The rapid loss of political influence in the 1850's led to secession.

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The South did not participate in a major way in the rapid rise of immigration which began in 1840 and accelerated in the 1850's. Non native born percentages as low as 1 or 2 % existed in some southern states by 1860, while some northern states had %'s as high as 25-35%.
This meant that the northern states were gaining electoral power based on both natural increase and immigration.
But in the South, most of the working class consisted of disenfranchised African-Americans. Under the taxation compromise adopted at the time of the Constitution, these people counted on as 3/5ths of a citizen for taxation and electoral purposes.
That means the South was losing about 4/10ths times 2/5ths of its growth at apportionment time.
The South was growing more slowly than the North, and was not getting the full advantage of its growth.

The move toward secession gained momentum after 1850, at the same time the anti-immigrant Know Nothing party made a brief appearance. Both Southerners and Know Nothing advocates were aggrieved by the fact that immigrant families and communities were changing the make up of the United States, and generally adding a further egalitarian substance to the ideals of freedom.

But the final push came when the Southern fire eaters isolated Stephen A. Douglas from their wing of the party and the 1860 presidential election gave a fair reading of the strengths of the various regional parties.
In that test it was demonstrated the South was going to have to function as a subservient part of the Democratic party from that point onward. Once the loss of political power, from the time of Andrew Jackson and James Polk, to the time of Abraham Lincoln, was demonstrated, the deep South states seceded.

Did they feel oppressed? Sure. They had been politically dominant, and in 1860 they were not dominant and the loss of power was due to trends that were accelerating.

Although the Civil War partially solved this problem, by counting all citizens of the South as whole persons,
the list of Southern presidents is a list of special circumstances.

Slavery, by itself, could not have caused the Civil War. Slavery could be modified and abolition could be gradual. The problem was that the Northern states had the power to impose a solution on states which had a very high percentage of slaves, and those states were going to be the most impacted by the solution with having only partial control over how that process was going to take place.
 
Last edited:

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
1. Slavery was going to barred from the territories.
2. The Fugitive Slave Act would have been de-federalized.
3. The custom of not separating families at sale would become mandatory, though enforcement would be difficult.
4. Debate would begin on a 25 year plan for emancipation.
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
Nativist and the American Party had strong roots in the North. The American Party were disenfranchised Whigs who became Republicans. Strong element in MA and WI. Protective Tarrifs gained favor after the Financial Panic of 57. Protective Tarrifs were pitched as a protection of American Free Labor from European cheap labor made products. South favored Free Trade because they imported more than the North. North had bread riots after the Panic. Unemployment skyrocketed especially in the Iron mills in PA. Republicans were able to define Free Trade as part of the Slave Power. PA supported Protective Tarrifs which turned the State Republican. Protective Tarrifs were instrumental in coalescing the Americans and Republicans. Protective Tarrifs were anti Foreign Labor. So, not all Race and Bigotry were Southern.

Yep, 3/4 of the White Population lived out of the South. About 98 percent of Blacks lived n the South. The Majority were going to write the Minority out one way or another. Northeners were anti Black and had become anti Southern. The Federal Government was being viewed as Yankee. Pretty easy to see why the South Succeeded.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

CSA Today

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Dec 3, 2011
Location
Laurinburg NC
Nativist and the American Party had strong roots in the North. The American Party were disenfranchised Whigs who became Republicans. Strong element in MA and WI. Protective Tarrifs gained favor after the Financial Panic of 57. Protective Tarrifs were pitched as a protection of American Free Labor from European cheap labor made products. South favored Free Trade because they imported more than the North. North had bread riots after the Panic. Unemployment skyrocketed especially in the Iron mills in PA. Republicans were able to define Free Trade as part of the Slave Power. PA supported Protective Tarrifs which turned the State Republican. Protective Tarrifs were instrumental in coalescing the Americans and Republicans. Protective Tarrifs were anti Foreign Labor. So, not all Race and Bigotry were Southern.

Yep, 3/4 of the White Population lived out of the South. About 98 percent of Blacks lived n the South. The Majority were going to write the Minority out one way or another. Northeners were anti Black and had become anti Southern. The Federal Government was being viewed as Yankee. Pretty easy to see why the South Succeeded.
Excellent commentary.
 

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Tariffs were one of the very few revenue powers of the federal government. If South Carolina and the rest of the deep south have a veto power over tariffs, because of the threat of secession, than the federal government is very weak.
A sovereign with an orb and sceptor, but no power to tax or raise an army is a mere figurehead.
The United States rejected that formulation at the time of the Constitution, and it implemented that rejection during the complex process of building a navy and negotiating lower annuities paid to the Barbary States, to protect U.S. shipping in the Mediterranean.
 

