The Real Cause of the War

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Feb 2, 2020

jackt62

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https://medium.com/@jonathanusa/everything-you-know-about-the-civil-war-is-wrong-9e94f0118269
This is a really great article by an unbiased writer. He really breaks down the pseudo history about slavery being the primary cause. It all came down to tariffs and the fact that the north was bleeding the south dry unfairly. This was a war that was fought for Independence and self governance. I wish more people would take the time to understand this.

If the Confederacy was brought into being because it was more interested in independence and self-governance than in perpetuating a slave economy, than why did the Confederacy oppose tooth and nail until the bitter end, the movement by some southerners to enlist enslaved people with the promise of emancipation? Given that choice, and understanding that significant Black enlistment (let alone real emancipation without conditions), in the southern ranks was one of the few practical methods of potentially increasing southern manpower, why did the Confederacy essentially preclude that option until it was too little, too late?
 

Lusty Murfax

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If the Confederacy was brought into being because it was more interested in independence and self-governance than in perpetuating a slave economy, than why did the Confederacy oppose tooth and nail until the bitter end, the movement by some southerners to enlist enslaved people with the promise of emancipation? Given that choice, and understanding that significant Black enlistment (let alone real emancipation without conditions), in the southern ranks was one of the few practical methods of potentially increasing southern manpower, why did the Confederacy essentially preclude that option until it was too little, too late?
Do
 
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DanSBHawk

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The author of the article continually misunderstands what he's writing about:

"In a speech in the House of Representatives regarding the war with Mexico, Lincoln argued in favor of secession."​
If the author can't differentiate between the natural right of revolution (what Lincoln referred to) and a claimed legal right to unilateral secession, then he doesn't even understand the basic stuff about the war.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Historians who minimize antebellum sectional tariff differences should consider the vote on the avowedly protectionist First Morrill Tariff in the House of Representatives. The table below shows that the regional disagreements were extreme. Only one congressman from the eleven states that would form the Confederacy voted in favor of the bill and thirty-nine voted against it. In contrast ninety-seven congressmen from the “free” states voted in favor of it and only fifteen voted against it. The border slave states leaned slightly against the bill with ten “Nay” votes as compared to seven “Yeas.”

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Although the bill passed the House on May 10, 1860 it did not pass the Senate until February 20, 1861 by a vote of 25-to-14 after seven Southern states had seceded. But the House vote had greater implications than the Senate vote for five reasons.

First, revenue bills must originate in the House. The decisive House vote shows that it would be almost impossible for Southerners to originate a tariff bill that failed to provide the protectionist welfare desired by Northern manufactures. It also shows that Northerners would not hesitate to use their numerical advantage to dismiss the low-tariff needs of the South’s export economy. The faster growing population in the free states would only amplify the problem for Southerners in the future. In fact, tariffs on dutiable items averaged 45% for fifty-two years after the Civil War started as compared to only 19% when it began.

Second, the South’s ability to gain compromise on House revenue bills when they arrived in the Senate had been eclipsed during the 1850s. After California was admitted in 1850 the Senate balance of power tilted permanently toward the free states, with an initial edge of 16-to-15. By the start of the Civil War the balance tipped further toward the free states, 18-to-15 after Minnesota and Oregon were admitted in 1858 and 1859, respectively.

The situation grew worse when Kansas was admitted as a free state in January 1861. Even though she joined the Union after some Southern states had seceded, Kansas still would have become a state even if the seceded senators had remained. Kentucky Senator John Crittenden’s “Yea” vote would have tipped the balance in favor of Kansas statehood thereby resulting in a 19-to-15 free-to-slave state distribution. Moreover, once the Kansas senators were seated, it is doubtful that Southerners would have had the Senate votes needed to block the Morrill Tariff even if the seceded-state senators had remained.

Additionally, the four border states were not reliably opposed to protective tariffs. Excluding Missouri, the congressmen of the other three border states voted in favor of the Morrill bill, 7-to-6.

Third, the May 10, 1860 House Morrill Tariff vote was six months before Abraham Lincoln was elected President and ten months before he was inaugurated. Thus, it did not take place during the heat of a secession crisis. Since no Southern states had seceded until seven months after the vote, the region had its full voting power available in the House. It was, nonetheless, powerless to stop passage of a tariff injurious to its economic interests, or pass one out of the House compatible with those interests.

