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Posted at 9:45 AM ET, 02/22/2011

Brag Bowling: Why did South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas choose to secede?

By Brag Bowling

Director of the Stephen D. Lee Institute

Bowling

During the early 19th century, the framework of the United States was held together by a series of concessions and compromises by men and women who viewed the continuance of the Union as primary above sectional and economic differences. People such as Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis and many others from both North and South worked diligently to patch over problems which seemed unsolvable. By the 1850’s, compromise became much harder. The 1856 formation of the Republican Party, viewed strictly as a northern regional party, put into policy what many shuddered at, a party whose essential purpose was inimical to Southern economic interests and institutions (i.e. Slavery). Simple compromise would be much more difficult as the Republicans gained power and influence.

The ticking time bomb went off in 1859 with the John Brown raid on Harper’s Ferry. When it was discovered that this criminal invasion was funded basically by wealthy abolitionists from Massachusetts, Southerners truly began questioning whether there was a place for them in the Union. Even moderates felt there was no longer a hope or prospect for reconciliation between the two sections on a basis of reasonable mutual concern.

The South watched the growing attack on their economy, investments and labor force with apprehension. It has been estimated that the value of all slaves in the South was greater than the total value of all industry in the North. Southerners rightly viewed slave ownership as a vested Constitutional right. Nowhere was a realistic plan proffered for compensated emancipation of slaves. Abraham Lincoln, during the war, offered a lukewarm, underfunded plan of compensated emancipation and recolonization to South America, Africa and other venues. Southerners viewed slave ownership as a basic property right guaranteed by the Constitution. And that property right should extend wherever a person wishes to go. This was a central Constitutional issue in the question of secession.

Also, Southerners were wary that their political clout was waning in Congress. New states were popping up in the Midwest especially. These states formed part of the anti-Southern interest voting block in Congress. The influx of immigrants from Europe vastly expanded the size of the Northern electorate, thus guaranteeing the demise of Southern political influence. The new immigrants removed any need for Northern slavery which had existed since the founding of the country. Still, the slave trade was a key component of northern commerce and vast fortunes were made in the North by many well known families and financial institutions. In 1860, the government was funded essentially by tariffs since no income tax existed at that time. The South found itself paying much of the freight in tariffs which accrued great benefit to the North. South Carolina had already strongly resisted the increase in tariffs in 1832. The Republican Party in 1860 had as a central part of its platform the Morrill Tariff which would significantly raise the tariff in order to protect Northern steel and other manufacturing industries at the expense of Southern taxpayers. It would eventually raise rates to as much as 50%. The Morrill Tariff was hotly debated in the secession conventions.

In his 1st Inaugural Address, Lincoln promised that he would enforce militarily the collection of tariffs. As for slavery, in the 1st Inaugural Lincoln was conciliatory, stating he had no intention of disturbing slavery where it stood and even if he harbored such intention, it would be unconstitutional to do so.

The question of why these states seceded is very difficult to answer, especially in the space provided here. I have tried to provide something of a framework as to some of the many issues involved. Tariffs, waning Southern political influence, the rise of the Republican Party were just a few of the issues in addition to slavery and its complex economic and constitutional equation. And slavery, in itself an evil which today is abhorred by every right thinking person, was at that time viewed as a Constitutional right in a nation and world where slavery was generally accepted. Much of the economy of the lower South (cotton states) had a slavery component representing a huge investment. The secession of the lower South would not have led to the immense war which developed. It was only when Virginia finally seceded following the Lincoln call up of 75000 troops to put down the the lower South that war came. Virginia was the key and when she seceded, the size and scope of the dilemma greatly increased because Virginia’s secession led to the secession of a group of key states such as North Carolina, Arkansas, and Tennessee. While slavery can be argued as a reason for the lower south states seceding, the issue of slavery was not a component in Virginia or the later seceding states. Lincoln’s invasion brought those states aboard the Confederacy prepared to resist what they viewed as Lincoln’s illegal invasion of the South.

This was a war which could have been avoided. Certainly a compensated emancipation scheme would have been less costly than the war. Lincoln had some very specific ideas about slavery but far fetched recolonization schemes were not acceptable, even to freed slaves. Why compensated emancipation was never seriously promoted is a question which lingers today.


By Brag Bowling  | February 22, 2011; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Views  | Tags:  Brag Bowling  
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Next: Great drama at Virginia secession convention

Comments

One reason why the compensation idea was impractical is because the Constitution does not give the federal government the right to do that.

