The Real Cause of the War

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Thanks for your comments but there was a valid concern in the north about the economic effects from secession and the southern tariff system before the war began as shown in the historical record. An article in the New York Times on March 12, 1861 stated: “ We have high duties in commerce, at the very moment when the seceding States are inviting commerce to their ports by low duties. ..…..We cannot expect nations whose prosperity depends so largely upon commerce as does that of England and France to be insensible to such appeals…..” .

This issue has also been addressed by historians as shown below.

“In addition to the forts and party unity, Lincoln had another vexing worry. He had to make a decision about collecting revenues, which meant the tariff. The question of the tariff and its collection had two components. The first had to do with the potential loss of federal revenue from the customs duties normally generated by the states that had seceded. The Confederacy now controlled the customshouses in each of them. ……..The second factor regarding the tariff had a political as well as an economic dimension. When the Morrill Tariff enacted by the Republicans went into effect, on April 1, its rates would almost double those in the tariff law of the Confederate States. This differential could mean the potential shift of foreign trade from northern ports to southern. …….Northeastern mercantile and financial interests quickly became aware of the possible negative consequences for them. At the end of March, a committee of New York merchants came to the White House to press the President on the government’s policy. To a reporter, they revealed their distress: “The present uncertainty as to the new tariff is destroying trade and legitimate speculation.” This tariff conflict and its possible financial repercussions caused a shift in business opinion. Before it had been almost monolithic against coercion, but now it was turning to form up behind Lincoln’s inaugural pledge to collect revenue and hold the forts.” Source: We Have the War Upon Us by William J. Cooper, 2012, pages 247-8.

“On April 1, the North and South would cease to have the same schedule of duties, for that was the date when the new Morrill Tariff would go into effect. Thereafter the duties levied in northern ports would be almost double those levied in the ports of the Confederacy under the old tariff of 1857. Under these conditions every Yankee merchant was convinced that he faced bankruptcy. European goods would avoid northern entrepots (ports) and flow directly to the South, whose cities would achieve a position of mercantile supremacy. ……The English and French press made it quite clear to American businessmen that foreign merchants and manufacturers intended to take full advantage of the low southern tariff.” Source: And the War Came, The North and the Secession Crisis 1860-1861 by Kenneth Stamp, 1970, page 232.

There was genuine concern from northern merchants and politicians about the economic effects of secession and the southern free trade policy. A group of merchants even discussed this in a private meeting with Lincoln and began to advocate the use of force against the south.

I'm sure the so-called issue was addressed by historian through history tools, but economic data needs to be addressed by using econometric tools, and that's why you are stumped. Again, Lincoln was not vexed, he adjusted and implemented a different policy to collect revenue, and never missed a beat. You do know that taxation is taxation, no matter the form? What is the difference from collected money from a tariff or an income tax? Nothing.

You went from posting this in post #277: The south was simply too important for the Union to let it secede and the consequences would have been disastrous to posting "it was a valid concern" in this thread. Don't you think there's a big difference between "disastrous" and "concern?" I initially responded to your first comment in bold, and that was not close to accurate. Secession was not disastrous for the north, but it certainly was disastrous for the south. It might have been a "valid concern" for the north but it never materialized into a disaster.
 

Potomac Pride

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Location
Georgia
I'm sure the so-called issue was addressed by historian through history tools, but economic data needs to be addressed by using econometric tools, and that's why you are stumped. Again, Lincoln was not vexed, he adjusted and implemented a different policy to collect revenue, and never missed a beat. You do know that taxation is taxation, no matter the form? What is the difference from collected money from a tariff or an income tax? Nothing.

