Browsing "Antebellum Economics"

“Force of a Most Formidable Character”

In early March 1861, the new Confederate States government adopted a virtual free tariff, which quickly brought Northern merchants to their economic senses. Moses Kelly of the US Department of the Interior overheard many Southerners state that Southern ports planning direct trade with Europe “promised to deprive northern merchants of their position as middlemen and to eject northern manufacturers from the southern market in favor of European competitors.”

Further, the Philadelphia Press asked rhetorically: “If South Carolina is permitted to establish a free port with impunity, and to invite to her harbor all the ships of foreign nations, would not disaster in that event fall upon all our great northern interests?” It accurately predicted “an early reawakening of the Union sentiment in New York.” Thus true reason for total war against the South and destruction of her economic base was clearly revealed.

“Force of a Most Formidable Character”

“[By March 1861] it was evident that northern businessmen had carefully measured the consequences of disunion and the collapse of central authority and decided that they were intolerable. They had called for appeasement, but when that failed they were soon reconciled to the use of force.

Many of them concluded that property had received about as much damage from the crisis as it could, that “no new phase which the [secession] movement may take can have any further effect.”

Stocks had reached their lowest average quotations in December when the government seemed weakest, and even the approach of war failed to depress them that much again. As one commercial writer saw it, business was already suffering “all it could from a state of actual war.” And when war finally came the northern men of property united behind Lincoln to save the Union and restore the prestige of the national government.

When Yankee capitalists finally endorsed the use of military force against secessionists, they accepted the final remedy for a solemn threat to their property and future profits. Inevitably the holders of government securities looked upon disunion as a menace to their investments.

One conservative nervously declared: “So long as the right of secession is acknowledged, United States bonds must still be denounced as entirely unsafe property to hold . . .” To permit States to leave the Union at will, he warned, would mean that the “United States stocks are really worth no more than old Continental money.” With this in mind, when another government loan was offered in January, an observer shrewdly predicted: “Every dollar [New] York takes binds her capitalists to the Union, and the North.”

A basic tenet of the northern middle classes was that the value of property depended upon political stability. In effect, secessionists had made an indirect attack upon the possessions of every property holder. They had invited property-less Northerners, the revolutionary “sans culottes,” “the unwashed and unterrified,” to precipitate the country into “rough and tumble anarchy.” This “social and moral deterioration” might easily infect the lower classes with the radical idea “that a raid upon property can be justified by the plea of necessity.”

Conservatives looked apprehensively at the “immense foreign element” in northern cities and feared that revolution was “nearer our doors than we imagine.” From these recent immigrants could come the mobs to set aside all law and order and, with “revolver and stiletto,” sink the nation “into confusion and riotous chaos.” The only alternative, it was repeatedly argued, was to enforce respect for the Federal government everywhere.

[Northern] businessmen gradually became convinced that Southern independence would be almost fatal to northern commerce. American maritime power in the Caribbean and Gulf . . . would vanish . . . exclude the North from their trade . . . Even trade with the Pacific would be at the mercy of the South.

The northern monopoly in the coasting trade was a further casualty of the disunion movement. Vowing that he had “an interest and proprietorship in the Union of all these States,” [a] New Yorker concluded that secession would have to be checkmated by “force of a most formidable character.”

(And the War Came: The North and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861 Kenneth M. Stampp, LSU Press, 1950, excerpts pp. 223-230)

The American Right of Revolution

The northeastern United States of the late 1820s were sufficiently prosperous to have a large group of “substantial citizens” . . . manufacturers and journalists interested in the cause of domestic industry, and their purpose was to influence the passage of a new tariff act.” For the most part these men were industrialists and focused on increased profits, not national stability.

The South was in economic distress at the time and the new, higher tariff “seemed to end once and for all any prospect of relief, and many [Southerners] were ready for outright rebellion, even as New England had been in 1814.”

For South Carolina to nullify a federal law it viewed as obnoxious and injurious to its citizens, was a full expression of the Tenth Amendment — inserted into the Constitution for an obvious purpose. The next logical step of an injured State would be peacefully withdrawing from a political union which no longer fulfilled the purposes for which it was formed. And if withdrawal was met with violence, revolution was next.