Fourth, the protectionist First Morrill Tariff provoked European cotton textile makers to seek feedstock from other countries such as Egypt, Brazil, and India instead of the American south. Normally Europeans generated the exchange credits needed to pay for Southern cotton by selling manufactured goods into the USA, but the Morrill tariff protected too many prime manufactured goods from European competition. Examples include finished products made of cotton, wool, and iron.

Although the war measures of the Southern embargo and Northern blockade also motivated Europeans to find other cotton sources, the Morrill Tariff alone was sufficient incentive even if the Southern states had not seceded. When August Belmont met with Prime Minister Lord Palmerston shortly after Sumter, Palmerston bluntly remarked: “We do not like slavery, but want cotton and do not like your Morrill Tariff.”

Fifth, anyone arguing that the South benefitted significantly from protective tariffs on sugar, rice and tobacco should note that congressmen from the producing regions voted against the Morrill Tariff. Louisiana dominated sugar production, while South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas grew rice and Virginia and North Carolina farmed tobacco. Not a single congressman from those states voted for the Morrill Tariff.

Since antebellum tariffs accounted for 90% of federal tax revenues major sectional differences were certain to be important political matters.

Since many modern Civil War historians have become social activists seeking to tear down Confederate monuments, they tend to minimize all causes of the Civil War other than slavery. Nevertheless, the initial Morrill Tariff vote in the House, as well as other evidence, indicate that the sectional economic differences were far more important than most modern historians want to admit.
 
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19thGeorgia

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The author of the article continually misunderstands what he's writing about:

"In a speech in the House of Representatives regarding the war with Mexico, Lincoln argued in favor of secession."​
If the author can't differentiate between the natural right of revolution (what Lincoln referred to) and a claimed legal right to unilateral secession, then he doesn't even understand the basic stuff about the war.
Doesn't matter. Lincoln did not use the phrase 'right of revolution.' Several southern states that left the Union did not call the process 'secession.'
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
During the past thirty years most modern historians claim that slavery was the overwhelming cause of the Civil War. They increasingly insist that the South’s opposition to protective tariffs was a minimal factor, even though such tariffs were specifically outlawed in the Confederate constitution. One outspoken historian annalist writes:

One of the most egregious of the so-called Lost Cause narratives suggests that it was not slavery, but a protective tariff that sparked the Civil War.​
On 2 March 1861, the Morrill Tariff was signed into law by outgoing Democratic President James Buchanan. . . A pernicious lie quickly formed around the tariff’s passage, a lie suggesting that somehow this tariff had caused the US Civil War. By ignoring slavery’s central role in precipitating secession and Civil War, this tariff myth has survived in the United States for more than a century and a half – and needs to be debunked once and for all.​

To begin, the annalist fails to note that antebellum tariffs accounted for about ninety percent of federal revenues, even though most of his comrades readily conceded the point. Thus, tariff policy was undeniably an important taxpayer issue to all Americans.

Beyond that, the “debunker” falls into three traps that often entangle his fellow McPherson-Blight-Foner acolytes.

First, he equates the causes of Southern secession with the causes of the Civil War. But they are not the same. The North could have let the initial seven cotton states leave in peace as many leaders such as Horace Greeley, Edwin Stanton and future President Rutherford Hayes were willing to do. There was no danger that the South would invade the North. War came only after the North decided to invade the initial seven cotton states. Thus, discovering the War’s causes requires an analysis of the North’s reasons for wanting to coerce the South back into the Union instead of the reasons the South seceded. Taken at face value, for example, it might be argued that the Federal Union chose to coerce the seven cotton states because the Federals wanted to be sure that the only slavery in North America was in the United States of America. The true goal that prompted Northerners to invade the South, however, was to avoid the economic consequences of disunion.

average_tariff_rates_in_usa_1821-2016.png


Since the Confederate constitution outlawed protective (deterrence) tariffs, her lower tariffs would confront the remaining states of the truncated Union with two consequences. First, the federal government would lose much of its tax revenue since articles imported into the Confederacy would divert tariff revenue from the North to the South. Second, and even more importantly, a low Confederate tariff would cause Southerners to buy more manufactured goods from Europe as opposed to the Northern states where prices were inflated by deterrence tariffs. While the South was part of the USA deterrence tariffs basically allowed the protected manufacturing industries of the North develop near monopolies domestically for protected products in America's three biggest faculty industries: cotton textiles, iron products and wool textiles. In 1866, for example, railroad iron sold for $80 a ton in New York but only $32 in England due to American protective tariffs. Estimates of the value of manufactured goods, shipping and trade services provided by the North to the South approximated $400 million, which was much bigger than the $54 million in total USA tariffs collected that year. *

Second, although most modern historians concede that the South traditionally opposed high tariffs, they argue that the rates were too low in 1861 to provoke a War, even if increased. Such arguments typically compare customs duties in 1860 to earlier years but ignore their steep and protracted rise during and after the War. Nonetheless, the victors’ conduct after Appomattox better reveals their true motives for militarily subjugating the South than does their dishonest rhetoric before the fighting began.

