Why "the South" did not get a railroad to the Pacific

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trice

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I was just reading an interesting article:
The South and the Pacific Railroad, 1845-1855
by Jere W. Roberson
Western Historical Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Apr., 1974), pp. 163-186 (24 pages)
https://www.jstor.org/stable/967035?read-now=1&seq=23#page_scan_tab_contents
9JSTOR is a subscription service, but you can read 6 articles/month free if you set up an account)

This covers the various attempts to start a "Southern" Pacific RR route project in 1845-55 and how they failed. Here is the conclusion in the last 2 paragraphs:

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More than anything else, it appears the reason Southerners didn't get the Transcontinental RR route was Southerners. They competed with themselves and did not organize/unify behind a single proposal, they were opposed to any method of support/payment from the Federal government, and they subordinated everything to the slavery issue. By 1855, even Southern supporters of the southern-route Transcontinental RR idea were drifting away from it to concentrate on other things (IOW, slavery-related fights).
 

trice

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In case anyone is wondering, the "transisthmian" interests mentioned above refers to the effort to build a railroad (or canals) across Central America and Tehuantepec to the Pacific. This was generally pushed by New Orleans-based interests (the New Orleans people thought the other parts of "the South" were trying to take away their control of the traffic on the Mississippi with their Transcontinental RR schemes).
 
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trice

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Sir, thank you for the article. Very instructive. Not that many of these same issues didn't frustrate other, non-'Southern', transcontinental efforts.
53

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
Yes.

Personally, I think they should have gone with the 2 RR plan in the early 1850s and built both the Union Pacific/Central Pacific one that finished in 1869 and the southern route that finished in the 1880s. The Senator from Texas (Rusk?) had proposed something like that, but it died in the infighting. Something for everybody in that and it might have defused at least a bit of the Kansas-Nebraska confrontation if they'd tried.
 

USS ALASKA

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Personally, I think they should have gone with the 2 RR plan in the early 1850s...
Sir, a few concerns with this COA...

1561306575536.png

http://railroads.unl.edu/documents/jpeg/medium/rail.str.0243.01.jpg

...in 1850 there wasn't one system that went from an East Coast port to the right bank of the Mississippi. Granted, by 1860, that had changed...

1561306726733.png

http://jb-hdnp.org/Sarver/Maps/railroads_1850-1860.jpg

...railroads at that time were built by commercial enterprises for profit. Building a TRR through vast empty spaces of our nation, (so as to provide no supporting revenue along the line...), in the hopes that profitability will be achieved through implied trade with the 'Orient' and West Coast sources enough to carry the costs of maintaining the infrastructure from the left coast to the Mississippi might be too much to ask of the railroad companies as they stood in the early '50s. The answer to that would be government support as was done traditionally - https://civilwartalk.com/threads/federal-land-grants-for-the-construction-of-railroads-and-wagon-roads.148800/ That begs the question of would the USG support the building 2 simultaneous TRRs - in the era of compromise this would be just one more. If a compromise could not be reached to build both at the same time, we are back to the 'route' and 'eastern terminal' fight.

Thinking about this a bit more, a 'dual route' implementation plan in the early '50s might drastically change American railroading as it developed on the actual timeline. The construction is going to take a great deal of manpower, engineering, and supplies. Where do they come from? More materials from the U.K.? https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-importance-of-british-iron-to-us-railroads.142715/ More engineering talent? Are these grown / developed / imported or culled from efforts back east? This plan will stress available capabilities and resources.

One other thought. A not-statistically-insignificant amount of financing for US railroads came from European sources (British). Euro investors could see a great national effort to build a road that, while tying the nation together, could very well not produce the returns hoped for, while at the same time hindering efforts of other rail enterprises. This calculation could dry up that source of capital.

An interesting scenario...
87

Just some thoughts,
USS ALASKA
 
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trice

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Sir, a few concerns with this COA...

View attachment 312832
http://railroads.unl.edu/documents/jpeg/medium/rail.str.0243.01.jpg

...in 1850 there wasn't one system that went from an East Coast port to the right bank of the Mississippi. Granted, by 1860, that had changed...

View attachment 312833
http://jb-hdnp.org/Sarver/Maps/railroads_1850-1860.jpg

...railroads at that time were built by commercial enterprises for profit. Building a TRR through vast empty spaces of our nation, (so as to provide no supporting revenue along the line...), in the hopes that profitability will be achieved through implied trade with the 'Orient' and West Coast sources enough to carry the costs of maintaining the infrastructure from the left coast to the Mississippi might be too much to ask of the railroad companies as they stood in the early '50s. The answer to that would be government support as was done traditionally - https://civilwartalk.com/threads/federal-land-grants-for-the-construction-of-railroads-and-wagon-roads.148800/ That begs the question of would the USG support the building 2 simultaneous TRRs - in the era of compromise this would be just one more. If a compromise could not be reached to build both at the same time, we are back to the 'route' and 'eastern terminal' fight.

