Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Delusional Free Trader Taken In By Myth That Civil War Was Fought Over Tariffs

The tariff issue was so unimportant that the groups looking for some sort of compromise did not consider it ~ David Potter (12/6/1910 to 2/18/1971) an American historian of the South who won, posthumously, the 1977 Pulitzer Prize for History for The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976), which was an in-depth narrative and analysis of the causes of the American Civil War (quote sourced from pages 42–50). Born in Augusta GA, Potter was employed as professor of history at Yale (1942–1961) and Stanford (1961–71).

In a 3/15/2014 post a blogger who strongly supports the idiotic notion of "free trade" speaks about the Civil War and how he believes we shouldn't have fought it. Regarding why President Lincoln decided to fight a war to prevent the South from leaving the union, blogger (Willis Hart) sez "my personal theory is that he just got so addicted to the tariff revenue... with which he was using to solidify his political power and cronyism that the dude literally couldn't stop himself".

Regrettably for Mr. Hart, a 6/5/2013 NYT article titled "The Great Civil War Lie" points out that tariffs being the reason for succession is a myth. According to the article, the North worried about England supporting Southern independence because of their "reliance on imported Southern cotton [and that] many in Britain thought that the reason was the Morrill Tariff". These English pro-Southern succession believed the tariff "so incensed the Southern states that they left the union".

But the truth of the matter is that "passage of the tariff was possible because many tariff-averse Southerners had resigned from Congress after their states declared their secession". Furthermore, the article states that "Pro-Southern business interests and journalists fed the myth that the war was over trade, not slavery [in order] to win over people who might be appalled at siding with slave owners against the forces of abolition".

And that is a myth that continues to this day. Because Southern history re-writers, still supporting States' Rights (which, today, is code for laws intended to prevent minority voters from casting ballots), don't wish the truth about their shameful past to be known (or accepted). And they surely do not want anyone pointing out the fact that discrimination is still very much alive in the South. And this we know for a fact because, when the Conservative SCOTUS members recently voted to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, a number of Southern States immediately rushed to pass legislation designed to disenfranchise Black voters.

No doubt Willis read about how tariffs were the reason for the Civil War on some Right-wing website - and the gullible fool ate it up. Further debunking Mr. Hart's assertion is the fact that the Morill tariff "replaced the low Tariff of 1857, which was written to benefit the South". Wikipedia notes that the original tariff was passed in "1842, but in 1846 the Democrats enacted the Walker Tariff, cutting tariff rates substantially. The Democrats cut rates even further in the Tariff of 1857, which was highly favorable to the South".

Also bogus are Hart's claims that Lincoln was "so addicted to the tariff revenue" and needed the money to support cronyism. The truth is that "the Treasury was in financial crisis, with less than $500,000 on hand and millions in unpaid bills. The Union urgently needed new revenue".

Hart is incredibly wrong about tariffs causing the Civil War, as the tariff would not have been passed if the Southern states had not left the union. This is a chicken & egg argument, with this individual getting the order of how things played out mixed up. But, given the fact that the dude is a strong supporter of unrestricted American job-killing "free trade", his falling for this BS is not surprising. Given that this old lie feeds into the Southern states desire to conceal the truth about their voting laws designed to restrict the voting rights of minorities, it is quite unfortunate.

Unfortunate, if Hart is given the benefit of the doubt, that is. There are some who buy this "tariff" argument with the motivation of being very much in favor of States' Rights (code for disenfranchising minority voters). Whether their reasons are race-based or ideology based, these people want Conservatives to win - and will endorse the use of any dirty trick available to make that possible.

Another regular commenter on the blog of Mr. Hart is one such individual. According to the delusional Dennis Marks (AKA dmarks), gutting the Voting Rights act was a "victory for those who want progress toward equal treatment, diminished racial bias, and level playing field". Dennis, while not someone I'd classify as an overt racist, absolutely has racial biases that are much stronger than average. And he is on board with the Conservative plan to "win" by preventing as many minority voters from casting ballots as possible.

States' Rights is, and always has been a euphemism for restricting the rights of African Americans. The Encyclopeida Briticanna blog says it is a myth "that the South fought the Civil War not to defend slavery, but to uphold the rights of states against a tyrannical central government [and that this myth] was extremely important to the white South's resistance to post-war Reconstruction".

States' Rights were cited as justification for enacting the post Civil War Black Codes (passed in 1865 and 1866) which were "had the intent and the effect of restricting African Americans' freedom, and of compelling them to work in a labor economy based on low wages or debt". And States Rights "continued to serve as an effective shield against federal efforts to end segregation and discrimination against African Americans - known as the Jim Crow system in the South". And today it's all about restricting the ability of minorities to vote.

