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New York Slaveholding Brought Comfort and Prestige

New York is properly referred to as a former slave State — slaveholding there did not end until the late 1820’s, though the children of slaves remained in bondage for many years after. Rather than lose their investment, New Yorkers sold their chattel to plantations in the South before the deadline. Additionally, the small free-black population which remained in New York found themselves proscribed by Jim Crow laws which erected a minimum property ownership in order to vote, which effectively disenfranchised them.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

New York Slaveholding Brought Comfort and Prestige

“New York was slow in drawing white settlers until after mid [18th] century, and the shortage of labor led to a considerable use of slaves; indeed it is possible that in the early Dutch days it was slave labor that enabled the colony to survive. Most of the first slaves were not from Africa but were re-imported from Curacao in the Dutch West Indies.

It was a profitable system: in the 1640’s it cost only a little more to buy a slave than to pay a free worker’s wage for a year. After the English took control of New Netherland in 1664, a brisk and highly profitable trade in skilled slaves was carried on. Most slaveholders in the province were flourishing small farmers or small artisans who, in the absence of an adequate supply of free labor, needed moderately skilled help, and were able to pay the rising prices for slaves.

A partial census of 1755 showed a widely diffused slave population, most owners having only one or two slaves, only seven New Yorkers owning ten or more. Among the largest lots held were those of the elder Lewis Morris with 66 slaves on his large estate and the first Frederick Philipse, an affluent landowner, with about 40.

Such men could work gangs of slaves on their manors, but slaves were also sought by other wealthy men for the comfort and prestige a substantial staff of domestic servants would bring. William Smith, for example, was reputed to keep a domestic staff of 12 or more to run his New York City household, and other leading citizens travelled with Negro footmen.

From the first the competition of black labor was resented by whites. Competition in the labor market was intensified by the slave owners’ widespread practice of putting out their slaves for hire, under-cutting white laborers who were paid twice the slaves’ wages.

Slave controls, reflecting persistent nervousness in the white population, were quite rigid. Aside from private punishments that could be administered by masters, such public controls were meant to put sharp limits on the temptations slaves would face. After 1702, flogging was prescribed if three slaves gathered together on their own time . . . nor could they engage in trade without their master’s consent.”

(America at 1750, a Social Portrait, Richard Hofstadter, Vintage Books, 1973, excerpt, pp. 99-101)

May 7, 2017 - Antebellum Realities, Foreign Viewpoints, New England History, Northern Culture Laid Bare, Sharp Yankees    Comments Off on Sly, Grinding, Selfish and Tricking People

Sly, Grinding, Selfish and Tricking People

This detached foreign opinion of antebellum New Englanders reveals the deep cultural chasm between the sections in antebellum times, and somewhat persistent to this day as the North has nearly accomplished its avowed postwar purpose of repopulating the South with its people, mannerisms and traditions.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sly, Grinding, Selfish and Tricking People

“I heard an Englishman, who had been long resident in America, declare that in the following, in meeting, or in overtaking, in the street, on the road, or in the field, at the theatre, the coffee-house, or the home, he had never overheard Americans conversing without the word DOLLAR being pronounced between them. Such unity of purpose, such sympathy of feeling, can, I believe, be found nowhere else, except perhaps in an ant’s nest.

The result is exactly what might be anticipated. This sordid object, forever before their eyes, must inevitably produce a sordid tone of mind, and, worse still, it produces a seared and blunted conscience on all questions of probity. I know not a more striking evidence of the low tone of morality which is generated by this universal pursuit of money than the manner in which the New England States are described by Americans.

All agree in saying that they present a spectacle of industry and prosperity delightful to behold, and this is the district and the population most constantly quoted as the finest specimen of their admirable country; yet I never met a single individual in any part of the Union who did not paint these New Englanders as sly, grinding, selfish, and tricking.

The Yankees (as the New Englanders are called) will avow these qualities themselves with a complacent smile, and boast that no people on earth can match them in over-reaching in a bargain. I have heard them unblushingly relate stories of their cronies and friends, which, if believed among us, would banish the heroes from the fellowship of honest men forever . . . yet the Americans declare that “they are the most moral persons on earth.”

