Why wasn't secession about tariffs?

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Sandsquid

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I think that same question arrives before the war too. If it was all about tariffs, why were all the compromises NOT about tariffs?

For example the Crittendon Compromise. Not one southern senator voted against it (and not one Republican for it). Had 6 amendments, all about slavery, none about tariffs. And the others... the 3/5 compromise, the Missouri Compromise. the 2nd Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850. The gag rule Compromise, the Kansas Nebraska act... Why were all the compromises both sides would call to at the time of secession as having failed or not doing enough all about slavery and not tariffs?

Why did secession conventions in their resolutions and proposed amendments not make them about tariffs? Instead all we hear is slavery, slavery, slavery thousands of times.

Why did the Confederacy make the guy who wrote the tariff law that was in place when secession began their own Secretary of State? That's an odd one isn't it? Promoting that person to the 3rd highest position in the executive branch.
 

Potomac Pride

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Actually, the tariff issue was mentioned in the secession documents of several states such as S. Carolina and Georgia. However, the slavery issue was addressed in more detail compared to tariffs.
 
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CSA Today

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Since we all know tariffs imposed on the south were the real cause of the war, why is there no mention of it after the war by former Confederates? There was lots of hatred toward freed slaves but not much about the tyranny of tariffs. Was the issue resolved at Appomattox and just not entered into the record? Maybe that is what the Hampton Roads Conference was for but Lincoln kept it secret. Can anyone shine any light on this? It is all very peculiar.
No, we all don't know that; tariffs were one of a number of grievances that led to the secession of seven Southern States, but whether or not the Southern States would be allowed to remain an independent country was the real cause of the war.
 

Potomac Pride

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No, we all don't know that; tariffs were one of a number of grievances that led to the secession of seven Southern States, but whether or not the Southern States would be allowed to remain an independent country was the real cause of the war.
That is a very good point. Secession and war are separate things and the causes of each can be different.
 
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Sandsquid

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Actually, the tariff issue was mentioned in the secession documents of several states such as S. Carolina and Georgia. However, the slavery issue was addressed in more detail compared to tariffs.
I can't find a single reference to "tariffs" in either Georgia's or South Carolina's declaration of secession. Mail costs got more time in there.

The only mention of taxes I can find in South Carolina's, not as a complaint, but as proof that with slaves being taxed, the federal government recognized the right of property in slaves.

In fact when pulling up Georgia's minutes of their secession convention, tariffs come up once. Not as a reason for secession but rather as a comparison of sea port usage if they were to be a separate entity. Slaves pop up 212 times though.

In fact of the dozens of Amendments mentioned as a possibility to stay in the Union, not one of them were about tariffs but almost entirely about slavery (a few were clauses to make those amendments permanent). I can't even find one resolution having to do with Tariffs.


South Carolina's secession debate mentioned it... twice. Once as a negative, and once stating how tariff and slavery issues didn't exist when the nation was founded. Slave shows up 47 times and clearly dominates the debate.


So why, with slavery popping up over 300 times between their debates and Articles of secession, and tariffs popping up as many times as a complaint as mail service (once) would someone want to rewrite history to say tariffs?

In fact those conventions spent more time on seating arrangements according to their minutes than the issue of tariffs.
 
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thomas aagaard

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No, we all don't know that; tariffs were one of a number of grievances that led to the secession of seven Southern States, but whether or not the Southern States would be allowed to remain an independent country was the real cause of the war.
I fully agree with the last part.
The unilateral secession of SC and then more states caused a political crisis that none of the sides really understood and where both sides misjudged the situation. With the south also completely misjudging the balance of power and then escalating the situation to a war, without needing to.(in that situation)

So the war goal for the two sides was about the independence of the CSA or not.
 
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Potomac Pride

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I can't find a single reference to "tariffs" in either Georgia's or South Carolina's declaration of secession. Mail costs got more time in there.

The only mention of taxes I can find in South Carolina's, not as a complaint, but as proof that with slaves being taxed, the federal government recognized the right of property in slaves.