On the eve of the Civil War rates on dutiable items averaged 19% but thereafter averaged about 45% until Democrat Woodrow Wilson became President fifty years later in 1913. Although Wilson reduced rates, Republicans re-uped them after regaining control of the federal government in the 1920s. The GOP did not welcome free trade until after 1945 when the region north of the Ohio and Potomac rivers had virtually no competition anywhere since the economies of Europe and Asia had been wrecked by World War II.

Third, modern historians generally fail to consider the adverse impact of import tariffs on domestic industries that export most of their output. There is no better example than American cotton, which normally exported 75% of its crop annually when the Civil War started. The dominant buyers were Great Britain and France, which typically obtained the exchange credits needed to buy American cotton by selling finished manufacture goods to the United States. But high protective tariffs made it difficult for European manufactures to sell their goods competitively in the United States, as noted in the railroad iron example above.

That had two repercussions. One was to motivate European cotton buyers to seek new feedstock sources outside the United States. Thus, high domestic import tariffs invited other countries to compete with American cotton. Notable examples included Egypt, India and Brazil. The other result was to force Europe to buy less American cotton than otherwise thereby shrinking the market for Southern farmers.

The consequences lasted at least seventy years. When commenting upon a multiyear decline in cotton exports in 1935 Assistant Treasury Secretary Oscar Johnston wrote, “The major cause of the decline is the inability of foreign consumers to obtain American exchange [currency.]” Southern farmers needed export markets, but what they got were American tariffs that drove their exports customers to seek other sources.**

In reality, the myth that needs debunking is that the North went to war to end slavery instead of to avoid the economic consequences of disunion.

*Ira Tarbell, The Tariff in our Times, (Norwood, Mass.: Macmillan, 1911), 31
**David L. Cohn, The Life and Times of King Cotton, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956), 238
 
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DanSBHawk

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Wisconsin
Doesn't matter. Lincoln did not use the phrase 'right of revolution.' Several southern states that left the Union did not call the process 'secession.'
Yes, it does matter if people want to understand history. Lincoln said "revolutonize" and called it a sacred right. Madison also distinguished between revolution and unilateral secession.
 

19thGeorgia

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Yes, it does matter if people want to understand history. Lincoln said "revolutonize" and called it a sacred right. Madison also distinguished between revolution and unilateral secession.
Jefferson Davis in a message to Congress:
"The bill does not save the rights of aliens who were domiciled in the Confederate States at the beginning of this revolution and had already commenced the proceedings necessary to their naturalization. It would be manifest injustice to such aliens as have remained among us and have sympathized with and aided us in our struggle to cut them off from these rights, at least inchoate, and deprive them of the boon held out to them by laws to which we were assenting parties at the time they immigrated to the Confederacy."

Howell Cobb:
"In truth, gentlemen, I must refer to one remarkable characteristic of this revolution which distinguishes it from all others recorded in history. It can not be too prominently set forth, or too often considered--I mean its conservatism. Usually revolutions are the result of the excited passions of the people whose patience is exhausted, and hence their popular tendencies have too frequently degraded them into anarchy and discord. But here the people at the ballot box deliberately vote a revolution to escape from the very anarchy which they see impending and to preserve those conservative principles of the fathers of the Republic, which were fast being overwhelmed by popular fanaticism."
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Modern historians have a curious perspective on postbellum results as an indicator of wartime objectives. Specifically, they only accept such outcomes as indicators when the outcomes happen to conform to the historian’s preconceived understanding of Civil War causation. One example is the Thirteenth Amendment, which freed the slaves. Increasingly academic historians claim the Amendment was merely the formal postwar adoption of a prewar objective. After all, they argue, Lincoln said in his first inaugural: “One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended.” If slavery was “wrong,” they contend, then surely Lincoln or the Republican Party intended to end it someday. Predictably, however, they dismiss postbellum results that indicate the North was also seeking other outcomes, such as economic hegemony. Consider the case of tariffs.