You went from posting this in post #277: The south was simply too important for the Union to let it secede and the consequences would have been disastrous to posting "it was a valid concern" in this thread. Don't you think there's a big difference between "disastrous" and "concern?" I initially responded to your first comment in bold, and that was not close to accurate. Secession was not disastrous for the north, but it certainly was disastrous for the south. It might have been a "valid concern" for the north but it never materialized into a disaster.
Secession wasn't disastrous for the north in the long run because they refused to allow the south to withdraw from the Union through the use of military force. They also placed a naval blockade on southern ports that prevented foreign trade. The North realized that the southern states were too valuable to let them withdraw from the Union.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
Secession wasn't disastrous for the north in the long run because they refused to allow the south to withdraw from the Union through the use of military force. They also placed a naval blockade on southern ports that prevented foreign trade. The North realized that the southern states were too valuable to let them withdraw from the Union.

1st sentence, true.
2nd sentence, true.
3rd sentence, why permit a thief to steal what is rightfully yours?
 

atlantis

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 12, 2016
Firing on Sumter seems like a pretty clear reason for start of war. What choice did Lincoln have but to respond forcefully to an attack on a US garrison.
 

jvarnell

Private
Joined
Mar 24, 2020
Location
NC
Not mine but definitely worth sharing.....

The 1861 article below from the Boston Transcript shows that the newspaper even dismissed slavery as the cause of the war.
About a month before Fort Sumter surrendered, the Boston Transcript concluded on March 18, 1861 that the South did not secede to protect slavery, but did so because it wanted to become the North’s economic competitor.

Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States, but the mask has been thrown off, and it is apparent that the people of the seceding States are now for commercial independence. . . The merchants of New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn . . . of their mercantile greatness by a revenue system verging upon free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the businesses of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured.

The difference is so great between the tariff of the Union and that of the Confederacy that the entire Northwest [present day Midwest] must find it to their advantage to purchase imported goods at New Orleans rather than New York. In addition, Northern manufacturers will suffer from the increased importations resulting from low duties. . .

The above does not deny that some of the secession Declaration of Causes cited slavery. It does, however, reveal the today’s historians too often fail to examine why Northerners chose to militarily coerce the cotton states back into the Union. It also shows why protective tariffs were a cause of the war for Northerners. It explains why tariffs on dutiable items increased from 19% on the eve of the Civil War to an average of 45% for more that fifty years thereafter.

Thanks Phil
 

DanSBHawk

1st Lieutenant
Joined
May 8, 2015
Location
Wisconsin
Not mine but definitely worth sharing.....

The 1861 article below from the Boston Transcript shows that the newspaper even dismissed slavery as the cause of the war.
About a month before Fort Sumter surrendered, the Boston Transcript concluded on March 18, 1861 that the South did not secede to protect slavery, but did so because it wanted to become the North’s economic competitor.

Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States, but the mask has been thrown off, and it is apparent that the people of the seceding States are now for commercial independence. . . The merchants of New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn . . . of their mercantile greatness by a revenue system verging upon free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the businesses of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured.

The difference is so great between the tariff of the Union and that of the Confederacy that the entire Northwest [present day Midwest] must find it to their advantage to purchase imported goods at New Orleans rather than New York. In addition, Northern manufacturers will suffer from the increased importations resulting from low duties. . .


The above does not deny that some of the secession Declaration of Causes cited slavery. It does, however, reveal the today’s historians too often fail to examine why Northerners chose to militarily coerce the cotton states back into the Union. It also shows why protective tariffs were a cause of the war for Northerners. It explains why tariffs on dutiable items increased from 19% on the eve of the Civil War to an average of 45% for more that fifty years thereafter.

Thanks Phil
Cherry-picking editorials that he agrees with.

If as Phil claims in the last paragraph, the post-war actions explain the pre-war cause of the war for Northerners, than I guess the cause of the war really was about freeing the slaves and extending civil rights to blacks.
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Secession wasn't disastrous for the north in the long run because they refused to allow the south to withdraw from the Union through the use of military force. They also placed a naval blockade on southern ports that prevented foreign trade. The North realized that the southern states were too valuable to let them withdraw from the Union.

Nonsense. Are you speaking for the north when you state, "The North realized that the southern states were too valuable to let them withdraw from the Union?" You still didn't explain how income tax replaced any tariff revenue from the south. You still didn't explain how the north collected revenue while there was a blockade on southern ports? Imo, Lincoln should have let the south withdrawal, it would have been way cheaper.
 
