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War for Economic Greatness

Author Philip Leigh below writes that in late March 1860 as Lincoln wrestled with the question of whether to abandon Fort Sumter and preserve peace, or commit to war, he was visited by a group of New York merchants. Their desire for profits prevailed as it was “better to pay for armed conflict now than suffer prolonged economic disaster in a losing trade war.”

War for Mercantile Greatness

“[A] low tariff Southern Confederacy was an economic threat to a truncated Federal Union, particularly considering the North’s growing expectations for economic hegemony as the South lost influence in the Government. About a month before Fort Sumter surrendered, the Boston Transcript concluded on March 18, 1861 that the South did not seceded to protect slavery, but to become the North’s economic competitor:

“Alleged grievances in regard to slavery were originally the causes for the separation of the cotton States, but the mask has been thrown off, and it is apparent that the people of the seceding States are now for commercial independence . . . the merchants of New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah are possessed with the idea that New York, Boston and Philadelphia may be shorn . . . of their mercantile greatness by a revenue system verging upon free trade. If the Southern Confederation is allowed to carry out a policy by which only a nominal duty is laid upon imports, no doubt the businesses of the chief Northern cities will be seriously injured.

The difference is so great between the tariff of the Union and that of the Confederacy that the entire Northwest [present day Midwest] must find it to their advantage to purchase imported goods at New Orleans rather than New York. In addition, Northern manufacturers will suffer from the increased importations resulting from lower duties . . .”

More than a month before South Carolina started the secession trend and about two weeks after the election, outcome was known, the Boston Herald concluded on November 12, 1860: “[Should South Carolina secede] she will immediately form commercial alliances with European countries [that] . . . will help English manufacturing at the expense of New England. The first move the South would make would be to impose a heavy tax upon the manufacturers of the North, and an export tax on the cotton used by Northern manufacturers. In this way she would seek to cripple the North. The carrying trade, which is now done by American [Northern] vessels, would be transferred to British ships.”

(Causes of the Civil War, Philip Leigh, Shotwell Publishing, 2020, excerpt pp. 133-134)

Fraud was National

The contested result of the 1876 election was settled in a back room, with Democrats acquiescing to “His Fraudulency” Rutherford B. Hayes ascent to the presidency in exchange for the removal of Northern occupation troops from the South and the assurance of federal railroad aid.

Fraud was National

“Early in the morning after the election, [the New York Times], after accounting politically for every State in the Union but Florida, announced: ‘This leaves Florida alone still in doubt. If the Republicans have carried that State, as they claim, they will have 185 votes, a majority of one.’ The situation was not quite that simple, but Florida’s vote was that important. “Visiting statesmen” from both parties hastened to Tallahassee. Local partisans were active too.

[Politician and former Northern general] Lew Wallace described the Florida situation in a letter to his wife: “It is terrible to see the extent to which all classes go in their determination to win. Conscience offers no restraint. Nothing is so common as the resort to perjury . . . Money and intimidation can obtain the oath of white men as well as black to any required statement . . . If we [Republicans] win, our methods are subject to impeachment for possible fraud. If the enemy [Democrats] win, it is the same thing . . .”

Fraud was national. It applied to the Presidency as well as railroad bonds. “Visiting statesmen” who came late showed no more scruples than carpetbaggers who came early or the scalawags whom they found. The Republicans secured the vote of Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina.

But the Florida vote remains more significant in view of Dr. Vann Woodward’s statement that the consensus of modern scholarship is “that Hayes was probably entitled to the electoral votes of South Carolina and Louisiana, and that [Samuel] Tilden was entitled to the four votes of Florida, and that Tilden was therefore elected by a vote of 188 to 181.”

(Prince of Carpetbaggers, Jonathan Daniels, J.B. Lippincott, 1958, excerpts pp. 282-283)

Assuming Puritanical Attitudes

Born at sea while his family sailed from Ireland to America, John Newland Mafffitt was destined for a life on the water. Having just relinquished command of the USS Crusader at New York on March 1, 1861, after several years capturing New England-captained and financed slavers off Cuba, the country he had left had become something different.

Soon to become one of the most famed of blockade runners and privateers, he had, by his account, in the first three of his four captures of slavers, rescued 789 Africans from their cramped holds.

The Wilmington Daily Journal of 25 September 1863 remarked, “It is a curious fact, for those who maintain the civil war in America is founded upon the slave question, that [Maffitt] should be the very man who has distinguished himself actively against the slave trade.”  

Though describing himself as a “slave holder” due to a modest interest in land he had inherited from his wife’s family, Maffitt found the newly-rediscovered morality of New Englanders disingenuous.