The American Right of Revolution

“Controversial as Nullification was in the absence of original records before 1828-1833, Americans still continued to believe in federalism and States’ rights. In the words of Alexander Johnston, “Almost every State in the Union in turn declared its own sovereignty and denounced as almost treasonable similar declarations by other States.”

Herman V. Ames in fact compiled a “collection of documents on the relation of the States to the Federal Government” in 1911. They were “selected especially,” he observed, “with a view to illustrate the development of the “compact theory” of the Constitution and the doctrine of “State Rights,’ State opposition to the Federal Judiciary, and the different phases of the slavery controversy, culminating in the secession movement.”

That we believe otherwise today, in Nullification’s unconstitutionality and [John C.] Calhoun’s and the South’s apostasy from the beliefs of the founders and framers, is explained by another and longer era of historical amnesia by which original intentions as described herein in length were not so much forgotten as between 1789 and 1819, but purposely misinterpreted both to nullify the Nullifiers of South Carolina and to establish a mythical history for a new nation in the making that was the central development of the years after the War of 1812 and until the Civil War.

While this more liberal-democratic-egalitarian-nationalist America was yet inchoate as the confused politics of the 1820s and 1830s inform us, it was there nonetheless in Jacksonian Democracy and nationalism and radical abolitionism which were, it is forgotten, minority movements. The union of the States persisted with the 18th century Whig-republican ideology still extant as the core set of beliefs within the misnamed Democratic party that was really republican with a small “r.”

The liberal-in-a-neo-Hamiltonian sense-Whigs of the 19th century co-existed long enough to make party politics interesting and popular and the preserve the old union of the States. If not republicans, most Americans before the Civil War remained at least federalists. Nullification may have come and gone, but the “right of revolution” continued to be accepted as an original intention and the ultimate means to preserve liberty.”

(Nullification, A Constitutional History, 1776-1833, Volume II: James Madison and the Constitutionality of Nullification, 1787-1828, W. Kirk Wood, University Press of America, 2009, excerpts pg. 105)

No Negotiation, No Compromise

Lincoln supported the Corwin Resolution of 1860 which stated that “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.”

His Republican party was “antislavery” only in regard to restricting black persons to the borders of the Southern States where they reside, and maintaining the territories of the West to the immigrants who supported his party.

After the secession of Southern States and his war against them begun, he offered protection for African slavery if they would return to his Union before January 1, 1863. When those States continued to fight for their independence, his total war pressed onward and the South’s economic wealth and political liberty was destroyed.

No Negotiation, No Compromise

“In the tumultuous six months between his election in November 1860 and the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Abraham Lincoln rejected all diplomatic efforts to resolve the deepening crisis peacefully.

In the political dispute with the newly-constituted, but militarily weak, Confederate States of America, there would be no meaningful negotiations. No compromise would be offered or accepted. Instead, tensions between the two governments would be heightened, and the passions of the American public inflamed, by Lincoln’s provocative and deceptive rhetoric.

Lincoln’s words were a reflection of his unflagging desire to wage total war upon the South. It was to be a war that would last until the enemy agreed to unconditional surrender and US public officials and private contractors had made a financial killing. In 1878, Henry S. Wolcott, special investigator for the US War and Navy Departments, estimated “at least twenty, if not twenty-five percent of the entire expenditures of the government during the Rebellion, were tainted with fraud.”

Lincoln’s ideological view of politics equated progress and patriotism with support for a high protective tariff, internal improvements, and a national bank. Capturing just 39 percent of the popular vote, Lincoln considered his election a democratic mandate to pursue his agenda. A rejection of his economic program by the political leadership of the South, therefore, would be a rejection of democracy.

Lincoln’s program depended on the tariff, and the tariff depended on the South remaining in the Union, as did the survival of the Republican party. For that reason, Lincoln initially pledged his support for the Corwin Resolution, which had been adopted in the waning days of the Buchanan administration. This was the original Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

It had been passed by the House and the Senate, and signed by President Buchanan, but it was never ratified, because, by then, many Southern States had decided to secede. The fact that the South withdrew from the Union despite the passage of this amendment indicated other issues besides slavery motivated their secession. Foremost was the South’s embrace of free trade, the antithesis of Lincoln’s economic agenda.”

