reciprocity in the Payne-Aldrich Tariff of 1909. The Taft and Theodore Roosevelt administrations both tried to bend the tariff to accommodate a rational natural resource program for American benefit. Simultaneously the chief architect of American conservation policy from 1898 to 1910, Gifford Pinchot, sought to reconcile importing foreign lumber with the promotion of international conservation in forestry. This would require a degree of international regulation of resource use potentially at odds with both Cobdenites and Listians.[21] As Palen notes, Theodore Roosevelt was a Listian convert in the 1880s, but as President he developed a different emphasis on the use of trade and tariffs from the protectionists of that period. This policy change is little studied, but would seem to invite historians to consider tariffs and resource policy together.

If Palen’s work has important heuristic implications for the Republican Party’s political economy beyond the nineteenth century, it also helps us to reframe contemporary globalization, and to tease out its roots in earlier times. In this perspective, a Cobdenite philosophy seems an important inheritance, as Palen points out, but not the only one. The expansion of the global economy and the freeing of trade, especially since the 1980s, has not been accompanied by a reduction in political intervention in the economic realm to benefit particular nationalist economies so much as the displacement of rivalry from tariffs to currency. But that is a story for another time, and it is a tribute to Palen’s ambitious and illuminating work that he can provoke such speculation.


Thank you to Tom Maddux for organizing this roundtable, to Jay Sexton for contributing the roundtable introduction, and to Ian Tyrrell, Daniel Peart, Alfred Eckes, and David Sim for their thoughtful engagement with my book. Their compliments, criticisms, insights, and questions have caused me to reflect upon the book’s findings in new ways and point to numerous areas for further exploration.

The conflict between free trade and protectionism dominated the late-nineteenth-century American political arena like no other. And the stakes were high – the future of American economic globalization and empire-building rested upon the outcome. But it was not free trade and laissez faire that prevailed in Gilded Age America, despite this all-too-common Open Door portrayal. Rather, as a result of this conflict, the American imperial search for new markets was undertaken under the auspices of Republican economic nationalism. In other words, “tariffs did matter,” as Ian Tyrrell succinctly puts it before proceeding to summarize the book’s scale and scope far better than I ever could. He then points to how the book’s imperial system might be applied beyond the economic and political realms, as well as beyond the book’s chronological framework. His discussion of the book’s possible implications for the Progressive Era conservationist movement is an insightful and illustrative example of this observation, and I will be sure to bear in mind his open invitation to consider resource policy alongside that of the tariff as I move my research forward. Tyrrell’s statement about the dynamics of Progressive anti-imperialism, in turn, carries with it a note of caution regarding how far Cobdenites in the halls of Congress may have opposed American informal imperialism at the turn of the century. This cautionary note is all the more timely as I am currently exploring this very subject in my new book project on the twentieth-century peace movement.

At the heart of The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade lies the contention that the long-ignored ideological conflict between free-trade cosmopolitanism and economic nationalism is central to understanding the intertwined histories of nineteenth-century Anglo-American imperialism and economic globalization. I begin my narrative with the arrival of Cobdenism upon American shores in the late 1830s and early 1840s, and its impact upon American westward expansion and party politics in the years leading up to the Civil War. Daniel Peart’s review treats mainly with these antebellum aspects of the book, and also draws attention to the burgeoning free-trade activity of New England and Philadelphia in the 1820s and early 1830s, which his book explores.[22] Although such activity falls outside of my book’s chronological bounds, Peart’s focus underscores my desire that early American histories of capitalism might continue to connect antebellum American political history with the transnational history of economic ideas. For example, I would be interested to know if this earlier “homegrown mercantile free-trade constituency,” as Peart describes it, had wed their free-trade advocacy to antislavery along similar transatlantic lines as the Cobdenites of the late 1830s and early 1840s. Where we differ is on the degree to which we ascribe power to ideas within politics and policymaking. And so I readily plead guilty to the charge that the role of ideas upstages those of institutions and interests in my narrative. Peart also raises interesting questions regarding the complicated relationship between antislavery and free trade within the antebellum Cobdenite movement, questions that tie into longstanding debates over the relationship between nineteenth-century capitalism, moral economy, antislavery, and imperialism that my book engages with, and that I have explored in greater detail elsewhere.[23]

