The Second Face of Hegemony: Britain's Repeal of the Corn Laws and the American Walker Tariff of 1846
29 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2007
One challenge facing hegemonic stability theory is to specify the processes by which hegemonic countries construct and maintain a liberal international economic order. Earlier studies have focused on direct coercion or ideological manipulations by the hegemon as a principal technique for manipulating the trade policies of other countries. This article explores a different face of hegemony. Specifically, we contend that by altering relative prices through the exercise of their international market power, hegemonic leaders influence the trade policy preferences of their foreign trading partners. We examine this argument in the case of the American Walker Tariff of 1846. American tariff liberalization was intimately related to Britain's repeal of its Corn Laws. In the antebellum United States, Northern protectionist and Southern free trade proclivities were fixed; Western grain growers held the balance of power. By allowing access to its lucrative grain market, Britain altered the economic and political incentives of Western agriculturalists and facilitated the emergence of the free trade coalition essential to the passage of the Walker Tariff.
Keywords: tariff, Walker Tariff, corn laws, hegemony, trade liberalization
JEL Classification: F11, F14, N72, N64
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation