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Dark Forces Unleashed by War

Of the wartime and postwar Congress, shorn of Southern statesmen, author Richard Hofstadter wrote: “Before business learned to buy statesmen at wholesale, it had to buy privileges at retail.” Railroad promoters actively lobbied for land grants and other subsidies at every level of government, while choruses of Northern manufacturers demanded tariff protection from foreign competitors. The American Third Republic ended with war in 1861, waged against a new Southern agrarian republic seeking peace and prosperity for its people. With its war of independence lost, the South became a poor economic colony within a foreign political arrangement dominated by corporate interests allied with an all-powerful central government.

Dark Forces Unleashed by War

“After the Civil War several transcontinental railroads, all but the Great Northern the beneficiaries of federal land grants, were completed. Chastened by scandals connected with the government’s subsidization of these enterprises, Congress made no new land grants after 1871, but in the nostrils of many people the odor of something rotten – corruption and special, unwarranted privilege at the expense of the general public – lingered about the land-grant railroads for decades.

After the 1870s, growing numbers of huge manufacturing corporations, including such still-familiar firms as Standard Oil, Bethlehem, American Tobacco, and Armour, achieved prominence. People accustomed to dealing with small locally-owned firms had difficulty in reconciling themselves to an economy in which such corporate behemoths did much of the nation’s business.

The great corporations, known to contemporaries as “trusts” though only a few were every trusts in the strict legal sense, raised the specter of monopoly power in the market. American public opinion and legal tradition had long been hostile toward monopolies. Conspiracies in restraint of trade were unquestionably illegal under the common law.

Unsuccessful competitors complained bitterly that the “monopolists” were driving them to the wall. Customers frequently objected to real or imagined price discrimination. More than anything else, rate discrimination provoked the outrage of Midwestern shippers against the railroads. Often the criticism of a big corporation’s alleged monopoly power could be deflected by showing that the firm produced better products or services in growing volumes at ever lower prices.

But this defense, even if appropriate, did nothing to allay the charge that the great corporations subverted the democratic political process. “Corruption,” charged the Populists in the preamble to their platform of 1892, “dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench.”  Henry B. Brown, an associate justice of the US Supreme Court, told the Yale law students in 1895 that “[b]ribery and corruption are as universal as to threaten the very structure of society.”

(Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government, Robert Higgs, Oxford University Press, 1987, excerpts pp. 80-81)

 

An American Chamber of Horrors

In an effort to forestall a Republican “Force Bill” designed to bring reconstruction horrors back to the postwar South, fourteen spokesmen that included Zebulon Vance, Robert Stiles and Bernard J. Sage undertook to explain the Solid South to what may be termed the New North. In April 1890 they published a symposium “Why the Solid South? Or Reconstruction and its Results,” designed to appeal to the self-interest of the North’s business class and a very clear recapitulation of what Reconstruction thus far “had cost in money, public morale and cultural retardation.”

An American Chamber of Horrors

“Hilary Herbert of Alabama, who served as editor, expressed . . . in a preface: “Its object is to show to the public, and more especially to the businessmen of the North, who have made investments in the South, or who have trade relations with their Southern fellow citizens, the consequences which once followed an interference in the domestic affairs of certain States by those, who either did not understand the situation or were reckless of results.”

There followed factual histories of Reconstruction in each of the ex-Confederate States, including West Virginia and Missouri, which also had suffered from the fraud, repression and vicious partisanship of the postwar settlement. All in all, it is one of the most dismal stories ever told, unrelieved by a single ray of light, unless a revelation of how much people can endure and how they will struggle to attain their hopes even in extremis be such.

Governor Vance of North Carolina in a particularly mild and philosophic chapter pointed out that during what was supposed to be a moral and political rebirth “the criminals sat in the law-making chamber, on the bench and in the jury-box, instead of standing in the dock.” It has become the fashion nowadays to regard Reconstruction as a kind of chamber of horrors into which no good American would care to look, but Governor Vance reminded his readers that no portion of our history better deserves study “by every considerate patriot.”

From the comparatively uneventful story of North Carolina’s experience, the chronicle moves on to the wild saturnalia of South Carolina, where amid riotous spending of public funds the State House was turned into a combination of saloon and brothel. Yet the ordeal of South Carolina was matched by that of Louisiana, where in four years’ time the incredible Warmoth regime squandered an amount equal to half the wealth of the State.