In fact when pulling up Georgia's minutes of their secession convention, tariffs come up once. Not as a reason for secession but rather as a comparison of sea port usage if they were to be a separate entity. Slaves pop up 212 times though.

In fact of the dozens of Amendments mentioned as a possibility to stay in the Union, not one of them were about tariffs but almost entirely about slavery (a few were clauses to make those amendments permanent). I can't even find one resolution having to do with Tariffs.


South Carolina's secession debate mentioned it... twice. Once as a negative, and once stating how tariff and slavery issues didn't exist when the nation was founded. Slave shows up 47 times and clearly dominates the debate.


So why, with slavery popping up over 300 times between their debates and Articles of secession, and tariffs popping up as many times as a complaint as mail service (once) would someone want to rewrite history to say tariffs?

In fact those conventions spent more time on seating arrangements according to their minutes than the issue of tariffs.
Thanks for your comments. The issue of tariffs is discussed in the secession document that is named "The Address of South Carolina to the Slaveholding States". The document was published in Dec. 1860 by the S. Carolina Secession Convention. The federal tariff is discussed in the section regarding taxes and they are sometimes referred to as "duties on imports" or simply "duties" in the document.
The Georgia Declaration of Causes of Secession released in Jan. 1861 by the secession convention also discusses tariffs which are referred to as "duties".
 

Potomac Pride

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Or as I usually say if required to state one reason for the civil war.
The issue of slavery caused secession. The legal question of secession caused the war.
That is a good point. The immediate cause of the war was over the constitutional principle of secession. The U.S. government refused to recognize the southern states’ right to secede from the Union and the CSA government proclaimed that the principle of secession was valid.
 

Sandsquid

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Thanks for your comments. The issue of tariffs is discussed in the secession document that is named "The Address of South Carolina to the Slaveholding States". The document was published in Dec. 1860 by the S. Carolina Secession Convention. The federal tariff is discussed in the section regarding taxes and they are sometimes referred to as "duties on imports" or simply "duties" in the document.
The Georgia Declaration of Causes of Secession released in Jan. 1861 by the secession convention also discusses tariffs which are referred to as "duties".
Thank you so much!

I found one mention of duties in the first... And another 33 of slavery. In Georgia's they talk of the duties to pay for the Mexican war in the past and low duties being agreed to (which was what was in place when they broke away). But nowhere do they use that as a cause. In fact that document is unable to go three straight sentences without mentioning the other reason as a cause. It starts and ends with the other as the clear cause.

Thank you for your help. It definitely lends creedence to the fact that while states have had thousands of complaints against the federal government, only one topic was clearly the only one worth rebellion.

Even looking through Virginia's secession convention, of which much was after the morrill tariff, the other topic comes up over 600 times, And the issue of tariffs only 3, only two calling it out in a negative light.

It looks like for every hundred times that other topic gets mentioned, tariffs are brought up and they seem to be brought up only in passing, and nowhere near the same level at any debate. I can find that other topic again and again in those documents called The cornerstone cause, the only cause worth talking about, the one cause, THE cause, the cause for revolution, the only cause they mention "worth preaching for, and if I can, practice, disunion, and civil war over".

I guess it makes sense why the Crittenden compromise, Which not one Southerner voted against, only addressed that one single cause and not tariffs. That one cause was the only one worth acting on. It makes sense why that one cause is the only one they felt worthy of a resolution or proposed amendment. I've found dozens and dozens of proposed amendments, and hundreds of resolutions and there when it comes to the causes worth either I can't find a single one over tariffs. Almost entirely about one other subject.


I mean that would make no sense to never propose a single amendment or compromise about tariffs, mention it at most 1% of the time compared to the other cause, and on the same level as mail delivery, and then come back and say that was somehow the reason for the split.

It clearly looks like there's been a lot of other debates and state legislatures debating their oppossition to taxes, tariffs, and duties where they were much more strongly opposed to those topics than in this situation and none ended in a secession. When you look at the whole of the documents it looks like the "prostitution of the mail" is a more relevant reason in those secession conventions.

