More Confederate Apologist Tripe

Want to know more about Black Confederates? Of course you do.

Want to know how it was all about the tariff? Of course you do.


68 thoughts on “More Confederate Apologist Tripe

  1. Stefan Jovanovich October 3, 2014 / 4:48 am

    “Black Confederates” is pure tripe; but Mr. Griffith’s article is, at least on a first, quick reading, a reasonable history of American tariff legislation up to the Morrill bill. His conclusion seems to me more than reasonable: “The tariff was a source of sectional strife for decades, and it was a major reason that the Southern states decided to secede from the Union.” What am I missing?

    • Brooks D. Simpson October 3, 2014 / 6:59 am

      You are missing that by secessionists’ own admission at the time, the tariff was not a major reason for secession. Let’s think about this for a moment. Remove slavery as an issue, and do the southern states secede? Now remove the tariff but keep slavery as an issue. Do the southern states secede?

    • John Foskett October 3, 2014 / 7:02 am

      As our host implies, do yourself a favor and read the correspondence and speeches of the Secession Commissioners, et al. from the first wave of seceded states to their recalcitrant brethren in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, etc. Then count the references to (1) slavery and (2) the Tariff.

      • Stefan Jovanovich October 3, 2014 / 8:49 am

        You both want slavery to be the prime mover because it was the flag that the Confederacy held high. I have is no argument with slavery’s being the fundamental purpose of “the Confederacy”. But secession is another question, and without the decades of argument, posturing and positioning over that question, the argument over slavery would not, by itself, have led to the Civil War. When the New Englanders made their first feeble attempt to threaten secession, slavery was not on their minds at all. When Jackson was President, “slavery” was not the issue for Southern secessionists but the tariff and the Federal authority to collect it were. Tariffs and taxes and the currency (tariffs could only be paid in specie) – the money issues – were, as they always are, what turned up the heat on sectional interests’ attentions and angers. “Slavery” was the match but it was not, by any means, the primary fuel.
        Mr. Griffith may be someone you both dislike, but the facts he offers are not fictions. I agree that he might have offered a more moderate conclusion and written that “the tariff argument and the threats to secede over that issue were a major reason why the Civil War occurred”. That description fits the evidence of how the political parties and their supporters behaved in the half century that led to the creation of the slaveholders Confederacy.
        But, if you want to continue shooting the poor flagger fish in their leaky barrel, please enjoy; and they will – no doubt – do their best to fire back. it seems to me to be rather feeble sport; but I do enjoy Mr. Foskett’s “with all due respect” debate mannerisms and I am looking forward to further reading from his, Mr. Griffith’s and others’ recommended sources. All the best.

        • Brooks D. Simpson October 3, 2014 / 9:19 am

          It is not a question of what I want the record to say: it is a question of what the evidence shows was going on. Besides, it would be just as intellectually invalid for me to say that you simply want to believe in the importance of tariffs. That is assertion, not argument.

        • Brooks D. Simpson October 3, 2014 / 9:25 am

          I do not believe Mr. Griffith is a Virginia Flagger. That you associate him with them suggests that you harbor some reservations about his historical method. Simply listing controversies outside of context doesn’t get us very fair. After all, temperance and nativism were at least as important as the tariff when it came to political debate at this time. Connecting those issues to the coming of the war is a little more complex.

          • Stefan Jovanovich October 3, 2014 / 9:47 am

            I think we simply do not see things through the same lens. The issue on tariffs was not about “high” or “low” but about whether or not there should be any at all; and it was never settled. The Democrats in 1844 were so furious at Polk over the Kane letter that it almost cost him the election even though Clay’s bumbling made Michael Dukakis look like a master politician by comparison. The tariff, tax and money question was, by 1860, so thoroughly ingrained in the party’s positions that it did not need to discussed. Republicans wanted tariffs; Democrats wanted them abolished. Since no one ever votes in favor of higher taxes, the Republicans had to waffle on the issue in their 1860 platform: “That, while providing revenue for the support of the general government by duties upon imports, sound policy requires such an adjustment of these imports as to encourage the development of the industrial interests of the whole country; and we commend that policy of national exchanges, which secures to the workingmen liberal wages, to agriculture remunerative prices, to mechanics and manufacturers an adequate reward for their skill, labor, and enterprise, and to the nation commercial prosperity and independence.”

          • Brooks D. Simpson October 3, 2014 / 11:46 am

            No one’s saying that tariffs were not a political issue. The question remains whether they had anything to do with secession, and whether they were a major cause of secession. Advocates of secession were rather direct in their emphasis on the slavery issue as their prime concern.

            Understood broadly, the tariff issue involved the role of government in the economy. On this everyone seemed to believe that the federal government should protect their property interests and give less protection to the property interests of others. White southerners believed in the federal government protecting one’s property interest in slavery. A low tariff addresses property and economic interests as much as a high one does.

            Finally, you misstate the division over tariff policy. Everyone understood that a tariff for revenue only was fine. It was over the protective aspects of the tariff that divisions emerged. Even then they weren’t quite so north/south as one might believe (as your citing the Democratic position suggests).