“Corruption is the fashion,” Governor Warmoth, an ex-soldier who had been dishonorably discharged from the Federal army, remarked with laudable candor. “I do not pretend to be honest, but only as honest as anybody in politics.”

(The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, Richard M. Weaver, George Core/M.E. Bradford, editors, Regnery Publishing, 1989, excerpts pp. 330-332)

Paying Tribute to the North

The prewar national dominance of the North eventually gave rise to those who thought that economic and political measures were not sufficient to put the South on a par with the North. They saw that the only way the South could rid itself of subservience to the North was to leave the Union, and do so with the Founders’ Constitution.  The South’s attempts to reduce tariffs had been increased in 1842, and in 1846 with the help of a Southern president and secretary of the treasury, forced through Congress the Walker Tariff which was so low as to be practically revenue only.  Additionally, President John Tyler’s vetoes of a national bank were upheld by Southern votes in Congress.

Northern commercial interests were determined to reclaim their government subsidies and establish national banking, with Lincoln and his new party a convenient vehicle to permanent national dominance.

Paying Tribute to the North

“There were other methods by which the profits from the cotton crop found their way into Northern pockets. Since two-thirds of the cotton crop went to England, the freight charges on its transportation across the sea amounted to a large sum.  Although the river boats of the South were generally Southern-owned and Southern- built, the South never engaged in the building or operating of ocean-going ships, principally because capital could more profitably employed in agriculture.

Most of the cotton sold was carried on coastwise ships to New York, and the great part transshipped from that place to England. All the coastwise ships and most of the ocean-going shipping was Northern-owned and consequently the freight charges went into Northern pockets. In 1843 this amounted to nearly a million dollars. In addition the insurance costs while the cotton was in transit were generally paid to Northern firms.

Not only did the cotton growers pay “tribute” to the North through their exports, but through their imports as well. The imports to the South came through Northern ports; the exports of the South amounted to two-thirds the total of the United States but her direct imports were less than one-tenth. The freight charges to New York and Boston, the tariff duties, and the cost of transportation on coastwise vessels to the South all added to the cost of merchandise.

In the hard times of the forties, Southern economists were prone to find the explanation for their distress in the “tribute” paid to the North. They came to believe that the economic progress of the North depended on this “tribute,” and epitomized their opinion in the phrase “Southern wealth and Northern profits.”

By the phrase “operation of the federal government” the South meant bounties to New England fisheries, internal improvements in the North such as harbors, roads, canals, and public buildings, tariff duties, and deposits of government funds.”

(The Old South: The Geographic, Economic, Social, Political and Cultural Expansion, Institutions and Nationalism of the Antebellum South, R.S. Cotterill, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1939, excerpts pp. 192-199)

A Progressive Empire, Left and Right

It can be argued that the end of American republican government ended in 1861 with the industrialized state warring upon the Constitution and the agricultural South. The triumphant North launched its Gilded Age combine of government, corporations, millionaires and financial manipulation, as well as foreign imperialism, which brought the country to European military intervention. Then came the Depression. The first European military intervention set the stage for another even more costly; an American president then warned of a military-industrial complex that had emerged.

Progressive Empire, Left and Right

“If the American Republic is defunct, and if most Americans no longer subscribe to the classical republicanism that defined the Republic as its public orthodoxy, what is the principal issue of American politics?

Ever since the Progressive Era, the issue that has divided Americans into the two political and ideological camps of “Right” and “Left” has been whether or not to preserve the Republic.

The Progressives (at least their dominant wing) argued that the small-scale government, entrepreneurial business economy, and localized and private social and cultural fabric that made a republic possible was obsolete at best and at worst repressive and exploitive.

They and their descendants in New Deal/Great Society liberalism pushed for an enlarged state fused with corporations and unions into the economy with massive, bureaucratized cultural and educational organizations. In contrast, the “Right” pulled in the opposite direction, defending the Republic and the social and economic structure that enabled republicanism to flourish, but with less success and with ever-diminishing understanding of what they were doing.

Today the conflict over that issue is finished. The Progressive Empire has replaced the old American Republic, and even on the self-proclaimed “Right” today, virtually no one other than the beleaguered “paleo-conservatives” defends republicanism in anything like its pristine form.

