The Civil War in America
Some Inconvenient History
It amazes many to learn, but winners of wars have written every history ever written.  And wars, by and large, have been fought over access to resources.

To the dismay of tribalists, schoolchildren, and Hollywood producers, there actually never was a single war fought between Good and Evil.

That the sentences above, which to any intelligent mind should be prima facie obvious, are presently considered subversive--or worse--gives an idea of the 'intellectual' environment currently obtaining.

Herewith, some subversion regarding one of America's many wars against Evil:

What was it all about? Stuff, mainly.  Who gets to control your stuff and your access to stuff?   Resources.  By the mid-1800s, the Northern states controlled the national legislature and passed one law after another favoring northern industrial interests.  Tariffs, as you may know, were a major sticking point.  They were slowly strangling the southern states.

Southerners opposed increased tariffs and Northerners favored them. (The South was vastly more dependent upon imports and exports; the North had more factories by far, the production of which it was keen to strengthen--and did strengthen--by tariffs)

How did the Northern states control the legislature?  By promoting greatly increased immigration, which not incidentally provided cheap, pliant labor for its factories.  Immigration was vastly higher in the North, hence Southerners watched while Northern states increased their representation in the House of Representatives, blocking "Southern-friendly" legislation and enacting even higher tariffs.  So much for the House; control of the Senate was the crux of the matter for newly-admitted states and why the North would happily (necessarily, they felt) fight to prevent the admission of new slaveholding states.  It's worth remembering that northern states held slaves too--they just got rid of them sooner.

The end result anyway?  Southerners had to pay higher prices for goods in order to subsidize northern profits--this was ultimately and effectively a transfer of enormous wealth from South to North.

The tariff bounty was used to fund public projects in the North such as improvements to roads, harbors and river traffic. From 1789 to 1845, the North received five times the amount of money as was spent on southern projects. More than twice as many lighthouses were built in the North as in the South, and northern states received twice the southern appropriations for coastal defense. Such advantages strengthened the North's already strong hand in the coming conflict.

Charles Adams: The South paid an undue proportion of federal revenues derived from tariffs, and these were expended by the federal government more in the North than the South: in 1840, the South paid 84% of the tariffs, rising to 87% in 1860. They paid 83% of the $13 million federal fishing bounties paid to New England fishermen, and also paid $35 million to Northern shipping interests which had a monopoly on shipping from Southern ports. The South, in effect, was paying tribute to the North.

The address of Texas Congressman Reagan on 15 January 1861 summarizes this discontent: "You are not content with the vast millions of tribute we pay you annually under the operation of our revenue law, our navigation laws, your fishing bounties, and by making your people our manufacturers, our merchants, our shippers. You are not satisfied with the vast tribute we pay you to build up your great cities, your railroads, your canals. You are not satisfied with the millions of tribute we have been paying you on account of the balance of exchange which you hold against us. You are not satisfied that we of the South are almost reduced to the condition of overseers of northern capitalists. You are not satisfied with all this; but you must wage a relentless crusade against our rights and institutions." As the London Times of 7 Nov 1861 stated: "The contest is really for empire on the side of the North and for independence on that of the South...."


Thanks to immigration, the Union had more than double the population of the Confederacy (including slaves), and almost four times the number of men of combat age.  I'm sure you know about the Draft Riots in NYC and elsewhere. What were they resisting but the instant enslaving of destitute Irish immigrants?  Wealthier citizens could buy their way out of the draft for $300. 

Coupled with the larger number of states (and hence representation in the Senate), this population advantage delivered both houses of Congress to Northern interests.

Carl Pearlston: In 1860, the 15 Southern states had 8 million whites and 4½ million black slaves, compared to 19 million whites and ¼ million blacks in the North's 19 states. The vast areas of undeveloped western territory were rapidly being settled by people whose economic interests were not with the South. It found itself continually outvoted in both the Congress and Senate, especially on commercial regulations, with the prospect of an increasing majority against it. The nub of the problem was that the North wanted high tariffs on imported goods to protect its own manufactured products, while the South wanted low tariffs on imports and exports since it exported cotton and tobacco to Europe and imported manufactured goods in exchange. High tariffs in effect depressed the price for the South's agricultural exports; the South paid high prices for what it bought and got low prices for what it sold because of the federal tariff policy which the South was powerless to change. Southerners viewed themselves as being dominated by the mercantile interests of the North who profited from these high tariffs.