          • E.A. Mayer October 3, 2014 / 5:57 pm

            Even in the 1830s the real issue behind the scenes was still slavery. Calhoun admitted as much in a private letter he wrote.
            “I consider the tariff, but as the occasion, rather than the real cause of the present unhappy state of things. The truth can no longer be disguised, that the peculiar domestick (sic) institutions of the Southern States, and not the consequent direction which that and her soil and climate have given her industry, has placed them in regard to taxation and appropriation on opposite relation to the majority of the Union; against the danger of which, if there be no protective power to rebel, or submit to have… their domestick (sic) institutions exhausted by colonization and other schemes, and themselves & children reduced to wretchedness. Thus situated, the denial of the right of these states to interfere constitutionally in the last resort, more alarms the thinking than all other causes.” – Calhoun to Virgil Macy, Sept 11, 1830

            The point of objecting to the tariff was not the tariff itself, but what else acquiescing to federal power might bring. It was attempt to set up a nullification process that would protect slavery form any future federal encroachment.

            “If congress can make banks, roads, and canals under the constitution,” said Senator Nathaniel Macon of North Carolina in the 1820s, “they can free any slave in the United States.” That was the real fear behind he scenes in the 1820s, not tariffs.

            I would suggest here William W. Freehling’s “Prelude to Civil War, the Nullification Controversy in South Carolina” here for exacting details.

            Not only that: but as Calhoun admitted later, the high, “tariff of abominations” was itself of his own making; designed so he thought that it would split the opposition and be defeated. It was a political plot that failed.

            And as additionally pointed out already, the this was not as much a sectional issue as it was a party political issue. The South had plenty of Whig supporters who favored tariffs,

            “Slavery was the main issue in national politics from 1844 to the outbreak of the Civil War. And many times before 1844, this vexed question had set section against section, as in the Missouri debates of 1819-1920. Even the nullification crisis of 1832, ostensibly over the tariff, had slavery as its underlying cause. The South Carolina nullifiers feared that the centralization of governmental power, as manifested by the tariff, might eventually threaten slavery itself.” “Ordeal by Fire” p57

        • John Foskett October 3, 2014 / 12:04 pm

          “You both want slavery to be the prime mover because it was the flag that the Confederacy held high.”

          How on earth do you know what our host or I “want”? I simply read for comprehension. If those folks used the tariff as their primary argument, I’d be saying that was the primary argument and probably the driving mechanism behind secession.. It wasn’t. That’s a simple fact. The primary argument was the perceived threat presented by Lincoln’s election to the future of slavery – first in territorial expansion and ultimately in the South itself. The Tariff wasn’t even a close second in their speeches and correspondence. And I have applied the common sense conclusion that these guys articulated (1) their biggest concern and (2) the one they felt would have the most appeal to their audience. Anybody who dismisses all of that in order to argue that the Tariff was the cause of secession and war is simply making it up. That may be (understandably) uncomfortable for anyone “defending” the South today to accept but it’s an indisputable fact. Why do you think these guys would have lied about/concealed their “real” motivations?

          • Stefan Jovanovich October 4, 2014 / 6:44 am

            I am grateful to Hunter Wallace for his referral to the Georgia Declaration. The Georgia convention gave this explanation of the political causes of their actions: “The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state.”


            I read Calhoun’s letter rather differently than E. A. Mayer does; “taxation and appropriation” are the words that catch my eye.

            The tariffs on sugar imports date back to the first U.S. tax legislation, in 1789. For a thorough discussion of Louisiana sugar, I recommend this dissertation:

          • John Foskett October 4, 2014 / 9:04 am

            It doesn’t really matter that E.A. has read Calhoun’s letter correctly or not. 1861 was fundamentally different than 1832. The abolition movement was gaining force; territorial expansion was proceeding at full speed with the concomitant dispute over slavery’s extension; and the leader of a party strongly associated with abolition had just been elected President. Slavery may have been an undercurrent three decades earlier but in 1861 it was front and center – which is why it was referred to with an exponentially greater frequency than the Tariff by those who articulated the grounds for secession.

          • Jimmy Dick October 4, 2014 / 10:33 am

            Let us analyze the Georgia document shall we? A simple word search turns up 35 uses of the word slave or slavery, 0 uses of tariff or tax or taxation. The first paragraph has 11 uses of slave or slavery. The second sentence has two. The word economy is mentioned twice and there we find a reference to the tariff. However, that leads to the territories acquired by America from Mexico and right back to the issue of slavery. Specifically, the issue of the expansion of slavery.

            Ironic, isn’t it? Amazing what happens when context is used in the examination of a document. My students read this document and every one of them said it was about slavery as the cause of secession.

          • E.A. Mayer October 4, 2014 / 2:15 pm

            So when Calhoun says that the tariff is not really the issue but only a convenient vehicle to address the real issue, which is slavery; that the reason they are opposing federal power is not really because of the tariff or their agricultural economy but for fear of what power might then also used against slavery, all you see are the mere words “taxation and appropriation” and latch onto that? Calhoun really couldn’t have been more clear that it wasn’t about “”taxation and appropriation” and yet those are the only words that “catch your eye”?
            I don’t know why I bothered to reply, you are obviously not being intellectually honest here.

        • Ned October 3, 2014 / 4:51 pm

          You are mistaken. When the New Englanders made what you refer to as “their first feeble attempt to threaten secession”, slavery was on their minds. That is why Pickering referred to Jefferson as the Negro President and why he argued that when secession happened the dividing line would be between slave states and free states. And though South Carolina used the tariff as the justification for action in 1832, slavery definitely was an issue for them in the 1830s. Slavery wasn’t the match, as you claim; it was the basis for the sectional division and by all means the primary fuel.

          When Griffith does present facts they are by definition not fictions, but most of what he presents is interpretation, which is not itself fact.