(America Through British Eyes, Allan Nevins, editor, Oxford University Press, 1948, excerpt, pp. 136-137)

 

Soundest Fiat Note Ever Issued

Elihu Root was an attorney, Carnegie institution functionary, served as Secretary of War under McKinley and Roosevelt the First, as well as Secretary of State under the latter. Born in New York in 1845, he witnessed the American South become an economic colony of New England, became a member of the notorious Union League Club and proponent of the income tax and American entry into WWI. Root was an opponent of the Federal Reserve Act. Signed into law by Woodrow Wilson with four gold pens on 23 December 1913, he remarked that the controversial Federal Reserve “measure had suffered many narrow escapes” before reaching his desk.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Ccirca1865.com

 

Soundest Fiat Note Ever Issued

“On the floor of the Senate the [Federal Reserve] bill encountered heavy opposition. Senator Elihu Root, of New York, led the attack. His remarks were bitter and persistent. Such was Root’s standing that his assaults attracted much attention. The vehement antagonism of Senator Root was based on the charge that inflation and “fiat” money were at the center of the proposed system.

“The American people,” he argued, “closed the case for and against inflation . . . when they sustained the vote of the inflation bill by President Grant in 1874. Coming into power, the Democratic Party undertakes to reserve the oft-repeated judgment of the people of the United States upon this question. We are setting our steps now in the pathway which through the protection of a paternal government brought the mighty power of Rome to its fall. And we are doing it here without a mandate from the people of the United States.”

Defenders of the bill admitted that it was true that the Federal Reserve note was not, strictly speaking, a “Government” note, but contended that it was quite obvious that it was not “fiat” money. On the contrary, it was a sound bank note, secured by a forty percent gold reserve, a lien on the issuing bank and its stock, and by the Federal Government itself. There was little or no need for the Government obligation, it was held, but for the sake of safety and William Jennings Bryan, it was there.

The Senate paid little attention to the admonition of Senator Root. In fact, it actually enlarged the inflationary features of the bill. [They] deplored the fact that a statesman of Senator Root’s international reputation should have seized upon a politician’s catch phrase and denounced as “fiat” money the soundest note ever issued.”

(Carter Glass, Unreconstructed Rebel, James E. Palmer, Jr., Institute of American Biography, 1938, pp. 100-102)

No Submission to Northern Manufacturers

It is said that the tariff was the most contentious issue in the United States between 1808 and 1832, and this exploded with South Carolina threatening tariff nullification in that latter year. This was settled with Congress steadily lowering tariffs. Economist Frank Taussig wrote in 1931 that by 1857 the maximum duty on imports had been reduced to twenty-four percent and a relative free trade ideal was reached, due to Southern pressure. He also noted that the new Republican-controlled Congress increased duties in December 1861 and that by 1862 the average tariff rates had crept up to 47.06%.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

No Submission to Northern Manufacturers

“South Carolina had opposed the tariff from the earliest days of the republic. The very first Congress, in 1789, had included a group of Carolina representatives known as “anti-tariff men.” When the Washington administration sponsored a mild import measure, Senator Pierce Butler of the Palmetto State brought the charge that Congress was oppressing South Carolina and threatened a “dissolution of the Union, with regard to that State, as sure as God was in his firmament.”

The tariff of 1816, passed in a wave of American national feeling after the War of 1812, found six out of ten Carolina members voting against the bill. John C. Calhoun and the other three members who supported the measure were severely censured at home.

Almost the entire South opposed the tariff of 1824. The spreading domain of King Cotton now had a well-defined grievance: the Northeast and the Northwest were uniting to levy taxes on goods exchanged for exported cotton; their protective tariff policy, and concomitant program for internal improvements, was benefiting their entire section at the expense of the South.

The policy protected New England [cotton] mills and furnished funds for linking the seaboard States of the North with the new Northwest by means of canals and turnpikes. The Southern planters paid the bills: they were forced to buy their manufactured supplies in a high market and their chief article of exchange, cotton, had fallen from thirty cents a pound in 1816 to fifteen cents in 1824. In addition, the internal improvements program offered them no compensation; the rivers took their cotton to the shipping points.

When the “Tariff of Abominations” passed in 1828, all the Southeastern and Southwestern members of the house opposed it, except for three Virginians. In the Senate, only two Southerners supported “the legislative monstrosity.”

The opposition to Northern tariff policy was most vociferous in the Palmetto State. [English-born South Carolinian Thomas Cooper presented] Lectures on the Elements of Political Economy (1826) and other writings of the period [which] receive credit for doing much toward shaping opinion on the tariff.

In 1827, he told Senator Martin Van Buren of New York that if [Henry Clay’s] American system were pushed too far, the Carolina legislature would probably recall the State’s representatives from Washington.