Thanks for your help. Someone would really have to take a torch to a LOT of history to then revise it show that tariffs were a cause worthy of rebellion.
 
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Potomac Pride

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Thank you so much!

I found one mention of duties in the first... And another 33 of slavery. In Georgia's they talk of the duties to pay for the Mexican war in the past and low duties being agreed to (which was what was in place when they broke away). But nowhere do they use that as a cause. In fact that document is unable to go three straight sentences without mentioning the other reason as a cause. It starts and ends with the other as the clear cause.

Thank you for your help. It definitely lends creedence to the fact that while states have had thousands of complaints against the federal government, only one topic was clearly the only one worth rebellion.

Even looking through Virginia's secession convention, of which much was after the morrill tariff, the other topic comes up over 600 times, And the issue of tariffs only 3, only two calling it out in a negative light.

It looks like for every hundred times that other topic gets mentioned, tariffs are brought up and they seem to be brought up only in passing, and nowhere near the same level at any debate. I can find that other topic again and again in those documents called The cornerstone cause, the only cause worth talking about, the one cause, THE cause, the cause for revolution, the only cause they mention "worth preaching for, and if I can, practice, disunion, and civil war over".

I guess it makes sense why the Crittenden compromise, Which not one Southerner voted against, only addressed that one single cause and not tariffs. That one cause was the only one worth acting on. It makes sense why that one cause is the only one they felt worthy of a resolution or proposed amendment. I've found dozens and dozens of proposed amendments, and hundreds of resolutions and there when it comes to the causes worth either I can't find a single one over tariffs. Almost entirely about one other subject.


I mean that would make no sense to never propose a single amendment or compromise about tariffs, mention it at most 1% of the time compared to the other cause, and on the same level as mail delivery, and then come back and say that was somehow the reason for the split.

It clearly looks like there's been a lot of other debates and state legislatures debating their oppossition to taxes, tariffs, and duties where they were much more strongly opposed to those topics than in this situation and none ended in a secession. When you look at the whole of the documents it looks like the "prostitution of the mail" is a more relevant reason in those secession conventions.

Thanks for your help. Someone would really have to take a torch to a LOT of history to then revise it show that tariffs were a cause worthy of rebellion.
Thanks for your comments. In the S. Carolina document that I mentioned, the tariff is actually referred to more than just once. For example, in the Address of South Carolina to the Slaveholding States printed in Dec. 1860, it states: "The people of the South have been taxed by duties on imports (tariffs) not for revenue, but for an object inconsistent with revenue -- to promote, by prohibitions, Northern interests in the productions of their mines and manufactures." The document goes on to accuse the North of trying to dominate the South: "To build up their sectional predominance in the Union, ......the consolidation of the North to rule the South, by the tariff and slavery issues, was in the obvious course of things."

In the Georgia Declaration of Causes of Secession, it states that the low tariff policy in place was now being threatened. The very next paragraph states: “All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies” which refers to the coalition that had been struck between the high tariff protectionist advocates and the anti-slavery free soilers under the new Republican Party banner.

Finally, during the Virginia Secession Convention, the delegates also referred to tariffs by other names such as "duties" or "imposts". Those items were mentioned dozens of times during the actual convention.
 

Sandsquid

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Thanks for your comments. In the S. Carolina document that I mentioned, the tariff is actually referred to more than just once. For example, in the Address of South Carolina to the Slaveholding States printed in Dec. 1860, it states: "The people of the South have been taxed by duties on imports (tariffs) not for revenue, but for an object inconsistent with revenue -- to promote, by prohibitions, Northern interests in the productions of their mines and manufactures." The document goes on to accuse the North of trying to dominate the South: "To build up their sectional predominance in the Union, ......the consolidation of the North to rule the South, by the tariff and slavery issues, was in the obvious course of things."

In the Georgia Declaration of Causes of Secession, it states that the low tariff policy in place was now being threatened. The very next paragraph states: “All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies” which refers to the coalition that had been struck between the high tariff protectionist advocates and the anti-slavery free soilers under the new Republican Party banner.