(Lincoln, Diplomacy and War, Joseph E. Fallon, Chronicles, April 2008, excerpts pg. 43)

Inheritors of Britain’s Colonial Labor System

After the British themselves, New Englanders were responsible for populating the colonies with slaves purchased from African tribes, and the invention of Massachusetts tinkerer Eli Whitney in 1793 sent demand for slaves and cotton soaring.

With the election of Thomas Jefferson in 1800, New England Federalists unhappy with the new political supremacy of Virginia called upon the North “to combine to protect the commercial interests against the vicious slave-holding democrats of the South.” Thus began the descent into war between the sections.

Inheritors of Britain’s Colonial Labor System

“Slavery was disappearing from the North. The rector of the Swedish churches in America told the American Philosophical Society that the introduction of “mechanism” in the Southern States would eliminate the need of slaves; but the invention of the cotton gin led to the opposite result.

Defenders of slavery declared it was a necessary evil that would eventually cure itself. The slaveholder could not be held guilty of crime because slavery as a very common thing is due to the state of society, for which the slaveholder is not responsible. Slavery in America is preferable to liberty in Africa because the slave gets better care and acquires the Christian religion.

In fact, the underlying reasons for importing slaves is to further the Christian religion. Respectably opponents, generally in New England, questioned the argument that slavery is a curse of society, not of the individual. It is no more valid, they said, than the notion of drunkenness and adultery are not delinquencies of the individual. The greatest evil is that the slaves will eventually outnumber the whites, and this must lead either to the most horrible event, intermarriage, or the destruction of the whites.

For the most part, the critics looked for remedies in the abolition of the slave trade, the growth of voluntary manumission, and even the growth of trade and commerce with Africa in the manner pictured by [economist James] Swan. It was agreed that pecuniary considerations were the most important barrier to voluntary manumission, but the slaveholder was told to trust to the Lord for his recompense.

The general attitude was best expressed by the Baptist clergyman Samuel Jones of Philadelphia. The slave trade is abominable; the possession of slaves is not profitable except in the newly settled regions where the costs of labor are very high. But the slave owners are innocent inheritors of the institution and not obliged to free their slaves, “at least not until they have been fully reimbursed the full amount of their cost on equitable principles.”

(The Economic Mind in American Civilization: 1606-1865, Joseph Dorfman, Viking Press, 1946, excerpts pp. 280-282)

“An American Business”

In 1821, after sailing to the proposed site of the colony at Cape Mesurado, present-day Monrovia, Lt. Robert Stockton and Reverend Eli Ayers journeyed twenty miles inland to “convince the most powerful of the native leaders, “King Peter,” to discuss terms to sell the land.

The Africans objected to the intruders and accused them of “kidnapping Africans,” and “destroying the slave trade” – the first was the African tribe’s primary business, the second the African tribe did not want to happen.

Americans were trying to eliminate the slave trade from Africa and provide repatriation for Africans freed in the US – but working against these humanitarian efforts were an increasingly complex slave trade, New England-built slave ships and cotton mills (the latter made profitable by Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney’s invention), and New York merchants and banks hungry for profits. It is noteworthy that none of the slave ships sailed under the Confederate Battle Flag.

“An American Business”

“[In] mid-1799 Secretary of the Treasury Oliver Wolcott wrote the customs collector at Boston that “Captain Decatur of the Navy during his late cruise . . . near Cuba, met with the brig Dolphin of Boston, William White [the] Master, with 140 to 150 slaves for sale [and] procured on the coast of Africa.”

Wolcott directed the collector to “take requisite measures to enforce the law.”

And, in April 1800, the Secretary of the Navy passed along to the treasury secretary a short list, sent along by Captain Bainbridge of the USS Norfolk, of suspected slavers who recently returned from Cuban waters to Philadelphia.