The collapse of the conflict over republicanism is the main reason why the labels “Left” and “Right” no longer make much sense and also why – much more than the end of the Reagan administration and the Cold War – the “conservative coalition” of the Reagan era is falling apart.

Mr. Reagan’s main legacy was to show his followers, who for decades griped against “Big Government,” that they too could climb aboard the Big Government hayride and nibble crumbs at its picnic. With such “conservatism” now centered mainly in Washington and its exponents happily dependent on the federal mega-state, the historic raison d’etre of the American “Right” has ceased to exist.

Such conservatives no longer even pretend to want to preserve or restore the old Republic, and it now turns out that even when the said they did, it was all pretty much a charade anyway.”

(Revolution from the Middle, Samuel T. Francis, Middle American Press, 1997, excerpts pp. 90-91)

Two Views of Freedom

The following excerpt is from Senator Hubert Humphrey’s account of his interview with Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev in 1959. Though claiming to be staunchly anti-communist, Humphrey in 1944 endorsed and promoted the fusion of the Farmer-Labor party with Democrats, as well accepting the support of “Stalinists and other assorted radicals who dominated the CIO [Congress of Industrial Organizations] in Minneapolis at this time.” Humphrey was also admired by Roosevelt’s pro-Soviet vice president, Henry Wallace.

Two Views of Freedom

“I told [Krushchev] that a lot of young and vigorous Democrats . . . were coming up and that things would be very different after the 1960 elections. “Mr. Premier,” I said, “you and your system have been living on borrowed time. You have just had it easy with the Republicans. Just wait until the Democrats come in. You want economic competition? We’ll run you right out of Gorki Park.”

[Then] Krushchev made the most interesting statement of the whole interview. “They are old-fashioned, they are reactionary,” he said of the communes. “We tried that right after the revolution. It just doesn’t work. That system is not nearly so good as the state farms and the collective farms. You know Senator, what those communes are based on? They are based on that principle, “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.” You know that won’t work. You can’t get production without incentive.”

[We] got into a debate about over the nature of capitalism and “socialism” (meaning Soviet Communism). I told him that he was sadly misinformed about as to how American capitalism really works and he told me Americans “just plain don’t understand us.” His remarks included a remarkable statement of the Communist idea of freedom:

“In the USSR there is freedom.” Krushchev said, “In the capitalist world there is freedom of enterprise, freedom just to take care of yourself. In the USSR freedom means every member taking care of all the others. The citizen of the USSR regards the country’s welfare as his own welfare.  This needs to be understood. As a religious man believes in God, so does a citizen of a socialist country depend on the welfare of the country as a whole. You believe in God and you believe that your welfare is in the hands of God. We believe the individual’s welfare is the welfare of the state and is in the hands of the state.”

(My Marathon Talk with Russia’s Boss, Hubert Humphrey, LIFE, January 12, 1959, pg. 86)

Dec 6, 2020 - Economics, Patriotism    Comments Off on Venus in Distress

Venus in Distress

In “The Story the Soldiers Wouldn’t Tell,” author Thomas P. Lowry writes that the Victorian age indulged in euphemism, usually referring to prostitutes as soiled doves or Cyprians. He notes that to solve a serious problem in his command at Nashville in July 1863, Lt. Col. George Spaulding of the Eighteenth Michigan Regiment chartered a steamer to remove “all [white] women of known to be of vile character.” Within a month they were all back in Nashville, though their places had been quickly “filled by their black colleagues.” Camp Washington below, was a rendezvous point for Philadelphia companies in 1861, located near Easton, Pennsylvania.

Venus in Distress

“It was discovered in Camp Washington this morning, that a certain young lady of easy virtue and strong Union proclivities, had testified her loyalty to the Federal cause by establishing her headquarters at camp, where she had passed a restless night in exhorting the military to patriotic deeds of daring when they should be brought face to face with the Southern foe, etc.

The commanding officer being apprised of the fact and being unwilling that her health should fall victim to her zeal, ordered a military escort to conduct her beyond the boundaries of the camp. Accordingly, our Amazon was marched off with military honors, but terrible to relate, so thoroughly had she ingratiated herself into the good graces of the soldiery, that they refused to leave her without some substantial token by way of a . . . [remembrance].”

