The War Between the States

Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • Author
  • #14786

    Mr. McClanahan,
    Thank you for your lectures throughout this course. My question concerns the role that protective tariffs favored by the North (and borne by the South) played on the outbreak of the War. Prof. DiLorenzo often makes a big deal about this in his books on Lincoln, but I did not hear much of a discussion about the issue in the lectures (other than the North fighting for the “Hamiltonian” economic system). Were these tariffs a decisive factor in encouraging the outbreak of the war?


    Tariffs were a component of the Hamiltonian system and as such were a factor in the ultimate split between the North and South. Were they the only factor, no, but were they important, yes, as part of a larger picture of political economy. I tried to emphasize that the differences between the North and South were complex and stretched to the colonial period.


    I was curious about this, too. I’ve listened to both part 1 and 2 of “The political crisis of the 1850’s”… very insightful lectures, but I’m still a little confused about the whole situation.

    I already know that the war was not because the north had any moral objection to slavery, I’m familiar with enough empirical date regarding that that I need no convincing. The question is, what was the war really about?

    I just don’t quite understand the “It’s SLAVE POWER at work” rhetoric used by northerners in regards to southerners bringing slaves into the territories after the Mexican Session. Why did they (northerners) care?

    You said in the lecture (after the northerners tried to block the Lecompton Constitution) that Northerners didn’t want the south to have more slave states – “They don’t want the South to have this continued role in dominating the government; they can’t stand it.” Why did the north care if there were more slave states? Because as you said before, they really wouldn’t have been “SLAVE STATES” because Slavery wasn’t really viable out west…

    So if, because of the climate, the west would not have an agriculture/slavery based economy, like the south did, then the “American system” would not have been detrimental to western state’s economies (as it would be to their southron counterparts.)… So then, if they (western states) would not be negatively affected by the Hamiltonian-ism… why would they not support it? How does them being allowed to have slaves affect the “political economy” as the North feared it would?


    Perhaps the northern states didn’t think the issue through that thoroughly. Perhaps they simply assumed that any state in which slavery was legal would inevitably grow to become a slave-based economy and would therefore side with the existing slave states in all political matters. As the professors point out, the difference between the north and south was over many issues, not JUST slavery, but the divide was roughly the same as the mason-dixon line.

    I suppose an analogy to today might be Puerto Rican statehood. Most liberals support it (because Puerto Rico would almost certainly be a blue state), and most conservatives oppose it. I’ve already heard talk from many neo-cons that if Puerto Rico becomes a state, we’d have to create another red state for fairness/balancing purposes. Slave state/free state seems to me to have been the 1850s version of red state/blue state.


    The issue was perhaps more theoretical than concrete for many Southerners. They recognized that the Comp of 1850 gave them little if any benefit with the exception of a stronger fugitive slave law, and knew by 1855 that pop. sovereignty was going to produce more non-slaveholding than slaveholding states.

    John C. Calhoun recognized before he died that if the South wanted to maintain its strength in the govt. it needed to concede the internal improvements issue, which was beneficial for many western farmers. They did not care about tariffs or banks, but they needed roads and canals and cut the deal with the commercial North to get them. Even Madison and Monroe while vetoing internal improvements bills thought they were a good idea with a const. amendment.

    Overall, if these states could be somewhat integrated with the South, the general conclusion was that they would vote with the South on important issues and keep a balance of power at least in the Senate. Like you said, I am not sure if it would have happened that way, but Southerners understood they were a rapidly shrinking minority and wanted to provide a way of creating a political hedge against what they viewed as Northern aggression (the slave power rhetoric).


    I just wish I knew the best way to succinctly describe the cause of the war. After reading more about it (books like “The Real Lincoln”) I used to talk with people and try to convince them it was the tariff issue and not slavery… but after these lectures I’m getting the feeling it’s more complicated than that, and perhaps too complicated for typical, government educated, Lincoln worshipers to understand.

    This really sucks, because debunking the fallacies related to history of the 1860’s is so integral to changing the sheeple back to people. And if we can’t do it simply, perhaps we can’t do it at all.


    Freebans: You don’t have to agree with the cause to agree with the principle of self-determination and secession. To say that history is complex and that there were many issues involved in the secession of the Southern States is still something that Lincoln worshipers do not understand. And putting pressure on the Lincolnites to defend his blatantly unconstitutional acts does a world of damage to their moral self-righteousness.


    Thanks for the responses.

    I’ve been told that “Every letter of secession from ALL seceding states cited ‘a threatening to the institution of slavery’ as their primary cause for leaving the union.” Is this true?



    Gotta question. I watched Gods and Generals. Had a discussion about secession after diner, at Christmas, Went back and watched your lectures on Southern society because I was wondering how prevalent SLAVERY was in states other than Virginia. Sine the Celtic society was not aristocratic. The north rewrite of history leaves the impression the south was all plantations.

    What set it off was if Texas or any state Seceded, there would be a war. My point was it did not have to be that way. I felt like Mike Church, because I had to argue, that Lincoln did not free the slaves.

    So what was the slave population relative to Southern population, in percentage.



    Good question, and you are correct about Lincoln.

    There were around 3.5 million slaves in the South in 1860 out of a population of 11 million give or take. In MS and SC, the black population was over 50 percent, while in DE (which was considered a Southern State) it was around 10 percent.

    Perhaps one day Tom will let me do a class just on the War. I could get more in depth with several issues than I could in the short lectures for the survey course.




    Short answer, no. See for yourself.



    Many thanks! That’s just what I needed; although I was already pretty sure that claim was false.


    I recently read the Southerners could have reduced the tariffs before the Civil War because they were in charge of Congress. Is this true?


    Southerners did not control Congress. Democrats (not all Southerners or sympathetic to tariff reduction) held a plurality but the Republicans and American Party members also had large blocks in the 1850s. Getting anything done on the tariff issue would have been difficult.

Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.