Posted by: hornj | February 22, 2011 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Tariffs had always been a hot button issue since the country was founded, but most of the conflict was between parties, not north and south.

Posted by: persingerce | February 24, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

"Nowhere was a realistic plan proffered for compensated emancipation of slaves."
---
Compensated emancipation by Northern states was accomplished by the states, so why would Southern states require a plan by the Federal government? Are we to assume they wanted to be a bunch of welfare queens living off the taxes paid by the free states?

"The new immigrants removed any need for Northern slavery which had existed since the founding of the country."
---
Incorrect. Northern states were getting rid of slavery prior to the immigration wave.

"Still, the slave trade was a key component of northern commerce."
----
Another factually incorrect statement. The United States outlawed the slave trade on January 1, 1808. Did some Northerners participate in the trade illegally? Yes. But that criminal activity was not a key component of commerce.

"The South found itself paying much of the freight in tariffs which accrued great benefit to the North."
---

Another factually incorrect statement. The vast majority of the tariff (over 90% of it) was paid in Northern ports for materials that went primarily to Northern consumers.

"It would eventually raise rates to as much as 50%."
---
The tariff rates increased this much as a result of the Civil War. It's disingenuous to claim it was due to the Morrill Tariff.

"Lincoln promised that he would enforce militarily the collection of tariffs."
---
This is also disingenuous. Lincoln said he would hold, occupy, and possess the forts and installations of the United States and to collect the tariff and other income, not solely to collect the tariff. In other words, he would enforce the law of the United States. There is nothing remarkable about that.

"in a nation and world where slavery was generally accepted."
---
Again, not quite correct. Slave states were a minority in the United States, and as a slaveholding nation, the United States was a minority in the world.

"The issue of slavery was not a component in Virginia or the later seceding states. Lincoln’s invasion brought those states aboard the Confederacy prepared to resist what they viewed as Lincoln’s illegal invasion of the South."
---

That is incorrect. It ignores the views of the conditional unionists, who would oppose secession only so long as they believed slavery was safe in the Union. Once the confederacy fired on Fort Sumter and Lincoln called for the militia it became clear to them that this would be a war with slavery on one side, thus endangering slavery within the Union. There was no invasion of the South that led to a secession. The Upper South seceded prior to any Union army marching into the South, and that invasion was a legal invasion, since any nation has the right and authority to put down illegal rebellion.

Posted by: AlMackey | February 25, 2011 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Bragg for a very fair and reasonable statement of the Southern position - unlike Mr. Mackey, you have a realistic grasp of the issues facing our own ancestors and other Americans. Compensated emancipation of Southern slaves by the federal government was the only viable option among compensation solutions. Sure the Northern states did it on their own, but by dealing with a fraction of the slaves the South would have to deal with and besides it really was a national, not regional, problem.

Mackey continues to demonstrate his unfair bias by his downplaying the continued role of Northern involvement in the slave trade after 1808, the roll of European immigration in downsizing a labor need for Northern slavery, and even the clearly disproportionate amount of tariffs paid by Southerners in relation to their populations (The census tabulations can settle this argument pretty quickly).

And US a minority nation among world slaveholders? OK, how about Brazil, Russia, feudal Japan, China, most of Africa (where there is still active slavery today), the middle East - as well as the British Empire which had abolished slavery through compensation less than a generation before.

Bragg's point despite Mackey's attempted obfuscation is clear regarding the Secession of the upper South - but for Lincoln's illegal invasion - the upper South would most likely have remained in the Union.

And yes Mr. Mackey every nation has the right to put down "rebellion" - but they do not have the right to wage a criminal & illegal war on States that have constitutionally voted to opt out of a bad contract - Ft Sumter or not!

Thank you Bragg for being a voice of reason and sanity on this panel

LibertyLover11

Posted by: libertylover11 | February 25, 2011 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Mr. or Ms. "LibertyLover11," thank you for your contribution.

"Sure the Northern states did it on their own, but by dealing with a fraction of the slaves the South would have to deal with and besides it really was a national, not regional, problem."
--

So the Southern states were nothing more than a group of welfare queens who wanted to leach off the taxes of the free states? Interesting.

The fact of the matter is that the slave states simply weren't interested in any type of emancipation, compensated or otherwise. Bringing it up is nothing more than a red herring.