Assuming Puritanical Attitudes

“The news of Fort Sumter reached Washington in the early evening of April 13, causing intense excitement within the city. Maffitt now faced his terrible decision of allegiance. He could hear the tramp of soldiers and the roll of artillery wagons day and night outside his house. Southern families departed daily; resignations were announced “in language of gall and bitterness.” Maffitt’s relatives were in the South. His property was partly in the North – his Washington home with its valuable furnishings and fine library; and partly in the South interest in land he inherited . . .

He recoiled against a people who sold slaves to Southerners and then became puritanical in their attitudes:

‘I fancied that New England, with her well-developed secession proclivities, would offer no material objection to the course of the South. In truth it was natural to presume that fanatical abolitionism would hail with joy the departure of the un-Godly, slaveholding section of the country from her unwelcome participation in the Union. But material interest gave zest to patriotism, and her war course would lead the world to suppose that she never contemplated a severance from the Union and forming a Northern Confederation.”

(High Seas Confederate: The Life and Times of John Newland Maffitt, Royce Shingleton, University of South Carolina Press, 1994, excerpts pp. 30; 32-33)  

Lincoln’s General, Ben Butler

A prewar antiwar Democrat in the Massachusetts legislature who “regularly spoke out against the abolition of slavery”, Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts rose in rank from militia officer but only noted for his lack of military skill. Earning the title “Beast” at occupied New Orleans in 1862, his command there and elsewhere were marred “by financial and logistical dealings across enemy lines, some of which probably took place with his knowledge and to his financial benefit.”

Lincoln’s General, Ben Butler

“[Lincoln’s private secretary John] Hay had some characteristic references to another notoriety of that period – Benjamin F. Butler – whom he met at Point Lookout in January, 1864.

“In the dusk of the evening,” he writes, “Gen’l Butler came clattering into the room where Marston and I were sitting, followed by a couple of aides. We had some hasty talk about business: he told me how he was administering the oath at Norfolk; how popular that was growing; children cried for it; how he hated Jews; how heavily he laid his hand on them; ‘a nation that the Lord had been trying to make something of for three thousand years, and had so far utterly failed.’ ‘King John knew how to deal with them – fried them in swine’s fat.’

At Baltimore we took a special car and came home. I sat with the General all the way and talked with him about many matters . . . He says he can take an army within thirty miles of Richmond without any trouble; from that point the enemy can either be forced to fight in the open field south of the city, or submit to be starved into surrender . . . He gave me some very dramatic incidents of his recent action in Fortress Monroe, smoking out adventurers and confidence men, testing his detectives, and matters of that sort. He makes more business in that sleepy little Department [of the James] than anyone would have dreamed was in it.”

At that sort of work Butler undeniably excelled; at fighting, his achievements were restricted to the feats he boasted he could perform when the enemy was at an entirely safe distance.”

(The Life and Letters of John Hay, Volume I, William Roscoe Thayer, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1908, pp. 142-143)

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)

Perpetuating Sectionalism

Louisiana’s tragic experience in defeat and Reconstruction produced a remarkable carpetbag governor, Henry Clay Warmoth of Illinois. One of his most notable utterances was “I don’t pretend to be honest . . . I only pretend [to be as] honest as anybody in politics . . . why, damn it, everybody is demoralized down here. Corruption is the fashion.” It has been noted that Warmoth amassed a million dollar fortune while governor with a salary of $8,000 per year.

Perpetuating Sectionalism

“From the time that Benjamin F. Butler’s troops marched into New Orleans on May 1, 1862, until the inauguration of Francis T. Nichols in 1877, Louisiana was under the heel of an oppressive radical regime.  Self-government ceased; only the Negroes, white scalawags, and carpetbaggers had voting rights. Military rule was, in effect, martial law, and whatever could not be gained politically was accomplished with the bayonet. Black votes were manipulated, and the State legislature soon comprised a great number of illiterate Negroes who did the bidding of their new masters.

US Grant . . . was a weak president, and willingly or not, he became the tool of the radical Congress. He associated himself with a group of disreputable financiers and politicians. His administration brought ruin and anarchy by overturning a society and offering no substitute for social groundwork.

The Reconstruction policy of the Radical Republicans, to which Grant gave his full support, assured the supremacy of the Northern mercantile and industrial classes in the councils of the nation. But it also created a defensive unity among the people of the South, and it kept alive the hatred between the two sections of the country.

A climate of hate, political vindictiveness, and class distinction raged, with Negroes as the political pawns. The Republican-dominated legislature passed an act making service in the “Louisiana Native Guard” compulsory for all able-bodied citizens between eighteen and forty-five. Since the organization excluded disenfranchised whites, it was a black militia. In some instances these troops were used to terrorize white communities.

Meanwhile, the average black farmer, who had been promised forty acres and a mule, received nothing. Most relied upon their former masters for succor or advice, and often freed slaves and their former masters weathered this troubled era together.”