Seven years after [Cooper’s] arrival in the Palmetto State, he made the famous declaration that it was time for South Carolina “to calculate the value of the Union.” This historic utterance of July 2, 1827, gave rise to shocked expressions of horror, even among some Carolina hotheads, but it had been indelibly burned into the thinking of a generation. It had a habit of cropping out down through the years. Webster and Hayne both alluded to it during their famous debate.

An English traveler, stopping at Columbia . . . in 1835, had the opportunity to hear Cooper expressing his opinions and to observe the attitude of those who surrounded the strong-minded college president [of South Carolina College]. After this occasion, he noted in his diary:

“I could not help asking, in a good-natured way, if they called themselves Americans yet; the gentleman who had interrupted me before said, “If you ask me if I am an American, my answer is No, Sir, I am a South Carolinian.” [These men] are born to command, it will be intolerable to them to submit to be, in their estimation, the drudges of the Northern manufacturers, whom they despise as an inferior race of men. Even now there is nothing a Southern man resents so much as to be called a Yankee.”

(Romanticism and Nationalism in the Old South, Rollin G. Osterweis, LSU Press, 1949, excerpts, pp. 139-141)

Du Pont and His Powder Industry

E. I. Du Pont’s position as an anti-slavery advocate may have been more about containing black people in the South and forbidding them into the North and territories, as was common among Republicans. He may also have been opposed to the war but made a fortune through powder orders by providing 4 million barrels to the Northern government. Du Pont’s revolutionary “mammoth powder” for heavy artillery allowed greater range for bombarding American cities in the South.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Du Pont and His Powder Industry

“. . . Du Pont, a strong Whig and anti-slavery partisan could hardly feel much enthusiasm for the [Mexican] war, even if it did bring him government powder orders. [In the postwar] Ohio and Indiana farmers were industriously clearing away timber land, and potent charges of Du Pont powder were needed to extract the stumps. This was the first era of railway building, and powder was a necessity for railroad contractors. William Astor and his Oregon Fur Company needed powder for hunting in the Northwest. Mining was also beginning to develop.

Du Pont did not need a war, but the gods smiled and gave him one. In 1854 England, Turkey, and others went to war with Russia, and guns in the Crimea needed powder. Du Pont filled [orders from both England and Russia, and] shipments of the “black death” went forth to the far corners of the world.

During the American Civil War Du Pont was again the patriot – at least the Northern patriot. Naturally the war brought Du Pont large orders and he was the mainstay of the Northern government.

The Civil War created a virtual partnership between Du Pont and the government. When the war was over, this relationship was not disturbed . . . [and] Working hand in glove with the government became a regular practice for Dupont.

The last decades of the nineteenth century witnessed the formation of powerful combines and trusts in American business. It was only natural that Du Pont should be transformed from a simple powder company into a gigantic combine with international ramifications.

The development came as a result of the Civil War [and] Government orders had been so reckless that the supply of powder on the market proved a drug to the entire industry. The government sold its surplus at auction prices sand the bottom fell out of the powder industry.

Beginning in 1872 the Du Pont Company gradually brought “order” into the industry, and in 1907 it was not only supreme in the field, but had virtually united all powder companies in the country under its guidance, control, or ownership.

The result of this monopolistic policy may be seen in the fact that by 1905 Du Pont controlled the orders for all government powder orders. Having established this monopoly, Du Pont turned again to price-fixing [and] national prices were established from which there was no deviation.

During the World War Du Pont supplied 40 per cent of the powder used by the Allies, and after 1917 its orders from the United States government were enormous.”

(Merchants of Death, A Study of the International Armament Industry, H.C. Engelbrecht & F.C. Hanighen, Dodd, Mead & Company, 1934, excerpts, pp. 29- 36)

The Southern Yankee

Beyond the New England slave trade which populated the American South with millions of enslaved Africans, there were many Yankees who moved South before 1861 to engage in agriculture and the holding of slaves.  And they had a Southern counterpart who learned the Yankee’s  close-fisted ways.  During the War and after Northern bayonets had conquered Southern regions, many industrious and profit-minded Yankees came South to try their hand at revolutionizing Southern agriculture and labor with experiments at Hilton Head and Louisiana.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

The Southern Yankee

“The name “Yankee” was originally bestowed upon New-Englanders alone, but for what reason it would be difficult perhaps to determine at this time. At present, however, with all foreigners it is used to designate the natives of any of the Anglo-Saxon States of our republic. In our Southern States all Northerners are regarded as Yankees, while the Southerner will not consent to have the name applied to themselves.