        • Christopher Shelley October 3, 2014 / 9:00 pm

          Boy, you need to read Freehling’s “Road to Disunion” duo. And Charles Dew’s “Apostles of Disunion.” That will put the whole slavery issue into perspective. I am tired of hearing people cite the Hartford convention as an example of secession. The fact is those Federalists did NOT secede, and their threat destroyed their party.

          And you are absolutely wrong about South Carolina in the Nullification Crisis during Jackson’s administration. Tariffs were the excuse, but it was the power of the federal government they were paranoid about–a power that could pass such a tariff as the Tariff of Abominations could possibly pass laws to limit or abolish slavery.

          The scholarship has all been done on this. You just need to expand on your reading.

          • Jimmy Dick October 4, 2014 / 7:55 am

            There was absolutely NO mention of secession at the Hartford Convention. Only one delegate was elected to the convention who was an advocate of secession. He never brought the subject up. The modern day neo-confederates bring this convention up all the time, but what they really show is their failure to study actual history. The subject was brought up by individuals, but when the time came to put up or shut up, the subject was not brought up. Instead, the people voted for men who were not in favor of secession. That alone should be a major indicator of how the people felt.

          • Christopher Shelley October 4, 2014 / 10:30 am

            JD, what’s the best account of the Hartford Convention?

          • John Foskett October 4, 2014 / 8:57 am

            Unfortunately, you’re preaching to folks who just don’t want to read anything that doesn’t fit their uninformed slant on history. If one simply reads what the Secession Commissioners said and wrote, even a third-grader could figure out what their primary concern – by far – was. So either (1) they were telling the truth and were using what they thought was the most persuasive argument for secession or (2) they were liars who completely misunderstood the fears and motivations of their target audience. I opt for (1).

          • Christopher Shelley October 4, 2014 / 10:51 am

            John, we got spanked last night. But I take heart from Grant:

            “Lick ’em tomorrow.”

          • John Foskett October 4, 2014 / 11:50 am

            Christopher: No idea why he was left in to absorb that in the 7th. It was pretty obvious he was gassed (100 degrees will do that to you). I’m beginning to think that St. Louis makes a deal with the Devil every year along about October.

      • Ken Noe October 3, 2014 / 9:04 am

        I’ve referred before here to the Georgia debates and the great imbalance between references to slavery and tariffs. But throw in the state secession declarations as well. Tariffs were a minor issue by 1860 except in Louisiana, where the wealthiest sugar planters ironically were dependent upon federal tariffs on imported sugar.

        • John Foskett October 3, 2014 / 12:22 pm

          An excellent point regarding Louisiana. If I recall correctly, there were also secession proponents in Virginia who actually supported enhanced tariff protection for certain industries. Of course they did, because tariffs are cobbled-together laws which, like the Internal Revenue Code, gore a multiplicity of economic oxen. In this case, those economic factors were not universal to an 11-state region. What was common/universal was an “institution” which was entrenched in all 11 and which differentiated the racism in those 11 from the racism in most (but not all – see Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware) of the remainder..

  2. Lyle Smith October 3, 2014 / 8:58 am

    That’s some ridiculously constructed history. Many people want to believe what they want to believe though.

  3. Nancy Winkler October 3, 2014 / 9:05 am

    The tariff was a BIG issue — in the 1830s. A person who reads selectively will conflate the 1830s with the 1860s. By 1860, no one was arguing about the tariff.

    • Brooks D. Simpson October 3, 2014 / 9:16 am

      Even then, however, people who opposed high tariffs saw that debate as opening the door to a discussion of federal power and the future of slavery. The abolition movement accelerated just as the tariff debate took off. One was settled, and one was postponed.

    • Hunter Wallace October 3, 2014 / 1:23 pm

      Wasn’t the tariff brought up in the Georgia Declaration of Causes of secession?

      • Breck O'Donnell October 4, 2014 / 8:10 am

        Oh yes, it’s good you mentioned that. They explicitly declared they had won on the tariff issue back in 1846 and now slavery was the point of contention.

        But when these reasons ceased they were no less clamorous for Government protection, but their clamors were less heeded– the country had put the principle of protection upon trial and condemned it. After having enjoyed protection to the extent of from 15 to 200 per cent. upon their entire business for above thirty years, the act of 1846 was passed. It avoided sudden change, but the principle was settled, and free trade, low duties, and economy in public expenditures was the verdict of the American people. The South and the Northwestern States sustained this policy. There was but small hope of its reversal; upon the direct issue, none at all.

        All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies. The anti-slavery sentiment of the North offered the best chance for success. An anti-slavery party must necessarily look to the North alone for support, but a united North was now strong enough to control the Government in all of its departments, and a sectional party was therefore determined upon. Time and issues upon slavery were necessary to its completion and final triumph. The feeling of anti-slavery, which it was well known was very general among the people of the North, had been long dormant or passive; it needed only a question to arouse it into aggressive activity. This question was before us. We had acquired a large territory by successful war with Mexico; Congress had to govern it; how, in relation to slavery, was the question then demanding solution. This state of facts gave form and shape to the anti-slavery sentiment throughout the North and the conflict began. Northern anti-slavery men of all parties asserted the right to exclude slavery from the territory by Congressional legislation and demanded the prompt and efficient exercise of this power to that end. This insulting and unconstitutional demand was met with great moderation and firmness by the South. We had shed our blood and paid our money for its acquisition; we demanded a division of it on the line of the Missouri restriction or an equal participation in the whole of it. These propositions were refused, the agitation became general, and the public danger was great. The case of the South was impregnable. The price of the acquisition was the blood and treasure of both sections– of all, and, therefore, it belonged to all upon the principles of equity and justice.

