Why didn’t Lincoln just let the Southern states secede and leave the Union?

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
About a month before the opening shots at Sumter a leading Boston newspaper concluded that the seven cotton states did not secede to protect slavery, but to form a new country that would become an economic rival to the North. Specifically, The Boston Transcript editorialized on March 18, 1861:

"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. . ."

While the Transcript’s analysis cannot be taken as the last word, it underscores the importance of evaluating Northern motivations for coercion instead of merely Southern motivations for secession.

It was the North that went to war for economic advantages. The tariff on dutiable items, for example, averaged 19% in 1860 but rose to an average of 45% for the next fifty years. Tariffs did not drop until Southern-born Woodrow Wilson became President and they went right back up after the Republicans regained the Whitehouse in the Roaring Twenties.
 
About a month before the opening shots at Sumter a leading Boston newspaper concluded that the seven cotton states did not secede to protect slavery, but to form a new country that would become an economic rival to the North. Specifically, The Boston Transcript editorialized on March 18, 1861:

"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. . ."

While the Transcript’s analysis cannot be taken as the last word, it underscores the importance of evaluating Northern motivations for coercion instead of merely Southern motivations for secession.

It was the North that went to war for economic advantages. The tariff on dutiable items, for example, averaged 19% in 1860 but rose to an average of 45% for the next fifty years. Tariffs did not drop until Southern-born Woodrow Wilson became President and they went right back up after the Republicans regained the Whitehouse in the Roaring Twenties.

Looks like one Northern newspaper got it wrong out of hundreds that got it right.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Looks like one Northern newspaper got it wrong out of hundreds that got it right.
Oh, those mendacious and/or stupid secession commissioners - lying about the "real reasons" their states seceded and/or completely clueless about which argument would be most persuasive to the states that they were trying to persuade to join them. They must be some of the most dishonest and inept figures in American history. Or maybe they just lacked the basic skills to understand or read for comprehension their own speeches and correspondence.
 

29thWisCoG

Corporal
Joined
Apr 12, 2021
The economic disadvantage argument for the Federals is interesting, and its one I had not yet considered.... all I know is that if you follow the money it almost always leads you to the truth.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
The economic disadvantage argument for the Federals is interesting, and its one I had not yet considered.... all I know is that if you follow the money it almost always leads you to the truth.
Then please follow the nearly $4 BILLION worth of slave property in the Southern, slaveholding states, which was worth more than all the gold, factories, banks, ships, railroads in the entire US at that time.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Oh, those mendacious and/or stupid secession commissioners - lying about the "real reasons" their states seceded and/or completely clueless about which argument would be most persuasive to the states that they were trying to persuade to join them. They must be some of the most dishonest and inept figures in American history. Or maybe they just lacked the basic skills to understand or read for comprehension their own speeches and correspondence.
The OP asks respondents to explain why Lincoln did not let the Cotton states secede. Please provide sources to document your apparent claim that he refused to let them go so that he could free their slaves.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
About a month before the opening shots at Sumter a leading Boston newspaper concluded that the seven cotton states did not secede to protect slavery..., but to form a new country that would become an economic rival to the North. Specifically, The Boston Transcript editorialized on March 18, 1861:

"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. . ."
Phil Leigh said: "...a leading Boston newspaper concluded that the seven cotton states did not secede to protect slavery..."
What the newspaper actually said: "Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States..."

Hmmmm....

The article does go on to describe a theory as to what the cotton states wanted to do with their "independence". But if the cotton states were no longer part of the US, than the US tariff would be collected from goods moving between them and the US. If the northwest purchased goods at New Orleans, they would be subject to the tariff on bringing them back to the northwest.

Furthermore, the Confederacy needed government revenue, so a no-tariff policy would be impossible and in the end any cost advantage would be frittered away through a confederate tariff, the extra cost of shipping by this indirect route, and the effort to apply the US tariff on goods imported from the confederacy.
 

NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
The OP asks respondents to explain why Lincoln did not let the Cotton states secede. Please provide sources to document your apparent claim that he refused to let them go so that he could free their slaves.
He did become famous for making a speech that said "I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other."
Im pretty sure he didnt want it to become all slave, so...
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
The economic disadvantage argument for the Federals is interesting, and its one I had not yet considered.... all I know is that if you follow the money it almost always leads you to the truth.
Yes. Many students of the war and reconstruction want to ignore Northern economic motivation because it exposes aspects of their Northern ancestors that they don't want to admit. Perhaps like you, some students never considered such matters because their teachers never addressed the issues.
 
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Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
He did become famous for making a speech that said "I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other."
Im pretty sure he didnt want it to become all slave, so...
So he was ignoring the 1860 Republican Party platform about merely wanting to ban slavery in the federal territories? He wasn't really running for President on that platform?

He was lying in his first inaugural address (March 1861) when he said, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists?"
 
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NedBaldwin

Major
Joined
Feb 19, 2011
Location
California
So he was ignoring the 1860 Republican Party platform about merely wanting to ban slavery in the federal territories?
Merely? Banning slavery in the territories and ending the slave trade were just the opening moves, since they were within the exiting power of Congress. The platform also called for the maintenance of the principle that "all men are created equal" and that "no persons should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law" was an antislavery provision of the Constitution that they would maintain against all attempts to violate it.