(Louisiana Legacy: A History of the State National Guard, Evans J. Casso, Pelican Publishing, 1976, excerpt pp. 90-91)

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)

News Fronts, Rumors, False Reports and Speculations

“When we study the history of journalism we are principally studying a way in which men in the past have grasped reality.” James W. Carey, (“The Problem of Journalism History, Journalism History, Vol. 1, No. 1, Spring 1974)

In 1860 New York City was the hub of journalism and locked in the maelstrom of lurid crime reports, immoral [tales of varied personages] . . . created by James Gordon Bennett’s news machine, the New York Herald. Pay for “reporters” was minimal and all that was required was a reasonable grasp of the English language. The worst “were not above fabricating news if facts did not come readily to hand.”

The New Orleans Picayune editorialized that “The Herald may be said to represent, in one particular, the genius of the ‘universal Yankee nation’ — that is, in its supreme regard for what is vulgarly called the main chance.”

News Fronts, Rumors, False Reports and Speculations

“The people of the interior,” President [James] Buchanan wrote apprehensively to James Gordon Bennett on the very day that South Carolina left the Union, “are kept in a constant state of excitement from what are called “telegrams.” The Philadelphia Morning Pennsylvanian, among many others, though the telegraph “a curse to the country.”

“We warn the people to beware of this new power in our midst, more potent than ‘an army with banners.’ Its whole stock in trade consists in the perpetual excitement of the community.”

The Erie Weekly Gazette had another caution: “Beware of this ‘special correspondence’ confidence game . . . in the New York or Philadelphia journals. A safe plan is to believe nothing you find in a ‘sensation’ column, however seemingly well authenticated . . .”

There was ample justification for these forebodings.  As word came of State after State preparing to follow South Carolina out of the Union in anticipation of a Republican in the White House . . . the press began dispensing news, rumors, false reports and speculations on a scale that left men confounded. 

Undercover men from the New York World, the Tribune, the Evening Post, the Baltimore American, and the Philadelphia Press arrived [in Charleston] as the tension mounted. Everyone who could read knew by the middle of February [1861] that the brick walls of Sumter were eight feet thick, that the Major and his garrison numbered scarcely a hundred . . .

[Charles A. Dana of Horace Greeley’s Tribune, had] three men in Charleston. These and other Tribune men in the South sported blue secession cockades in their lapels, wrote in an elaborate code Dana had devised, and addressed their material to New York banks and commercial houses which had agreed to serve as fronts.

In the third week of May . . . Dana [served an editorial] with plenty of lead: “On to Richmond! To Richmond Onward! On to Richmond, then is the voice of the people . . . Let her still sowing of the wind, have generous harvest of the whirlwind, and let it be now . . . To Richmond! To Richmond!”

(Bohemian Brigade: Civil War Newsmen in Action, Louis M. Starr, University of Wisconsin Press, 1987, excerpts pp. 9-11; 20-21; 33-34)

Lacking Faith in the Government

A powerful and skillful debater, James A. Seddon of Virginia was the self-appointed manager of the Washington Peace Conference, chaired by former President John Tyler.  It is said he matched John Randolph’s contempt of all forms of Northern life, “from the statesmen of New England to the sheep that fed on her hillsides.” The irony of the North’s “hatred of slavery” is that the black man usually arrived in the America’s in the filthy holds of New England slavers, being sold by their own brethren for New England rum and Yankee notions. After the war began, Seddon became Secretary of War of the Confederate States.  

Representative Preston King of New York, below, seemed unaware that his State’s ratification of the 1789 Constitution reserved to itself secession should it so desire; in assuming his office, he swore to uphold the Constitution rather than the federal government.

It is true that States to not have a “right” to secede: being sovereign entities since the 1783 Treaty of Paris with England, and only granting the federal agent specific enumerated authority in the Articles of Confederation and later Constitution, each State holds the ability to withdraw and form a more perfect union at its pleasure.

Kentucky’s James Guthrie, below, argued in the Peace Convention that New England had threatened secession several times in the past as it lost faith in the federal government to protect its interests, and that the South in 1861 was following the same path. It is said that John C. Calhoun absorbed the secessionist teachings of New Englanders.       

Lacking Faith in the Government

“[Seddon] declared that the object of the dominant party of the North . . . desired that the national and practical institutions of the South should be surrounded by a cordon of twenty free States and in the end extinguished.  

Seddon [emphasized] that the slaves had benefited by being brought to America and civilized. The South had done nothing wrong to the race; yet the South was assailed, attacked by the North, from the cradle to the grave, and the children of the free States had been educated to regard the people of the South as monsters of lust by the abolitionist societies and their doctrines and by their support for John Brown, and asked whether this was not a sufficient reason for suspicion and grave apprehension on the part of the South.