"downplaying the continued role of Northern involvement in the slave trade after 1808,"
--
The claim Mr. Bowling made that the slave trade was a significant factor in Northern economy after 1808 is simply wrong. Note there is no denial of Northern participation in the slave trade, both legal and illegal.

"the roll [sic] of European immigration in downsizing a labor need for Northern slavery,"
--
You should look at the chronology.

Vermont proclaimed an immediate end of slavery in its 1777 constitution. Massachusetts ended slavery by judicial interpretation in 1780. Pennsylvania adopted gradual emancipation in 1780. Connecticut and Rhode Island passed gradual emancipation laws in 1784. New York passed a law providing for gradual emancipation in 1799. New Jersey adopted a gradual emancipation law in 1804.

The first wave of white immigration was after the War of 1812.

"and even the clearly disproportionate amount of tariffs paid by Southerners in relation to their populations (The census tabulations can settle this argument pretty quickly)."
--
Here are the facts.

In 1860 the United States collected $52.3 million in tariff revenue. $48.3 million of that was collected in Northern ports, while only $4.0 million was collected in Southern ports, Indeed, the Port of New York alone collected $34.9 million. The claim that the South, which was only 29% of the US population of the time, and 40% of THAT population were slaves, paid any significant part of the tariff is laughable.

"And US a minority nation among world slaveholders? OK, how about Brazil, Russia, feudal Japan, China, most of Africa (where there is still active slavery today), the middle East - as well as the British Empire which had abolished slavery through compensation less than a generation before."
--
Russia abolished slavery except for serfdom in 1723, and abolish serfdom in 1861. Japan abolished slavery in the 16th Century. If you invest in a map of the world and looked at what countries existed in 1860, you'll see that the majority of the world had abolished slavery by 1860.

"but for Lincoln's illegal invasion - the upper South would most likely have remained in the Union"
--
Invest in a calendar. Lincoln called for troops on April 15, 1861. VA's ordinance of secession was dated April 17, before any troops got to Washington. AR and TN on May 6. NC on May 21. No invasion.

Posted by: AlMackey | February 26, 2011 11:00 PM | Report abuse

@Mackey
"Compensated emancipation by Northern states was accomplished by the states..."

***This is fantasy. Northern states had no compensated emancipation. Many northern slaves ran away to the British during the war... and those who didn't were often sold south. The northern states certainly discouraged residence (by law and harassment) by free blacks and stopped counting them in their census records.

***Numerous northern fortunes were built on the slave trade before 1808. The founders of Brown University come to mind.

SHIPPING was commerce for much of New England, and they made money on shipping slaves to America and cotton to Europe.

**** It's well established fact that Southern consumers paid much of the tariffs for imported English goods AND in the form of higher prices for Northern manufactured goods that could compete with British goods ONLY BECAUSE there was a tariff on comparable goods imported from England (farm implements, for example). Protectionist tariffs also hurt the southern states who were the major EXPORTERs of farm produce -- reciprocal tariffs made it difficult for American food and cotton to compete.

****Again, it's a well established fact that the Congress passed the Morrill Tariff (signed into law March 2, 1861) just two days before Lincoln was inaugurated and that said law doubled tariff rates. The increases did NOT occur "because of the war" but rather because the Republican party had achieved a majority (and the protectionist tariffs were part of their platform) and because many southern representatives were no longer in Congress.

****Lincoln said there would be no invasion EXCEPT to enforce the tariff law and hold forts built for the purpose of said collections. It is YOU who are being disingenuous to suggest that Lincoln's threat was not about enforcing tariff collections.

***Slavery was a world wide issue and Europe had only recently banned it prior to the war (1840-60). Numerous former colonies still maintained slavery...Brazil being the last in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery in 1888. It is notable that none of these countries required a war to end slavery.

****Again, you are the one being disingenuous. The Secession of VA, NC, TN and AR was directly because Lincoln had called for troops with which to invade the south. Records document that their secession was to avoid participating in invasion of their southern neighbors --- it was in protest of an immoral invasion and blockade. Obviously, troops marching south would have to cross the border states' soil unless they landed by sea (not logistically feasible).

Posted by: Candid_Observer | February 27, 2011 12:41 AM | Report abuse

Mr. or Ms. "Candid_Observer", thank you for your contribution.