Finally, during the Virginia Secession Convention, the delegates also referred to tariffs by other names such as "duties" or "imposts". Those items were mentioned dozens of times during the actual convention.
Thanks, it's interesting, looking at the terms, there is a lot of talk about duties and imposts, not all negative and a LOT of it on how to impose them if they were to secede, what they liked and didn't like about the existing ones.

And great point on Virginia there. Looking at where the duties and imposts talks came from, that was also coming heavily from the northern and western county delegates of the state that seceded from Virginia to stay with the US. Thank you for that information. It clearly shows that while tariffs were talked about positively, neutrally, and negatively, it wasn't a dividing issue, like another topic which was most heavily supported by the part of the state which seceded. You can basically draw a map of the border of West Virginia by where the ownership of one material wasn't popular. Thank you for that. It shows while tariffs were mentioned by secessionists and unionists alike, the topic of the ownership of one certain piece of property which drove the split between secessionists vs. the unionists.

Seems the more we dig, the more we find that other topic which was BY FAR the brunt of their issue was the divisive one worth secession/rebellion.

I mean this interest in tariffs was nowhere near the talks of it 30 years before, or 60 years before or 65 years before or 70 years before. Like I said, it makes no sense they would argue tariffs are worth secession, then promote the man who wrote the tariff they hate so much they are willing to rebel over to be their Secretary of state.

Breaking down the importance of reasons to leave by their primary documents, secession convention minutes, speeches by the leading secessionists, secession commissioners sent to other states to build their cause, their proposed amendments, their resolutions, their declarations for secession, their secessionists newspapers... I think we could put the reasons clearly in order as:

Protecting their interests in one set of property.
Expanding the interests of one set of property.
Having a certain group of fugitives from justice returned.
Having a President not opposed to one set of property.
Violent abolitionists not liking ownership of a certain set of property.
Being able to freely trade one set of property
Being able to freely travel with one set of property.
The voting rights of blacks
Other rights for blacks

Then comes things like tariffs, mail, border security, interracial marriages, etc.


Yet still not one mention of duties, tariffs, taxes, or imposts come up in a single resolution of theirs. Can you believe that? Not one comes up in a single amendment to change anything. Not one compromise details ANYTHING about tariffs. While tariffs were discussed, I can't find it once meeting the level of concern of being worth mentioned in a resolution, compromise, or proposed amendment. And when reading the speakers on those tariffs, NOT ONE can I find where that was even their primary concern.

It's interesting how revisionists like to dig and rewrite this as a major cause when they made clear it wasn't. When time and time again it gets mentioned and moved on from as soon as it is brought up.

Again and again you can keep naming founding fathers of the Confederacy who felt the ownership of a certain piece of property was their primary reason. I can't find one person saying it was tariffs or duties first. It's always some random line, a passing quote. Well I guess in their delegates to Europe they tried passing that off as the reason, but that was quickly debunked.

It's like how one of the biggest speakers on the tariff issue in Virginia's Convention was a secession commissioner from Mississippi. And he talks for paragraph after paragraph about the protection and expansion of one set of property... then mentions all sorts of other things of which one is tariffs. Anderson is responded to by people like Mr Benning, but the response is immediately about the escaping of a certain type of property... not anything about his tariff talk. Clearly not what was important.

Or in another speech from a Georgia delegate, the issue of tariffs come up with the promise that they would only pay 10%. And the response on that is how would that fund the government by some, and a question that with a 10% on imports from the US that might be higher than the existing tariff (it would have been).

Or you have delegate Goode mention tariffs for a sentence. But he also says "Sir, the great question which is now uprooting this Government to its foundation---the great question which underlies all our deliberations here, is the question of (a certain property)".

We see Delegate Baldwin mention duties... but he said "I say, then, that viewed from that standpoint, there is but one single subject of complaint which Virginia has to make against the government under which we live; a complaint made by the whole South, and that is on the subject of (a certain property)".