With the enactment of the 1800 statute, the Navy immediately began seizing suspected slavers and sending them in for adjudication. The first three were captured in the space of a month. The sloop Betsey of Boston takes the honor of being the first slave-trading vessel captured by the US Navy.

Meanwhile, other factors encouraged the trade, among them the wide use of the cotton gin and the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. The former vastly increased production, and the latter moved the slave economy westward to new lands.

[After the war of 1812] the slave trade became logistically complex. The selected American-registered vessel was chartered in Cuba or Brazil by a slave dealer and sailed to Britain or elsewhere to load a cargo particularly suited for the African coast trade: cheap muskets, rum, etc.

[Often] the vessel needed to hover off the coast while the agents ashore gathered the human cargo . . . And once the Africans were gathered and the night was dark, canoes were loaded with the slaves and rowed from shore to ship. Then the ship was “sold” on the spot and became Spanish, Portuguese or Brazilian . . . [and] made passage back to the Western Hemisphere with the slave cargo.

Thus, given fast, American-built vessels; immunity from search; and growing profits, the trade was becoming an “American business.” Though it should be kept in mind that the major markets in this era were Brazil and Cuba, and rarely were slave cargoes brought directly to the United States.

By all accounts the last half of the 1830s marked a quickening of the slave trade, particularly to Cuba, fed by high prices and minimum interference from American cruisers.

The British Mixed Commission at Havana reported the arrival of 240 illegal slavers during the years 1836 through 1839, fifty-eight of which were under American colors. And it was reported that a New York mercantile house had taken in $240,000 in profits on the trade in the space of fourteen months, and that slaves had brought ten times their purchase price at Havana in the same period.”

(African Squadron: The US Navy and the Slave Trade, 1842-1861, Donald L. Canney, Potomac Books, 2006, excerpts pp. 2-4; 21-23)

Lincoln’s Broad Economic Revolution

In the four prewar years 1856-1860, total federal expenditures were a mere $274 million, and financed by tariffs (disproportionately paid by the South), and the sale of public lands. The direct costs of the Northern war effort 1861-1865 is estimated at $2.3 billion; when indirect costs such as outright destruction and soldier pensions are included the estimate rises to $8 billion. “[The] Union’s expenditures on the war were equivalent to more than 70% of the North’s share of the 1859 gross domestic product. Lincoln’s war economy enabled Philip Amour to make $2 million selling pork to the Northern army; Clement Studebaker amassed a fortune providing wagons to Northern forces, and Andrew Carnegie grew rich as an iron merchant.

Lincoln’s Broad Economic Revolution

“First . . . the [Northern] citizenry remained passionately resistant to any form of federal income tax. A second option was to turn to borrowing. The great advantage of this choice was that it would pass some of the cost of the war on to future generations (in the form of interest and debt). A final choice was to print money and declare it legal tender – a policy not without cost. The printing of currency not backed by specie would raise prices, thus financing the war through inflation.

As soon as the war began, President Lincoln ordered Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase to begin taking steps to fund the war. Chase faced an economy that had barely recovered from the Panic of 1857 before being thrown into recession by the secession crisis. Chase initially turned to increase import fees, excise taxes and the sale of government land, but he soon shifted his attention to the sale of [war] bonds [hoping] to fund its war effort through a form of borrowing.

Congress [passed] the revolutionary Legal Tender Act [in] February 1862 [which] provided for the issuance of $150 million in non-interest bearing notes. Although not backed by gold or silver, these “greenbacks” were legal tender for all debts except import duties and interest on government loans. By issuing notes without the backing of specie, the government risked serious inflation.

In August 1861 Congress passed a 3 percent tax on incomes of more than eight hundred dollars, but it was a year before those funds were collects. The following July a new revenue measure expanded income taxes and added an assortment of other levies.

In late summer 1862 bond sales had dwindled [and] Secretary Chase turned to Philadelphia broker Jay Cooke to orchestrate a massive campaign to stimulate them. This strategy [of 2500 agents nationwide] anticipated the patriotic war bond drives of World Wars I and II. [Roughly] one in four Northern families [purchased them,] Yet it appears most war bonds ended up in the hands of banks and wealthy investors.