One of the most convincing clues that tariffs were a prime reason Northerners chose to fight a war rather than let the seven cotton states leave in peace is evident in America’s postbellum tariff policy. The winners not only write the history, they impose their will on the defeated. Moreover, they had persistently favored protective tariffs since the beginning of the Republic seventy years earlier. New England even threatened to secede if they did not get deterrence tariffs.

As a result, the Federal Government increased the tariff on dutiable items from an average of 19% on the eve of the Civil War to an average of 45% for fifty years thereafter. The increases were at the behest of Republican and Democrat politicians mostly from the regions north of the Ohio and Potomac rivers. Modern historians try to dismiss the evidence by arguing that the high postbellum tariffs were necessary as a way to pay-off the national debt accumulated during the war. There is, however, only a degree of truth in their response.

Although the national debt increased from $65 million in 1860 to $2.7 billion in 1865, the percent of Federal tax revenue obtained from tariffs dropped from 97% to 29% during the war. The decline resulted from the adoption of a number of “internal” taxes such as a temporary income tax and various excise taxes. In fact, excise taxes alone increased from none of the 1860 tax revenue to 60% in 1865, which was the last year of the war. Significantly, the Federal Government quickly cut wartime internal taxes after the Confederacy surrendered but kept tariffs high. By 1872 tariff revenues had increased 155% from 1865, while excise taxes had dropped by 34%. Their relative revenue contributions had reversed since 1865: tariffs were 62% of the total in 1872 while excise taxes were only 34%.
 
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OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
Historically, the South was seldom against high tariffs that benefitted themselves, apparently they objected to only those that they believed benfitted the North.

Those really interested in history, a study of what was the single issue of the 1820 Compromise that sectionalized the Country; What President Jackson and V.P. Calhoun considered the realissue of the Crisis of 1830, what the single issue of the Compromse of 1850, the issue that bled over, the single issue that divided the Democratic Party in 1860.

A good historyl student of the Civil War and American History, might do well to read the official statements by the leading secessionist states on justifying their secession; The farewell speech to the Senate by Jeffeerson Davis, makes interesting reading also.

.......... and Ye it suddenly was the Morrill Tariff Bill in 1861,... Highly Unlikely in a historical context, IMO.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Historically, the South was seldom against high tariffs that benefitted themselves, apparently they objected to only those that they believed benfitted the North.

Yep, I anticipated this “Yeah, but what about the tariffs on sugar and rice? Southerners benefited from those, so they were hypocrites about protective tariffs” canard. The argument is a smokescreen for three reasons.

First, as the table below documents, sugar and rice were only small parts of the Southern agricultural economy. The year before the Civil War started the market value of annual Southern cotton production was about $260 million whereas the combined value of its rice and sugar was less that $30 million. In combination, rice and sugar represented only 11% of the value of cotton.

Over 60% ($161 million) of the cotton was exported to Europe, which was nearly four times the exports of the Northern states. In order to generate the exchange credits needed to pay for the cotton, Europeans tried to sell manufactured goods to America but were hindered by protective tariffs on Northern manufactured goods. As long as such tariffs hampered the ability of Europeans to compete in America’s market, they were constantly encouraging low tariff trading partners to become cotton producers to compete against America’s South. That’s one reason the Confederate constitution outlawed protective tariffs.

untitled-3.jpg


Second, the Northern tariff-protected industries were much bigger than the South’s rice and sugar markets. New England’s cotton textile manufacturing was America’s largest industry in 1860 with annual revenues of $115 million. The wool textiles industry and the Pennsylvania-centered iron industry were nearly tied for second with about $73 million each. All three were fortified by steep deterrence tariffs on their finished goods. In combination they were about nine times the size of the South’s combined sugar and rice businesses.*

Third, the sugar tariff originated during George Washington’s Administration, but it was not a protective tariff. In fact, it was a classic example of a revenue tariff because it was consumed in every state but produced in none. After Louisiana became a state, only eighteen of her parishes benefitted from the tariffs, but the duties were never high enough to block overseas competition. On the eve of the Civil War about half of the sugar Americans consumed was imported.

Moreover, starting in 1842, America put tariffs on refined sugar, which was increasingly produced in the Northern states using either Louisiana raw sugar or imports. Thus, Northern sugar refiners had no problem with tariffs on raw sugar as long as the tariffs on refined sugar kept overseas refined sugar out to the American market.