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lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
Not mine but definitely worth sharing.....

The 1861 article below from the Boston Transcript shows that the newspaper even dismissed slavery as the cause of the war.
About a month before Fort Sumter surrendered, the Boston Transcript concluded on March 18, 1861 that the South did not secede to protect slavery, but did so because it wanted to become the North’s economic competitor.

Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States, but the mask has been thrown off, and it is apparent that the people of the seceding States are now for commercial independence. . . The merchants of New Orleans, Charleston, and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn . . . of their mercantile greatness by a revenue system verging upon free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the businesses of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured.

The difference is so great between the tariff of the Union and that of the Confederacy that the entire Northwest [present day Midwest] must find it to their advantage to purchase imported goods at New Orleans rather than New York. In addition, Northern manufacturers will suffer from the increased importations resulting from low duties. . .


The above does not deny that some of the secession Declaration of Causes cited slavery. It does, however, reveal the today’s historians too often fail to examine why Northerners chose to militarily coerce the cotton states back into the Union. It also shows why protective tariffs were a cause of the war for Northerners. It explains why tariffs on dutiable items increased from 19% on the eve of the Civil War to an average of 45% for more that fifty years thereafter.

Thanks Phil

The last sentence has nothing to do with the causation of secession. Actually, Phil doesn't understand how the protective tariff in the second half of the 19th century did not hurt consumers, and came back neutral. The low tariff of 1857 actually caused a economic contraction, which Phil was incredulous to. Like I told that other fellow, history tools are unsolicited and econometric tools are best to analyze. Econometric ***** that tariffs were just not detrimental to the U.S. economy nor consumers, but to plantation owners.
 

Potomac Pride

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Location
Georgia
Nonsense. Are you speaking for the north when you state, "The North realized that the southern states were too valuable to let them withdraw from the Union?" You still didn't explain how income tax replaced any tariff revenue from the south. You still didn't explain how the north collected revenue while there was a blockade on southern ports? Imo, Lincoln should have let the south withdrawal, it would have been way cheaper.
The first income tax wasn’t created until after the war began as a means to finance the war effort. As I discussed previously, there were other reasons than just the loss of tax revenue for which the north was opposed to secession. The secession of the south would have resulted in a rival nation that competed for new territory and foreign trade. Subsequently, the Monroe Doctrine would have been jeopardized. The south also provided the majority of U.S. exports and this loss would have resulted in a large foreign trade deficit. The southern states contained important federal government property that would have been lost. The loss of the south and the competition for new territory would have jeopardized the construction of a transcontinental railroad. In addition, access to the Mississippi River which was an important transportation corridor would have been jeopardized. The territory and resources of the south were simply too important to lose and the consequences of secession would have been harmful to the north.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
The first income tax wasn’t created until after the war began as a means to finance the war effort. As I discussed previously, there were other reasons than just the loss of tax revenue for which the north was opposed to secession. The secession of the south would have resulted in a rival nation that competed for new territory and foreign trade. Subsequently, the Monroe Doctrine would have been jeopardized. The south also provided the majority of U.S. exports and this loss would have resulted in a large foreign trade deficit. The southern states contained important federal government property that would have been lost. The loss of the south and the competition for new territory would have jeopardized the construction of a transcontinental railroad. In addition, access to the Mississippi River which was an important transportation corridor would have been jeopardized. The territory and resources of the south were simply too important to lose and the consequences of secession would have been harmful to the north.