The final piece of Chase’s financial program did not fall into place until midway through the war. The National Banking Act of February 1863 (and legislation of June 1864) established a new system of banks. Finally, in March 1865, Congress passed a 10 percent tax on all notes issued by State banks [which was sufficient to] drive most State banks into the new banking system.

When all was said and done bond sales funded two-thirds of the North’s military expenses. Various forms of wartime taxation funded 21 percent of the war’s cost, and the remaining costs were financed through inflation. By printing greenbacks the federal government caused an increase in prices, which had a measurable impact on the Northern economy. At their peak, prices rose to 80 percent above antebellum levels.

The funding legislation passed by the war Congress raises a broader issue. How did wartime measures reshape the American economy?

One long-standing interpretation is that the war was a triumph of industrial capitalism. With for decades the intellectual heirs of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton had battled over the constitutionality of federal measures to assist economic development.

With the [Southern] congressmen safely out of the way [in 1861] – so the interpretation goes – Republicans were free to pursue an agenda which features protective tariffs and strong banking legislation. The Civil War provide the perfect excuse for imposing a broad economic revolution.”

(The North Fights the Civil War: The Homefront, J. Matthew Gallman, Ivan R. Dee, 1993, excerpts pp. 96-99)

The Real Cause of Secession

The protectionist Morrill Tariff passed the Senate on March 2, 1861, with many Southern members already having resigned their seats due to their States no longer being part of the United States. In response, Virginia Senator Roger Pryor delivered a blistering tirade against the Northern protectionists: “The importune protectionists of Pennsylvania . . . after higgling successively with every party for a stipend from the Treasury, at last caught the Republicans in a moment of exigent need, and from their lust for place, extorted the promise of a bounty to iron. This bill is the issue of a carnal coalition between the Abolitionists of New England and the protectionists of Pennsylvania.” The low, free trade tariff passed by the Confederate Congress would be ruinous to high-tariff Northern ports.

The Real Cause of Secession

“Southern agrarians had made known their intense hostility to protective [import] duties which they considered a burdensome tax upon their enterprise for the benefit of Northern manufacturers. It was the issue that drove South Carolina to the edge of rebellion thirty years before, and ever since 1846 Southern influence had kept tariff schedules at low levels.

But a tariff increase had been one of the major planks in the Republicans’ Chicago [party] platform. Its appeal had won them many votes in the East, especially in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Accordingly they were determined to redeem their pledge without delay; indeed they were warned repeatedly that failure to act would ruin them in Pennsylvania.

[Republican Simon] Cameron’s correspondence made it evident that conservative Pennsylvanians were determined to have a higher tariff regardless of the consequences; that this was not an issue which they regarded as properly open to compromise. Harry C. Carey of Philadelphia, the doctrinaire protectionist who was ready to concede almost anything else to the South, comforted his sympathizers with a unique diagnosis of the secession crisis which absolved them of any responsibility. In begging Northern congressmen to raise the tariff, he argued that free trade was actually “the cause of the discord with which we are troubled.” Only protection [of Northern manufacturers] could form a sound foundation for a prosperous and harmonious Union.

In any event, Republicans wasted no time in bringing the tariff question before Congress. A bill sponsored by Representative Justin S. Morrill of Vermont, which provided substantial protection for Pennsylvania iron and other Northern manufactures, had passed the House at the previous session. Cameron pressed for its consideration in the Senate as early as the second day of the new session.

Senator Hunter of Virginia, defending the rights of farmers and consumers, led the opposition to the new tariff . . . [as to] Virginia and the rest of the South this bill would be ruinous. “I know that we here are too weak to resist or to defend ourselves; those who sympathize with our wrongs are too weak to help us . . . No sir, this bill will pass. And let it pass into the statute-book; let it pass into history, that we may know how it is that the South has been dealt with when New England and Pennsylvania had the power to deal with her interests.”