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The secessionist states did not view the North as anti-Southern when the annexation of Texas or the Mexican War were the issues.
They did not take that view until slavery did not make the jump to Oregon and California, or to Kansas.
But slavery had already been eliminated in Mexico, and in British North America and slavery in the United States did not have the demographic power to control politics in Kansas, and was not even dominant in Missouri, which is the one state Douglas won in 1860.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The secessionists wanted to form a new country, similar to Brazil, which would not have to compromise with the United States.
They did not evaluate in a realistic way how vulnerable that country would be to any downturn in the world textile economy. They did not have a viable merchant marine and they did not consider how long the banks in London and New York would continue to bet on the Southern economy, based on economic system that was not viewed as stable.
 

uaskme

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Nov 9, 2016
Location
SE Tennessee
The North didn't realize the importance of the Lower Souths Economy until they Succeeded. The North and West didn't bounce back as quickly as the South did during The Crisis of 1857. Because of European demand for Cotton the South recovered quickly. The ending of the Crimean War ended much of the Foodstuff demand from the West. North was contending with labor unrest. So, when the Lower South Succeeded it easily plunged the North back into a depression. A few months of this and the North figured out the importance of the Southern Economy. It wasn't all about Cotton. The South bought a lot of stuff from the North. It is all History.

The Study of Economics was in its Infancy. Neither side fully understood is relevance.
 

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The secessionist lost power in the larger nation, the United States. They attempted to form a smaller country in which they did have power.
That smaller country was still going to have to deal with the fact that the most powerful mercantile and financial nation in the world was the British Empire, which had consistently had pursued an expensive and successful anti-slavery policy for 50 years.
Even after secession, the most powerful country in the western hemisphere was the United States.
Being independent is fine, but they still have to contend for a place in the world, and being a satellite state of France is not an attractive proposition.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
That is a great rhetorical flourish, "the North was plunged back into a depression." But I think the war put that depression to the test, and the economic means to build and deploy navies was not seriously jeopardized.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
The secessionist lost power in the larger nation, the United States. They attempted to form a smaller country in which they did have power.
That smaller country was still going to have to deal with the fact that the most powerful mercantile and financial nation in the world was the British Empire, which had consistently had pursued an expensive and successful anti-slavery policy for 50 years.
Even after secession, the most powerful country in the western hemisphere was the United States.
Being independent is fine, but they still have to contend for a place in the world, and being a satellite state of France is not an attractive proposition.
Secessionist/Confederate dreams in 1860-61 included expansion into Cuba, Mexico, Central America and across the United States to the Pacific. This would have brought them into conflict with the US, Britain, France (maybe), Spain and Mexico. Maybe the Dutch as well. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if the Civil War hadn't broken out in 1861 and the Confederates had actually managed to get started on that road before the US went to war with them. It would not have been pretty.

In the South America in 1860, the Empire of Brazil was the dominant power in the 1850s after the Platine War (1851-52) around Uruguay. The prominence of Brazil didn't bother the British a bit when they got tired of decades of broken Brazilian promises to end the slave trade in 1849-50. The British beefed up their squadron down there and took action to tighten the blockade in the 2nd half of 1849, then started entering Brazilian harbors in April 1850 to capture or destroy slave ships (this involved navy cutting-out expeditions, warships shelling a fort or two, and Marines landing to stave off attempts to interfere). Brazilian outrage accomplished nothing. By September 1850 the Brazilians decided they might as well knuckle under and honor the promises they had been making for 20 years, since they clearly could not keep the British off.

As noted, the Brazilians then fought their neighbors (an Argentina/Uruguay/Brazilian mix) and won handily in 1851-52. Fighting the British was a big step up in weight-class. The Confederates would have found out more or less the same thing if they'd tried to venture off-shore to Cuba and Central America. They could be regionally powerful on land, but still secondary to the US. They did not have the industrial base, the naval infrastructure, or the trained manpower to try to go up against the Royal Navy in any serious way.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
The Confederacy had a natural ally in France.
Other than that, they would have found themselves at odds with the British Empire. Given time, the British would have organized enough cotton production around the globe to impose an embargo. One part of the embargo might have been buying from alternative sources, but another part could have been a blockade.
The United States, if free from Southern influence, would have been aligned with republican forces in Mexico.
Spain would have been aligned against France, in favor of Mexico, and against the Confederacy.
The yet to be organized German federation, dominated by Prussia, might well have held the balance of power.
Because of the prevalence of German immigrants in the northern states, with places like Milwaukee and Cincinnati having an undiluted German culture, Germany would have commercially and financially aligned with the United States.
Secession solves one problem, the South does not have to make political bargains with Washington, as part of the United States.
But after secession it has to deal with the United States and Britain as foreign countries, who have navies and vigorous banking systems, and neither one of which thinks the slave system is stable going forward.
The problem with slavery, which the South did not want to admit, was that slavery was a feature of the Roman Empire, was promoted by African tribal kings, profited Muslim middlemen, and was practiced by the Muslim states of north Africa, against Caucasians and sub-Sahara Africans.
 