        The Constitution delegated no power to Congress to excluded either party from its free enjoyment; therefore our right was good under the Constitution. Our rights were further fortified by the practice of the Government from the beginning. Slavery was forbidden in the country northwest of the Ohio River by what is called the ordinance of 1787. That ordinance was adopted under the old confederation and by the assent of Virginia, who owned and ceded the country, and therefore this case must stand on its own special circumstances. The Government of the United States claimed territory by virtue of the treaty of 1783 with Great Britain, acquired territory by cession from Georgia and North Carolina, by treaty from France, and by treaty from Spain. These acquisitions largely exceeded the original limits of the Republic. In all of these acquisitions the policy of the Government was uniform. It opened them to the settlement of all the citizens of all the States of the Union. They emigrated thither with their property of every kind (including slaves). All were equally protected by public authority in their persons and property until the inhabitants became sufficiently numerous and otherwise capable of bearing the burdens and performing the duties of self-government, when they were admitted into the Union upon equal terms with the other States, with whatever republican constitution they might adopt for themselves. “

      • John Foskett October 4, 2014 / 8:50 am

        Apparently, lots of things were “brought up” but one was honored as the core problem:

        “While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state.”

        I leave it to you to figure out which one. (Hint: the test questions don’t get easier than this).

    • Mike Griffith October 5, 2014 / 5:13 pm

      By 1860 lots of people were arguing about the tariff, and arguing about it heatedly, because the Republicans were trying to push the Morrill Tariff through Congress. The tariff had been largely a non-issue since the passage of the 1846 tariff, but debated sparked again when protectionists used the Panic of 1857 as an excuse to repeal the recently passed 1857 tariff.

      The 1857-1860 tariff editorials that I cite in my article are but a fraction of what could be cited.

      • Mike Griffith October 5, 2014 / 5:14 pm

        Make that “but debate sparked again” (not “but debated sparked again”).

  4. TF Smith October 3, 2014 / 6:55 pm

    He’s also a Pearl Harbor conspiracist. I can only guess his take on the JFK assassination.

      • John Foskett October 4, 2014 / 11:53 am

        Go figure. DSM V should include a new disorder. When 50 years go by and there is still no credible evidence – none – from any of the multitude of participants in a “conspiracy” of this magnitude, you should check yourself in for treatment.

  5. Mike Griffith October 5, 2014 / 4:58 pm

    Most people who have commented on my tariff article have not concluded that it argues that secession was all about the tariff or even mostly about the tariff. I tried to avoid editorializing too much, but I thought I made it fairly clear that the tariff was the second major reason that the South seceded, not the primary reason. The title says the tariff was “a” major factor, not “the” major factor.

    When I expand the article in about a year, perhaps I will do more editorializing to make my own position clearer. I believe that the main reason the Deep South states seceded was slavery, and that the main reason the Upper South states seceded was the pending federal invasion. I think that in both cases the tariff was a major factor but a secondary one.

    I might add that I have changed my view about the need for secession. Although I believe the South had the right to secede, I do not think the South’s (valid) complaints were sufficient justification for secession. In fact, I think the decision to secede was a disaster for the whole country, not just for the South. I also believe that Lincoln’s decision to use force was worse than the South’s decision to secede.

    If I had been alive in 1860, I would have opposed secession with all my might; failing that, I would have urged the adoption of the Crittenden Compromise to limit secession to a few states and to keep the Upper South states in the Union. I agree with Albert Kirwan that passing the Crittenden Compromise would have halted secession or largely reversed secession, depending on when it was passed. But, I would have stopped supporting the Northern position when Lincoln launched the federal invasion.

    • Jimmy Dick October 5, 2014 / 8:52 pm

      The tariff was hardly a factor. The tariff in 1860’s secession winter was the one the Democrats put into place. It was the lowest tariff on record to that point. The Morrill Tariff cannot be brought into the argument because it was stuck in committee and had absolutely NO chance whatsoever of being pulled from that committee until after the 1862 elections (presuming the southern states had not seceded).
      The only reason the Morrill Tariff got out of the committee was because the Lower South seceded. So the secession itself is why that tariff was able to pass. I’ve seen this tariff argument far too many times and it just does not hold water. Plus, the North collected more tariff revenue than the South by a huge margin. The tariff was not a major issue or even a real secondary one.

      • Mike Griffith October 6, 2014 / 2:53 am

        It is simply factually wrong to say that the Morrill Tariff “cannot be brought into the argument.” As I show in my article, the Morrill Tariff was the center of very intense debate, both in Congress and in the nation at large (especially in the South), for nearly 2 years before it passed the House. Furthermore, there was no guarantee that the Democrats were going to be able to continue to block Morrill’s bill in the Senate. As everyone was acutely aware, tariff bills had repeatedly proven to be unpredictable and to transcend party lines. The backers of the Morill Tariff certainly did not think they had “no chance” to get the bill through the Senate. Once the new president was inaugurated, there was no telling how things would turn out once he began to apply pressure for passage.

        In any case, regardless of what one thinks about the Morrill bill’s chances for passage in the Senate, the fact remains that the Republican attempt to markedly increase tariff rates sparked a sharp debate from late 1857 through spring 1861, and that many Southern newspapers and leaders condemned the attempt.

