Was South Carolina's Secession Simply Synonymous with Debt Repudiation?

James Lutzweiler

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My Fellow Posters,

I have long felt, without any hard evidence until today, that a major ingredient in the Rebel recipe of South Carolina's Secession was the desire of planters and other Carolinian (and Southerners in general) businessmen to repudiate debts owed to New York and to the North in general. I now have in hand one piece of hard evidence in the words of a planter in Charleston. They appear on page 134 of Paul Starobin's wonderful 2017 publication entitled Madness Rules the Hour: Charleston, 1860 and the Mania for War. Thereupon Starobin quotes an unnamed planter who owned 2,000 slaves and who told a reporter, "Most of us planters are deeply in debt; we should not be[,] if out of the Union."

And on the same page, Harvard graduate, Mercury editor, fire-eater, and world-class champion of non sequiturs, Barney Rhett, Jr., "pointed out that Charleston's shopkeepers, LIKE MANY IN THE SOUTH [emphasis mine], typically purchased their inventory of goods on credit from suppliers in the North. Those debts would be suspended IN THE EVENT OF SECESSION [emphasis mine] and 'OBLITERATED FOREVER' [emphasis mine]."

While I have suspected that debt repudiation was a major ingredient, I was not hopeful of discovering it so shamelessly and clearly stated by an ostensibly chivalrous group of Southerners whom I have been led to believe were honorable above all. Barney Rhett, if not the Father of Fake News to the Fifth Power, certainly is in that family tree of fraud, though I think he got this statement correct and for which I give him an A+.

Question: Can anyone add more examples to these quite open Debt Declarations for Secession that South Carolina's December 20, 1860, Convention failed to include in their ostensibly honest and honorable but pitifully elliptical Declarations that so many contemporary historians have swallowed --hook, line, sinker, lake, boat, trailer, truck and highway-- like the unfortunate Rebel soldiers who marched to their unnecessary deaths, believing in them?

Sincerely for truth,

James
 
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My Fellow Posters,

I have long felt, without any hard evidence until today, that a major ingredient in the Rebel recipe of South Carolina's Secession was the desire of planters and other Carolinian (and Southerners in general) businessmen to repudiate debts owed to New York and to the North in general. I now have in hand one piece of hard evidence in the words of a planter in Charleston. They appear on page 134 of Paul Starobin's wonderful 2017 publication entitled Madness Rules the Hour: Charleston, 1860 and the Mania for War. Thereupon Starobin quotes an unnamed planter who owned 2,000 slaves and who told a reporter, "Most of us planters are deeply in debt; we should not be[,] if out of the Union."

And on the same page, Harvard graduate, Mercury editor, fire-eater, and world-class champion of non sequiturs, Barney Rhett, Jr., "pointed out that Charleston's shopkeepers, LIKE MANY IN THE SOUTH [emphasis mine], typically purchased their inventory of goods on credit from suppliers in the North. Those debts would be suspended IN THE EVENT OF SECESSION [emphasis mine] and 'OBLITERATED FOREVER' [emphasis mine]."

While I have suspected that debt repudiation was a major ingredient, I was not hopeful of discovering it so shamelessly and clearly stated by an ostensibly chivalrous group of Southerners whom I have been led to believe were honorable above all. Barney Rhett, if not the Father of Fake News to the Fifth Power, certainly is in that family tree of fraud, though I think he got this statement correct and for which I give him an A+.

Question: Can anyone add more examples to these quite open Debt Declarations for Secession that South Carolina's December 20, 1860, Convention failed to include in their ostensibly honest and honorable but pitifully elliptical Declarations that so many contemporary historians have swallowed --hook, line, sinker, lake, boat, trailer, truck and highway-- like the unfortunate Rebel soldiers who marched to their unnecessary deaths, believing in them?

Sincerely for truth,

James
Debt repudiation was a cause for the first war for Independence, i never heard that it was a cause for the second one.
 

James Lutzweiler

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Debt repudiation isn't mentioned in the Declaration of Causes or the "Cornerstone" speech, so it can't be a cause, right??

Seriously, this is a nice piece of the puzzle. Thanks for sharing.
It was a convenient omission, a dog that didn't bark. And so I am a dog who barks!
 

matthew mckeon

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The fact it isn't mentioned is all the more reason to believe its all important. I think we can segue here, very smoothly, to the also unmentioned and therefore utterly the most important factor ever: the transcontinental railroad.
 

matthew mckeon

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Something unmentioned, and therefore, by definition, powerfully significant, was the growing movement for women to gain the right to vote. Under the outward displays of masculine power, its easy to read the unsaid, unwritten and hitherto unknown anxieties for the patriarchal social structure that were determining factors in secession. And what the most potent male symbol of technological power and the mastery of nature? The transcontinental railroad.
 