Thinking about this a bit more, a 'dual route' implementation plan in the early '50s might drastically change American railroading as it developed on the actual timeline. The construction is going to take a great deal of manpower, engineering, and supplies. Where do they come from? More materials from the U.K.? https://civilwartalk.com/threads/the-importance-of-british-iron-to-us-railroads.142715/ More engineering talent? Are these grown / developed / imported or culled from efforts back east? This plan will stress available capabilities and resources.

One other thought. A not-statically-insignificant amount of financing for US railroads came from European sources (British). Euro investors could see a great national effort to build a road that, while tying the nation together, could very well not produce the returns hoped for, while at the same time hindering efforts of other rail enterprises. This calculation could dry up that source of capital.

An interesting scenario...
87

Just some thoughts,
USS ALASKA
The very first land-grant RRs built in the US were the Illinois Central and the Mobile & Ohio. The act authorizing that passed Congress in 1848 (authorized both routes, the idea being to build a RR from Mobile to Chicago connected by steamboat across the Ohio River). With the financing secured, the Mobile & Ohio RR was chartered by Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee in 1848; the Illinois Central was chartered by Illinois in 1851. The Illinois Central part was completed by 1857 (Galena to Cairo). The Mobile & Ohio part was not completed until April of 1861 (Mobile to Columbus, KY, one week after Ft. Sumter was attacked).

I think the only practical method of sponsoring the Transcontinental RR routes would have been by similar land-grants (this is how the Union Pacific-Central Pacific route was financed). There was a major problem with Southern opposition to such financing in the early 1850s -- but obviously they had been willing to do it to build the Mobile & Ohio. I think this opposition is an "It all depends on whose ox is being gored" situation: if "the South" got a route, they'd have come around to accepting the deal.

You mention a lot of practical difficulties that were very real and I don't mean to minimize them. I do think that if a "southern route" and a "northern route" were passed, we could expect the "northern route" would have one standard for rail gauge from end to end and the "southern route" would have one standard for rail gauge from end to end. They might even be the same standard for both routes (seems like just logical, but you never know).

The land-grant method ties in to the need to set up territorial governments to deal with/administer the grants. This became a major issue for the Nebraska Territory in the early 1850s, tying it all in to slavery and the admission of states as free/slave. Douglas was pushing for one Nebraska Territory that would extend all the way to South Pass in the Rockies to make his northern route easier. That would inevitably lead to more free states and helped drive the slavery controversy of the 1850s, Bloody Kansas and all that.

My point is that if both routes had been authorized, that would have helped drive expansion on the Southern tier, making early admission of new slave states possible in the New Mexico/Colorado area, maybe breaking southern California off as a separate state. (At least Southerners could have felt better about the chances of it.) That might have defused some of the Kansas controversy and changed a good many things.

As to the timing, even with the 2-route plan approved, I doubt much progress could have been made before the late 1850s or early 1860s. Certainly no complete connection across the continent seems likely before the 1860s, maybe 1865 or so. The "southern route" might even have finished first.
 
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uaskme

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1854 Douglas blows up the Missouri Compromise to get the Nebraska Bill passed., He did so, because that Territory had to be settled, in order to build the RR. He knew The Southerners were ahead of the game. Jeff Davis led the PRS surveys, under a Democratic President.

The North was not going to let a Southern Route happen. It would of given the South more Slave States, which meant more political power.

Whoever gets to California first, has a huge Political and Economic advantage over the other Section. That is why it was a Sectional Issue, and not given enough importance. California was the gateway to Asia, and the whole west coast for Ports. So says Polk, Southern President who started a War with Mexico, to get it.
 

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Whoever gets to California first, has a huge Political and Economic advantage over the other Section.
Yet Southern members of Congress had little hesitation in giving up ambitions for admitting California as a slave state and a southern route in 1850 to pass a new fugitive slave. law. Catching escaped slaves was clearly a higher priority than any "Political and Economic advantage" that California or the southern route might afford.
 

James Lutzweiler

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Mr. Trice,

Thank you for your contribution to this subject. I cite Mr. Roberson's fine essay in my book.

I beg to differ from the statement that Southerners were "drifting" away from a southern footprint for the TRR after 1855. If anything, the competition became even more fierce. In fact, with the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, it was just beginning to heat up --if the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Rock Island bridge case that followed mean anything. And, of course, they do.