In sum, the “Southerners were tariff hypocrites because of the sugar and rice tariffs” is bunk.

*Gene Dattel, Cotton and Race in the Making of America, (Lanham, Md.: Ivan R. Dee, 2011 ), 82
 

DanSBHawk

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Location
Wisconsin
Jefferson Davis in a message to Congress:
"The bill does not save the rights of aliens who were domiciled in the Confederate States at the beginning of this revolution and had already commenced the proceedings necessary to their naturalization. It would be manifest injustice to such aliens as have remained among us and have sympathized with and aided us in our struggle to cut them off from these rights, at least inchoate, and deprive them of the boon held out to them by laws to which we were assenting parties at the time they immigrated to the Confederacy."

Howell Cobb:
"In truth, gentlemen, I must refer to one remarkable characteristic of this revolution which distinguishes it from all others recorded in history. It can not be too prominently set forth, or too often considered--I mean its conservatism. Usually revolutions are the result of the excited passions of the people whose patience is exhausted, and hence their popular tendencies have too frequently degraded them into anarchy and discord. But here the people at the ballot box deliberately vote a revolution to escape from the very anarchy which they see impending and to preserve those conservative principles of the fathers of the Republic, which were fast being overwhelmed by popular fanaticism."
Then they should have expected a bloody war, rather than to claim to be able to leave as they wanted.
 

rpkennedy

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Carlisle, PA
This tariff rationalization thing is based on the dubious proposition that avoiding tariffs is a more respectable reason for rebellion and treason than protecting slavery is.

Not to mention referencing the idea that the South was paying 80% of the tariff when 90% of all tariffs were collected in Northern ports. It was hokum from beginning to end.

Ryan
 

OpnCoronet

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Feb 23, 2010
Yep, I anticipated this “Yeah, but what about the tariffs on sugar and rice? Southerners benefited from those, so they were hypocrites about protective tariffs” canard. The argument is a smokescreen for three reasons.
First, as the table below documents, sugar and rice were onlsmall parts of the Southern agricultural economy. The year before the Civil War started the market value of annual Southern cotton production was about $260 million whereas the combined value of its rice and sugar was less that $30 million. In combination, rice and sugar represented only 11% of the value of cotton.
Over 60% ($161 million) of the cotton was exported to Europe, which was nearly four times the exports of the Northern states. In order to generate the exchange credits needed to pay for the cotton, Europeans tried to sell manufactured goods to America but were hindered by protective tariffs on Northern manufactured goods. As long as such tariffs hampered the ability of Europeans to compete in America’s market, they were constantly encouraging low tariff trading partners to become cotton producers to compete against America’s South. That’s one reason the Confederate constitution outlawed protective tariffs.

View attachment 366367

Second, the Northern tariff-protected industries were much bigger than the South’s rice and sugar markets. New England’s cotton textile manufacturing was America’s largest industry in 1860 with annual revenues of $115 million. The wool textiles industry and the Pennsylvania-centered iron industry were nearly tied for second with about $73 million each. All three were fortified by steep deterrence tariffs on their finished goods. In combination they were about nine times the size of the South’s combined sugar and rice businesses.*
Third, the sugar tariff originated during George Washington’s Administration, but it was not a protective tariff. In fact, it was a classic example of a revenue tariff because it was consumed in every state but produced in none. After Louisiana became a state, only eighteen of her parishes benefitted from the tariffs, but the duties were never high enough to block overseas competition. On the eve of the Civil War about half of the sugar Americans consumed was imported.
Moreover, starting in 1842, America put tariffs on refined sugar, which was increasingly produced in the Northern states using either Louisiana raw sugar or imports. Thus, Northern sugar refiners had no problem with tariffs on raw sugar as long as the tariffs on refined sugar kept overseas refined sugar out to the American market.
In sum, the “Southerners were tariff hypocrites because of the sugar and rice tariffs” is bunk.
*Gene Dattel, Cotton and Race in the Making of America, (Lanham, Md.: Ivan R. Dee, 2011 ), 82
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You wuld get strong arguments from SC and La., about ow important Sugar Ricewas to them, or its importance to the Souths economy. My point, was that however important tariffs to secessions there was another much more important, that needed protection more than even cotton, In fact, it was troublsome to the United of the United States even before Cotton became the mainstay of the confederacy
 

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