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And of course there is the ever present threat of servile insurrection and the murder and pillaging involved in such an insurrection and the root cause of which was obviously the choice of routes for the transcontinental railroad.
 

James Lutzweiler

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Indeed, Matthew. The ulterior motive of all these posts.
Jim,

What percentage do you assign to the transcontinental railroad as a factor?

By the way, author Starobin mentions how James D B De Bow, perhaps the greatest transcontinental railroad promoter in the antebellum besides Asa Whitney, had been invited to Charleston to celebrate the election of Lincoln, providing South Carolina with the pretext for independence they had sought for so long. Interestingly, even the fire-eater Rhett mentions the railroad interests of the planters in his mercurial Mercury, though he does not site the exact amount of stock owned by them. But he did call Southern rail roads a good investment.

Railroads or not, The simple fact is that author Starobin blows out of the water the central thesis of Steve Channing's book entitled The crisis of fear. Charlston, after the election of Lincoln, was anything but fearful; and I don't think it was due to all of the alcohol they were drinking. One should never secede while intoxicated.

By the way, I knew that Matthews post was tongue-in-cheek. But it was a great post nevertheless. And you are quite correct bit behind most of my questions looms the thought of steam versus slavery. No question.

I have no idea why all of this is underlined. I did not do so intentionally.
 

James Lutzweiler

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And of course there is the ever present threat of servile insurrection and the murder and pillaging involved in such an insurrection and the root cause of which was obviously the choice of routes for the transcontinental railroad.
The business of fear is now and forevermore a nonstarter. The hard data simply will not support it.
 

matthew mckeon

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And of course there is the ever present threat of servile insurrection and the murder and pillaging involved in such an insurrection and the root cause of which was obviously the choice of routes for the transcontinental railroad.
An interesting argument, but one that people mentioned. What people were saying and writing is much less convincing then what they were not writing or stating.
 

James Lutzweiler

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Sad. But thanks for your honesty and not altogether powerful reputation. (I said "refutation," not "reputation." I was using Siri and just now saw this. I know absolutely nothing about your reputation).

Now let us shift our attention away from the primary factor if the TRR in secession and get back to the original question on this thread: do you know any other examples of debt repudiation as a factor in secession? Just forget the transcontinental railroad and stay on the post. While I appreciate any discussion of the TRR, I am sure that others do not.
 
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James Lutzweiler

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An interesting argument, but one that people mentioned. What people were saying and writing is much less convincing then what they were not writing or stating.
Once again, why don't you get back on the thread. I have no need to convince you of the importance of the transcontinental railroad.

Question: do you know any other explicit references to debt repudiation as a factor in secession? That is a simple enough Question.
 

matthew mckeon

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Once again, why don't you get back on the thread. I have no need to convince you of the importance of the transcontinental railroad.

Question: do you know any other explicit references to debt repudiation as a factor in secession? That is a simple enough Question.
I apologize for derailing the thread. Its difficult enough to maintain one's train of thought without getting sidetracked. I deserve a kick in the caboose!
 

James Lutzweiler

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I apologize for derailing the thread. Its difficult enough to maintain one's train of thought without getting sidetracked. I deserve a kick in the caboose!
But you had fun and I do not mind that at all. However, the opening question is important and deserves some good answers. I am always happy to talk RailRoad, if you wish to convince one of your fellow moderators to re-open that thread. It was nowhere near complete.

Now back to this one. You can atone for your sin by acknowledging the great quotes I put together as a service to you and to others.

Incredibly humbly,

James
 
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Sad. But thanks for your honesty and not altogether powerful reputation.

Now let us shift our attention away from the primary factor if the TRR in secession and get back to the original question on this thread: do you know any other examples of debt repudiation as a factor in secession? Just forget the transcontinental railroad and stay on the post. While I appreciate any discussion of the TRR, I am sure that others do not.
The people of the south who led the movement to secession often mentioned several perceived grievances against the north as factors in their unhappiness. Among these are a perceived threat to the institution of slavery; a perceived threat to "states' rights"; a perceived unfairness of tariffs and import duties; and deliberate non-compliance of northerners with the fugitive slave laws. Neither the transcontinental railroad nor debt repudiation can be found anywhere in the litany of southerners' castigations of northerners throughout the antebellum era. Therein lies my estimate of a zero percent factor of the TRR in causing secession and civil war.
 


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