Was Southern Secession a way to default on its $300 million debt to North?!

Joined
Nov 26, 2009
Location
Miami, FL
Like a lot of the enthusists that participate in this forum, I've always had a strong interest in the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln - perhaps, it could even be an obsession. This was always my favorite part of history and I loved studying it in school and as an adult, taking trips to battlefields and other related Civil War era places, etc. I'd like to think of myself as somewhat of a scholar/historian on all things CW & Lincoln, but yet, I just learned something from a $3 bargain book that I never knew and it is blowing my mind! By the end of 1860, "In commercial dealings, the South owed the North some $300 million, which Southerners believed would be forfeited." - American History - Timeline of the Civil War (p. 23) by John D. Wright (Amber Books, 2007) What?! I had never heard this before!! This one simple sentence provides a whole new take on Southern Secession. Could it be that another of the major factors of the war was a veiled attempt by the Southern rich to avoid paying a huge debt?! WOW!!!

- Brad Watson, Miami, FL
author of 7 Score & 4 Years Later
 

K Hale

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Ah, so that's what's referred to in "High-Toned Southern Gentleman." Always puzzled about that verse.
 

ole

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Knew about the debt. Nothing new about it; that sort of thing was an annual event. But to equate secession with the debt? Feed me.

Ole
 

Lady Val

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Considering that for years 75% or more of the monies paid into the federal government came from the tariffs paid by Southern states and that most of this money was channeled northward into various Yankee commercial interests, it seems unlikely that such a debt existed except in the creative accounts manipulated by Northern and federal interests.

Certainly, at the time that the various Southern states were considering secession, efforts were underway to determine their individual debts to the Union including recompense for any federal facilities located on Southern soil. So, no, I would be willing to say that given the actual facts that secession arose from the (accurate) belief by the States of the South that further membership in the "glorious Union" was a "lose-lose" situation for them and that they would be better off - as the American colonies had previously determined - severing their ties with the original compact and making one more to the liking and benefit of their citizens - again, as the original colonies did.

I cannot see that any existing "debt" would have been a matter of consideration especially as there is more than sufficient proof from the records that the Southern states were endeavoring to pay "their fair share" (as they say today) towards any such debts in place at the time of secession.
 

OpnCoronet

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The only loss that excited the south enough to indulge in Revolution. was the loss of their slaves.
 

Elennsar

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The original post says commercial dealings, so I would guess the buying all the various things bought in the "North" by planters on credit and not being able to repay it.
 

K Hale

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Huh? did I miss something?
It's an old song making fun of southern planters. I think Bobby Horton has one version of it. The final verse concerns a stereotypical planter at a poker table, who is told to pay up his poker debts, but instead he pulls out a bowie knife and pistols, puts on a blue cockade, and threatens to secede due to "repeated aggressions of the north." What Brad Watson said puts this in more context than what I thought it was, just random fun-poking.

I guess the song is kinda offensive in some ways, but it's also kinda funny.
 

Lady Val

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The original post says commercial dealings, so I would guess the buying all the various things bought in the "North" by planters on credit and not being able to repay it.

Nothing there either. Why do you think that the South was paying these egregious tariffs? They bought goods from Europe rather than the North because the goods were cheaper (and better made). A commerical debt would mean that the South would not have needed to pay tariffs for imported goods having purchased them from the North.

On the other hand, the cotton mills of the North were buying cotton from the South; tobacco, rice and sugar were also purchased by the North. If there was a "commercial debt", it would be the other way round.
 

ole

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Considering that for years 75% or more of the monies paid into the federal government came from the tariffs paid by Southern states and that most of this money was channeled northward into various Yankee commercial interests, it seems unlikely that such a debt existed except in the creative accounts manipulated by Northern and federal interests.
Sources and back-up required.

Ole
 

prroh

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Considering that for years 75% or more of the monies paid into the federal government came from the tariffs paid by Southern states and that most of this money was channeled northward into various Yankee commercial interests, it seems unlikely that such a debt existed except in the creative accounts manipulated by Northern and federal interests. .

There is 0% evidence to support that claim. Since over 80% of import duties were paid in Northern ports and no records, then and now, existed to show there these imported goods were consumed, this oft-repeated claim is as specious now as when first made in the 1850s. Common sense says that the north with a larger population and larger percentage of GDP would have the larger share of consumer products and also, that , with a much larger industrial base, a larger demand for industrial products.

Since the tariff duties were mostly not collected in the South it defies Economic (and newtonian) laws that these monies were "channeled northward".
 

khalleron

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So, no, I would be willing to say that given the actual facts that secession arose from the (accurate) belief by the States of the South that further membership in the "glorious Union" was a "lose-lose" situation for them and that they would be better off - as the American colonies had previously determined - severing their ties with the original compact and making one more to the liking and benefit of their citizens - again, as the original colonies did.