The Revenue Act of 1861.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revenue_Act_of_1861
 

lurid

First Sergeant
Joined
Jan 3, 2019
The first income tax wasn’t created until after the war began as a means to finance the war effort. As I discussed previously, there were other reasons than just the loss of tax revenue for which the north was opposed to secession. The secession of the south would have resulted in a rival nation that competed for new territory and foreign trade. Subsequently, the Monroe Doctrine would have been jeopardized. The south also provided the majority of U.S. exports and this loss would have resulted in a large foreign trade deficit. The southern states contained important federal government property that would have been lost. The loss of the south and the competition for new territory would have jeopardized the construction of a transcontinental railroad. In addition, access to the Mississippi River which was an important transportation corridor would have been jeopardized. The territory and resources of the south were simply too important to lose and the consequences of secession would have been harmful to the north.

If they south was allowed to secede in peace then the first income tax could have replaced the so-called high tariff revenue. Again, taxation is taxation, no matter the form. What is the difference of using it to pay for a war or for government revenue to pay for something else? You make it sound like the income tax was earmarked just for the war and for nothing else, which makes no sense.

The south would have never survived a Cold War with the north, all they had was cotton exports in terms of competition. Whereas, the north had a vast economy that comprised of many slices on the pie chart. The so-called Cold War would have been macroeconomics vs. microeconomics. Not much competition for the north. Furthermore, the south needed walls to keep people in and to keep people out. The Confederacy was a kleptocracy, so it would have imploded very fast.

What makes you think the south would have garnered territory outside the south? What did they have to offer other than slavery? That's merely a pipe dream that would have never materialized.

The war proved your last sentence wrong. The north's economy expanded during the war and the south's economy faltered. I know the blockade caused the south's economy to contract mightily, but that's precisely my point. One crop that needed to be exported was their only means of revenue. I wouldn't call that a strong economy that would have stood the test of time.

I agree with the Monroe Doctrine theory, I actually introduced it to the current members.

https://civilwartalk.com/posts/2200729
https://civilwartalk.com/posts/2215772
https://civilwartalk.com/posts/2208695
https://civilwartalk.com/posts/2254755
 

Potomac Pride

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Location
Georgia
If they south was allowed to secede in peace then the first income tax could have replaced the so-called high tariff revenue. Again, taxation is taxation, no matter the form. What is the difference of using it to pay for a war or for government revenue to pay for something else? You make it sound like the income tax was earmarked just for the war and for nothing else, which makes no sense.

The south would have never survived a Cold War with the north, all they had was cotton exports in terms of competition. Whereas, the north had a vast economy that comprised of many slices on the pie chart. The so-called Cold War would have been macroeconomics vs. microeconomics. Not much competition for the north. Furthermore, the south needed walls to keep people in and to keep people out. The Confederacy was a kleptocracy, so it would have imploded very fast.

What makes you think the south would have garnered territory outside the south? What did they have to offer other than slavery? That's merely a pipe dream that would have never materialized.

The war proved your last sentence wrong. The north's economy expanded during the war and the south's economy faltered. I know the blockade caused the south's economy to contract mightily, but that's precisely my point. One crop that needed to be exported was their only means of revenue. I wouldn't call that a strong economy that would have stood the test of time.

I agree with the Monroe Doctrine theory, I actually introduced it to the current members.

https://civilwartalk.com/posts/2200729
https://civilwartalk.com/posts/2215772
https://civilwartalk.com/posts/2208695
https://civilwartalk.com/posts/2254755
You are correct that the southern economy faltered during the war but it wasn't just caused by the naval blockade. I would say that the military actions of the Union Army had something to do with it because of the wide spread destruction of farm land, industry and transportation infrastructure in the south. In terms of territorial expansion by the south, you mentioned that would have never materialized. However, in 1861 the Arizona Territory actually seceded from the Union to join the Confederacy. The Union viewed the Confederacy as rival nation that would interfere with the national interest of Manifest Destiny and invite unwanted foreign influence.
 
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hawglips

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
It seems that Lincoln wasn’t opposed to secession if it served his political purposes. But now as president of a divided country, he was facing a challenge of potentially dire economic consequences. Had the Southern states been allowed to leave the Union, they would have taken with them millions in tax revenues.