So, while President Lincoln may not have been for the equality of Whites and Blacks, and while he may have been willing to allow slavery to persist to preserve the union - and therefore the official position of the North was NOT that they were fighting the war to abolish slavery - the South's position was NOT that they were fighting because of tariffs to obtain independence.

A 2/25/2011 WP opinion piece by the historian James W. Loewen notes that on "Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina's secession convention" said the reason they were leaving the union was because of "an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery" and because North states were "interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage".

The conclusion by Mr. Loewen was that "Slavery, not states' rights, birthed the Civil War". This is the accurate conclusion. Whatever reasons cited by those in the North, the South was fighting to preserve slavery. That Mr. Hart has written so many posts to obfuscate this fact is troubling, as in doing so, he is siding with the States' Rights advocates of today who seek to disenfranchise Black voters as well as the States' Rights advocates of the past who used that rallying cry to keep African Americans oppressed.

Regardless of his reasoning (opposition to free trade versus disenfranchising Blacks), the Hartster is on the WRONG side of history in staking out this position. No, the issue isn't as black and white as everyone in the North being in favor of abolishing slavery and full equality, and everyone in the North being pro-slavery forever, but the Civil War WAS fought over slavery. And, in order to move away from our racist past and toward greater equality - that truth must be acknowledged.

Ridiculous comments like "Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation is one of the biggest jokes in American history" (because it did not immediately free the slaves as it wasn't recognized by Southern slave holders) only enable the history re-writers who continue to use States' Rights to oppress and disenfranchise minorities.

SWTD #241, wDel #53. See also OST #5.


  1. It seems very clear to me that slavery was at the root of the civil war. All you have to do is read the secession documents for the states, themselves. They all talk about the slavery issue.

  2. Primary... economics
    Secondary... States Right
    After throught...slavery

    Read Lincoln's own words, consider the power factor, the reality and apparently natural phenomenon of growing statism in all governments, start thinking outside the box, take 10 aspirin and call me in the morning.

    1. Primary... economics

      Well, it was a slave economy! So that's only saying the exact same thing.

      Secondary... state's rights

      Primarily the right to hold slaves and also to avoid a majority of non-slave states in the congress.

      After thought...slavery

      That's just a little joke, right?

  3. Lincoln's own words...

    Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: I recommend the adoption of a joint resolution by your honorable bodies, which shall be substantially as follows: Resolved, That the United States ought to cooperate with any State which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State, in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such change of system (3/6/1862).

    I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free (8/22/1862).

    Why participate in this schmuckery, RN? What is it about Conservatives that they simply CANNOT admit the Civil War was fought over slavery? For some I think the obvious reason is racism. Whether this is true in all cases I am unsure, but to deny the truth on this matter is not helpful. In order to move toward a healing of our racist past we MUST first acknowledge it!

    RN = part of the problem, not a part of the solution.

  4. Replies
    1. You are not helping your case any, RN.

      The civil war was fought because states succeeded. States seceded because of slavery, by their own words.

      If there had been no slavery, there would have been no civil war.

    2. Really. Well, unless this very dated difference of views and posistions is going to affect the price of a rack of lamb and a fine bottle of burgundy I am not all that concerned.

      That and I can use the smoke generated to cure some salmon.

  5. cant seem to get beyond your own personal white guilt....perhaps in another life you were a slave holder....perhaps your family were slave holders,maybe your great grand daddy laid the whip to slaves....maybe you have former slave DNA from your great grand daddys nocturnal activities...who knows

    but,here's a news flash......there isn't a racist behind every tree.....please seek some professional help.

  6. Every one of Rusty's guesses are 100 percent wrong. My ancestors emigrated to the North long after slavery ended. None had anything to do with Slavery. Not that I'd feel guilty if they had. I don't know if I would or not because I've never thought about it. News flash for Rusty... reality can be acknowledged by a White person without it being "White guilt". But Rusty will likely never understand, as his racist proclivities blind him to the truth. IMO Rusty should seek some professional help.

  7. This is the single biggest lie that's ever been written, and American people ignorant to their own history are just dumb enough to believe it. The writer of this article is a prime example. There was no way the war of northern aggression was fought over slavery instead of economic reasons like every other war in history. The Morrill tariff as referred to in this article was put in place to raise tariffs on the south to over 40% which would bankrupt any business. In addition two days before Lincoln's inauguration the south was handed an amendment on a silver platter that would make abolishing slavery unconstitutional... this amendment was approved by Lincoln, and refused by the south. If slavery was so important to fight a war over, then surely they would have jumped at this opportunity to secure it's permanent protection under the constitution.


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