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Virginia had proposed a requirement for a 2/3 majority to enact laws regulating commerce and levying tariffs, which were the chief revenue of the federal government. George Mason of Virginia stated "The effect of a provision to pass commercial laws by a simple majority would be to deliver the south bound hand and foot to the eastern states". Virginia withdrew its amendment at the Convention in the interest of securing adoption of the Constitution, but ratification was with the proviso that it could be rescinded whenever the powers granted to the Union were used to oppress, and Virginia could then withdraw from the Union. True to George Mason's prediction, the high tariff of 1828 did bring the South to the verge of rebellion, leading Senator John C. Calhoun to unsuccessfully champion the concept of Nullification and the doctrine of the Concurrent Majority in 1833 to ensure that the South could have a veto power over commercial acts passed by a simple majority in Congress and the Senate.

I'm no expert in this field but I am naturally skeptical: I know that whenever one point of view is propounded so fiercely, and dissent carries such serious moral opprobrium, there's usually a legitimate and compelling alternative narrative being hidden.  Look at the nature of and forces behind American policy in the Mideast if you need evidence.

Now, does any of this mean that the Civil War was fought over tariffs rather than slavery?  Not quite.  I can see no reason why wars can't have multiple causes.  I daresay most have.


Consider also that while slave labor was obviously cheap, it's not nearly as cheap as partisans would have you believe.  Slaveholders had to feed, clothe, and house each and every slave as well as attend to their health and welfare, else they wouldn't be productive.  Northern factory owners had to do none of these things, the value which in aggregate often exceeded workers' pay.  (If you doubt that calculation, merely review the work of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine.)   Moreover, Northern industrial interests campaigned loudly and effectively in favor of increased immigration, helping to drive down wages even further.  Sound familiar??

So should the South have freed its slaves so it could then turn around and pay "slave wages" (as capitalism dictates, and as was customarily done in the North)?  Of course it should have.  Slavery is a hideous crime against humanity.  But capitalism itself tends toward slavery, only without any obligation to feed, clothe, treat or house its victims; nor to sustain them when sick or old, nor to prevent unemployment, penury, destitution.    


Abraham Lincoln:  “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.”

Charles Dickens: "Union means so many millions a year lost to the South; secession means the loss of the same millions to the North. The love of money is the root of this as of many other evils....The quarrel between the North and South is, as it stands, solely a fiscal quarrel."

Karl Marx: "The war between the North and the South is a tariff war. The war is, further, not for any principle, does not touch the question of slavery, and in fact turns on the Northern lust for sovereignty."

(Note that Marx was paraphrasing an argument he didn't agree with.  However in relation to the criticism of the preceding section, he might have reconsidered a bit.)

Slavery and the Civil War: Not What You Think

It has long been accepted among mainstream historians that the South's secession was more an issue of asserting states' rights rather than the defense of slavery – though white Southern land owners defended the system of slavery, for sure. But an even more fundamental issue in the South’s secession was the struggle between the North and the South over economic control and political representation.  We often get caught up in the revisionist idea that the Union fought the war because of a moral imperative to end slavery in the South, but Northern politicians and land owners, for the most part, had no problem with slavery – many of them were slave owners too. The more pressing issue for politicians in the North was the fact that the Southern plantation system was very economically successful, posing a risk that the economic and political priorities of the Southern states would come to dominate all of Federal politics.

Northern politicians had previously tried to limit the political representation of Southern states in the infamous three-fifths clause of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 2). Putting aside the reprehensible language that reduces a person, for base political reasons, to something less than a person, the three-fifths clause was a compromise that was struck between Northern and Southern politicians over political representation, driven primarily by the fact that if representation was determined by a simple head count, some Southern states would be allotted much more representation as a result of their total population of free and enslaved residents – a representative system based on the total population of a state that only represented the concerns of the small white land-owning and slave-owning population. In this early example, as with the issues that led to the South’s secession, the North was protecting its political interests over any concerns for human rights.

So the South pushed the states’ rights side of the argument because they felt, with justification, that they were being politically marginalized, and the North pushed the Federal side of the argument because they wanted to maintain political and economic control. Though we often get caught up in the comforting idea that the North fought for moral reasons, it really isn’t the case. The institutions of slavery and the slave trade were absolutely reprehensible, no doubt, but we really can’t claim any moral high ground based on the actions and intentions of our Northern ancestors.


Robert E. Lee: “I consider the constitutional power of the General Government as the chief source of stability to our political system, whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”



Just because a state secedes and declares itself free of the US Constitution, doesn't mean that it wanted to influence those states that remained in the Union; they manifestly had no intention to do so, they were busy forming the Confederacy. In other words, secession had no effect on Lincoln upholding the Constitution within those states that were still a part of the US.

It's like a woman divorcing a man, but he still wants to force himself on her.