I consider that the loss of tax revenues was maybe the least of the economic consequences the North feared, in the event of Southern secession. The purpose for the tariffs was not only to fund the government, but more insidiously from the perspective of the South, to protect Northern manufacturing, industry and commerce at the expense of the South. Northern commercial interests also understood that the inevitable loss of Southern customers with duty free goods coming in through Southern ports would end the gravy train, and shift economic growth and power southward. With the Mississippi in control of the South, western agricultural states' commerce would exacerbate the decline of the North. Lincoln's choice was basically peace and a ruined Northern economy, or war and retained Northern power and wealth.
 

Potomac Pride

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Location
Georgia
I consider that the loss of tax revenues was maybe the least of the economic consequences the North feared, in the event of Southern secession. The purpose for the tariffs was not only to fund the government, but more insidiously from the perspective of the South, to protect Northern manufacturing, industry and commerce at the expense of the South. Northern commercial interests also understood that the inevitable loss of Southern customers with duty free goods coming in through Southern ports would end the gravy train, and shift economic growth and power southward. With the Mississippi in control of the South, western agricultural states' commerce would exacerbate the decline of the North. Lincoln's choice was basically peace and a ruined Northern economy, or war and retained Northern power and wealth.
Yes, the southern states considered the federal system of protective tariffs to be unfair because it benefited the manufacturing industry of the north at the expense of the south. Secession would have resulted in the loss of southern markets for northern industry. The south would likely buy more manufactured goods from Europe rather than as previously from the Northern states where prices were inflated by protective tariffs. Subsequently, articles imported into the South from Europe would divert tariff revenue from the North to the South. Additionally, the southern free trade policy would encourage Northern-bound European imports to enter in the South, where they could be smuggled across the Ohio River into Midwestern states and thereby evade US duties. States northwest of the Ohio River had additional economic reasons to fear secession. Specifically, they were apprehensive that secession would jeopardize free trade along the Mississippi River. The northern states had important economic concerns as a result of the secession of the southern states.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
I consider that the loss of tax revenues was maybe the least of the economic consequences the North feared, in the event of Southern secession. The purpose for the tariffs was not only to fund the government, but more insidiously from the perspective of the South, to protect Northern manufacturing, industry and commerce at the expense of the South. Northern commercial interests also understood that the inevitable loss of Southern customers with duty free goods coming in through Southern ports would end the gravy train, and shift economic growth and power southward. With the Mississippi in control of the South, western agricultural states' commerce would exacerbate the decline of the North. Lincoln's choice was basically peace and a ruined Northern economy, or war and retained Northern power and wealth.

Theory and little else.

The South had little to worry about as they becoming rich off of cotton exports and made no effort to grow their own regional industries (manufacturing and industry) and left the North to handle the shipping of their cotton exports vice building or expanding their own harbors and ships to reduce Northern business in those areas. They were quite content to leave things as they were.

Yes, the southern states considered the federal system of protective tariffs to be unfair because it benefited the manufacturing industry of the north at the expense of the south. Secession would have resulted in the loss of southern markets for northern industry. The south would likely buy more manufactured goods from Europe rather than as previously from the Northern states where prices were inflated by protective tariffs. Subsequently, articles imported into the South from Europe would divert tariff revenue from the North to the South. Additionally, the southern free trade policy would encourage Northern-bound European imports to enter in the South, where they could be smuggled across the Ohio River into Midwestern states and thereby evade US duties. States northwest of the Ohio River had additional economic reasons to fear secession. Specifically, they were apprehensive that secession would jeopardize free trade along the Mississippi River. The northern states had important economic concerns as a result of the secession of the southern states.

It's hard to go along with this other opinion as the fact of the matter was the 1860 tariff was considered an almost free tariff, as it was the lowest tariff in recent US history. Add to the historical fact it was the slaveholding South that insisted on the tariff system in order for individual slaves not to be taxed.

Unionblue
 

Potomac Pride

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Location
Georgia
It's hard to go along with this other opinion as the fact of the matter was the 1860 tariff was considered an almost free tariff, as it was the lowest tariff in recent US history. Add to the historical fact it was the slaveholding South that insisted on the tariff system in order for individual slaves not to be taxed.