"This is fantasy. Northern states had no compensated emancipation. Many northern slaves ran away to the British during the war... and those who didn't were often sold south."
-
Your ignorance of history doesn't make history a fantasy. For one, gradual emancipation itself was a form of compensation, since slaveowners kept the labor of slaves who would be freed in the future. Secondly, states such as New York and New Jersey compensated slaveowners and towns for care of elderly and infant slaves who were freed by the abolition acts. While it's true several slaves were sold South, where there was a great demand for slaves, states such as Rhode Island and Connecticut passed laws mandating a slave could not be sold outside the state.

"Numerous northern fortunes were built on the slave trade before 1808."
--
Mr. Bowling was making his assertion concerning the US decades after 1808.

"SHIPPING was commerce for much of New England, and they made money on shipping slaves to America and cotton to Europe."
--
Shipping was commerce along the coast, not inland. Or do you believe New England consists solely of coastline? And slave trading, illegal after 1808, is not the only shipping commerce.

"It's well established fact that Southern consumers paid much of the tariffs for imported English goods"
--
It's a fabrication accepted uncritically by those who don't know any better. I've provided the figures for tariff collection by port. "A much higher percentage of the Northern population was urban; and the per capita consumption of articles of commerce by an urban population is greater than the per capita consumption by a rural population. ... That the slaves consumed comparatively small quantities of foreign goods requires no demonstration. Their clothing and rough shoes were manufactured either in the North or at home. Their chief articles of food (corn and bacon) were produced at home or in the West. The large poor white element in the population consumed few articles of commerce, either domestic or foreign. The same is true of the rather large mountaineer element, because if for no other reason, they lived beyond the routes of trade. Olmstead had these classes in mind when he wrote: 'I have never seen reason to believe that
with absolute free trade the cotton States would take a tenth part of the value of our present importations.' One of the fairest of the many English travelers wrote: 'But the truth is, there are few imports required, for every Southern town tells the same tale.' " [Robert R. Russel, Economic Aspects of Southern Sectionalism, 1840-1861, pp. 107-108]

"Again, it's a well established fact that the Congress passed the Morrill Tariff (signed into law March 2, 1861) just two days before Lincoln was inaugurated and that said law doubled tariff rates."
--
The Morrill Tariff didn't double rates immediately. The effect of doubling came during the war.

Posted by: AlMackey | February 27, 2011 12:47 PM | Report abuse

"Lincoln said there would be no invasion EXCEPT to enforce the tariff law and hold forts built for the purpose of said collections. It is YOU who are being disingenuous to suggest that Lincoln's threat was not about enforcing tariff collections."
--
"I therefore consider that in view of the Constitution and the laws the Union is unbroken, and to the extent of my ability, I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part, and I shall perform it so far as practicable unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will constitutionally defend and maintain itself.
"In doing this there needs to be no bloodshed or violence, and there shall be none unless it be forced upon the national authority. The power confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places belonging to the Government and to collect the duties and imposts; but beyond what may be necessary for these objects, there will be no invasion, no using of force against or among the people anywhere." As any honest person reading this will see, Lincoln wasn't just talking about tariffs. He was talking about enforcing US laws, which included tariff laws, and holding occupying, and possessing government property. What is disingenuous is claiming he only threatened invasion over the tariff.

"Slavery was a world wide issue and Europe had only recently banned it prior to the war (1840-60). Numerous former colonies still maintained slavery...Brazil being the last in the western hemisphere to abolish slavery in 1888. It is notable that none of these countries required a war to end slavery."
--
My point stands that in 1860 the United States was a minority in the world as a slaveholding nation. And it's notable that the slaveowners in those countries didn't fight a war in order to maintain their slaves.

"The Secession of VA, NC, TN and AR was directly because Lincoln had called for troops with which to invade the south. Records document that their secession was to avoid participating in invasion of their southern neighbors."
--
The assertion had been made that the Upper South secession was directly due to an invasion by Lincoln. Such was not the case. You also ignore the stand of the Conditional Unionists. Wyndham Robertson was one influential Conditional Unionist. After Lincoln's call for troops he acknowledged that "the irrepressible conflict had commenced," that "Virginia has long suffered wrong at the hands of the North," that her "feelings had been insulted by the North's imputation that her domestic social system was criminal." It wasn't invasion, it was invasion against the institution of slavery.

Posted by: AlMackey | February 27, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

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