trice

Lt. Colonel
Joined
May 2, 2006
But the final push came when the Southern fire eaters isolated Stephen A. Douglas from their wing of the party and the 1860 presidential election gave a fair reading of the strengths of the various regional parties.
This is a result of deliberate action by the Fire-Eaters -- but their goal was to use the election of a "Black Republican" (any Republican, no one thought it would be Lincoln) as a trigger to get the rest of "the South" to secede. I have no idea why the rest the leadership of "the South" let them get away with it, but it is clear that this is what Fire-Eater leaders like Rhett, Yancy, Pollard, Ruffin and Pryor were aiming for and discussing from 1858 on.

In that test it was demonstrated the South was going to have to function as a subservient part of the Democratic party from that point onward. Once the loss of political power, from the time of Andrew Jackson and James Polk, to the time of Abraham Lincoln, was demonstrated, the deep South states seceded.
I think this is over-stated. 'The South" could have remained the dominant part of the Democratic Party just by following the formula that worked in 1852 and 1856: a "solid South" voting block married to a "dough-faced" Northerner. Arguably, Lincoln would have then lost California(4), Oregon(3) and maybe 1 or 2 of the 4 NJ Electoral votes he got. Combine all the opposition vote for Douglas-Breckinridge-Bell into one candidate (Douglas) and you are looking at Lincoln 172 and Douglas 161 with Illinois (11) and Indiana (13) up for grabs. Take either one of those and Douglas wins.

Lincoln took Illinois (50.7%) and Indiana (51.1%). Douglas decided Lincoln would win in early October and no longer campaigned in "the North". He went to "the South" to try to work on maintaining the Union instead of pushing for his own election. With a united Democratic Party, he would have fought harder in the battleground states of "the North". Both Illinois and Indiana would probably have been balanced on a knife's edge in that case.

The other bug-a-boo in here is the Morrill Tariff. Republicans stressed this in northern NJ (split 4-3 for Lincoln) and Pennsylvania (27), not much elsewhere. That was because PA and northern NJ were badly affected by British dumping in the import market after the end of the Crimean War, particularly on iron and steel. A little flexibility on the Tariff would have helped the Democrats here.

If the Democrats had united and fought hard, they might have won in 1860. Lincoln might have made it to the Senate in 1864 (his original goal).

Did they feel oppressed? Sure. They had been politically dominant, and in 1860 they were not dominant and the loss of power was due to trends that were accelerating.

Although the Civil War partially solved this problem, by counting all citizens of the South as whole persons,
the list of Southern presidents is a list of special circumstances.
I am sure that some of them did "feel oppressed". There is a big difference between feeling oppressed and actually being oppressed. I have never seen any evidence to make me think the feeling of "the South" was actually justified by real events.

Slavery, by itself, could not have caused the Civil War. Slavery could be modified and abolition could be gradual. The problem was that the Northern states had the power to impose a solution on states which had a very high percentage of slaves, and those states were going to be the most impacted by the solution with having only partial control over how that process was going to take place.
I think secession was about 95% about slavery in one way or another.

In 1860, "the North" (as in "the rest of the country") did not have the power to impose a solution on "the South". Despite all the controversy, I suspect "the North" would have been happy enough to go forward as-is if "the South" had simply abided by the Compromise of 1850, the Compromise of 1820, the Northwest Territory Act of 1787-89, and the 70 years of accommodations and traditions that had developed. The problem was that "the South" wanted to roll those back (Kansas-Nebraska Act, Dred Scott, Fugitive Slave Act of 1850) and/or expand slavery (filibustering into Cuba, Mexico, Central America, etc.)

Left to go on without all that, without secession and the Civil War, negotiating between the parts of one country, it would have taken decades to eliminate slavery. It would probably have been done gradually and it might have ended before or after 1900. I think, however, "the South" was ill-served in that day by a bad batch of politicians who were not up to the task. The men who would later make the "Solid South" a major power in Congress would have been more capable of handling this. The Fire-Eaters and the men who ran the Confederate government botched things up for "the South".
 

DaveGberg

Corporal
Joined
Jun 1, 2017
Location
West Springfield, VA
Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if the Civil War hadn't broken out in 1861 and the Confederates had actually managed to get started on that road before the US went to war with them. It would not have been pretty.
My speculation is that it would have been very ugly, probably leading to a much thornier war between the US and the CSA. California might have been tempted to secede, and the remaining border states as well. And if that happened the CSA border states might felt better aligned with Maryland and Kentucky. The whole thing could have devolved into some kind of early Balkanization. There's the possibility of land grabs for open territory and border disputes as slaves tried to cross into the US.