Alfred Eckes centers his criticisms primarily upon what The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade leaves out. His suggestions for inclusion or elaboration doubtless would have strengthened the book. Regarding his points about earlier theories of free trade, as I state at the outset of the book, I made a conscious decision to keep the focus upon the economic ideas of the mid to late nineteenth century, although free-trade forerunners like Adam Smith and Jean-Baptiste Say or protectionists like Alexander Hamilton and Jean-Baptiste Colbert do make the occasional appearance, and I have explored the theories of Adam Smith and his influence upon Richard Cobden and the British Empire at length elsewhere.[24] Eckes’s points about the complexity of the 1890 McKinley Tariff’s ad valorem tariff are instructive; it might be worth revisiting the debates explored in the book surrounding, for example, 1890s Canadian-American economic integration to see if these complexities manifested themselves. As to the Economist, its absence is easily explained. Its archives were indeed extensively explored, and appeared throughout the dissertation upon which this book is based.[25] However, the difficult task of trimming 50,000 words from the manuscript meant the painful removal of many illustrative quotes and useful references; it so happens that my references to the Economist numbered among the casualties.

I will be the first to admit that tracing the history of ideas can often be a tricky business. I therefore took great care at the outset in providing boundaries and definitions as precisely as possible. And so while I agree with some of Eckes’s observations, I find others puzzling. For example, regarding Friedrich List as archetype, I describe in Chapters One, Three, and Seven how List’s progressive protectionist legacy was kept alive through Henry Carey (who echoed List’s vision for, as Eckes puts it, “free trade as the ultimate objective after a period of infant industry development”), Carey’s powerful circle of Republican politicians (which included James G. Blaine and William McKinley’s congressional mentor, William “Pig Iron” Kelley), and the influential German Historical School. And American Cobdenites were not just “propagandists and ideologues,” as Eckes describes them. Their numbers included not only news editors, journalists, businessmen, and academics, but also U.S. secretaries of state, war, agriculture, treasury, and the interior, as well as congressmen (including authors of low-tariff bills), and economic advisors who helped craft economic legislation. So while Eckes is quite right that I spend more time exploring how Cobdenites in Cleveland’s cabinets and “close advisors shaped his tariff recommendations and the anti-imperialism of his foreign policy,” those moments where Cobdenite activism contributed to legislative action are also noted (although to treat the latter with the attention it deserves would require another book). In the Introduction, I also took care to explain how the meaning of “free trade” has changed between the nineteenth century and today precisely to avoid the sort of presentism and confusion to which Eckes alludes. These points of contention aside, I hope, as Eckes does, that the book’s findings might also inform our understanding of twentieth-century U.S. foreign trade expansion – and bring to light the Victorian-era ideas that underpinned it.

With the United Kingdom’s economic future looking ever more uncertain following the Brexit referendum vote, David Sim’s perceptive review neatly draws out the book’s argument while also calling attention to the timely lessons that might be gleaned from the book’s exploration of the struggle between Cobdenite supporters of Canadian-American commercial union and Listian empire loyalists, who instead sought imperial trade preference and federation between the British Empire’s white settler colonies. In response to America’s imperialism of economic nationalism many of the key drivers for British imperial federation were working from the colonies (especially Canada) in order to influence British policymaking in London, a collaborative story that complements the decentering narrative of other “new imperial histories.” I agree that this connection could have been made clearer. And I second Sim’s suggestion that the story could feasibly be fleshed out even more by tracing the Cobdenite-Listian conflict beyond the British World by giving an outside-in view of the politico-ideological debate over imperialism and economic globalization, say, from Latin America. Sim concludes by speculating about whether the post-1945 “neoliberal order” might be seen as a Listian legacy more than a Cobdenite one. This is all the more intriguing today amid a global backlash against free trade that bears a striking resemblance to that of the late nineteenth century, where List’s ideas reigned triumphant across much of the developing world.

Many thanks again to the H-Diplo editors and to the roundtable contributors; I look forward to continuing the discussion and the debate.


[1] William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy (New York: W.W. Norton, 1959); Walter LaFeber, The New Empire: An Interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1963).

[2] U.S. International Trade Commission.  “U.S. Imports for Consumption, Duties Collected, and Ratio of Duties to Value, 1891-2013.” https://dataweb.usitc.gov/scripts/AVE_table_1891-2013.pdf (accessed 13 September 2016)

[3] Alfred E. Eckes, Jr. Opening America’s Market:  U.S. Foreign Trade Policy Since 19776 (University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 25.