I think it's quite disingenuous to try and rewrite history by saying those people were pro-secession because of tariffs when if you read the entirety of their statements they make it clear, ONE SINGLE SUBJECT, ONE GREAT QUESTION is the one which they truly feel is their complaint.

Taxes are divisive. They are one of the big reasons the US rebelled against Great Britain. They have been a reason for many wars, and a big part of the Nullification crisis even. The Shays rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Fries Rebellion, the Greenwood insurrection. All clearly about taxes. It's a powder keg. I'm sure if you went back through history you could find a thousand times, states were upset in writing about federal taxes. But here's a rebellion, where they don't get hardly any interest. They aren't part of any proposed solution. Wow.

I just find it interesting that they mention it in passing but not one felt it was worthy of a compromise, amendment, or resolution. Yet today we have revisionists who want to pretend it was a major point and write it in as such. I guess for myself, a fan of source history I'll stick with what they thought was worthy of a revolution.
 

Andersonh1

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Maxcy Gregg did bring up the tariff during the South Carolina secession convention.

Mr. MAXCY GREGG. I take it that there is no law on the collection of duties in South Carolina now. We are out of the Union, or, if it is necessary to wait until 7 o'clock, we shall be out of the Union then. There will be, then, no law for the collection of duties. But if it be necessary to make temporary laws, I am entirely unwilling to adopt the laws of the United States. The tariff is that which our fathers have been fighting forty years. We are now free from it, and I am not willing to be under it one hour longer. I do not understand the Ordinance to propose that the tariff laws of the United States shall be of force in this State.​
 
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GwilymT

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Maxcy Gregg did bring up the tariff during the South Carolina secession convention.

Mr. MAXCY GREGG. I take it that there is no law on the collection of duties in South Carolina now. We are out of the Union, or, if it is necessary to wait until 7 o'clock, we shall be out of the Union then. There will be, then, no law for the collection of duties. But if it be necessary to make temporary laws, I am entirely unwilling to adopt the laws of the United States. The tariff is that which our fathers have been fighting forty years. We are now free from it, and I am not willing to be under it one hour longer. I do not understand the Ordinance to propose that the tariff laws of the United States shall be of force in this State.​
Gregg certainly brought this up yet what was the reply? Are we left to wonder why South Carolina didn’t highlight the tariff in their secession document? Gregg was certainly an eloquent defender of states rights and an opponent of the tariff (a link to his book is available on another thread), but his arguments for secession weren’t taken up by the convention. The South Carolina convention focused on other issues.
 
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trice

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Actually, the tariff issue was mentioned in the secession documents of several states such as S. Carolina and Georgia. However, the slavery issue was addressed in more detail compared to tariffs.
South Carolina's declaration only referred to slavery as a cause. When an attempt to mention Tariffs as a cause was made in the South Carolina Secession Convention, it failed.
 

CWH1234

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Thanks, it's interesting, looking at the terms, there is a lot of talk about duties and imposts, not all negative and a LOT of it on how to impose them if they were to secede, what they liked and didn't like about the existing ones.

And great point on Virginia there. Looking at where the duties and imposts talks came from, that was also coming heavily from the northern and western county delegates of the state that seceded from Virginia to stay with the US. Thank you for that information. It clearly shows that while tariffs were talked about positively, neutrally, and negatively, it wasn't a dividing issue, like another topic which was most heavily supported by the part of the state which seceded. You can basically draw a map of the border of West Virginia by where the ownership of one material wasn't popular. Thank you for that. It shows while tariffs were mentioned by secessionists and unionists alike, the topic of the ownership of one certain piece of property which drove the split between secessionists vs. the unionists.

Seems the more we dig, the more we find that other topic which was BY FAR the brunt of their issue was the divisive one worth secession/rebellion.

I mean this interest in tariffs was nowhere near the talks of it 30 years before, or 60 years before or 65 years before or 70 years before. Like I said, it makes no sense they would argue tariffs are worth secession, then promote the man who wrote the tariff they hate so much they are willing to rebel over to be their Secretary of state.

