Browsing "Bringing on the War"
Nov 23, 2014 - Bringing on the War    No Comments

No Risking Profits for Sectional Harmony

It was the tariff issue which had driven South Carolina to nullification thirty years earlier, and ever since it was Southern pressure in Congress that kept the grasping Yankee at bay. With a tariff increase being one of the major planks in the Republican’s Chicago platform, the South was forced to recalculate the true value of political union with the North.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

No Risking Profits for Sectional Harmony

“At the March [1861] meeting of the New York Chamber of Commerce there was one item that hardly anyone noticed except the merchants. They were considering a proposal to repeal the Federal law giving American shippers a monopoly of the coasting trade and to open this lucrative business to the British on a reciprocal basis. Except to these commercial men the final disposition of the matter seemed to be of small importance during the dramatic weeks of the secession crisis.

And yet nothing illustrated more clearly the real essence of sectionalism and the tendency of Northern compromisers either innocently to deceive themselves or deliberately deceive others.

Conservative New York merchants had spent three months passing resolutions, circulating petitions, and visiting Washington to advance the cause of appeasing the secessionists. Repeatedly they had professed their friendship for the South and their eagerness to defend her rights in the Union.

Now they had an opportunity to give tangible proof of their sincerity, not by the sacrifice of some remote territory to slavery but at the cost of risking their own profits for the sake of sectional harmony. For many years Southerners had protested against the monopoly enjoyed by Northern ship owners in the coasting trade and had charged that it was one of the artificial devices by which the [Southern] States were subjected to Yankee exploitation.

The repeal of the law would reduce the freight charges levied upon the planters by exposing Northern traders to foreign competition. It would have removed one source of Southern complaint.

Nevertheless a special committee of the Chamber of Commerce reported against sharing with Britain “our great and rapidly increasing coasting trade.” Rather, the committee believed, “our interests demand we should cherish this trade, and establish our own system, irrespective of this or other nations.” Ultimately the whole subject was indefinitely postponed.

This decision of the New York merchants was no isolated phenomenon. Throughout the secession winter, the Northern compromisers generally showed great enthusiasm for concessions on matters that seemed to have no direct bearing upon their particular interests, but they displayed an unfeeling obduracy toward concessions on subjects that touched them closely.

In Congress nearly every type of sectional legislation came up for debate; and Northerners, whether radical or conservative, Republican or Democrat, refused to surrender any law which brought special benefits to their constituents. Southerners could cry out against discrimination and Northern tyranny, but Yankee congressmen were unmoved.

As a result, when Congress adjourned, the navigation laws which benefited eastern merchants were still on the statute books. So was the grant of Federal bounty to New England fishermen. Even though an Alabama congressman bitterly called the fishing bounty a device by which Northerners were “permitted to fleece” his constituents, a Southern proposal that it be repealed was defeated.”

(And the War Came, the North and the Secession Crisis of 1861, Kenneth M. Stampp, pp. 159-160)

Nov 23, 2014 - Bringing on the War    No Comments

The War to Save the Republican Party

The young Republican party of 1860 was a polyglot of radical Jacobins and abolitionists, ex-Whigs, Free Soilers, Know Nothings, anti-slavery Democrats, protective tariff demanding Eastern manufacturers, free-trade Western farmers, hardened machine politicians of the North, as well as myriad visionary reformers. A war against the South was seen as the only way to save the party from post-election disintegration.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

The War to Save the Republican Party

“Just as politics had helped determine the outcome of the [sectional] compromise struggle it also played its part, openly or covertly, in shaping the final decision to fight for the Union. Sooner or later the Republicans were obliged to recognize that violence was the logical consequence of their rejection of [compromise with the South]. Some faced that fact realistically from the beginning; others tried to dodge it for a time with a course of “masterful inactivity,” or to disguise it with soothing words like “defense” or the “enforcement of the laws.”

But one thing the Republicans knew for certain: The acceptance of peaceful secession would demolish their party as surely as would the betrayal of its platform.

They realized, as one Democrat predicted, that Southern independence would cause the North to “look upon . . . [Republicans] as the destroyers of the Union of our fathers.” That would arouse “an agitation . . . that would know no rest, day or night, until Black Republicanism . . . should be effectually destroyed.” Accordingly, Republicans fully understood that the Union must be saved to make their future secure.

Some of Lincoln’s followers evidently believed that a war for the Union promised other political benefits. It appeared to many, in fact, as the only program that could hold their organization together. For what other purpose could the diverse elements of Republicanism cooperate?

[Salmon P.] Chase wrote apprehensively that the most dangerous disunion threat he perceived was “the disunion of the Republican party.” No sooner was the election over than many Democrats waited expectantly for the disintegration of their rivals. [A Stephen Douglas supporter noted that] “It is morally impossible for any man . . . to distribute his patronage and shape the policy of his administration as to gratify and keep together such a heterogenous combination of discordant materials as that of which the “Republican” party is composed.”

Here was a solution to the Republican problem: A stand for the Union would certainly bind all the factions together. More, it would provide an appeal which, properly stated, few in the opposition would be able to resist. With that in mind, one Republican urged his political friends to “drop the slavery question . . . & appeal to the national feeling of the North” so that Democrats would be “swayed to our side.” Republicanism and loyalty were soon to become synonymous.

It is impossible to determine precisely how prominent the political motive was in the calculations of Republican leaders. Simply to prove that the Civil War saved their party from disintegration, as it may well have done, would not be to prove that Republicans deliberately started the war for that purpose. Yet the evidence is conclusive that politics was at least one factor, and often a surprisingly conscious one, which directed some of Lincoln’s friends toward war.”

(And the War Came, the North and the Secession Crisis of 1861, Kenneth M. Stampp, pp. 205-208)

Nov 7, 2014 - Bringing on the War    No Comments

Preaching Higher Law Treason

If the United States Constitution is the highest authority of law, then it follows that those who undermine or resist it commit treason against the United States.  Those like William Seward of New York who asserted a higher law than the Constitution fall within this definition.

Bernhard Thuersam, Circa1865

 

Preaching Higher Law Treason

“It was against Seward and his followers that the South directed its “higher law” attack in the later fifties. On October 19, 1858, Jefferson Davis delivered a stirring address in New York City upon this subject, and in the course of his daring denunciation of the advocates of this theory, he declared:

“You have among you politicians of a philosophical turn, who preach a higher morality; a system of which they are the discoverers . . . They say, it is true the Constitution dictates this, and the Bible inculcates that; but there is a higher law than those, and they call upon you to obey that higher law of which they are the inspired givers.

Men who are traitors to the compact of their fathers—men who have perjured the oaths they have themselves taken . . . these are the moral law-givers who proclaim a higher law than the Bible, the Constitution, and the laws of the land . . . These higher law preachers should be tarred and feathered, and whipped by those they have thus instigated . . . The man who . . . preaches treason to the Constitution and the dictates of all human society, is a fit object for a Lynch law that would be higher than any he could urge.”

The South As A Conscious Minority, Jesse T. Carpenter, New York University, 1930, pp. 159-160)