You mean the benefit of their white, slave-owning citizens. Secession wouldn't really have benefited anyone else.

No, I don't believe secession was an attempt to run out on a debt, either, but when you're weighing benefits, it might be best to keep the welfare of all parties in mind.
 

OpnCoronet

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There was a very good reason, the major ports of entry for imports were mainly northern ports like New York and Boston, rather than Va. and Charleston. They were closer to the major markets for imports and as a result had longer, better transportation links for faster and more efficient distribution.(and southern leaders preferred it that way, 'don't want no mudsills or greasy mechanics down here')
 

ole

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Major kudos, Opn. Not quite Colonel kudos but real close. Very nearly everything consumed by anybody came through New York, Philadelphia or Boston. Ships from Europe did not put into Charleston or Savannah simply because there was no market there. They'd pop down to pick up cotton for the return trip, but that's where the money went.

Scuzi. Launching on another topic when we ought to be talking about a debt default. My last word: the south owed the north $300 thousand every year leading up to the secession. Maybe they got tired of paying it?
 

OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
Was that 300 Million dollar debt distributed equally among slave owners and/or states? In other words was the debt sufficiently burdensome among All slave owner and All slave states to be a unifying excuse for rebellion and war?
 

Southland

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Mar 8, 2010
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Like a lot of the enthusists that participate in this forum, I've always had a strong interest in the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln - perhaps, it could even be an obsession. This was always my favorite part of history and I loved studying it in school and as an adult, taking trips to battlefields and other related Civil War era places, etc. I'd like to think of myself as somewhat of a scholar/historian on all things CW & Lincoln, but yet, I just learned something from a $3 bargain book that I never knew and it is blowing my mind! By the end of 1860, "In commercial dealings, the South owed the North some $300 million, which Southerners believed would be forfeited." - American History - Timeline of the Civil War (p. 23) by John D. Wright (Amber Books, 2007) What?! I had never heard this before!! This one simple sentence provides a whole new take on Southern Secession. Could it be that another of the major factors of the war was a veiled attempt by the Southern rich to avoid paying a huge debt?! WOW!!!

- Brad Watson, Miami, FL
author of 7 Score & 4 Years Later

I don't know about the book but here is a review that makes me wonder.

"The book contains many inexcusable errors. For instance, General John Buford is misidentified on page 120, Group photo of Union soldiers is misidentified as group of Confederates on page 129, and a picture purported to be William H. Seward is obviously that of someone else (hint: Seward didn't wear a beard.) I could go on. The timeline concept is a great idea, but the book should have had the benefit of an editor with a knowledge base in our Civil War. It obviously didn't! That lack of scholarly scrutiny renders the whole of the book suspect and deprives it of any value as an historical reference. "

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1592237223/?tag=civilwartalkc-20
 

Lady Val

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Location
Long Island, New York
There was a very good reason, the major ports of entry for imports were mainly northern ports like New York and Boston, rather than Va. and Charleston. They were closer to the major markets for imports and as a result had longer, better transportation links for faster and more efficient distribution.(and southern leaders preferred it that way, 'don't want no mudsills or greasy mechanics down here')

Then why the fuss about Sumter? That was a "tax gathering" federal facility for shipping coming into Charleston. It was not a fort to protect a ****ed thing - except the coffers of Washington. If the South didn't receive goods into its many ports, why the need for such facilities - and there were a lot of them. No, what came into northern ports were mainly the real wealth of the North - the immigrants. You know, the folks that made up most of the Union army in the end.

As for the amount of taxes paid by the South, that is a sum that has been reported upon in many different sources at many different times to the point at which there can be no question of its accuracy. Lincoln himself said that he didn't mind if the Southern States seceded as long as the continued to pay the tariffs and taxes to the federal government! In fact, I'm sure that if the South had cost Washington, Lincoln would have been happy to see it go! But because it provided almost all of the money he used to help his friends in the Northern mercantile class, well, he just couldn't do that.
 

OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
Even IF it were true that Ft. Sumter was a 'tax gathering" federal faciity,[/I was that reason enough to attack it and wage a war of Rebellion?
What Federal Taxes were being paid by the south, that were not being paid equally by the north; so onerous that it justified war?
 

RobertP

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Nov 11, 2009
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Dallas
I guess you all forgot about New Orleans, the 6th largest city in the U.S. in 1860, with a population of 168,000. Boston was 5th with 173,000, slightly larger.
When you consider the city was also the gateway to the Midwest market, in my opinion is was a very lucrative port for the importation of European goods.
 
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