Unionblue
Perhaps you are referring to the Tariff of 1857 passed by the U.S. Congress that reduced rates on imported items from the previous Walker Tariff. However, in early 1861 Congress passed a new protectionist tariff bill which substantially increased the rates on imported items compared to the Tariff of 1857.
 

Eric Calistri

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 31, 2012
Location
Austin Texas
Perhaps you are referring to the Tariff of 1857 passed by the U.S. Congress that reduced rates on imported items from the previous Walker Tariff. However, in early 1861 Congress passed a new protectionist tariff bill which substantially increased the rates on imported items compared to the Tariff of 1857.

The Walker Tariff was called Free Trade in both the 1846 and 1857 versions. The 1846 version stimulated trade and allowed the Federal Gov to stay out of the red. The 1857 version reduced collections and put the Fed Gov significantly in the red. Protective trade barriers, for example the ban on slave imports that so enriched the south at the expense of the north, produce little or no revenue. I get your need to amplify the mischaracterization of the Morrill Tariff as “protective,” but it was an attempt to return to the 1846 Tariffs levels that had been called “free trade” for a decade and a half and get the Fed Gov out of the red.

But either way, Tariffs are irrelevant to our topic, The Real Cause of the War.
 

FedericoFCavada

Sergeant
Joined
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Location
San Antonio, Texas
Certainly the secessionists did seize customs houses and tariff generated revenue as part of also taking over all but four Federal coastal defense forts prior to forcing the surrender of Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.

Returning the cause of the war, had the seven seceding slave states been "allowed to go their way" what would have happened with all of the slaves who absconded from their labor camps, erm, plantations, and escaped across the new national boundary? Even Alexander Stephens, who was initially opposed to secession, brought up this very issue at first?

Chandra Manning's What this Cruel War was Over suggests that both Unionists and pro-Confederates looked to the examples of the American Revolution, but that while secessionists emphasized the revolt part, Unionists and many Northerners emphasized government of, for, and by the people (the white male electorate at the time).

As to why the North wouldn't just let the Southern secessionists break up the Union, Manning's findings emphasized that, in the words of a regimental newspaper once war were declared: "destroy this Union and what can republics hope for?" An Indiana private wrote to his former teacher "the Union is not only the citadel of our liberty, but the depostiry of the hopes of the human race." A Kansan Jayhawker who signed up as a private thought "if we [the Union] fail now, the hope of human rights is extinguished for ages." She argues and asserts that there was a divergent direction in religious thinking during the Great Awakening era of the time of Civil War soldier's parents' generation. The millennarian tradition about the "perfectibility" of society and voluntarism was prevalent in the North. Millennial "habits of thought" and the particular nature of settlement patterns and local political office tied Unionists, particularly those in the north, to the "best government that ever existed" in the words of an Ohio private, or hyperbole from a Wisconsin soldier "the best and most honorable Government on the face of God's earth." And so on, and on. Rejecting an election because the POTUS 16 did not favor slavery's extension into western territories, and that candidate had been favored precisely for that reason, struck Union-minded citizenry as as particularly galling, undemocratic, lacking in legitimacy, and treasonous. In fact, secession really did seem to imply that the most "Wide Awake" rhetoric about the slave owning oligarchy or "lords of the lash" were bent on destroying republican self-government.

Again, as I may have stated earlier, I think the decision to defend the territorial and political integrity of the state organized by the U.S. Constitution and not allow secession is just not that deep, really.

It is true that the Confederate constitution prohibited tariffs and revenues or "bounties or duties" being used to "foster any branch of industry" as P. Leigh has noted that there was widespread Southern dissatisfaction with Northern practices and even corruption. It is also certainly true that the Confederate constitution protected property in slaves, which was also expressly mentioned of course in the many statements about reasons legitimating to secessionists their decision to break the Union even if--or particularly so?--it led to war.
 

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