Tariffs North vs South

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Robin Lesjovitch

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Tariffs as a cause of war makes some sense. But the Midwest states had been adamant about free trade on the Mississippi since the admission of Louisiana. Further Davis administered a toxic rebuke to the shipping companies in New York and Boston when he began to issue Letters of Marque. These things all combined to force a blockade and for foreign countries to limit the rights of the Confederate raiders. Hard to crew a Confederate raider if the crew cannot sell the captures except by taking them into a blockaded port.
If we keep the cart and the horse in their proper places, this is not so difficult.
The Morrill Tariff was signed into law right before Lincoln took office. It significantly raised tariff rates and could not have passed Congress but for the absent Southern opposition; the Confederacy was being formed at the same time. This was not a cause of secession.
Shortly after this the now formed Confederacy declared for free trade on the Mississippi, and retained a revenue tariff similar to the one in place in the US at the time of secession.
There is at this point no war.
The 1860 Republican Platform declared for Protectionism. US manufactured goods will now have to complete in the Confederacy on an even basis with overseas products. The point of protectionism was that US goods were not competitive. If the Confederacy stands, US manufacturers lose market share, and US wholesalers import fewer goods, decreasing Federal revenue. I can think of no more compelling reasons for Lincoln to take aggressive action against secession. Blockades, commerce raiding, smuggling, all this comes after war starts.
Most public figures were cloaking their intentions with mysticism, invocations of morality and so forth, but, this was about economics.
Lincoln chose war, but in a way that began a conflict he might well have lost.
 

wausaubob

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Once you have secession, than administering the only tax system the country has becomes a matter of blockades, and freeing navigation of the Mississippi. Without free navigation, the railroads don't have to compete for bulk cargoes. Once their is secession, the Confederates can offer a tariff discount to the British, and people in New York begin to see how that would work. That kicks off the small aggressive acts, especially in Charleston, S.C. The war progression begins. That is consistent with Missouri and Kentucky being conservative about joining the Confederate tariff system: the don't have an ocean port. Similarly with Tennessee. As the United States recovers control of the Mississippi and its tributaries, Tennessee also loses connection to the Confederate port of New Orleans.
The war expands with an essentially British inspired plan of blocking any direct imports from Britain. Smuggling from New York to the South becomes a roundabout process and the attempt of the Confederates to undercut the US is thwarted. Any low density cargo like railroad iron is too costly too ship on the narrow, shallow draft blockage runners.
 

Robin Lesjovitch

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If we keep the cart and the horse in their proper places, this is not so difficult.
The Morrill Tariff was signed into law right before Lincoln took office. It significantly raised tariff rates and could not have passed Congress but for the absent Southern opposition; the Confederacy was being formed at the same time. This was not a cause of secession.
Shortly after this the now formed Confederacy declared for free trade on the Mississippi, and retained a revenue tariff similar to the one in place in the US at the time of secession.
There is at this point no war.
The 1860 Republican Platform declared for Protectionism. US manufactured goods will now have to complete in the Confederacy on an even basis with overseas products. The point of protectionism was that US goods were not competitive. If the Confederacy stands, US manufacturers lose market share, and US wholesalers import fewer goods, decreasing Federal revenue. I can think of no more compelling reasons for Lincoln to take aggressive action against secession. Blockades, commerce raiding, smuggling, all this comes after war starts.
Most public figures were cloaking their intentions with mysticism, invocations of morality and so forth, but, this was about economics.
Lincoln chose war, but in a way that began a conflict he might well have lost.
i will invite anyone interested in tariffs as a war cause to read this from The New York Times, which was the principle Republican organ of the time:
https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1861/03/26/80263349.pdf

This editorial was written after secession and creation of the CSA, but before war.
 
