"Higher rates were not enacted until Southern states seceeded and left their seats in Congress vacant."
The Morrill Tariff was not created after secession, it was devised by the Republicans in 1857 It was first voted on in the House in 1860, and only 1 out of 61 Southern representative voted for it. It passed 105 to 64. The Senate was able to shelve it until after the 1860 election- when after the Republicans were able to get it passed.
"I've read dozens of newspapers from the 1859-1860 period printed in Alabama and have not seen a word about tariff rates or tariff legislation, good or bad."
That is hard to believe since the Republican platform in 1860 specifically mentions supporting a new tariff. I would suggest reading the Charleston Mercury or the Richmond Dispatch- who shared their articles with papers all across the South. Below is a sample.
Charleston Mercury, Oct. 5, 1860.
"Well, if we are to have neither a Yankee invasion nor a Brownlow insurrection, pray what is there in the separation of the Southern from the Northern States, to produce the dire ruin, the Bulletin depicts? Will our cotton explode and vanish into smoke? Will our tobacco rot instanter? and the rats eat up our rice, corn, wheat and potatos? If not, we will have all these just as available for our support out of the Union, as in the Union. It is true that European, instead of Yankee ships, may carry our agricultural productions to our great consumers, at a cheaper rate than they are now carried- and that, with their agricultural productions, we could purchase our supplies of manufactured commodities at a cheaper rate, unburdened by that greatest of all Yankee money-making inventions, a Yankee Tariff,- but it is difficult to understand, how such operations will at all impair the resources of the South. They may overwhelm the North, but for the very reason, they will add to the resources of the South."
Charleston Mercury, Oct. 23, 1860.
"With an identity of principles and policy, between the Black Republicans and the Squatter Sovereignty traitors, it is absurb, to suppose that the Black Republicans cannot carry on the Government in Washington. What measures will the Black Republican party bring forward in Congress?...They will only carry out their sectional mastery by a Protective Tariff, Internal Improvement, Homestead measures, and the reform of the Supreme Court, so as to make its decisions conform with their policy. They will plunder us, before destroying us; and to plunder or destroy us, "the Union must be perserved."...
The Daily Dispatch: December 8, 1860.
The Columbia South Carolinian says:
"The portion of the Message referring to foreign affairs, specific and ad valorem duties, the necessity of a higher tariff → , as he says, "to protect the revenue, and to secure to our manufacturing interests that amount of incidental encouragement which unavoidably results from a revenue ← tariff," are all subjects which no longer concern us in the present Union.--We therefore have not pressed them upon the attention of our readers, nor crowded our columns with them."
Tuesday morning...dec. 11 1860.
Ex. Gov. Adams, of S. C., was serenaded in Columbia, S. C., on Fridaynight. In reply to it he made a speech, which is thus reported:
"The idea of our fathers that representation was the bulwark of protection for the Union, had proved a fallacy, if ninety Southern men, were they all Calhoun in intellect, would not weigh against one hundred and forty of the Love joys and the Hickmans. Our ancestors made a sad blunder when they went into partnership with the Pilgrim Fathers, who came across the ocean in search of toleration, but became the most relentless persecutors in the world.--They threw the tea overboard, but they did it like thieves, wearing the guise of Indians, and knowing that no indictment would lay against them. [Laughter.] It was true, the Revolutionary war commenced then; but the biggest part of the Revolutionary war was fought at the South, after Washington took charge of the army. Their courage, like Bob Acre's, oozed out at their fingers' ends. [Laughter.] In 1812, when the South had undertaken to protect Yankee seamen, they burned blue lights on their coast — and in the Mexican war they furnished precious little blood.--He would not go into the history of the tariff, and show how it swindled the South; but the pension system was adopted thirty or forty years after the Revolution, when it was supposed that most of the old soldiers were dead, and New England immediately turned out more soldier-claimants than were enrolled in the whole Revolutionary Army. [Laughter.] They are very smart, and can demonstrate that the higher the tax the cheaper the article.--Next they will attempt to demonstrate that the lower the price of cotton the better for us, because it will teach us economy, which is one of the cardinal virtues. [Laughter.]"
The Richmond Daily Dispatch: December 12, 1860.
"The night I reached Trenton, some two months since, the "Wide-Awakes" had a grand and imposing procession, composed in the main of the mechanics of this city, and displaying, regardless of the cost of oil, some 2,000 torchlights. For this occasion the mighty Morton McMichael, of the Philadelphia Press, was imported to talk "Tariff → " to the working men of Jersey. That portly old gentleman, whether from a late dinner, or chronics bronchitis — perhaps both, was as hoarse as stupid; but it was sufficient that he was a Republican. Cheer followed cheer, yell upon yell, "Lincoln and a ← Tariff," was the cry. Many supposed that, like our Martin Lipscomb, Old Abe, would give every poor man a cow."
The Daily Dispatch: December 14, 1860.
The debate in Congress Wednesday is interesting. In the Senate, Mr. Wigfall, of Texas, made a warm speech, in which he said:
Mr. Wigfall resumed — I say Cotton is King, and that cotton waves his sceptre not only over thirty-three States, but over the Island of Great Britain and over Continental Europe.