A week later an amended version of the Morrill Tariff passed the Senate by a vote of 35 to 14, the opposition coming exclusively from Southerners and western Democrats. Representative [Daniel] Sickles of New York City reflected the views of the merchants when he protested that this bill would further alienate the South from the Union, for “our Southern friends perceive that . . . you intend . . . to tax them on the necessaries of life in order to enrich the manufacturing classes of the North . . .”

(And the War Came: The North and the Secession Crisis, 1860-1861, Kenneth M. Stampp, LSU Press, 1950, excerpts pp. 161-164)

Money Versus Morality Up North

In his “Lords of the Loom” study of the years preceding the war, author Thomas H. O’Conner asserts that “Throughout much of traditional historical literature, the conservative Northern Whigs in the decades before the Civil War have either been completely overlooked, or else dismissed out of hand with vague generalizations.” He further credits fellow author Vernon Parrington with cautioning his readers that “the Puritan and the Yankee were two halves of the New England whole.” Conner’s book is the story of what happened “when the Puritan conscience collided head-on with the Yankee zeal for profit – when the moral desire to uproot the evils of slavery reached the point where it had to be weighed against the economic demands for more slave-grown cotton” – for New England mills.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Money Versus Morality Up North

“In 1941, Philip Foner, in his “Business and Slavery,” made an appeal for a more detailed study of the Northern businessman and his reaction to the coming of the Civil War. Countering the popular interpretation that the war was a product of two conflicting economic systems, Professor Foner presented his own observations regarding the concerted efforts of the New York financial interests to check any and all movements which tended to precipitate an intersectional struggle.

Foner’s challenge has failed to arouse very much historical enthusiasm, apparently, for many recent historical treatments of the critical years before the Civil War continue to generalize upon the essential economic antagonisms of the North and the South, and still look upon the Northern industrialist as the catalytic agent which propelled the sections into bloody warfare.

One of the most distinctive presentations of this economic point of view came into the twentieth century with the writings of Charles Beard. The South, according to Beard, was an area of “planters operating in a limited territory with incompetent labor on soil of diminishing fertility,” in contrast to the industrial men of the North who “swept forward . . . exulting in the approaching triumph of machine industry, [and who] warned the planters of their ultimate subjection.”

The economic interpretation was carried into the twenties by the work of Vernon Parrington . . . enthusiastic about the “agrarian democracy” of the West, sympathetic at times toward the interest of the South, Parrington had little regard for the ideals of a middle class which was busily engaged in “creating a plutocracy.” In the decades before the war, claimed Parrington, the major parties of the United States chose to follow the economic interests of “master groups, heedless of all humanitarian issues”; and once the war was over, the “slave economy could never again thwart the ambitions of the capitalist economy.”

[Despite considerable evidence to the contrary], Writers continue to generalize upon New England’s “hatred of Southerners and their institutions” and often describe this hatred so intense that New England would “do everything possible to destroy slavery.”

(Lords of the Loom: The Cotton Whigs and the Coming of the Civil War, Thomas H. O’Conner, Charles Scribner’s & Sons, 1968, excerpts pp. 1- 6)

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

The aristocratic cotton manufacturers who supported Henry Clay’s “American System” organized the Massachusetts Whig party out of the chaos of Andrew Jackson’s reelection in 1832. They and their allies saw high tariffs as job insurance, and resented Jackson’s appeal to immigrant labor, farmers and urban workers. These Massachusetts Whigs had grown wealthy from Eli Whitney’s invention and slave-produced cotton from the South, and considered abolitionists as enemies of the Constitution and peace. Both Whitney and the mill owners were responsible for perpetuating slavery in the South as they made cotton production highly profitable.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Disruptive and Inharmonious Boston Abolitionists

“The leaders of the Whig party, for a number of reasons, were particularly responsive to the abolitionist threat. Several members of their class, including Sewall, Edmund Quincy, Ellis Gray Loring, Francis Jackson, James Russell Lowell, William Ellery Channing, and Wendell Phillips, had entered abolitionist ranks and so threatened the newly-restored [upper Boston] class unity.

