Simply stated, a
powerful and independent nation to the south would be an economic threat to the United States
and therefore, eventually a potential military
on the exports
of the South and West were the primary source of revenues to
the federal treasury (estimates vary 70-80%). Shipping and transportation revenues for Southern
imports/exports were essential to the economies of the New England
states. Goods manufactured in Northern industrial states were sold in the
South and West because import duties
(protective tariffs) on competing English and European goods were so
high as to make the American goods less
costly to the Southern consumer.
With Southern states
controlling their own ports and their own duties, competing goods could be
imported from abroad at lower cost, inducing the expanding railroads and
other major buyers to import steel rail and other manufactured
goods through Southern ports at the exclusion of U.S. ports.
Unless, the U.S. government lowered its duties and tariffs---surrendering
revenues----to remain competitive, Northern ports would lose traffic and
profits and Northern manufacturers would have to compete price-wise or
shut down (American textile manufacturing was far less efficient than the
English textile mills). Northern newspaper editors
described this double-edged sword:
The predicament in which both
the Government and the commerce of the country are placed, through the
non-enforcement of our revenue laws, is now thoroughly understood the
world over....If the manufacturer at Manchester [England] can send his
goods into the Western States through New Orleans at less cost than
through New York, he is a fool for not availing himself of his
advantage...If the importations of the counrty are made through Southern
ports, its exports will go through the same channel. The produce of
the West, instead of coming to our own port by millions of tons, to be
transported abroad by the same ships through which we received our
importations, will seek other routes and other outlets. With the
lost of our foreign trade, what is to become of our public works,
conducted at the cost of many huindred millions of dollars, to turn into
our harbor the products of the interior? They share in the common
ruin. So do our manufacturers...Once at New Orleans, goods
may be distributed over the whole country duty-free. The
process is perfectly simple... The commercial bearing
of the question has acted upon the North...We now see clearly whither we
are tending, and the policy we must adopt. With us it is no longer
an abstract question---one of Constitutional construction, or of the
reserved or delegated powers of the State or Federal government, but of
material existence and moral position both at home and
abroad.....We were divided and confused till our pockets
were touched. ---New York Times
March 30, 1861
The Southern Confederacy will
not employ our ships or buy our goods. What is our shipping without
it? Literally nothing....It is very clear that the South gains by
this process, and we lose. No---we MUST NOT "let the South go."
----Union Democrat ,
Manchester, NH, February 19, 1861
From a story entitled: "What shall be done for a
That either revenue from duties
must be collected in the ports of the rebel states, or the ports must be
closed to importations from abroad....If neither of these things be done,
our revenue laws are substantially repealed; the sources which
supply our treasury will be dried up; we shall have no money to
carry on the government; the nation will become bankrupt before the next
crop of corn is ripe.....Allow rail road iron to be entered at Savannah
with the low duty of ten per cent, which is all that the Southern
Confederacy think of laying on imported goods, and not an ounce more would
be imported at New York; the railroads would be supplied from the southern
ports. ---New York Evening Post March 12,
, recorded in Northern Editorials on Secession,
Howard C. Perkins, ed., 1965, pp. 598-599.
In other words....the Northern sentiment
was: To Hell with Constitutional issues! To Hell
with Right or Wrong! Let's bend the South to our will because they
are threatening the money in our pockets!
In other words, the
South was destroyed
and more than 600,000 Americans lost their lives and another million were
maimed for selfish, economic reasons! Had these enterprising Yankees of the 1860s been around
in the 1980s, the United States would have placed a 40%-50% import
tariff on Japanese cars and if that didn't work they would have bombed
Japanese auto factories. We can't have those pesky Japanese
importing better quality cars than we make! The reader
may think this a little absurd, but rest assured that people in Detroit
were thinking it in 1980 and that Congressmen from Michigan and the
UAW union were lobbying Congress for higher tariffs.
The almighty dollar was at the root of the
There are many surfaces, many angles and
many facets to this rock, some of which we'll review, but money was
the key. Follow the money!
Just as the American
Revolution started primarily as a tax revolt, so did the War for
Southern Independence. Of course, there were other grievances
besides tax policy, but the money was always the keystone
Tax revolts were a
threat to American federal government from the beginning. The
Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was put down (at
least in part) when President George Washington personally lead
13,000 troops into the western Pennsylvania frontier. Was this
excessive show of force against a "minor" revolt to make a point?
YES. The government would use its power to enforce tax laws.
Or perhaps the rebellion was more widespread? Rebellion and
secession in the South were legitimate fears had the enforcement been
pressed in the South, therefore Treasury Secretary Hamilton didn't
recommend action there. The federal government (by design!) simply
didn't have the power to fully
enforce unpopular tax policy at that
Tax policy would continue to be a potential incendiary of revolt in the
Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It
is a force, like fire: a dangerous servant and a terrible master.
As predicted by the Anti-federalists (see Section 1 ), the
power of the federal government did grow beyond its Constitutional charter. It grew
in power sufficient to make tax revolt much more dangerous.
why didn't Lincoln choose peaceful alternatives? This issue will
be addressed in the next section.
Why was there war?
Copyright © Steve Scroggins - All rights reserved.