There is no crowned head, either upon that Island or Continent, that does not bend the knee in fear, and acknowledge allegiance to that power. Five millions of people in Great Britain live upon cotton. You may make short crops of grain, and they can husband their supply, but exhaust the supply of cotton one week, and all England will starve. They will not burst open barns, but burn whole towns. We can direct the trade of two hundred and fifty millions to our own ports instead of Boston, Philadelphia and New York, if we go out of the Union. Our imports will amount to two hundred and fifty millions, and forty per cent, upon that pours into our treasury one hundred million dollars; twenty per cent, gives fifty millions. What tariff we will accept I expect to know in a few months, and in another chamber. [Laughter in the galleries.] You suppose numbers constitute the strength of the government. I tell you that it is the almighty dollar.
The Daily Dispatch: January 29, 1861.
Pecuniary results of a Southern Confederations.
Every great measure has its profit and loss account — its advantages as well as its disadvantages. The American colonies, in throwing off the yoke, lost many brave men, many hard-earned dollars, much valuable property, and eight long years of what might have proved most prosperous times; but they gained the priceless jewel of liberty — they planted themselves on the staunch platform of independence, whereon has been erected our splendid fabric of greatness and power.
If the Union must be dissolved — If this glorious fabric must be levelled to the dust, contrary to the wishes of the South, and in spite of her last twenty years effort to save it, then it becomes her sons to banish as far as possible all useless regrets, and to turn their eyes away from the gloomy aspects of the subject to the contemplation of the bright features which even this picture presents.
Magnificent as was this glittering structure of Union, its cost to the South was on a scale commensurate with its splendor. We shall not stop at this time to prove that its cost to the South, through the Tariff → , during the last ten years, has been equivalent to two-thirds of all the revenues collected, amounting to an average of nearly sixty millions per annum; for the ← tariff → is levied exclusively upon the foreign commerce of the country, and the South furnishes two-thirds of the exports which support this foreign commerce;--although numbering but one-third of the population of the Union, she pays two-thirds of the federal revenue, or thirty-eight to forty millions of dollars, whereas she is justly chargeable with only twenty millions.
Now, the difference between twenty and thirty-eight to forty millions of dollars a year is a very large sum of money, and, when counted for periods of ten years or more, amounts to an enormous capital for the "poor" South to lose and the "rich" North to gain by the Union. To make the matter worse, not even one-third of the public revenue is expended within her limits; but the great bulk of it, though contributed by herself, is disbursed at the North. Behold in this single fact, which has been in operation on a gradually increasing scale for three-quarters of a century, the real secret of the great preponderance of the North in manufactures, shipping and commercial power. Some of the public men of Virginia talk lugubriously of the frightful taxation which will be entailed upon the State by dissolution, in war debts and extraordinary war expenditures; but no figures which they can possibly marshal on this account can approximate the enormous drain of Southern capital and wealth which must continue to go on under the Union and its ← tariff → .
The South exported last year $250,000,000 of products to foreign countries, and is supposed to have sent at least $100,000,000 more to the North. These exports, or else her returns of $350,000,000 of imports taken in exchange for them, present a basis of revenue well calculated to dispel any fears of public bankruptcy which even her most despondent citizens might entertain. A duty as low as 10 per cent, upon this trade would give a revenue of $35,000,000 for the support of her political system under a Southern Confederacy.
Now, the Southern people have felt too bitterly the burden of a "splendid government," under the Union, to be willing to repeat the expensive folly in a Confederacy of their own. They would eschew the scheme of a complete Federal Government, surrounded with all the costly trappings of imperial power, and content themselves with a mere Federal Agency, such as Patrick Henry and George Mason esteemed sufficient to answer all federal purposes, and such as the Government at Washington was originally designed to be. Such an agency would be as cheap in its administration as simple in its structure; scarcely costing on a peace footing more than five millions a year, and not exceeding more than an average of fifteen millions per annum in long periods embracing all the contingencies in peace and war. But even the latter expenditures would leave $20,000,000 to spare from the thirty-five millions which a ten per cent, ← tariff → would produce on the trade of the South--a sum which would more than defray all the expenses of her State government, the grand total of which for 1859 was less than $15,000,000. Thus dissolution, so far from being a ruinous loss to the South, would prove a splendid speculation, by stopping the exhausting drain of the present continental ← tariff → , and relieving the whole Southern people of the burden of direct taxation for State expenditures. The fifteen millions of general outlay would furnish means for the support of a cordon of customs offices along the border of the North, which would serve the double purpose of collecting the ← tariff → due on Northern fabrics, and of apprehending fugitive negroes in their passage along the underground railroad.
But in order to realize these results, Virginia would have to attach herself to the fortunes of the Gulf States, who furnish nearly the whole of this immense exportation of $350,000,000. It is only by this means that she could reap the double advantage of participating in the revenue based upon these exports, and obtaining release from the burdensome taxation entailed by the Northern ← tariff and the costly Government at Washington. Nor would she have any reason to fear that her Southern confederates would be unwilling to foster her infant manufactures. These States have been willing to foster even Northern manufactures, at the enormous cost already shown. Much more readily will they consent to grant all needful encouragement to the manufactures of a Southern sister State, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh, if she but promptly bring to their cause all the moral, political, and historical weight, attaching to the name of Virginia.
The Daily Dispatch: February 9, 1861.
The New Tariff → .
The new Black Republican ← Tariff, which has passed the House, and is about to pass the Senate, is worse than the old bill of abominations which drew South Carolina originally into Nullification. It not only raises the rates of duty enormously, but proposes an entire change in the whole Revenue system of the country. It is oppressive to the poor, burdensome to all classes, and is calculated to involve the foreign trade of the country in hopeless ruin. It would array one section of the country against the other, even if there were no other cause of offence, and set all Europe against the United States. Verity, the "madness which goeth before destruction," hath seized upon the Black Republicans.