Last edited:
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O' Be Joyful

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AH..hah, found it:

05disunion-johnbull-blog427.jpg


(snip)

Assuming this to be true, Mill asked, then “what are the Southern chiefs fighting about? Their apologists in England say that it is about tariffs, and similar trumpery.” Yet, Mill noted, the Southerners themselves “say nothing of the kind. They tell the world … that the object of the fight was slavery. … Slavery alone was thought of, alone talked of … the South separated on slavery, and proclaimed slavery as the one cause of separation.”
Mill concluded with a prediction that the Civil War would soon placate the abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic. That, as the war progressed, “the contest would become distinctly an anti-slavery one,” and the tariff fable finally forgotten.
-------------------------------------------------
(snip: bold is mine)
And so, two years after the Morrill Tariff’s March 1861 passage, Northern antislavery advocates had finally exploded the transatlantic tariff myth. Goldwin Smith, a radical English abolitionist and Oxford professor, afterward explained the initial British acceptance of the tariff lie to his Boston audience in 1865: “Had you been able to say plainly at the outset that you were fighting against Slavery, the English people would scarcely have … been brought to believe that this great contest was only about a Tariff.” Over the years, Smith had “heard the Tariff Theory called the most successful lie in history,” he said. “Very successful it certainly was, and its influence in misleading England ought not to be overlooked.”
Full article:​
 

MattL

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I am very confused about the tariff issue and would like a good analysis of this issue. I was reading something from a participant in a debate about tariffs and he wrote this:

"Hamilton's protectionist tariff system entirely protected the North, which got about 70% of the money, at the expense of the South, which paid 80% of the tariffs. This reinforced the problem of the federal assumption of debts, which mainly had been debts owed by Northern states with the money coming from Northern banks and going to Northern industrialists. On top of that almost all of the country's banks were Northern, so there was a private debt flow to the North, and so on."

I posted the article by Andy Hall on DeadConferates refuting Walter Williams article on tariffs and the originalparticipant responded with this:

"The claim isn't that Southern ports collected 75% of the tariffs, but that Southern consumers paid 80% of the tariffs. It doesn't matter where the products entered the country.

Indeed, part of the protectionist scheme made it illegal for European ships to travel from one coastal city to another. So, they would quite often deliver goods to a closer Northern port and pay the tariffs at that point. Then "protected" American ships would carry the products down the coast and sell them in Southern ports at a monopoly markup. That's in addition to the actual tariffs.

Northerners did very little importing and even less exporting. Southerners could not use the European currency they got by exporting cotton unless they also imported products from Europe, so they were made economically dependent on the North."

Something else that I noticed is that by doing a yahoo search that Benjamin F Grady's "The Case of the South Against the North" has never been discussed on this forum. This forum discusses a lot of authors but he has never been discussed. This is an article he posted from his website and would like people to read it:

http://savingcommunities.org/docs/grady.benjaminf/caseagainstnorth13.html

I said there more more consumers in the North and bore more of the cost and he said this:


"There were more consumers in the North, but the items that were tariffed were consumed in the South. The North did not consume *any* raw materials for manufacturing, as the North was rich in them, and Northern industries were protected by the tariff.

You are spouting... propaganda masquerading as history."


While I cannot write everything that I said, I responded that manufactured goods benefited from tariffs than raw materials and foreign-flagged ships could not carry goods from one US port to another, giving a monopoly on US-to-US coastal shipping to American vessels. He had this response:

"All American ships were built in New England. The prohibition against competition from European-built ships conferred a monopoly on New England ship builders at the expense of consumers generally, but this was a net transfer of wealth to New England. So were fishing bounties paid for from tariffs.

The argument that granting a monopoly to New England shippers at the expense of American consumers created a benefit to the country is specious.

Tariffs on imported cotton and tobacco are irrelevant, as we did not import these things at all.

Even your own arguments show that tariffs benefited New England at the expense of the South (and West). You wrote,

"Before Ft. Sumter, representatives of that Confederacy visited Richmond to talk to the Secession Convention, offering a protective tariff to make Virginia 'the New England of the Confederacy.' "

Doesn't that tell you that the tariffs protected New England? How did you manage to even write that without realizing what it meant?

When I write that debt-money contributed to secession, I'm not citing some revisionist historian; I'm citing Thomas Jefferson predicting secession 65 years before the Civil War took place. When I write about tariffs leading to secession, I'm citing the federal government's mobilization of troops to enforce the 1928 "Tariff of Abominations" that South Carolina had refused to collect in, and that precipitated federal actions to invade South Carolina, arrest the elected officials and impose marshal law.