But even in the North there are those who still disclaim the appropriateness of the cognomen, when applied to any persons other than the natives of New England . . . “Yankee” with all these is looked upon usually as a term of reproach – signifying a shrewd, sharp, chaffering, oily-tongued, soft-sawdering, inquisitive, money-making, money-saving, and money-worshipping individual, who hails from Down East, and who is presumed to have no where else on the Globe a permanent local habitation.

In a sense of the word, however, we are disposed to opine that, while New-England may possibly produce more Yankees than other portions of the Republic . . . still, any numbers of the close-fisted race are to be met with all the way from the banks of the Hudson to the deltas of the Mississippi – all to the manor born too, and through whose veins courses not a drop of New-England blood.

Of these the Southern Yankee is, without dispute or cavil, the meanest. He has nothing whatever to plead in excuse or even extenuation of his selfishness; for all around him is boundless hospitality, and even the very air he breathes excites to warm-heartedness, relaxing the closed fist of more Northern latitudes into the proverbially open palm of the generous hearted South. Time was indeed, when the Southern Yankee had neither a local habitation nor a name.

During the grand old Colonial days, as well as the happy period which immediately followed the Revolution, Southerners did not dream of devoting their whole lives – all their time and talents – to the base pursuit of riches – the mere acquisition of dollars and dimes, regardless of family ties, or the duties owned to society, and the much higher duties one also owes to his God.

At the present time, the Southern Yankee is quite an institution in the South. The Southern Yankee comes of no particular lineage, but springs from all manner of his forefathers, though in most cases from persons of the middle class. Like his Northern brother, the Southern Yankee is deterred by no obstacle whatever from his tireless pursuit of riches.

In the tobacco-fields of Virginia, in the rice fields of Carolina, in the cotton-fields of Alabama, or among the sugar-canes of Louisiana, when a farmer or planter, he is in all things similar and equally bent on the accumulation of the sordid pelf: and the crack of his whip is heard early, and the crack of his whip is heard late, and the weary backs of his bondsmen and his bondswomen are bowed to the ground with over-tasking and over-toil, and yet his heart still unsatisfied; for he grasps after more and more, and cries to the fainted slave: “Another pound of money, dog, or I take my pound of flesh!”

Will it pay to press the poor African beyond what he can endure, and thereby shorten his life . . . this is the great and the only question with every Southern Yankee: “Conscience? Basta! He knows no such thing as conscience: he cares only to get gain, and get it he will, and let conscience go to the dogs. Religion? Go talk to the women and the parsons about religion.”

[The] Southern Yankee is fully as restless as the Yankees of the North – always on the move, or ready to sell out at any time if settled. Home to be loved must be made attractive, but he who is so wedded to filthy lucre as to despise all ornament that costs money, is not capable of entertaining in his selfish and narrow bosom so refining a passion as the love of home, or the love of anything else, indeed, that is pure and beautiful.

However, though often a farmer or planter, the Southern Yankee is much more frequently a trader or speculator. The slow but sure gains of agricultural pursuits are not swift enough to satisfy his inordinate craving for money; hence he speculates either in merchandise, or stocks, or tobacco, or cotton, or sugar, or rice, or grain, or lands, or horses, or men. In all which he is but the type of the Wall Street prototype. He will lie or cheat if need be, and scruples at no dirty trick provided it enables him to make a “good thing of it” – such is the chaste vernacular of these dim-witted fellows.”

(Social Relations in Our Southern States, D.R. Hundley, Henry B. Price, 1860, excerpt, pp. 130-136)

Rhode Island’s Record of Slaving

The British Royal African Company was primarily responsible for populating North America and the West Indies with African slaves, and despite being near bankrupt from exorbitant expenses was considered too big to fail. After the Revolution, British-imposed slavery was set on a potential track toward abolition, but the cotton gin of Massachusetts inventor Eli Whitney in the mid 1790’s, along with the rise of New England cotton mills, perpetuated African slavery.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Rhode Island’s Record of Slaving

“The [British] slave trade was carried on by means of “factories,” or trading establishments, defended by forts on the west coast of Africa. In 1750, the Royal African Company had nine factories, the chief of which was Cape Coast Castle, with a strong fort built on a huge rock that projected into the sea. It was expensive to maintain these forts and trading posts. In fact, the company was prevented from going bankrupt by an annual grant of [10,000 pounds].

The competition of French slave traders, who paid more for their human merchandise than the English company, was especially formidable since the French African Company was heavily subsidized by its government.