        • Jimmy Dick October 6, 2014 / 5:42 am

          They definitely tried, that is for certain. However, the effects of the Panic of 1857 were disappearing. The tariff was bottled up in a committee and could not get out. At the secession conventions there was next to no talk about the tariff. The rhetoric was about slavery. Saying that the tariff was a major cause in secession is wrong. Had it been a major cause secession would have taken place earlier. Instead, it took the threat to slavery posed by Lincoln’s election to trigger secession.
          You’re using an IF statement with the Morrill Tariff. It does not fit.

          • John Foskett October 6, 2014 / 10:22 am

            I’m unaware of any other issue in U.S. history in which a group of people simply ignore plain English and undisputed evidence because it doesn’t fit their need to be comfortable. I get the desperate effort to spin secession as motivated by something – anything – other than protection of an evil, indefensible institution. But them’s the unvarnished facts. As i keep saying, either (1) the Secsssion Commissioners were liars/stupidly eschewed what they though was their most persuasive argument to their recalcitrant brethren in urging them to join up or (2) they were honest about their own motivations and chose the argument which they thought had the best shot at enlisting their target audience. Maybe these folks just can’t read for comprehension.

  6. Mike Griffith October 6, 2014 / 11:54 am

    JIMMY DICK: “The rhetoric was about slavery. Saying that the tariff was a major cause in secession is wrong. Had it been a major cause secession would have taken place earlier.”

    Have you read my article yet? There was plenty, plenty, plenty of rhetoric about the tariff as well.

    Not only were there numerous anti-Morrill Tariff/anti-tariff-hike speeches in Congress and editorials in Southern newspapers in 1860, but four of the seven Deep South states mentioned the tariff as a reason for secession in their official secession ordinances/declarations/adopted addresses. What’s more Virginia newspapers spent a lot of time on the tariff in trying to persuade state leaders to join the Confederacy.

    Using your logic, we could say that slavery was not a major cause of secession because secession would have happened earlier if it had been. The war was fought over Southern independence, not slavery or the tariff, although one could make a good case that the main reason the Republicans opposed secession was their fear that the North would be economically devastated if it had to compete with an independent South and its low tariff rate.

    JOHN FOSKETT: “I’m unaware of any other issue in U.S. history in which a group of people simply ignore plain English and undisputed evidence because it doesn’t fit their need to be comfortable. I get the desperate effort to spin secession as motivated by something – anything – other than protection of an evil, indefensible institution. But them’s the unvarnished facts.”

    And I would turn that argument around right back at you and say that you and those who agree with you are the ones who are ignoring a mountain of evidence because that evidence does not fit with your position and with your apparent desire to demonize the antebellum South.

    The four Upper South states **rejected** secession when the main issues were slavery and the tariff. They voted down secession by substantial margins (the vote in AR really was not close as it seemed because many of those who voted to hold a secession convention opposed secession but felt the matter should be decided by convention). The **only** reason those four states changed their mind was that Lincoln made it clear that he was going to launch an invasion. Those states did not view slavery or the tariff as sufficient reason to secede–their tipping point came when it became clear that Lincoln was going to resort to coercion.

    I do not understand why you wrote your reply in response to my comments, since I said, in “plain English,” that the slavery was the main reason the Deep South seceded and that it was a major reason the Upper South seceded. The Upper South states believed the Deep South had some valid complaints relating to slavery, but they did not think those complaints alone justified secession. They made this clear by rejecting secession the first time around, as mentioned.

    • Stefan Jovanovich October 6, 2014 / 1:20 pm

      When first caught my eye was Professor Simpson’s juxtaposition of Mr. Griffith’s article on the tariffs with an article on “black” Confederates. What fascinates me now is how eager people are to waive the bloody shirt of moral superiority in a historical discussion. That display has helped me to understand how the rhetoric for and against “slavery” could become so inflammatory in 1860. I agree with Grant and Mr. Foskett that slavery was an “evil, indefensible institution”. I agree with Grant and Mr. Foskett and most of the commenters that the Southerners were violating the Constitution in choosing formal secession. Where Grant and I part company from the majority – and to side with Mr. Griffith – is in our reading of what all the fury was about. There can be no disagreement over slavery’s being THE ISSUE for the 1860 Presidential election. It was, as the Georgia Declaration and the party platform both confirm, the policy umbrella under which all Republicans gathered. But, how was the issue of “slavery” able to fracture the Democrat majority? And how did the Republicans’ minority popular vote victory in the Presidential race bring on a secessionist panic? To answer “slavery” only begs those questions. The puzzle only grows when one asks a few more questions. Had Lincoln promised to free the slaves? No. Had he or the majority of the Republicans even hinted at social equality for free blacks, North and South? No. On the contrary, he had promised to support a Constitutional amendment that would confirm slaveholders’ rights and talked about how the darkies might all be shipped abroad. It becomes harder and harder to believe that Lincoln and the Republican Party’s positions on “slavery” were any closer to abolitionist than Middle Border Democrats were. Then, what was all the Southerners’ panic about?
      The best answer is the one offered by the Georgians: “slavery” was the rallying cry of the Republicans but Lincoln’s definitions of “the Slave Power” were the real issue. In opposing the “Slave Power”, Lincoln promised to increase protection, increase internal improvements, and, worst of all from the point of view of the Southerners, increase Northern patronage from the pot of money that came from tariff collections. As the many of the commenters have pointed out, the “tariff” issue was one about which Southerners might have differing opinions just as Northerners did. But, when for the first time the money would not be controlled by Southerners, the issue took on a very different importance. It should have because it was a much larger issue than it had been. Discussing the tariffs rates tends to obscure this fact. As commenters have noted, tariff rates were no higher, overall, in 1860 than they were in 1840 and lower than they were in 1850. But collections – specie deposited in the hands of the U.S. Custom Houses – were nearly 3 times what they were in 1840, even after the fall-off from the 1857 Panic. Revenues had grown from $19.5 million to $56.1 million. That pot of cash was worth fighting over, especially since the “anti-slavery” party was very clear about how it would be spending it.

