Political Independence Precedes Economic Independence
The parallels between 1776 and 1861 are many, as in the latter case Americans in the South followed the very spirit of Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence regarding the right of self-government and the consent of the governed. They wanted to end the galling economic dependency on the Northeastern cotton mills and financiers as their fathers ended economic dependency upon England.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
Political Independence Precedes Economic Independence:
“In the [American] colonial era of hand-manufacturing most manufacturing had been of the home and domestic variety. In all regions the finer goods had been imported from England, paid for in the South by surpluses of agricultural products and in the North by the proceeds of the fur trade, ship-building, fishing, and the favorable balance derived mainly from the West India trade and to a less extent the Mediterranean.
When at the beginning of the nineteenth century commercial manufacturing began to arise, its locus became the Northeast rather than the South for a number of reasons. Among these the most important was the fact that the profits from commerce and allied enterprises during the Napoleonic Wars did not find adequate outlets for investment in the new manufacturing industries, principally textiles; while the profits derived from the older agricultural staples in the South found outlet for investment in land and slaves, in the new staple cotton which spread rapidly in the upland regions of the South Atlantic and then across the Gulf Plain of the deep South, continuing to the very eve of the Civil War when the interior of Texas and Arkansas were being penetrated by cotton culture.
As profits from manufacturing accumulated, there was a steady outlet for their reinvestment in the enlargement of plants, the creation of new plants, and the fabrication of many articles other than textiles. Of these the products of iron became most important, particularly in Pennsylvania.
The new forms of transportation – improved highways, canals, steamboats, and finally railroads – absorbed great amounts of capital in the North, and even in the South some of the profits from agriculture were invested in this sort of enterprise . . . [but] even to the end of the ante-bellum period the South bought most of its manufactured goods from the North or indirectly from Europe through Northern concerns and was to some extent dependent upon Northern credit for the financing of its own enterprises, so that in a way the South was an economic dependency and sphere of influence of the Northeast.
This condition was a galling one and was by no means negligible in bringing on the bloody conflict of 1861-65. In this respect at least, the attempt of the South to secede from the North was comparable to the earlier efforts of the American colonists to rid themselves by force of their dependence upon England. In each case it was the belief of the secessionists that political independence would prove the forerunner of economic independence.”
(The South Looks at its Past, Benjamin Burks Kendrick & Alex Arnett, UNC Press, 1935, pp. 76-78)