During the first half of the eighteenth century Bristol and Liverpool were the great slave trading ports of the British Empire. In 1750, a total of 155 British and colonial ships were engaged in the slave trade, of which 20 came from the American colonies, principally from Rhode Island.

Toward the close of the colonial period, however, there were 150 Rhode Island ships employed in this traffic as compared with 192 English ships, a record to which Southerners pointed during the antislavery controversy.

These ships often were engaged in a triangular trade with England or the American colonies, the west coast of Africa, and the West Indies. To Africa the slave ships carried trading goods, bars of iron, rum –“well-watered” – forearms, lead, beads, and cloth, which they exchanged for slaves.

The later were transported to the sugar islands of the West Indies and exchanged for molasses, run and gold coins. In New England, the molasses was manufactured into rum to exchange for more slaves.”

(A History of the Old South, The Emergence of a Reluctant Nation, Clement Eaton, MacMillan Publishing, 1975, excerpt, page 31)

 

Binding Men to the Footstools of Depots

South Carolinian Robert Y. Hayne (1791-1839) followed Jefferson’s admonition that the national debt was not something to be passed on to future generations, and most presidents of his era and until the War endeavored to pay the debts incurred by their administrations before leaving office. In encouraging a perpetual public debt, Daniel Webster promoted the American System of Hamilton and Henry Clay which provided the government a perpetual supply of money with which to buy influence and power.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Binding Men to the Footstools of Despots

“The gentleman from Massachusetts [Webster], in alluding to a remark of mine that before any disposition could be made of the public lands, the national debt (for which they stand pledged) must be first paid, took occasion to intimate [that Southerners desire to pay the national debt] “arises from a disposition to weaken the ties which bind the people to the Union.”

But, adds the gentleman, “so far as the debt may have an effect in binding the debtors to the country, and thereby serving as a link to hold the States together, he would be glad that it should exist forever.”

Surely then, sir, on the gentleman’s own principles, he must be opposed to the payment of the debt. Sir, let me tell that gentleman that the South repudiates the idea that a pecuniary dependence on the Federal Government is one of the legitimate means of holding the States together.

A monied interest in the Government is essentially a base interest . . . it is opposed to all the principles of free government and at war with virtue and patriotism. In a free government, this principle of abject dependence if extended through all the ramifications of society must be fatal to liberty. Already we have made alarming strides in that direction.

The entire class of manufacturers, the holders of stocks with their hundreds of millions in capital, are held to the Government by the strong link of pecuniary interests; millions of people, entire sections of the country, interested, or believing themselves to be so, in the public lands and the public treasure, are bound to the Government by the expectation of pecuniary favors.

If this system is carried on much further, no man can fail to see that every generous motive of attachment to the country will be destroyed, and in its place will spring up those low, groveling, base and selfish feelings which bind men to the footstool of despots by bonds as strong and as enduring as those which attach them to free institutions.”

(Speech of Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina, January 25, 1830; The Webster-Hayne Debate on the Nature of the Union, Herman Belz, Editor, Liberty Fund, 2000, pp. 42-43.)

Lincoln’s Inflationary Finances

It did not take long after Fort Sumter for Northern war expenditures to reach staggering proportions. James Randall in his “Civil War and Reconstruction” (1937, DC Heath) wrote: “With the treasury nearly empty, financial markets shaken, foreign bankers unsympathetic, taxation inadequate, and loans unmarketable except at a discount, the door of escape by way of paper money seemed most tempting.” Lincoln resorted to the printing press to create money.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Lincoln’s Inflationary Finances

“The classic study of Union inflation was Wesley Clair Mitchell century-old “History of the Greenbacks.” Initially the war was to be financed with the use of government bonds, tax revenues would be used to pay the normal expenditures of government, and the gold standard would be retained. However, this system quickly collapsed in late 1861 and the first of three legal tender acts was passed in February 1862 with a total of $450 million in greenbacks authorized for issue.

When an economy has two types of money, such as gold and paper, and they are both defined in the same units, such as dollars, Gresham’s Law states that bad money will drive good money out of circulation. And in accordance with Gresham’s Law, greenback dollars quickly displaced gold dollars as the circulating medium of exchange.

The value of greenbacks quickly depreciated in terms of gold and fell to a low point of only 35 cents worth of gold on July 11, 1864. Amazingly, the Union currency had depreciated as much in three short years as the dollar has in the thirty years since the United States went off the gold standard. The prices of goods appreciated in terms of greenbacks from an index value of 100 in 1860 to a maximum of 216.8 in 1865.