      • Jimmy Dick October 6, 2014 / 4:27 pm

        The pot of cash was in the North, not the South.

        • Ray Shield October 7, 2014 / 4:41 pm

          Your point is misleading.

          Merely noting that a disproportionate share of tariffs were *collected* in the North does not mean that same disproportionate share was *paid* by Northern consumers. It is an obvious misrepresentation to anyone who knows that most of the imports in the South arrived via coastal trade from the North.

          • E.A. Mayer October 7, 2014 / 6:49 pm

            It was the North’s industry that consumed the raw materials that were subject to the tariff, and the North had a larger and overall wealthier population to consume more of the luxury goods, so it paid most of the tariffs as it consumed most of the items subject to it; probabaly at least on the order of 70% or more which would be proportional to it’s free population and urban concentrations.

            “There is no way of calculating accurately the value of the foreign imports consumed in territory naturally tributary to Southern seaports; but the probabilities are that it did not so greatly exceed the direct importations as Southerners generally supposed. Some Southern writers made the palpably untenable assumption that the Southern population consumed foreign goods equal in value to their exports to foreign countries, that is about two-thirds or three-fourths of the nation’s exports or imports. More reasonable was the assumption that the per capita consumption of imported goods in the South was equal to that of the North; but even that would seem to have been too liberal. A much higher percentage of the Northern population was urban; and the per capita consumption of articles of commerce by an urban population is greater than the per capita consumption by a rural population. Southern writers made much of the number of rich families in the South who bought articles of luxury imported from abroad; but there is no doubt that the number of families who lived in luxury was exaggerated. That the slaves consumed comparatively small quantities of foreign goods requires no demonstration. Their clothing and rough shoes were manufactured either in the North or at home. Their chief articles of food (corn and bacon) were produced at home or in the West. The large poor white element in the population consumed few articles of commerce, either domestic or foreign. The same is true of the rather large mountaineer element, because if for no other reason, they lived beyond the routes of trade. Olmstead had these classes in mind when he wrote: ‘I have never seen reason to believe that with absolute free trade the cotton States would take a tenth part of the value of our present importations.’ One of the fairest of the many English travelers wrote: ‘But the truth is, there are few imports required, for every Southern town tells the same tale.” – Robert R. Russel, Economic Aspects of Southern Sectionalism, 1840-1861, p107-108

          • Jimmy Dick October 7, 2014 / 9:41 pm

            Good work, E.A.! I believe you answered quite well.

          • E.A. Mayer October 10, 2014 / 11:00 am

            Odious is right, He also dosn’t seem to know that Tariffs are not on exports, (“With an export of $220,000,000 under the present tariff, the South organized separately would have $40,000,000 of revenue”) but he also seems to forget about in millions in items the South bought from the North, and can’t help but trying to equate free labor and slavery and gloat over how ‘happy’ the South’s slaves were.

      • E.A. Mayer October 6, 2014 / 4:55 pm

        Since the North was paying by far most of the tariffs, how could the South expect to get more of the pot by seceding? You only seem to want to put weight on Georgia’s propaganda which is only an interpretation of Northern motives which did not exist. And as far as patronage; it was the post office that was more of a concern. Would a Republican appointee continue the censorship of the mails against abolitionism? Would Republican judges and attorneys protect slavery as it had been previously through patronage? Would the federal power that had been siding with slavery be removed? Would not free labor ideaology creep South with greater ease and further weaken the instutition on the border? That, not the tariff or how it was spent, was the issue.

      • Christopher Shelley October 6, 2014 / 5:13 pm

        “But, how was the issue of “slavery” able to fracture the Democrat majority? “And how did the Republicans’ minority popular vote victory in the Presidential race bring on a secessionist panic? To answer “slavery” only begs those questions. The puzzle only grows when one asks a few more questions. Had Lincoln promised to free the slaves? No. Had he or the majority of the Republicans even hinted at social equality for free blacks, North and South? No.”

        In the interest of accuracy, Lincoln earned plurality, not a minority vote. That aside, again, I invite you read Freehling’s excellent duo, “The Road to Disunion,” Vols. I & II. I’m finishing Volume II, and Freehling answers these questions blow by blow, even though he has a rather awkward writing style.

        The key, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, is the issue of slavery’s expansion. Because that was the most important plank in the Rep’n platform, everyone took that pretty seriously. No expansion meant slavery would be on the road to extinction–however gradual. And the end of slavery meant (to secessionists) black equality, however gradual. And the vitriolic racism of the Deep South feared that as much as anything. Again, this is part of the historical record: the Secession Commissioners make this issue as crystal as can be.

        With Brooks’ permission, I made a post about exactly this issue a while back, trying to explain it to George Purvis: .

