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A Conjunction of Interests

A Conjunction of Interests: Business, Politics, and Tariffs, 1825-1879

Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 288
  • Book Info
    A Conjunction of Interests
    Book Description:

    Forster's analysis illuminates a critical chapter in Canadian political history, one with implications for current discussions on import quotas, industrial policy, and free trade

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7322-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Tables
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Preface
    (pp. IX-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    This book is a study in the evolution of Canadian tariffs as an expression of interest group politics, from the 1820s to the formation of the National Policy of 1879. Not the effects of tariffs, but the making of them, in terms of motivation and process, provides focus for the following pages. This is meat enough, as everyone who had something to make, grow, buy, or sell had a stake in import duties. So did governments, who gained the bulk of their revenue from, and defined national interest through, customs imposts. Indeed, so did foreign states whose economic position might...

  6. 1 Protection in an era of colonial transition, 1825–1854
    (pp. 13-32)

    Industrialization in British North America did not give birth to protection. The theory was mostly adopted from abroad, the sentiment carried over from the 1840s and earlier, and the practice of demanding tariff protection in the colonies came before significant factory production. Later Canadian policy inherited some basic elements from the decaying mercantilism of the post-Napoleonic British colonial system. That system emphasized protection within the empire to commerce, to agriculture, and to manufacturing. British commercial policy, so the colonials widely believed, provided a fine place for the British North American economies within the imperial whole by giving their staple products...

  7. 2 Continuity and change: making tariffs in the late 1850s
    (pp. 33-51)

    The Canadas witnessed a ferment for high tariffs between 1856 and 1859. The economic crisis beginning in 1857 encouraged protectionist organization and partly fostered the fiscal emergency in government that made tariff changes necessary. Pressures for protection to manufactures, demands for commercial protection, and the need for revenue coincided. Determined to ‘Get Money,’ the financial officers of the provincial government sought arrangements that might improve the well-being of the province while satisfying a variety of interests.

    Revenue needs formed a point around which the competing demands of interests in other provinces balanced also. Conflict between commercial low-tariff interests and protectionists...

  8. 3 Larger markets, 1860–1866: reciprocity and Confederation
    (pp. 52-67)

    The 1860s witnessed British North American efforts to strengthen and perpetuate the commercial policies put into place during the previous decade, though with limited success. Political leaders in some provinces viewed those policies - American and interprovincial reciprocity, and in the Canadas and New Brunswick, incidental protection - as highly popular. Despite the generally satisfactory situation, uncertainties and dynamic imbalances abounded. Population and industry grew. Railways and the evolution of agriculture changed the structure of some economic sectors and stimulated market expansion. Moreover, the fiscal position of several colonies was serious, which inevitably meant changes in commercial policy. If that...

  9. 4 From a conciliatory to a national policy, 1867–1872
    (pp. 68-85)

    In hindsight, the abrogation of the Reciprocity Treaty appears virtually inevitable; the efforts at renewal in 1865–66 and later seem embarrassingly futile. But this inevitability was not comprehended at the time. Failure to obtain a continuation of reciprocity in 1866 was due, in the eyes of politically minded Canadians, to causes that were removable. George Brown, for example, thought Gait’s precipitate actions in agreeing to legislative reciprocity naturally resulted in the rapacious Americans offering next to nothing.¹ Nor did the finance minister ever make good use of the Maritimes’ desire for reciprocity. In Gait’s 1865 effort to achieve reciprocity,...

  10. 5 ‘The obscurity of private enterprise’: business and the economy, 1870–1879
    (pp. 86-109)

    The National Policy of 1879 was precipitated by the business experience of the 1870s, which consisted of a severe swing of the business cycle superimposed on the long-term processes of economic diversification, technical advance, and market integration. Between 1873 and 1896, Canada’s lot consisted of economic expansion and monetary deflation, the oddly matched products of a wide array of interrelated social and economic forces, the chief of which included a constricted money supply, an altering work-force, technological and organizational innovation, and the integration of markets. Yet the census data that show long-term growth mask the shorter-term occurrences of recession, boom,...

  11. 6 ‘An age of combination and association,’ 1870–1879
    (pp. 110-126)

    Endless rivalry, businessmen well knew, could breed destructive instability. Collective control over competitive excesses had to be asserted, so even while competition rose to greater heights during the depression, pricing and production agreements were being made and broken. The approach was neither new nor limited to foul business weather. Nearly a century earlier, Adam Smith had written that ‘people of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.’¹ But such informal and even customary local understandings were of a different...

  12. 7 The Liberal interregnum, 1874–1876
    (pp. 127-146)

    There was a break in Conservative hegemony over the federal government in 1873. The enormous flow of money from Sir Hugh Allan to the Conservative party during the election of 1872 in presumed exchange for the Pacific railway charter became public knowledge, and the ensuing scandal brought the Liberals into power. Just as a conjunction of economic developments and the formation of interest organizations signalled a crisis in Canadian business life, the Pacific Scandal precipitated suspicions about large concentrations of wealth and of the influence of such wealth on government. Just as the idea of a national policy of tariff...

  13. 8 The Liberal interregnum, 1876–1878
    (pp. 147-164)

    The events of 1876 were by no means decisive in fixing political alignments prior to the federal election of 1878. The Conservatives took care not to plunge heedlessly into high-tariff waters; and protectionists persisted in hoping the Liberal government could be forced to see the light. The Liberals assumed the leadership of low-tariff forces, undertook to reform protectionists in their own ranks, and struggled to prevent supporters from straying into the high-tariff heresy. Straying had at all costs to be prevented among the farmers of western Ontario, where the party had its traditional power base.

    In the 1840s and 1850s,...

  14. 9 The interests, the parties, and the election of 1878
    (pp. 165-181)

    A basic function of protectionist ideologues and organizations for twenty years prior to the election, had been to draw disparate interests into common political purpose and to combat the perception of protection as a class interest and prelude to monopoly. After 1876, as the political spectrum on the issue polarized, the task was increasingly shared with the Conservative party. The lines dividing party and interest associations became somewhat blurred. Though industrialists’ and party organizations were both of importance in gaining the Conservative victory, the organizational principle had considerable limitations in practice. Had protectionist associations been widespread, sophisticated in action, and...

  15. 10 ‘Reconciling a legion of conflicting interests’
    (pp. 182-200)

    The resounding Conservative victory in the election of 1878 brought in its wake a range of tariff-related problems. The fashion in which tariff changes would be decided upon was open to question, and the potential character of a readjusted tariff was even more obscure. Was there to be a blind pandering to protectionist influences? Or were the portentous yet ambiguous protectionist promises of the Conservative campaign to be realized, as some cynical Liberals suggested in the election aftermath, by only minor alterations?¹ The deficit the federal government faced would have to be addressed as well, and the balance between revenue...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 201-206)

    The 1879 tariff was not a mere political incident, for the substance of tariffs and the methods by which they were formed reflected the growth and integration of British North American societies. On an economic level, this meant the relative and temporary decline in the importance of some key staple exports, and the rise of an uneven industrialization in an era of expanding internal markets. On a political plane, it involved growing independence from Great Britain, the rejection of American hegemony, and Confederation. In the most reductive social terms, it meant an incipient collectivization.

    The shift of tariff-policy emphasis from...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 207-258)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 259-276)
  19. Index
    (pp. 277-288)