Citizens tended to blame higher prices on business, speculators, and foreigners. Some government officials believed that speculators in the gold market were somehow causing the value of greenbacks to fall, but the real culprit for inflation was the government itself.

In addition to an ever-increasing supply of greenbacks, Mitchell showed that the value of greenbacks in terms of gold would change on the basis of expectations that in turn were based on peoples’ estimated probability that the greenbacks would be redeemed for gold after the war. Battlefield losses were associated with declines in value while victories meant higher values for the greenback.

Higher prices also meant that the Union government would have to issue more greenbacks in order to purchase war supplies and pay its soldiers [and pay enlistment bounties]. Because the Union government would eventually have to pay its war debts and redeem the greenbacks in gold, Mitchell . . . calculated that greenbacks had increased the real cost of the war to the government itself by $528 million. Of course, the politicians who borrowed and spent the money during the war were not necessarily the same ones who had to pay off the debt and redeem the greenbacks after the war.

Mitchell also found that the switch from gold to paper . . . [created] an illusory increase in property values, an increase in extravagance and the purchase of luxury goods, a crippling of economic efficiency, and a decrease in real wages for farmers, laborers, professionals, teachers and soldiers. As expected, the Union’s inflationary finances created an illusion of general prosperity that greatly upset the ability of entrepreneurs, workers, consumers, and bureaucrats to make accurate economic calculations.”

(Tariffs, Blockades and Inflation: The Economics of the Civil War; Mark Thornton and Robert Ekelund, Jr., Scholarly Resources Books, excerpts, pp. 68-69)

Unproductive Republican Economic Policies

April, 1865 witnessed the victory of Northern industrial capitalism over the conservative, agrarian South – no longer could Southern statesmen restrain the North in the halls of Congress. Post-1865 America saw the rise of corporations, the completion of Manifest Destiny and near-extermination of the Indians, and the gilded age of “evil robber barons.”

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Unproductive Republican Economic Policies

“Historians have tended to treat the Civil War as a boon to industry and the American economy. Thomas C. Cochrane cites several prominent historians . . . who variously praised the impact of the conflict on wartime production and its stimulating effect on postwar economic and industrial development.

Cochrane . . . examined statistical data on industrial production and found that, in general, there was not a strong case for a positive impact and that the war had a retarding effect on industry and the economy. Cochrane also found little support for the claims of beneficial effects of the Civil War on postwar development. He concludes with this speculation:

“From most standpoints the Civil War was a national disaster, but Americans like to see their history in terms of optimism and progress. Perhaps the war was put in a perspective suited to the culture by seeing it as good because in addition to achieving freedom for the Negro it brought about industrial progress.”

[Charles and Mary] Beard’s claim that the Civil War was a spur to industry and the rise of the American economy is based on the lasses-faire philosophy of the Republican Party and its success in implementing its major policy goals, such as subsidies to the intercontinental railroads, the establishment of a national currency and the protective tariff.

The Republican’s economic philosophy was not truly laissez-fair. In fact, their policy agenda was the opposite . . . in that it advocated special treatment for big business and a much larger role for the federal government. This can be seen in Republican policies to subsidize railroads, provide protective tariffs [for select private industries], and increase government debt and government control over money and banking as well as in their attitude toward labor.

Their policies [of tariffs and subsidies] . . . are now considered economically wasteful . . . and considered nothing more than special interests seeking a handout from the taxpayer through the government. [That Republican policies were productive] ignores the negative effects on the agriculture, service and cultural sectors. The Republicans’ policy would be better labelled as mercantilist in that it facilitated rent-seeking behavior.

Capital diverted to railroad building would surely have been put to good use elsewhere in the economy . . . [and] Moreover, had railroads not been highly subsidized, a better built, lower cost, and more timely system could have been put in place.

Tariffs were a centerpiece of Republican policy. They reversed a relatively free-trade policy . . . [and] protectionism forced consumers to pay higher prices for both imported and domestically produced goods protected by the tariff – that is, they purchased fewer of these products, used less desirable substitutes, and had a lower standard of living.

On net, the losses to consumers and the overall economy are greater than the gains to the protected producers and the tax revenue that accrues to the government.”

(Tariffs, Blockades and Inflation, the Economics of the Civil War; Mark Thornton and Robert B. Ekelund, Jr., Scholarly Resources Books, 2004, excerpts, pp. 84-87)

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