Although the aristocrats were engaged in a great many reforms, abolitionism never became fashionable or even acceptable to the social elite as a whole, and aristocrats who associated with the abolitionists were quickly ostracized. Consequently, many of the leading abolitionists came from less socially-distinguished families and were most successful in their appeals to the middle class.

The Whig leaders, who regarded abolitionism as a disruptive influence in American society and deplored the abolitionists’ opposition to harmony with the South and the maintenance of the Union, seldom distinguished the moderate abolitionists from the Garrisonian extremists.

Worst of all, from the Whig point of view, the abolitionists, in their demand for immediate, uncompensated emancipation, had attacked property right which the conservative Whigs regarded as fundamental to every other right.

The Whig leaders opposed all denunciations of slavery and slaveholders, many of whom were personal friends, business associates, and political allies. They considered slavery a redundant issue in Massachusetts politics and anti-slavery propaganda worse than meaningless in the North. Although most of them, to be sure, considered slavery an evil, they emphasized that it was an institution wholly controlled by the States, and as such was protected by the Constitution, which was no to be tampered with.

Anti-slavery agitation in the North would only bring about sectional disharmony and, in addition, worsen the condition of the slave in the South. Abbott Lawrence summed up the conservative Whig position when he wrote:

“I am in favor of maintaining the compact as established by our fathers. I am for the Union as it is. I have no sympathy with the abolition party of the North and East. I believe they have done mischief to the cause of freedom in several States of the Union. The abolition of slavery in the States is exclusively a State question and one with which I do not feel that I should meddle or interfere in any shape or form.”

(Cotton Versus Conscience: Massachusetts Whig Politics and Southwestern Expansion, 1843-1848, Kinley J. Brauer, University of Kentucky Press, 1967, excerpts pp. 22-24)

Factions Combine to Battle a Common Foe

Lincoln was the consummate politician at the head of a minority party made up of warring factions, whose only commonality was deep hatred of Democrats and the interests of the American South. He realized after his plurality victory that public jobs, i.e., the patronage, had to be wisely distributed to these factions to cement the fragile party together. In the Fort Sumter crisis, though common sense and peace demanded wise leadership and diplomacy, Lincoln instead put party above country – fearing that any action appearing conciliatory toward the South would cause his Republican party of many faces to disintegrate.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.org

 

Factions Combine to Battle the Common Foe

“The groups who contributed to Lincoln’s triumph in 1860 almost defy analysis, so numerous and varied they were. Among the more important were:

  1. the antislavery Whigs, who seized upon the sectional issue for political reasons or because they sincerely believed that the Southern planter interests would either politically ruin the nation or cause disunion.
  2. Free-Soil Democrats, particularly in the Northwest, who feared extension of Negro slavery into their territory or who had severed their allegiance with the Democratic party when [both Presidents Pierce and] Buchanan disregarded their section’s interest in favor of the South.
  3. Disgruntled Democrats, with no pronounced opinions on the sectional controversy . . . disappointed in their many quests for public office or else detested Buchanan and other Democratic chieftains . . .
  4. Certain Know-Nothing who disliked the Democrats for party reasons or because of the latter’s coddling of the Irish vote.
  5. German-born naturalized citizens who hated the Southern slave-plantation system, feared competition with Negro labor, and wanted free land.
  6. Homestead and internal improvement people in general.
  7. Protective tariff advocates, particularly in Pennsylvania, who opposed Democrats because of their free-trade [and low-tariff] tendencies.
  8. Groups in favor of the Pacific railroad [to increase Northeastern trade with the Orient].
  9. Those who wanted daily overland mail and who believed that the Buchanan administration was favoring [a Southern railroad route].
  10. Certain Union-minded conservative men in the border States, who believed that the regular Democratic party under Pierce and Buchanan was becoming an instrument of pro-slavery interests and a force for secession and who hoped to conservatize the Republican party from within.

Only a few years before these numerous factions had hewn at each other’s heads; they had come together in the recent campaign like Highland clans to battle the common foe. The leaders of these various factions were still jealous of one another and often openly hostile.”

(Lincoln and the Patronage, Harry J. Carman & Reinhard H. Luthin, Peter Smith, 1864, excerpts pp. 9-10)

 

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