The simple reason the South did not get the TRR first is because it was desirous if the $100,000,000 federal subsidy for it, if the South could suck that sum out of Congress. Everyone knew the U.S. Udder was full of rich cream. Who would not want to feast on that bag? And let us not forget how the South whined about Congressional neglect even in the wake of a $10 million southern subsidy for 30,000 square miles if kitty litter! Shameless complaining.

The South was led by SC in Secession for one reason alone. They saw the TRR going North and with it all the economic and political power attendant thereto. For an impoverished SC and its very willing puppets, it was now or never to start their own nation. After the TRR went North, the South was toast. Burnt toast, and they knew it. And that was the ultimate result. If the South had sold all of its slaves in 1860 for 25 cents and then lost the quarter, it would have been much further ahead in 1865 than it actually was. Think about that.

Thank you again for your involvement in this topic to which slavery Monocausationalists strenuously object and try, unsuccessfully, to bury --along with some of its proponents.

Your obedient servant,

James Lutzweiler
 
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uaskme

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Yet Southern members of Congress had little hesitation in giving up ambitions for a southern route in 1850 to pass a new fugitive slave. law. Catching escaped slaves were clearly a higher priority than any "Political and Economic advantage" that the southern route might afford.

Ridiculous. First off, the 1850 Compromise was not a swap of CA for the FSL. The South got a larger Slave Texas, along with Utah and NM as possible latter Slave States. Also Money. Next, not all Southerners and NONE of the Fire Eaters are happy with the Compromise. From this point forward, they want Disunion. RRs are still early in their development in 1850. A Technology That will explode in the 50s. So your position surely was not a 1850 position of Thought. If the South had of gotten the TRR, they would of taken CA back.

I will give you a heads up. After Secession, the Yankee passes the Protective Tariff, Homestead Act, Ag College Bill and the Bill for the TRR, all before the Emancipation Proclamation. One reason is the Development of the West is a Union Builder. It ties all that territory to Yankee Nationalism. Another reason, Yankees are afraid that the South might come back to the Union, before the Yankee gets all this Legislation Passed. So the EP is Last.
 

trice

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Mr. Trice,

Thank you for your contribution to this subject. I cite Mr. Roberson's fine essay in my book.

I beg to differ from the statement that Southerners were "drifting" away from a southern footprint for the TRR after 1855. If anything, the competition became even more fierce. In fact, with the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, it was just beginning to heat up --if the Kansas-Nebraska Act and Rock Island bridge case that followed mean anything. And, of course, they do.

The simple reason the South did not get the TRR first is because it was desirous if the $100,000,000 federal subsidy for it, if the South could suck that sum out of Congress. Everyone knew the U.S. Udder was full of rich cream. Who would not want to feast on that bag? And let us not forget how the South whined about Congressional neglect even in the wake of a $10 million southern subsidy for 30,000 square miles if kitty litter! Shameless complaining.

The South was led by SC in Secession for one reason alone. They saw the TRR going North and with it all the economic and political power attendant thereto. For an impoverished SC and its very willing puppets, it was now or never to start their own nation. After the TRR went North, the South was toast. Burnt toast, and they knew it. And that was the ultimate result. If the South had sold all of its slaves in 1860 for 25 cents and then lost the quarter, it would have been much further ahead in 1865 than it actually was. Think about that.

Thank you again for your involvement in this topic to which slavery Monocausationalists strenuously object and try, unsuccessfully, to bury --along with some of its proponents.

Your obedient servant,

James Lutzweiler
I am sorry, but I cannot agree with you on this. Southerners repeatedly demonstrated they had no problem at all taking Federal money and help as long as it went to them -- but were very opposed to letting it go to someone else.

On the drift away after 1855 -- that is what happened. Certainly Secretary of War Davis and Gadsden were working together on the southern RR route in 1853: that is before 1855 and tells us nothing about what happened after 1855. Once "the South" has thrown their support to Douglas in order to get "Popular Sovereignty" into the Nebraska Act, the "southern route" is dead. Davis is no longer pushing for it; others move on as well.
 

James Lutzweiler

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I am sorry, but I cannot agree with you on this. Southerners repeatedly demonstrated they had no problem at all taking Federal money and help as long as it went to them -- but were very opposed to letting it go to someone else.

On the drift away after 1855 -- that is what happened. Certainly Secretary of War Davis and Gadsden were working together on the southern RR route in 1853: that is before 1855 and tells us nothing about what happened after 1855. Once "the South" has thrown their support to Douglas in order to get "Popular Sovereignty" into the Nebraska Act, the "southern route" is dead. Davis is no longer pushing for it; others move on as well.
Thank you for your reply.

1. Note that Jeff Davis is still pitching the southern route in January 5, 1861.

2. Note that Davis continued publishing the PRS through 1860.

3. Note between 1855-1860, Davis and other Fire-eaters (what's his name from Texas) were still submitting TRR bills to Congress. Drifting away?

