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A Southern View of History: The War for Southern Independence


In Part two we briefly examine the difference between the people who populated the Northern states and those who populated the Southern states. These differences contributed to social, political and economic strife between the regions that continued to grow until session of states began.

Objective: To develop an understanding of the Southern Culture and to identify those conflicts of culture, beliefs and values between the Northern and Southern populations that would eventually lead to Southern State Secession.

A. Cultural Differences

The southern states and northern states were predominately settled by two different cultures of people. The settlers of the South were primarily, but not exclusively, of Celtic descent. The ancient Celts spoke various forms of an Aryan, or Indo-European language known as Celtic, or Keltic. They were called Celts because of the language they spoke, rather than because of the race to which they belong.

image016Celts were famous for their wit, their love of liberty, and their bravery in battle. In about 500 B.C. the Celts were found mainly in the areas now known as Southwestern Germany. They soon spread over most of western Europe. In the British Isles they were divided into two branches. One branch, which included the Irish, the Manx, and the Highland Scots, spoke Gaelic. The other branch, to which the Welsh, the Cornish, and the Bretons belonged, spoke Brythonic. The Celts in Europe developed the Gaulish language. A majority of the settlers of the South came, primarily, from the western areas of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland. These areas were populated by the Celtic tribes who were earlier driven out of the inner regions of England. In the 1st century BC, Strabo wrote of the Celts: ‘The whole race… is madly fond of war, high-spirited and quick to battle… and on whatever pretext you stir them up, you will have them ready to face danger, even if they have nothing on their side but their own strength and courage’.

Settlers of the Northern states were primarily of English, Dutch and German descent. The roots of those English tended to be towards Anglo, Saxon, Danish and Norman origins. At the time of the federal census of 1790, well over three-quarters of the people living in New England were of English origins; New York, having originally been a Dutch colony, retained a large Dutch component in its population, but the single largest group, comprising something over two-fifths of the people, was English; Pennsylvania was heterogeneous – two-fifths of the people were of Celtic origins, a third were German, fewer than a fifth were English. From Pennsylvania southward Celts dominated the frontier, where they constituted from 60 to nearly 100 percent of the total population. In the North Carolina tidewater districts, from 39 percent of the population in Edenton to 48 percent in Newbern were Celts, but in the upland interior they constituted 63 percent of the population in the Fayette district and almost 100 percent in the Hillsborough district. In the western Virginia counties of Fayette and Lincoln, Scots and Irish alone numbered nearly 80 percent of the population. Such ratios of Celts to Englishmen suggests that the North and the South were settled and dominated numerically during the antebellum period by different people with significantly different cultural backgrounds.

image002The people of the South were referred to as “Crackers.” This goes back to Old England, describing a person who is carefree, likes music, likes to drink and fight, likes to tell stories and crack jokes, or just simply likes to have a good time.

The first Celts were a mixed people. They tended to be fair-haired and light-skinned, but some had darker-colored hair and complexion. Southerners themselves like to explain their special culture in terms of ideals. Instead of being restless, unstable, and ruthlessly progressive, they said, they put their surplus energy into the life of the mind, and cultivated the greatest of all arts, the art of living. The South fostered conversational talent, while her platform oratory stimulated political thought more forcibly than the newspaper articles of the North. The Southern ideal approximated closely to the ideals of eighteenth-century English life.

The well-born Southerner was convinced that he was a man of far more spirit and resource than the Northern counterpart. The Southern way of life, with much hunting, general use of horses, frequent marksmanship contests, the existence of two fine schools of war, the Virginia Military Institute at Lexington, and the South Carolina Military Academy or “Citadel” at Charleston; and the memory of Southern prowess in the Mexican War, bred a deep conviction in Southerners of their people and their homeland.

image003Education for utility was steadily gaining ground in the North; education for character and grace held sway in the South, and the scope of education was far from identical. The nation, by 1850, had just over six thousand academies, of which the very respectable number of 2,640 were in the Southern states. Estimates of the section’s enrollment in these schools ran as high as two hundred thousand. The University of North Carolina early in the 1850’s established professorships of civil engineering and agricultural chemistry.

Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1850’s, boasted of six newspapers, two medical schools, one of extremely high standards. Several boys’ academies existed, two seminaries for women, and a Mechanic’s Institute which offered a library, free lectures, and a night school with technical courses.

Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1850, had a public library of five hundred volumes. The public school system, which an energetic Yankee superintendent, Dr. J.G. Holland, had briefly taken in hand in 1848, was one of the best in the South.

