The Tariff Issue


 “The Dope-Fiends”
  Cartoonist:  [Sid?] Ehrhart
  Source:  Puck
  Date:  September 11, 1912

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
The Democratic National Platform of 1912 declared the Republican policy of high protective tariffs to be unconstitutional and bad economic policy. The plank began by arguing that the U.S. Constitution did not permit the “right or power to collect tariff duties, except for purposes of revenue.” It continued by criticizing protective tariffs for benefiting certain industries at the expense of American consumers, farmers, and workers. The plank promised to revise tariffs downward in a way that would “not injure or destroy the legitimate industry.”

This Puck cartoon visualizes the idea that many American industries were dependent on high tariffs by presenting the big businessmen as dope addicts. Democratic presidential nominee Woodrow Wilson is a physician who will gradually wean them off their tariff habit. In post-election reality, the Underwood Tariff Act signed by President Wilson in 1913 legislated a steep cut in the average tariff rate from 41% to 27% and expanded the free list to include steel, iron, and other major items. Given the cartoon’s drug theme, it is interesting to note that Wilson also signed the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914, which imposed a tariff on the importation of opiates, as well as regulated and taxed their manufacture, sale, distribution, and use.













Website design © 2001-2008 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2008 HarpWeek, LLC
Please submit questions to