Then there's France, England and Spain perturbing everything as they tried flexing their influence on these shape-shifting nation-states as well as the adventurism that you describe above, which wouldn't be limited to the CSA alone.

As you said, not pretty. I sure am glad it didn't happen.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Your adding a lot of nuances, which is fine. The one thing I disagree with is that the South could have found another dough face, and hid that identity from the Northern Voters. Stephen A. Douglas had split from the South over Kansas, not out of any distaste for slavery, but just to survive. It is that split which made him competitive in Illinois and Indiana and in the far West.
I should have said that the 1860 election made it appear that the Republicans could impose a solution, based on demonstrated power, and the trends running in their favor. Since they had established themselves as an equal contender in national politics, and now had the patronage power in their hands, the fire-eaters had a strong argument that there was an immediate danger to slavery. I agree it was not a correct argument, but it was not easy to argue the rebuttal.
For a party that had only been in existence for 8 years, running a political unknown, against the master of compromise politics, Stephen A. Douglas, the Little Giant, it was a tremendous demonstration of strength.
 

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
In order for political support for slavery to collapse, the Republicans had to weaken slavery in 6 of the remaining 15 slave states and cause a sell off to the South and West, which was already partly in progress.
Delaware, Maryland, Missouri, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee were the states to target.
Certainly, without secession, Abraham Lincoln could be patient.
 

KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
1. Slavery was going to barred from the territories.
2. The Fugitive Slave Act would have been de-federalized.
3. The custom of not separating families at sale would become mandatory, though enforcement would be difficult.
4. Debate would begin on a 25 year plan for emancipation.
Were these options actually on the table at the time, or are these just your suggestions?

They're good suggestions if anyone at the time had cared to consider them. But my recollection is that they didn't. Lincoln offered partial federal monetary compensation to slaveholders at least a couple of times, and he was roundly and soundly rejected.

As to the territories, it was the efforts of people to not have slavery imposed on their nascent states that caused the war!

I'm afraid compromise was impossible because the South refused it.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

wausaubob

Major
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Just suggestions.
The Fugitive Slave Act had the unfortunate consequence of making escaped slaves and the status of freedmen national.
It created a reasonable argument that the end result was going to be a total slave nation.
But the Democrats did not stop there, but re-opened the expansion of slavery issue with the Nebraska Act, and then the Dred Scott nonsense.
The Democrats treated the anti-slavery movement as it was limited to the Northeast, but by treating the anti-slavery westerners as if they were dumb, only prodded a sleeping giant.
As Trice mentioned above, had the Southerners actually engaged in politics, and participated in negotiations for fixing the eventual end of slavery, they would have maximized their power and been able to set most of the terms of emancipation favorably to their interests.
 

MattL

Guest
Joined
Aug 20, 2015
Location
SF Bay Area
Some good points, though like trice I think you overstate the following

In that test it was demonstrated the South was going to have to function as a subservient part of the Democratic party from that point onward. Once the loss of political power, from the time of Andrew Jackson and James Polk, to the time of Abraham Lincoln, was demonstrated, the deep South states seceded.

The key to their loss in power was slavery... I always find it interesting that Confederate apologists now and then (or even non-Confederate apologists but very pro-slavery South people like Sam Houston) blame the North for the sectional politics. The irony is that they are very clearly and obviously blaming the effect and not the cause. The sectional interest was against slavery as the Southerners complained, yet very clearly slavery had always been a sectional interest since the Nations founding (even with those outside of the South somewhat involved) and had obviously and gradually been becoming more and more sectional.

Obviously politics would follow the existing sectional divide that grew wider over decades. Even further the pro-Slavery interests fighting for their sectional economic interest so vehemently very clearly drew early battle lines for politics. Basically it's ridiculous for them to complain about the other side forming up to defend itself against your already formed sectional interests you are unwilling on giving ground on.

My point in regards to this topic is that if the South had been more realistic in the fact the existing sectional interest of slavery had clearly become a deepening divide and they really needed to encourage cross-regional alliances they could have avoided their fate of decreasing influence.

Effectively this was democracy working as it should. If anything slavery had an exaggerated influence and had given the South an outsized influence due to the 3/5ths rule. Basically a non-slavery slanted democracy would have seen them lose power even earlier. If a shrinking interest doesn't create political alliances it loses power, again that's how it's supposed to work.

The most surprising thing is how fast the South jumped to secession when losing power.

In any case it was their attachment to slavery and unwillingness to concede aspects in that regard that lead to their shrinking power and secession. Yes if they weren't losing influence they wouldn't have seceded, but the reason they had lost influence was slavery and equally their fear of losing influence was protecting slavery. It all comes back to slavery and everything tied to that.
 
Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top