In 1860 Virginia had twenty-three colleges enrolling 2,824 students, as against New York’s seventeen colleges listing 2,970 students; and Georgia’s thirty-two colleges with 3,302 students nominally overshadowed the eight Massachusetts colleges with 1,733 registrants.

South Carolina had as many as a hundred thousand volumes in its public libraries. The South was a form of society rather than an area. Its special psychology, traditions, and principles ran far back into history. The doctrines on the Virginia school on State Rights and strict construction, crystallized by Madison and Jefferson in the Resolutions of 1798-99, continued to find a wide acceptance.

It was a land of simple dogmatism in religion, of Protestant solidarity, of people who believed every word of the Bible, and of faith frequently refreshed by emotional revivalism. All visitors to the South quickly found out that two Americas really existed: the North and the South. Most of the go-ahead spirit and nearly all the “we-can-whip-universal-nature brag” was concentrated in the North; much of the leisure, courtliness, and pride in the South.

image005Edmond Pollard noted that back as early as 1787 that a “Sectional Animosity” was formed and became “striking and persistent feature of the history of the American States.” At the Constitutional Convention, James Madison discovered clashes of interests between states, large and small, North and South, climate and economy which “concurred in forming the great division of interests in the United States”; and “if any defensive power were necessary, it ought to be mutually given to these two sections. In the South Carolina Convention, which ratified the constitution, General Pinckney spoke of the differences between those living in the Northern and Southern States. “When I say Southern, I mean Maryland and the States southward of her. There, we may truly observe that nature has drawn as strong marks of distinction in the habits and manners of the people, as she ahs in her climates and productions.”

Many Southerners felt a deep-seated injury in the centralizing tendencies of the federal government. A belief that consolidated power spelled danger had become deeply ingrained. The Southern states followed the rule that the best government was the least government. The South was adamant in standing for no high protective tariffs, no ship subsidies, no national banking and currency system; in short, none of the measures which business enterprise deemed essential to its progress.

North and South had always, from early colonial days, found difficulty in understanding each other. William Byrd of Virginia and John Winthrop of Massachusetts Bay had approached life from totally different points of view. By 1830, the divergent psychologies of the two sections presented the most serious obstacles to understanding. What an Alabamian meant by “liberty” and “democracy” was something different from what a New Yorker meant by those terms.

The Yankee and the Westerner thought of the Union with the high emotional fervor which they had learned from Daniel Webster. They thrilled to the term with an intense spirit of nationality, a passionate attachment to the republic as a whole, a conviction that the people must stand as a unit in defense of national honor and freedom.

image006The dominant elements of the Lower South held a quite different conception. Their Union had to be yoked with State Rights. It was, next to their sectional liberties, most dear. They viewed the union as did John C. Calhoun, whose view was “a peculiar association in which sovereign States were held by high considerations of good faith; by the exchanges of equity and comity; by the noble attractions of social order; by the enthused sympathies of a common destiny of power, honor and renown.”

Naturally, the South thought of itself more and more as a separate nation. By 1857 the major Protestant denominations in the North and the South had split. One major political party, the Whigs, had first split in half and then disappeared. A deepening divide surfaced within the press, pulpit and education. With every passing year, the fundamental assumptions, tastes, and cultural aims of the North and South became more divergent. The South was even distinct in that it had developed its own dialect within the English language that is unlike any other region in the world.

The South was almost exclusively dependent on agriculture. Their warm climate provided an excellent environment for farming. The people of the North were very industrious. They were strong believers in education, they liked to read and write. Southerners read for personal enjoyment and cultivation; Northerners read to invent or to write.

image008The Pilgrims and Puritans of New England, in their beliefs, values, lifestyles were quite different from those of the Southern people. New England would become the predominant writer of textbooks in the 19th centuries. Is there any doubt that the history, heroes and values of the New England Yankee culture would take a paramount focus in the writing of texts used for educational purpose over the past 200 years, even those used in the South? Is it any wonder when the Yankee versions of history were considered the gold standard for education, even to this day? This would explain why the history books on early America detail a lot of New England history. Even though there were Southerners living in Jamestown, Virginia, for some 13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. The New Englanders wrote most all of the early history books and, thus, we study New England history quite extensively, even today. Yet scholars call this a “balanced approach to history.” It takes a tremendous effort on the part of students and teachers to uncover the true Southern history after layers of Yankee influenced writings have dominated the content and intellect, the training and evaluation of American History at all levels.

Different standards, ideas, aims, outlooks, ideals; a different color of life and throb of pulse; different glories and different shames; different precedents and traditions; different fears and elation’s, had come to characterize the two sections, which in a word, were by this time lapped in two different cultures.