Breaking down the importance of reasons to leave by their primary documents, secession convention minutes, speeches by the leading secessionists, secession commissioners sent to other states to build their cause, their proposed amendments, their resolutions, their declarations for secession, their secessionists newspapers... I think we could put the reasons clearly in order as:

Protecting their interests in one set of property.
Expanding the interests of one set of property.
Having a certain group of fugitives from justice returned.
Having a President not opposed to one set of property.
Violent abolitionists not liking ownership of a certain set of property.
Being able to freely trade one set of property
Being able to freely travel with one set of property.
The voting rights of blacks
Other rights for blacks

Then comes things like tariffs, mail, border security, interracial marriages, etc.


Yet still not one mention of duties, tariffs, taxes, or imposts come up in a single resolution of theirs. Can you believe that? Not one comes up in a single amendment to change anything. Not one compromise details ANYTHING about tariffs. While tariffs were discussed, I can't find it once meeting the level of concern of being worth mentioned in a resolution, compromise, or proposed amendment. And when reading the speakers on those tariffs, NOT ONE can I find where that was even their primary concern.

It's interesting how revisionists like to dig and rewrite this as a major cause when they made clear it wasn't. When time and time again it gets mentioned and moved on from as soon as it is brought up.

Again and again you can keep naming founding fathers of the Confederacy who felt the ownership of a certain piece of property was their primary reason. I can't find one person saying it was tariffs or duties first. It's always some random line, a passing quote. Well I guess in their delegates to Europe they tried passing that off as the reason, but that was quickly debunked.

It's like how one of the biggest speakers on the tariff issue in Virginia's Convention was a secession commissioner from Mississippi. And he talks for paragraph after paragraph about the protection and expansion of one set of property... then mentions all sorts of other things of which one is tariffs. Anderson is responded to by people like Mr Benning, but the response is immediately about the escaping of a certain type of property... not anything about his tariff talk. Clearly not what was important.

Or in another speech from a Georgia delegate, the issue of tariffs come up with the promise that they would only pay 10%. And the response on that is how would that fund the government by some, and a question that with a 10% on imports from the US that might be higher than the existing tariff (it would have been).

Or you have delegate Goode mention tariffs for a sentence. But he also says "Sir, the great question which is now uprooting this Government to its foundation---the great question which underlies all our deliberations here, is the question of (a certain property)".

We see Delegate Baldwin mention duties... but he said "I say, then, that viewed from that standpoint, there is but one single subject of complaint which Virginia has to make against the government under which we live; a complaint made by the whole South, and that is on the subject of (a certain property)".

I think it's quite disingenuous to try and rewrite history by saying those people were pro-secession because of tariffs when if you read the entirety of their statements they make it clear, ONE SINGLE SUBJECT, ONE GREAT QUESTION is the one which they truly feel is their complaint.

Taxes are divisive. They are one of the big reasons the US rebelled against Great Britain. They have been a reason for many wars, and a big part of the Nullification crisis even. The Shays rebellion, the Whiskey Rebellion, the Fries Rebellion, the Greenwood insurrection. All clearly about taxes. It's a powder keg. I'm sure if you went back through history you could find a thousand times, states were upset in writing about federal taxes. But here's a rebellion, where they don't get hardly any interest. They aren't part of any proposed solution. Wow.

I just find it interesting that they mention it in passing but not one felt it was worthy of a compromise, amendment, or resolution. Yet today we have revisionists who want to pretend it was a major point and write it in as such. I guess for myself, a fan of source history I'll stick with what they thought was worthy of a revolution.
Interesting post, thought I don't know the answer.
 
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Potomac Pride

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South Carolina's declaration only referred to slavery as a cause. When an attempt to mention Tariffs as a cause was made in the South Carolina Secession Convention, it failed.
You should read South Carolina's Address to the Slaveholding States which was a secession document that was produced by the S. Carolina Convention in December 1860. It discusses the inequity of the federal tariff among other things.
 
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