He was lying in his first inaugural address (March 1861) when he said, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists?"
Yes.

He was quoting one of his own speeches from the Douglas debates and I can certainly see how he would feel, as he put it in the next line of the speech, "I believe I have no lawful right to do so..." since his view of the President's powers precluded him (except in wartime with added Congressional authority) from interfering directly in the institution. But....

...in the same speech from the Douglas debates he had said "I hold that, notwithstanding all this, there is no reason in the world why the negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Impossible for a president who feels that way to not indirectly interfere with the institution of slavery.
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
I don't think we need to retread Lincoln's extremely well-documented evolution on the slavery issue, or the ways that the war aims of the North changed as the conflict developed. We also don't need to retread the ways that Lincoln's rhetoric changed in relation to the war effort. An inauguration speech in March 1861 when peace was still maybe an option is going to strike a very different note than speeches or actions once the shooting war began.

Also - the OP is asking what negative effects would have occurred as a result of peaceful secession.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
I don't think we need to retread Lincoln's extremely well-documented evolution on the slavery issue, or the ways that the war aims of the North changed as the conflict developed. We also don't need to retread the ways that Lincoln's rhetoric changed in relation to the war effort. An inauguration speech in March 1861 when peace was still maybe an option is going to strike a very different note than speeches or actions once the shooting war began.

Also - the OP is asking what negative effects would have occurred as a result of peaceful secession.
1. Here's the OP

Why didn’t Lincoln just let the Southern states secede and leave the Union?​

2. Davis' war aims changed too. In July 1864 he told peace emissaries James Gilmore and James Jaquess "We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for Independence, and that, or extermination, we will have."
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
The OP asks respondents to explain why Lincoln did not let the Cotton states secede. Please provide sources to document your apparent claim that he refused to let them go so that he could free their slaves.
The secession commissioners explained their states' decisions to secede, and urged others to join them, based on Lincoln's and his party's intent to eliminate their revered "institution". Under your theory, they were dead wrong. If that's accurate, their reckless error cost 750,000 lives.
 

Belfoured

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Yes. Many students of the war and reconstruction want to ignore Northern economic motivation because it exposes aspects of their Northern ancestors that they don't want to admit. Perhaps like you, some students never considered such matters because their teachers never addressed the issues.
"Many students of the war and reconstruction want to ignore Northern economic motivation because it exposes aspects of their Northern ancestors that they don't want to admit."

The word "projection" comes to mind. There are a lot of folks who desperately avoid the "s" word when stating why g-g-grandad enlisted and fought for the CSA because it exposes aspects of their Southern ancestors that they don't want to admit.
 

Philip Leigh

formerly Harvey Johnson
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
The OP asks respondents to explain why Lincoln did not let the Cotton states secede. Please provide sources to document your apparent claim that he refused to let them go so that he could free their slaves.
The secession commissioners explained their states' decisions to secede, and urged others to join them, based on Lincoln's and his party's intent to eliminate their revered "institution". Under your theory, they were dead wrong. If that's accurate, their reckless error cost 750,000 lives
You are not answering the question.
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
1. Here's the OP

Why didn’t Lincoln just let the Southern states secede and leave the Union?​

2. Davis' war aims changed too. In July 1864 he told peace emissaries James Gilmore and James Jaquess "We are not fighting for slavery. We are fighting for Independence, and that, or extermination, we will have."

Weird debate but here's the OP in its entirety -
"Why didn't Lincoln just let the Southern states secede and leave the Union? Sorry if this is a dead horse topic.... but I have always been curious what negative outcomes would have occurred if this happened. I understand the institution of slavery would have continued (as a negative), but what else?"
 

wausaubob

Colonel
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Location
Denver, CO
Phil Leigh said: "...a leading Boston newspaper concluded that the seven cotton states did not secede to protect slavery..."
What the newspaper actually said: "Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States..."

Hmmmm....

The article does go on to describe a theory as to what the cotton states wanted to do with their "independence". But if the cotton states were no longer part of the US, than the US tariff would be collected from goods moving between them and the US. If the northwest purchased goods at New Orleans, they would be subject to the tariff on bringing them back to the northwest.

Furthermore, the Confederacy needed government revenue, so a no-tariff policy would be impossible and in the end any cost advantage would be frittered away through a confederate tariff, the extra cost of shipping by this indirect route, and the effort to apply the US tariff on goods imported from the confederacy.
The most likely result of independence of the 7 cotton states in terms of economics was that virtually of the Confederate cotton would have been purchased by Britain and France, until Britain finally developed sources for cotton within the empire. The US would acquire the cotton it needed from Britain. The cotton, the thread, the fabric and any finished goods would all be taxed as imports. That would help the US domestic wool industry, and put cotton on the same footing as silk, which was in the main imported.
Allowing the 7 original secessionist states to form an independent country just changes the form of the war between the two expansionist regimes that had fought the British for independence, bought out French and Spanish rights in North America, filibustered and then fought with Mexico, and crushed the indigenous people with violence and disease.
There was going to be a fight. It might have been over the central 8 states, or might have been over the west. But both sections were steeped in wars of conquest, which they had been winning. They were going to fight until one section of the other was wrecked.
 
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