Even Georgia's Declaration of Secession spelled out the argument that the North adopted the slavery issue as a cover for its plundering the South:

"The material prosperity of the North was greatly dependent on the Federal Government; that of the the South not at all. In the first years of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade. Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury, and the Government now pays above $2,000,000 annually for the support of these objects. These interests, in connection with the commercial and manufacturing classes, have also succeeded, by means of subventions to mail steamers and the reduction in postage, in relieving their business from the payment of about $7,000,000 annually, throwing it upon the public Treasury under the name of postal deficiency. The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors. This interest was confined mainly to the Eastern and Middle non-slave-holding States. Wielding these great States it held great power and influence, and its demands were in full proportion to its power. The manufacturers and miners wisely based their demands upon special facts and reasons rather than upon general principles, and thereby mollified much of the opposition of the opposing interest. They pleaded in their favor the infancy of their business in this country, the scarcity of labor and capital, the hostile legislation of other countries toward them, the great necessity of their fabrics in the time of war, and the necessity of high duties to pay the debt incurred in our war for independence. These reasons prevailed, and they received for many years enormous bounties by the general acquiescence of the whole country.

"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."

I would like good analysis of this comments. Would like people's comments about the essay by Benjamin F Grady that I posted. Was there a monopoly markup at Southern Ports in addition to actual tariffs? Did the North do very little importing and even less exporting? Moreover, his comments about... propaganda as history?

These are not the only questions I want answered but other responses he brought up. I know the people on Civil War Talk are very knowledgeable and their expertise would be welcomed by me since I am a novice of the war. I tend to think the tariff issue is somewhat overstated but would welcome the expertise of more educated people on here.
Edited.
I can't promise this is a good analysis. But...
The tariff rates were the lowest in the 1850s then they had ever been. Secessionists, as in Georgia, specifically states that the tariff issue was irrelevant.

Another who uses the label of "libertarian" and "Marxist" when discussing this issue: its a red flag. I personally never give a thought about the tariff because its irrelevant to secession, and is usually driven by:
a. ideology. Modern ideology.
b. The relentless hunt to find another reason the South seceded besides the one they actually stated was their reason. Because, man, has that reason not held up.

The South did enjoy tariff protection, such as the tariff on sugar.

The slave states did enjoy an absolute ban on the Atlantic slave trade, which boosted the value of their slaves and was an absolute boon for states like Virginia, whose most valuable crop was black colored human beings. They didn't have to compete with cheap imported slaves.

How is it possible that the South consumed 80% of tariffed goods? With less than half the population of the North, and over a third of that enslaved people who didn't have much in the way of income to buy anything, let alone imported goods. How is that possible? Where does that percentage come from?

Coasting sea trade was restricted to American citizens. That's not the same as a monopoly. Because multiple shipping companies competed for coasting trade, includes ones from the South, which also benefited from this. And I won't mention railroads because, why bother.

If you want to explore Mr. Grady's writings on the tariffs, go ahead. If he has a book, post the Book Review section. We have had a some excellent discussions with extended reviews on books. If not, try the "Secession and Politics" forum.
Pretty much this.

People aren't arguing that there weren't tariffs that benefited the North vs the South. Various legislation, policy, and general governance benefited various economic factions. The fugitive slave law infringed on State's rights (and individual rights) to benefit the slave economic interests.

The greater point is that as my fellow Matt pointed out that in the 1850s before the Civil War tariffs were actually quite low. The Tariff of 1857 was the law of the land during secession and was a large reduction in tariffs that benefited the South greatly. There had in fact been previous decades of high tariff tensions. The South had won that.

Next you might hear someone bring up the Morrill Tariff of 1861 that screwed the South. Except it passed after the South seceded and left Congress, if the South remained they would've had the votes to prevent it from passing. Often people confuse cause and effect here. The Morrill Tariff was caused be secession, not the cause of secession (I mean the dates alone tell you the truth).

Secession of 1860/61 was over Lincoln's election and the victories of the "Black Republicans." The threat (as you can see consistently in the various messaging) that required such a dramatic response was to slavery, not tariffs. Yes they cared about tariffs and they remembered when they had felt they were screwed over with tariffs, that was not the eminent threat and cause.
 
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