He contended that the moral aspect was by itself dangerous enough, and when combined with politics it was made much worse.

Seddon commented on the acquisitive spirit of the North, its ambitions for office, power, and control over government, which would permit it soon to control the South.  He re-emphasized that Virginia and the Border States would not remain in the Union without added guarantees. His personal opinion was that “the purpose of Virginia to resist coercion is unchanged and unchangeable.”

James C. Smith of New York . . . pointed out that the federal government held all territory in trust for the people. John G. Goodrich of Massachusetts essentially agreed. Seddon rose to reassert the Southern point of view. He declared that in the debate two new principles had been introduced: that [Southern people had restricted access to new territories], and that governmental action would be [Northern-influenced].

This was exactly what the Southern States feared, Seddon declared, and it was the principal cause of secession. This was his interpretation of the 1860 election. These policies were, in his view, not in accordance with the Constitution.

Preston King of New York declared that all owed allegiance to the Constitution above and beyond all other political duties and obligations. In contrast to Seddon, he considered the Union to be a confederation of States under the Constitution with all citizens owing primary allegiance to the Federal Government.

[Reverdy] Johnson of Maryland, who took the Southern point of view on most questions, doubted that a State had a right to secede, although he agreed with Madison’s point in the Federalist Number 42 that the right of self-preservation and revolution was above the Constitution as an integral part of the law of nature.

Even Seddon was restrained on this point, merely observing that Virginia was debating whether or not to remain in the Union because she feared for her safety under present conditions.

Seddon contended that what the South really wanted was security from the North and its dominant political party. [James] Guthrie [of Kentucky] observed that the North once contemplated destruction of the Union because of a feeling that the federal government was antagonistic to Northern interests. The South, he said, had the same feeling now and lacked faith in the government.”  

(Sectionalism in the Peace Convention of 1861, Jesse L. Keene, Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume XL, Number 1, July 1961, excerpt pp. 60-61; 69-70; 74-75)

Economic and Political Opportunity in Florida

Almost immediately after war commenced the New England Emigrant Aid Company envisioned the national benefits of “transplanting friends of the Union” in conquered States and flooding them with “Energetic, loyal, liberty-loving colonists.” The promoters avowed that their goal was “to aid in the political, industrial and social regeneration of the South.” In the case of Florida, the emigrants would settle the rich soil, open resorts for invalids, and build permanent homes for “those whose delicate constitutions cannot endure the severe weather of the North.”

In early 1864, Salmon Chase’s presidential ambitions were assisted by increased military invasions of Florida to occupy more land area and establish a new State government dominated by his political appointees. They were then expected to declare Florida’s 3 electoral votes for him come November.

Economic and Political Opportunity in Florida

“Almost from the beginning of the fratricidal conflict of 1861-1865 far-seeing politicians and interested economic groups from the North began an economic invasion of the South. First, a Confiscation Act made all property used in support of the rebellion subject to seizure by the federal government. Later in 1861, despite Abraham Lincoln’s questioning of its constitutionality, Congress passed a second Confiscation Act which made the property of all Confederate officials subject to immediate confiscation by Union officials.

The authors of the Act, by a provision that gave people supporting the Confederacy sixty days to drop their support or have their property become liable to federal confiscation, struck below the upper stratum of the Southern official family and at the roots of Southern life.

Then, in the summer of 1862, Congress passed the Direct Tax Set which, once Union troops occupied rebel territory, made Southern homes, lands, farms and plantations subject to sale or seizure by the federal government if the owners failed to pay the assessed taxes.

The avowed objectives of the laws were to “relieve” rebels of their war-producing materiel and to finance the [cost of the] war; but under them Northerners could transfer Southern wealth to themselves at the same time they emasculated the South politically.

Among the most frank in expressing their desire to exploit the South and guide Southern political development were the directors of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. This company had already experimented with sending emigrants to Kansas in an effort to flood that blood-stained territory with abolitionist settlers. Now with the war hardly more than a year old, the directors saw the South as a land of opportunity for Northerners and Northern ideals.

To them, the war presented an opportune time for settling in the South Northern workmen in numbers large enough to “support presses, schools, and churches true to their own principles and to the interests of freedom.” Land for the emigrants would be no problem since the government was sure to acquire considerable quantities through confiscation and defaulted direct taxes.

The implications of these plans were great. Should they succeed, Southerners would lose both their wealth, and their voice in the national political arena.”

(Northern Plans for the Economic Invasion of Florida, 1862-1865, Robert L. Clarke, Florida Historical Quarterly, Volume XXVIII, No. 4, April 1950, excerpt pp. 262-263)

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