      • John Foskett October 7, 2014 / 7:38 am

        The fundamental problem here is that, as I’ve pointed out repeatedly, the Secession Commissioners, who were charged by the Seceding Seven to get their recalcitrant brethren to join up, focused first, nearly always, and foremost on the perceived threat to the institution of slavery itself – not on the Tariff (which we all agree had different implications for different groups), not on economic issues, etc. If the motivation/fear was as you seem to argue, that was easy enough to state in plain English. These guys were communicating in order to get their audience to sign up. The last thing one does in that role is muddle the message. I respectfully suggest that you also are ignoring the southern perception of the Republicans and Lincoln. When it comes to Lincoln’s views on race, his notions of colonization, etc., you’re operating in a vacuum with 150 years of hindsight, analysis, etc. What matters is how folks thought in the winter of 1860-61. Lincoln and his party were labeled the Black Republicans for a reason. It was widely believed in the South that his election meant the strangling of slavery, first in the territories and then in the South itself. Of course, all of this not only is reality but it makes sense. Slavery was intrinsically bound up with race and ante-bellum Southern culture and life. A perceived assault on that was a perceived assault on the core values of an entire region. Picture folks “riding to the sound of the guns” based on duties on this or that product. Awfully difficult to even communicate, let alone get the populace worked up enough to dissolve the Union. The Tariff and related elements were merely background support for the fundamental issue. As I also keep saying, I think that the Commissioners were honest and sincere and that they chose what they felt was the most persuasive argument. It was slavery.

      • Al Mackey October 7, 2014 / 3:16 pm

        “how was the issue of “slavery” able to fracture the Democrat majority?”

        A number of factors:
        – Democrat Stephen A. Douglas was deemed unsound on the slavery question.
        – A significant number of Northerners were just tired of the Slaveocracy demanding obedience.
        – The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 meant Northerners couldn’t ignore the slavery issue. It demanded that Northerners become slave catchers, too.

        “And how did the Republicans’ minority popular vote victory in the Presidential race bring on a secessionist panic?”

        Read what the secessionists had to say about it. They feared the loss of slavery.

        ” Had Lincoln promised to free the slaves? No. Had he or the majority of the Republicans even hinted at social equality for free blacks, North and South? No. On the contrary, he had promised to support a Constitutional amendment that would confirm slaveholders’ rights and talked about how the darkies might all be shipped abroad. It becomes harder and harder to believe that Lincoln and the Republican Party’s positions on “slavery” were any closer to abolitionist than Middle Border Democrats were. Then, what was all the Southerners’ panic about?”

        Read what the secessionists had to say about it. They believed Lincoln, despite what he claimed, meant to abolish slavery. They believed Lincoln, despite what he claimed, meant to give equal rights to African-Americans.

        You’ve completely misread what the Georgians said in the Declaration of Causes.

        Henry Benning boils it down for you in his speech to the Virginia Secession Convention: “What was the reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secession? This reason may be summed up in one single proposition. It was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia, that a separation from the North-was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery.”

    • Jimmy Dick October 6, 2014 / 4:26 pm

      Mike, you are trying to take this tariff and make it bigger than it appears. Do a word search in the declaration of secession for the states. Slavery dominates them. The tariff is barely mentioned. Now you’re trying to twist words and that will simply not do. The facts are plain. The secession was over slavery, not the tariff. The Morrill Tariff was bottled up in committee. It could not get out.

      Please note the North fared quite well without collecting any tariffs from the South from 1861 to 1865. That is because the tariff was mostly paid in the North, not the South. New York City saw ten times more tariff revenue in 1859 than every tariff collection point in the 11 states that seceded combined. They did not need the southern states and the tariff.

      The tariff was a non-factor for the Civil War. That is the flat out truth.

      • Ray Shield October 7, 2014 / 4:33 pm

        “The tariff was a non-factor in the Civil War.”

        Then why did the Confederate Constitution outlaw a *protective* tarrif?

        • E.A. Mayer October 7, 2014 / 7:06 pm

          What exactly is a protective tariff? How do you tell a protective from a non protective tariff? Why different rates for different items if protection wasn’t a consideration? The CSA was just setting itself up for many legal conundrums. One man’s revenue is another’s protection. And you do realize that the per-capita tariff payment would have gone up for the CSA citizen under its schedule as then all the items they bought from the North would then be subject to its tariff?

        • Al Mackey October 8, 2014 / 3:04 pm

          The confederate constitution also limited their president to a single 6-year term. Are you going to claim that term limits for presidents was a factor in the Civil War?

          • E.A. Mayer October 8, 2014 / 4:32 pm

            Great point. I couldn’t help think though, that; wouldn’t you love to have seen what would have happened had the Confederacy had to hold a national election as did the Union? I guess in that sense, and in that sense alone, the six year term was a factor in the war, but as you indicate, certainly not secession or bringing on the war.

        • John Foskett October 9, 2014 / 7:41 am

          Because as a constitution it covered a whole slew of items which weren’t necessarily the driving/primary motivation for secession. The Confederate Constitution allowed the states to tax ships, which is barred by the U.S. Maybe that was the real reason for secession, eh……..

          • Jimmy Dick October 9, 2014 / 10:19 am

            It didn’t allow foreigners the right to vote at any point no matter how long they were in the country.

  7. Christopher Shelley October 6, 2014 / 1:14 pm

    “The four Upper South states **rejected** secession when the main issues were slavery and the tariff.”

    Yes–they rejected secession because of the low percentage of slaves in the population. In the Lower South, those seceding states had black populations mostly in the 40% range, and in two cases, over 50% (a black majority).