[4] “The Coming Presidential Election in the United States.” The Economist, 1 September 1888, 1098-99.

[5] World Bank. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/TM.TAX.MRCH.WM.FN.ZS (accessed 12 September 2016).

[6] The Economist Historical Archive 1843-2009. http://find.galegroup.com/econ/start.do?&econStoreUser=true (accessed 12 September 2016).

[7] Daniel Peart, Era of Experimentation: American Political Practices in the Early Republic (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014), 86-88.

[8] The Journal of the Free Trade Convention, held in Philadelphia, from September 30 to October 7, 1831; And their Address to the People of the United States: To which is added A Sketch of the Debates in the Convention (Philadelphia, 1831).

[9] John C. Calhoun to Francis Lieber, Fort Hill, South Carolina, 27 June 1847; and John C. Calhoun to Henry Gourdin, Fort Hill, South Carolina, 29 July 1847, both in The Papers of John C. Calhoun, ed. W. Edwin Hemphill et al (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1959-2003), 24: 422, 475-476.

[10] Paul K. Conkin, Prophets of Prosperity: America’s First Political Economists (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980), 312.

[11] John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson, ‘The Imperialism of Free Trade’, The Economic History Review 6:1 (1953): 1-15; Oliver MacDonagh, ‘The Anti-Imperialism of Free Trade’, The Economic History Review 14:3 (1962): 489-501.

[12] See, for instance, William Appleman Williams, The Roots of the Modern American Empire: a Study of the Growth and Shaping of Social Consciousness in a Marketplace Society (New York: Vintage Books, 1970).

[13] Marc-William Palen, ‘The Imperialism of Economic Nationalism’, Diplomatic History 39:1 (2015): 157-185.

[14] See, for instance, The New Imperial Histories Reader, edited by Stephen Howe (London: Routledge, 2010); Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Colony and Metropole in the English Imagination, 1830-1867 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World, edited by Ann Laura Stoler and Frederick Cooper (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).

[15] Frederick Cooper, ‘Globalization’, in idem., Colonialism in Question: Theory, Knowledge, History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), 91-112.

[16] Tom E. Terrill, The Tariff, Politics, and American Foreign Policy, 1874-1901 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1973) provided a book-end to earlier discussions.

[17] Steven Topik, Trade and Gunboats: The United States and Brazil in the Age of Empire (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), chapter. 1; Paul Wolman, Most Favored Nation: The Republican Revisionists and U.S. Tariff Policy, 1897-1912 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992); Mary Speck, “Closed-Door Imperialism: The Politics of Cuban-U.S. Relations, 1902-1933,” Hispanic American Historical Review 85:3 (2005): 449-484.

[18] Douglas Irwin, Against the Tide: An Intellectual History of Free Trade (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).

[19] E.g., Lars Magnusson, The Tradition of Free Trade (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004), esp. 111-113.

[20] “Democratic Party Platform, 4 July 1900,” http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29587 (italics added).

[21] Crisis of the Wasteful Nation: Empire and Conservation in Theodore Roosevelt’s America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015), 267n55.

[22] Daniel Peart, Era of Experimentation: American Political Practices in the Early Republic (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2014).

[23] Marc-William Palen, “Free-Trade Ideology and Transatlantic Abolitionism: A Historiography,” Journal of the History of Economic Thought 37 (June 2015): 291-304. For recent work on these issues, see, for instance, Simon Morgan, “The Anti-Corn Law League and British Anti-Slavery in Transatlantic Perspective, 1838-1846,” Historical Journal 52 (February 2009): 87-107; Richard Huzzey, Freedom Burning: Anti-Slavery and Empire in Victorian Britain (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2012); Matt Karp, This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016); Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013); John Majewski, Modernizing a Slave Economy: The Economic Vision of the Confederate Nation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009); Caleb McDaniel, The Problem of Democracy in the Age of Slavery: Garrisonian Abolitionists & Transatlantic Reform (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2013); and Brian Schoen, The Fragile Fabric of Union: Cotton, Federal Politics and the Global Origins of the Civil War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009).

[24] Marc-William Palen, “Adam Smith as Advocate of Empire, c. 1870-1932,” Historical Journal 57 (March 2014): 179-198.

[25] See Marc-William Palen, “The Conspiracy of Free Trade: Anglo-American Relations and the Ideological Origins of American Globalization, 1846-1896” (Ph.D. thesis, University of Texas at Austin, 2011), 55, 69-70, 130, 432, 473.