(Civil War History of the 47th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, Lewis G. Schmidt, self-published, 1986, pg. 21)

Nov 12, 2020 - America Transformed, Antebellum Economics, Bringing on the War, Economics, New England History, Sharp Yankees    Comments Off on Making the South Tributary to the North

Making the South Tributary to the North

“England had discouraged manufacturing in her colonies that she might have a larger market for her manufactures. Immediately upon the declaration of our independence we began to manufacture what we needed, and for the first quarter century after our independence the South took the lead of the North in commerce and manufactures as well as agriculture. We shipped our produce and bought goods in exchange in the open markets of the world. The ports of Norfolk, Wilmington, Charleston and Savannah had a direct trade with Europe.

In 1799, according to assessment for direct taxes, the North and the South had almost exactly the same amount of property, viz., $400,000,000 in value each. From 1791 to 1802 inclusive the exports from the North were $129,205,000. In the same period the five Southern States exported $256,708,300.

From 1791 to 1813 the five Eastern States exported, including an immense amount of Southern productions, only about $299,000,000. The Southern States for the period, including New Orleans, exported $509,000,000. The commercial prosperity was wholly on the side of the South.

Why then did the South lose its supremacy in commerce and navigation? [Thomas Hart] Benton in his “Thirty Years’ View” said the extinction of the commercial supremacy of the South was and is charged to Federal legislation by which the producing and self-sustaining section was made subject to the non-producing or dependent section.

Some of the chief legislation of the Government against which he inveighed was the policy of the protective tariff and internal improvements and the immense sums levied on the products of one section of the country to be disbursed in tremendous expenditures in the other, making the South tributary to the North and a supplicant for a small part of the fruits of its own labor.

Benton in a speech in Congress said: “Under this legislation the exports of the South have been made the basis of the Federal revenues. Virginia, the two Carolinas and Georgia may be said to defray three-fourths of the annual expense of supporting the Federal Government; and of this great sum annually furnished by them, nothing, or next to nothing, is returned to them in the shape of government expenditures.”

(Annual Agricultural Resources and Opportunities of the South, J. Bryan Grimes, Farmers’ National Congress speech, 1901, pp. 4-5)

Diversity Among Louisiana Slave Owners

It was not uncommon for Northerners to own Southern plantations worked by black slaves. Obviously the climate in the South allowed a longer growing season and larger acreage than available in Northern States, and New Englanders were already familiar with black slave labor in their own State, as well as their infamous transatlantic slave trade.  Further, Massachusetts mills since the War of 1812 needed slave-produced cotton which perpetuated African slavery in this country.

 Diversity Among Louisiana Slave Owners

“By the time of the Civil War, Louisiana’s population exceeded 700,000, of which almost half were black slaves or freedmen. A review of the census during the period immediately prior to the Civil War reveals some interesting facts.

There were 13,500 plantations and farms owned by Anglo-Saxon Protestants, French and Spanish Catholics, Jews and Negroes. There were approximately 1,640 large slaveholders who tilled 10 percent of the total acreage planted. A large slaveholder was one who owned 50 or more slaves. Therefore, 90 percent of the planted acreage in Louisiana was farmed by small slaveholders, non-slaveholders, and free blacks.

There were Negro slaveholders throughout the South but more in Louisiana than any other State.  In 1830 there were 10 Negroes who had 50 or more slaves. By 1860, only 6, who together owned 493 slaves or an average of 82 each. There were a considerable number of Negro slave owners who were not classed as large slaveholders; Natchitoches parish for instance had 14 Negro slaveholders.

Many Northerners and Europeans who had money to invest settled Louisiana to enjoy its prosperity. The census reveals that in 1850 among the largest slaveholders were 9 from Connecticut; 9 from Massachusetts; 7 from Ohio, 6 from Missouri; 6 from New Hampshire; 5 from Maine; 4 from Indiana; 4 from New Jersey; 3 from Vermont; 1 from Delaware; 2 from Rhode Island; 2 from the District of Columbia; 17 from Pennsylvania; 20 from New York; 33 from Maryland; 12 from Ireland; 6 from Scotland; 5 from England; 2 from Germany; 2 from Santo Domingo; 1 from Canada; 1 from Austria, 1 from Wales; 1 from Jamaica; and 17 from France.

The attraction to Louisiana was the same as it is today – prosperity. The ancient plantation system, patterned after the English manorial system, found its ultimate fruition in the South and especially in Louisiana.  