I can add more; however, if these do not by themselves invite you to adjust the drift of which you have spoken, I will refrain from trying to convince you. I am not looking for converts. My purpose is only to serve.

James

PS Louis Wigfall is what's his name.
 
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James Lutzweiler

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Ridiculous. First off, the 1850 Compromise was not a swap of CA for the FSL. The South got a larger Slave Texas, along with Utah and NM as possible latter Slave States. Also Money. Next, not all Southerners and NONE of the Fire Eaters are happy with the Compromise. From this point forward, they want Disunion. RRs are still early in their development in 1850. A Technology That will explode in the 50s. So your position surely was not a 1850 position of Thought. If the South had of gotten the TRR, they would of taken CA back.

I will give you a heads up. After Secession, the Yankee passes the Protective Tariff, Homestead Act, Ag College Bill and the Bill for the TRR, all before the Emancipation Proclamation. One reason is the Development of the West is a Union Builder. It ties all that territory to Yankee Nationalism. Another reason, Yankees are afraid that the South might come back to the Union, before the Yankee gets all this Legislation Passed. So the EP is Last.
Very well and accurately spoken.

And let us assume that the South lost $1,000,000 per year in fugitive slaves. So they are going to go after that $1,000,000 and abandon their interest in the multi millions west? Ha! Never. And they never lost a million in slaves anyway. Most slavery alone advocates have no comprehension of the value of the American West. William Gwin, senatorial predecessor of Jeff Davis, valued Sonora alone at more than all the gold in California!

Did I already say "Well spoken!"?

James
 

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After Secession, the Yankee passes the Protective Tariff, Homestead Act, Ag College Bill and the Bill for the TRR, all before the Emancipation Proclamation. One reason is the Development of the West is a Union Builder.
Thanks for your response. All of them promised in principle if not detail in the Republican Party Platform of 1860. All of them clearly within the power of Congress to legislate and none of which would have passed without secession.
Neither Congress nor the President had the power to free the slaves in the various states- until Lincoln was able to invoke emancipation under the President's war powers authority. Again, without secession, it would not have happened.
 

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First off, the 1850 Compromise was not a swap of CA for the FSL.
Thanks for your response.
According to to the analysis of Professor William Freehling, just such a tradeoff was made (interestingly, opposed by Mississippi's Senator Jefferson Davis)
See William W. Freehling, The Reintegration of American History: Slavery and the Civil War. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 170.
 
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And let us assume that the South lost $1,000,000 per year in fugitive slaves. So they are going to go after that $1,000,000 and abandon their interest in the multi millions west? Ha! Never
Yet according to Freehling, that is exactly what they did.
A now land-rich South understandably put lower priority on the acquisition of California and Cuba, both lush but neither located on a slaveholder's porous border. The higher priority involved consolidation of the vulnerable Border South.​
<William W. Freehling, The Reintegration of American History: Slavery and the Civil War. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 170.>
 

uaskme

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Thanks for your response.
According to to the analysis of Professor William Freehling, just such a tradeoff was made (interestingly, opposed by Mississippi's Senator Jefferson Davis)
See William W. Freehling, The Reintegration of American History: Slavery and the Civil War. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), p. 170.
No surprise Davis Objected. Davis wasn’t the only one. You need to get you a good book in the Compromise of 1850. If you don’t believe me, go study it. I have read Freehling, I don’t have that particular Book. However, there was more to the Compromise than CA and the FSL. Clay first negotiated the Compromise, which failed, he was in poor health. Douglas took his place and completed in. Douglas nor Clay wanted another Slave State.
 
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uaskme

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Thanks for your response. All of them promised in principle if not detail in the Republican Party Platform of 1860. All of them clearly within the power of Congress to legislate and none of which would have passed without secession.
Neither Congress nor the President had the power to free the slaves in the various states- until Lincoln was able to invoke emancipation under the President's war powers authority. Again, without secession, it would not have happened.
Lincoln Issues the EP in the Sea Islands Of SC, did not exempt that. Part of SC and in Rebellion. Planters left the Sea Islands before the Yankees got there, so they couldn’t un-Free them. He used the excuse of War Powers for anything else he wanted to do. Obviously if the South hadn’t Seceded, none of this would of happen in 62. Pretty good odds it would eventually happened. Lower South thought so. Yankee Nationalism is why the Lower South Seceded. A Republican Sectional Party who were going to advance, Interest of the Yankee. Just ask the Native Americans.

Again, Lincoln filled his Christmas list, before he issued the EP. Easy to see where his priorities were. And where they were not, With the Negro.
 
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