There is no part of the Constitution that authorizes a president to force a state to remain in the Union. Rather than upholding his oath, this was the beginning of Lincoln violating his oath to uphold the Constitution; which he did on several other occasions.


To draw again on my marriage analogy; when a guy proposes to his girl friend, and she accepts, it is not the same thing as the actual marriage ceremony four months later. Although a relationship exists, he is not her husband yet; and cannot represent himself as such.

Likewise, Lincoln cannot act as president before he becomes president. Any acts of secession between his election and his inauguration were the responsibility of the sitting president, not Lincoln.

You speak as if there was no president before Lincoln was elected. The reason we have an inauguration ceremony is to recognize a transfer of power. Until that transfer of power occurs, with an oath to defend the Constitution, the president-elect has no authority.

On top of that, Lincoln didn't carry any of the states that seceded. So even by your logic, they were not bound by his election. I appreciate your "Union" bias, but it is interfering with your reasoning. He was not elected "by the entire United States, all states" as you claim--he didn't carry the states that seceded.

It was precisely because of the North's ability to control Congress, to the disadvantage of the South, that they felt compelled to secede. Lincoln's election was simply the last straw...

Finally, Lincoln is the one who put the Constitution aside on several occasions, in order to preserve the Union; beginning with using force to prevent secession. So your argument that he was upholding an oath, that he hadn't taken yet, is facile on both a logical and historical level.

If Lincoln repeatedly violated the Constitution, as he did, because he believed it was necessary to maintain the Union; then how can you argue that we should give credence to any implied oath upon election?


Mr. Schweitzer,
You stated that the president had no choice, that he was sworn to uphold the constitution, "Clearly if any state could withdraw from the Union whenever that state disagreed with others, the Union over which Lincoln presided would not last long."

The problem with this statement is that, the constitution--though National in the aspirations of the federalists--did not prohibit secession; this would have contradicted the our declaration of Independence. The union would have still existed, as just that, (A UNION). A union, is not by force, FORCE = TYRANNY. A State cannot exist without sovereignty. If a State is not sovereign, then it falls under the dominion of a Sovereign, thus ceasing to exist as a State, reducing its status to an administrative district of the dominant sovereign. What Lincoln did was to complete the National government that was intended with the Virginia Plan. The Confederates, called incorrectly Anti-Federalists, were Confederates, who wished to remain under the Articles of CONFEDERATION, a Confederate system of government. Patrick Henry stated that the union under the 1787 constitution would not last a hundred years. It lasted but 90 before the National government came into full existence. Save the union ? NO, Lincoln helped to destroy it, by destroying the last remains of the Founders Confederate system of government.
The Confederate government never surrendered, Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia; No General has the authority to surrender a government, Continued on next post......

The first sentence in South Carolina's declaration of secession, to those who have disagreed...reads "The people of the State of South Carolina... declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union." I feel this quote speaks for itself.


Yet every other nation on this planet which included slave labor as a practice recognized by law has been able to end that practice legally and often with compensation to slave owners except one: the USA. We ended the practice with war--a hideously devastating war; a "proclamation" which had no effect in law for a president does not have the power to simply declare that property is now "not property" and with continued, deliberate economic stagnation in the region which was the object of that war.


Walter E. Williams:

During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, a proposal was made that would allow the federal government to suppress a seceding state. James Madison rejected it, saying, “A union of the states containing such an ingredient seemed to provide for its own destruction. The use of force against a state would look more like a declaration of war than an infliction of punishment and would probably be considered by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which it might be bound.”

In fact, the ratification documents of Virginia, New York and Rhode Island explicitly said they held the right to resume powers delegated should the federal government become abusive of those powers. The Constitution never would have been ratified if states thought they could not regain their sovereignty — in a word, secede.

On March 2, 1861, after seven states seceded and two days before Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration, Sen. James R. Doolittle of Wisconsin proposed a constitutional amendment that read, “No state or any part thereof, heretofore admitted or hereafter admitted into the union, shall have the power to withdraw from the jurisdiction of the United States.”

Several months earlier, Reps. Daniel E. Sickles of New York, Thomas B. Florence of Pennsylvania and Otis S. Ferry of Connecticut proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit secession. Here’s a question for the reader: Would there have been any point in offering these amendments if secession were already unconstitutional?



"If the North triumphs, it is not alone the destruction of our property, it is the prelude to anarchy, infidelity and the ultimate loss of free and responsible government on this continent. It is the triumph of commerce, banks and the factory." --General Stonewall Jackson


"Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late... It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision... It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties."  -- Maj. General Patrick R. Cleburne, CSA, January 1864

Additional Reading: The Land From Which They Came


What say you?

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