    In the Upper South, where black populations were substantial, but not huge, those states waited for secession, and really only left when Lincoln called for volunteers to put down the insurrection.

    The Border states, where percentages of blacks never got out of the teens, never seceded.

    This correlation is crucial to understanding secession. Michael Griffith has left it completely out of his calculations. I offer this graph, put together my Michael Rogers:

    And, if you’re wondering about Texas, Andy Hall made this comment:

    “Texas’ slave population was smaller than that of the other Deep South states, but it was virulently committed to slaveholding. The population of enslaved persons in Texas tripled in the decade between the censuses of 1850 and 1860, largely because of white settlers relocating from other parts of the South to Texas, where good land was plentiful and cheap, and the prospect of rising into the planter class was better than in long-settled areas further east. At the same time, Texas was very hostile to free African Americans; their numbers were exceedingly small, and actually decreased between 1850 and 1860.

    “Here are two more charts that illustrate the connection between slaveholding and secession. Both show the order of secession of states going from left to right, beginning with South Carolina. This shows the proportion of individual slaveholders:

    And this shows enslaved persons as part of the total population:

    “In both cases, you can see that the (generally speaking), those states with the highest concentration of slaveholding seceded first.”

    The overall point here is that the fear of abolition was part economic and part pure vitriolic racism–Southern plantation owners (and others) feared black equality as much as they feared the end of slave labor.

      • Ken Noe October 7, 2014 / 9:58 am

        The Whig Fillmore wrote the “Black Tariff” of 1842, which Polk and the Democrats (both northern and southern) overturned in 1846 with the Walker Tariff. So in 1850 Fillmore still preferred his party’s approach and so got in a few digs at the Democrats. I’m not sure what that says about secession a decade later, though. If anything, it reaffirms the standard point that the tariff issue peaked in the mid-1840s before war, the expansion of slavery, and nativism superseded it. Fillmore, after all, ran in 1852 as a Know-Nothing. The essential fact remains that in 1860 and 1861 the secessionists said much more about the Republican threat to slavery than their tariff plans.

    • John Foskett October 7, 2014 / 10:24 am

      Moreover, at least in North Carolina the initial resistance to secession resulted in part from a disagreement between secessionists and unionists over which was the more likely to harm slavery in the end. Protecting slavery was actually used by anti-secession forces to defeat the original foray.

      • Ken Noe October 7, 2014 / 1:18 pm

        Deep South Cooperationists and Upper South Conditional Unionists generally argued that secession and war endangered slavery more than remaining under the Constitution in the Union, unless Lincoln showed his hand as an abolitionist. In Georgia, much cited already in this thread, Aleck Stephens especially made that his theme.

    • Stefan Jovanovich October 10, 2014 / 5:04 am

      Christopher Shelley’s evidence is irrefutable. So, I think, is his conclusion. The slave-holding aristocrats (their self-assessment, not mine) also feared the presumptions towards equality of the white immigrants. Other than slaves, the greatest regional disparity in the 1860 Census data is in the percentages of native born Americans.

      • John Foskett October 10, 2014 / 10:37 am

        I must have missed this in the “conclusion” you say that Christopher has reached: “the presumptions towards equality of the white immigrants”. Where on earth was that going on in 1860-61? Even in the North, there was a great deal of prejudice against the waves of (primarily) German and then Irish immigrants, none of whom who were ending up in, or even headed for, the states in the Confederacy in any remotely meaningful numbers – for a host of reasons. Nativism hadn’t truly departed the North by this point. I’d wager that it was even less a factor in secession than the Tariff indisputably was (not).

      • E.A. Mayer October 10, 2014 / 11:03 am

        Slave holding aristocrats feared the presumptions of ANY equality, even of he lower class native whites, but neither of those is why they seceded.

  8. E.A. Mayer October 6, 2014 / 4:56 pm

    Saying the war was fought over “Southern independence” is as meaningless as saying it was fought for “states rights”. Both statements lack analysis of what was motivating the claimants of those rights and claims of coercion. The reason for the independence was the protection of slavery. The independence itself was a only a means to achieve that goal, they didn’t wake up one morning and just say well let’s be independent for no reason, they wanted independence because they felt slavery; and therefore their destiny and entire social order, was under threat, and they said that over and over again. Equally, the ‘coercion’ argument was invalid then and it is invalid now. The upper Southern states had no problem when it was the Northern states being forcibly coerced because of their opposition to the fugitive laws. The South didn’t threaten to secede to when it was Northern states that were being ‘coerced’ by the South. The upper Southern states didn’t threaten to secede when the Confederacy called up 100,000 troops BEFORE Lincoln’s call. Troops which were to be used to coerce the legal federal power and Unionist Southern citizens, steal federal property and attack its installations. The upper Southern states, given their position and economic ties to the North were more reluctant and at first looked to compromise, but when it was clear that a choice had to be made to side with or against the slave states and slavery, they chose slavery because of slavery, not ‘coercion’. The ‘coercion’ argument must be seen for what it is; merely a preemptive form of the states’ rights/states sovereignty justification; and: “Of all these interpretations, the state’s rights argument is the weakest. It fails to ask the question, state’s rights for what purpose? States rights and sovereignty, was always more a means than an end, an instrument to achieve a certain goal more than a principle. … In the Antebellum South, the purpose of asserting state sovereignty was to protect slavery.” James McPherson “This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War,” p7

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