Fewer than one-third of the men who fought for the South during the Civil War came from families who had slaves. Therefore one can readily dismiss the idea that every Confederate was a planter sipping bourbon or gin on his spacious veranda while his minions in the field brought in his wealth. The majority of Southern people were hard-working small farmers, carving a niche in the wilderness, intent upon attaining some security in a troublesome world.

Emotional Northerners, reflected the claim that the war was fought solely for slavery. But Lincoln himself stated that if it would save the Union, he would rather see the United States all-slave, part-slave or slave-free, depending on the recipe needed for the preservation of the United States. Even the Emancipation Proclamation clearly exempted those Southern Sates held by Union forces.”

(Louisiana Legacy: A History of the State National Guard, Evans J. Casso, Pelican Publishing, 1976, excerpt pp. 76-77)

On The Bare Hills, Men Without a Country

It is said that Grant at Appomattox offered rations and transportation home to Lee’s surrendered Americans, or to exile in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Many might have gladly avoided living under Northern rule, “but in distant homes were old men, helpless women and children, whose cry for help it was not hard to hear.” With all the destruction around them and carpetbaggers flowing Southward, “no one dreamed of what has followed.”

On the Bare Hills, Men Without a Country

“[The enemy] were proud of their success, were more willing to give than our men, in the soreness of defeat, and not a man of that grand army of a hundred and fifty thousand men but could, and, I believe, would testify, that on purely personal grounds, the few worn out, half-starved men that gathered around General Lee and his falling flag held the prouder position of the two. Had politicians left things alone, such feelings would have resulted in a very different condition of things.

“We stacked eight thousand stands of arms, all told: artillery, cavalry, infantry, stragglers, wagon rats and all the rest, from twelve to fifteen thousand men.

The United States troops, by their own estimate, were one hundred fifty thousand men, with a railroad connecting their rear with Washington, New York, Germany, France, Belgium, Africa – all the world, and the rest of mankind,” as General [Richard] Taylor comprehensively remarked, for their recruiting stations were all over the world, and the crusade against the South, under pressure of the “almighty dollar,” was as absolute and varied in its nationality as was that of “Peter the Hermit,” under pressure of religious zeal upon Jerusalem.

Those of us who took serious consideration of the state of affairs, felt that with our defeat we had absolutely lost our country – the one we held under the Constitution – as though we had been conquered and made a colony of by France or Russia. So far, it was all according to the order of things, and we stood on the bare hills, men without a country.”

(Dickison and His Men, Mary Elizabeth Dickison, Courier-Journal Printing, 1890, excerpt pp. 241-243)

Losing Commercial Probity

“Another real Victorian virtue, not to be discredited by many imaginary Victorian virtues, [was] a strict standard of commercial probity . . . when the notion of success was mixed up not only with cynicism but with a queer sort of piratical romance. [But today] the favorite modern ideal in morals and even in religion, especially the religion popularized in the papers for millions of modern businessmen, is the word “adventure.”

The most menacing monster in morals, for the businessmen of my old middle-class, was branded with the title of “adventurer.” In later times, I fancy, the world has defended some pretty indefensible adventurers by implying the glamour of adventure.

My own father and uncles were entirely of the period that believed in progress, and generally in new things, and all the more because they were finding it increasingly difficult to believe in old things; and in some cases in anything at all. But though as Liberals they believed in progress, as honest men they often testified to deterioration.

I remember my father telling me how much he had begun to be pestered by swarms of people wanting private commissions upon transactions, in which they were supposed to represent another interest.

He mentioned it not only with the deepest disgust, but more or less as if it were a novelty as well as a nuisance. He was himself in the habit of meeting these unpleasant people with a humorously simulated burst of heartiness and even hilarity; but it was the only sort of occasion on which his humour might be called grim and ferocious.

When the agent, bargaining for some third party, hinted that an acceptable trifle would smooth the negotiations, he would say with formidable geniality, “Oh, certainly! Certainly! So long as we are all friends and everything is open and above board! I am sure your principals and employers will be delighted to hear from me that I’m paying you a small –__”

He would then be interrupted with a sort of shriek of fear and the kind diplomatic gentleman would cover his tracks as best he could in terror. “And doesn’t that prove to you,” said my father with innocent rationalism, “the immorality of such a proposal?”  

(The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton, Sheed & Ward, 1936, excerpt pp. 16-17)