One must remember that the South has its own distinct culture with its own special history, heroes, traditions and values. The South gave the world Southern architecture, authors, chefs, statesmen, musicians, painters and outstanding leaders in many fields. The Southerner maintained a special bond with the land and her people. The Southerner would demonstrate qualities of courage, devotion to duty, an indomitable spirit, a close attachment to home, family, state, nation and their firm belief in spiritual values.

References and Details:

Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South” by Grady McWhiney.
The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 2.
The Story of the Confederate States” by Joseph T. Derry, Part II, Chapter 1.
The South Under Siege 1830-2000: A History of the Relations Between the North and the South” by Frank Conner, Chapter 2
The Confederate Nation by Emory M. Thomas, Chapters 1 and 2.
The Story of the Confederacy” by Robert S. Henry, Chapter 1.
The Men in Gray” by Robert C. Cave, Chapter 3.
The Truths of History” by Mildred Lewis Rutherford, Chapter 11

B. The Population Shift

The population of the North and the South was comparatively equal at the time of the ratification of the Constitution. The federal government could approach regional issues on an even keel and, at worst, at least work out a compromise on issues. Both the North and the South had equal representation in the Senate and the House.

image009Within the next 70 years the nation’s total population increased 800%, up to a total of 31 1/2 million people. New York’s population had grown by 1,140% and had grown to 2 1/2 times that of Virginia. This growth in the North would attribute to the shift in representation in the House of Representatives, which is where all federal government appropriations were created. This would give the North total control of federal government spending. As the North grew in population so did their representation grow accordingly.

The population of Chicago doubled between 1852 and 1855, leaping from 38,000 people to 80,000. Milwaukee, which probably counted a greater proportion of foreign-born inhabitants than any other American city, had more than tripled in size within a decade.

image011The large influx of foreign population, which had neither state attachments nor state pride, had increased the Northern preference for a strong central government. The South was plainly falling behind in the race for population. Of the eight and a half million increase during the decade, the states of the future Confederacy claimed only about two million. By 1860 twenty-one new states had entered the union but only 9 were Southern states. This attributed to the Northern advantage in the Senate.

The balance was gone. This imbalance allowed the representatives of the North to force unfair tariff laws upon the states of the South. These unfair tariffs would force the South to buy manufactured goods from the North at high prices rather than buy cheaper and sometimes superior quality imported goods from Europe. This growing imbalance played an important role in the 1828 threat of secession by South Carolina over unfair tariff laws that raised the prices of some imported goods as much as 45 to 50 percent, and South Carolina’s passing of a Nullification Act in 1832 that declared the federal tariffs null and void, based on the sovereignty of the states and the state’s rights.

image013The North was gaining more and more power on the federal level. Their true desire for the upper hand on the federal level could not be denied when in 1836 the question arose on the annexation of the Republic of Texas into the Union. The North openly opposed this annexation simply due to the fact that the South’s powers in the federal government would be strengthened.

By 1861 there were about four million persons of alien birth living in the states that remained in the Union as opposed to only about one fourth of a million residing in the states of the Confederacy. Probably one out of every four or five U.S. soldiers was of foreign birth and only one out of every twenty or twenty-five Confederate soldiers were of foreign birth. German-born immigrants made up about 200,000 U.S. soldiers. There were about 150,000 Irish, Canadians and English totaled about 50,000. Forty-five of the North’s 583 general officers were of foreign birth, including twelve Germans and twelve Irishmen. It has been estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 Irish-born soldiers marched in the Confederate army and they outnumbered any other foreign group on the Southern side. Among the Confederacy’s 425 general officers, only nine were foreigners, five of whom were Irish.

Census of 1860:

State White Free Colored Slave Total
Alabama 526,534 2,630 435,132 964,296
Arkansas 324,186 137 111,104 435,427
California 376,200 3,816 ………… 380,016
Connecticut 451,609 8,452 ………… 460,151
Delaware 90,697 19,723 1,798 112,218
Florida 77,778 908 61,753 140,439
Georgia 591,638 3,459 462,232 1,057,329
Illinois 1,704,684 7,069 ………… 1,711,753
Indiana 1,340,072 10,869 ……….. 1,350,941
Iowa 673,925 1,023 ………… 674,948
Kansas 106,487 623 ………. 107,110
Kentucky 920,077 10,146 225,490 1,155,713
Louisiana 357,642 18,638 333,010 709,290
Maine 627,081 1,195 ………… 628,276
Maryland 516,128 83,718 87,188 687,034
Massachusetts 1,221,611 9,454 ………… 1,231,065
Michigan 742,289 6,823 ………… 749,112
Minnesota 171,793 229 ………… 172,022
Mississippi 353,969 731 436,696 791,396
Missouri 1,064,369 2,983 114,965 1,182,317
New Hampshire 325,622 450 ………… 326,072
New Jersey 647,084 24,947 ………… 672,031
New York 3,831,730 49,005 ………… 3,880,735
North Carolina 631,489 30,097 331,081 992,667
Ohio 2,303,374 36,225 ………… 2,339,599
Oregon 52,343 121 ………… 52,464
Pennsylvania 2,849,997 56,373 ………… 2,906,370
Rhode Island 170,703 3,918 ………… 174,621
South Carolina 291,623 9,648 402,541 703,812
Tennessee 826,828 7,235 275,784 1,109,847
Texas 421,411 339 180,682 602,432
Vermont 314,534 582 ………… 315,116
Virginia 1,047,613 57,579 490,887 1,596,079
Wisconsin 774,392 1,481 ………… 775,873
Sub Totals 26,727,512 470,716 3,950,343 31,148,571
Colorado 34,153 44 ………… 34,197
Dakota 4,839 ………… ………… 4,839
Nebraska 28,775 71 10 28,836
New Mexico 93,447 70 24 93,451
Utah 40,236 30 29 40,295
Washington 11,548 30 ………… 11,578
Dist. of Columbia 60,788 11,107 3,181 75,076
Totals 27,008,081 482,122 3,953,587 31,443,790


References and Details:

The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 3.
The South Under Siege 1830-2000: A History of the Relations Between the North and the South” by Frank Conner, Chapter 7

C. Southern Class Structure

image014In Southern society the major planters flourished at the apex of the social pyramid. They owned the largest plantations, the most slaves, and often the largest debts to Northern banks and financiers. According to Southern agricultural lore, an efficient plantation unit numbered about a thousand acres, worked by 50 to 100 slaves. Using that yardstick about 8,000 Southern planters qualified as major planters in 1850.

William H. Russell, a military correspondent for the London Times, sampled the hospitality of planter John Burnside at Houmas Plantation in March, 1861, located about sixty miles north of New Orleans. Russell recorded his impression in his diary. According to his diary, he climbed a high bank to a road edged with a white picket fence that extended as far as he could see. Through a gateway, he discovered a tree-lined avenue adjoining a red brick walk. Proceeding, he came upon a white house surrounded by a carefully manicured lawn. Colorful climbing flowers clung to the six white Doric pillars that spanned the front, providing shade and fragrance to those who lounged on the first or second floor verandas. The house itself, surrounded on three sides by the imposing columns and the porches they enclosed, rose in impressive new-Greek style to a widow’s walk around the square cupola that crowned the structure.

image016 (1)Russell wrote that the fields of the plantation were as flat as a tabletop. He could see some slave cottages, plantation offices that looked “like large public edifices in the distance.” All together, Russell discovered, the plantation contained 40,000 acres, 18,000 of which remained to be cleared, drained and cultivated.
These planters were the ones who did not favor secession. They had achieved wealth, status, and substantial land ownership. They financed their speculative undertakings through Northern banks and financial institutions. They were making money and enjoying life – traveling abroad and sending their children to fine schools. They had reached the pinnacle status of the Southern aristocrat. Their continued financial success was based upon (as they saw it) the continuation of slavery in the South. Plantation slavery, they declared, was a rational institution; it had logic and purpose and was engaged in purely as a financial investment to make the planter more money. Slaves were essentially property and treated as such by the planters. Slaves were viewed as assets by the planters and were purchased to increase the wealth of the planter, not because the planter hated Africans and simply wished to make their lives as miserable as possible.

Since slavery already existed and was protected under the existing U.S. Constitution and in the Southern states, it was assumed the South would block any Constitutional amendment abolishing the practice. Many planters did not favor secession. As they viewed it, they stood to lose what they had already achieved.

image017There were actually many “South’s”, only one of which represented the major planter whose measure could not be taken merely by the number of acres he cultivated. Incomplete statistics indicate that there were in the pre-War Between The States period about 700 of the 1,000 acre, 50-100 slave plantations in Alabama, and perhaps 900 in Georgia. Long before 1860 the major planter’s lifestyle had become the Southern model.

The second-rank planters who owned from 10 to 50 slaves emulated the major planter in many ways. There were about 84,000 such individuals in 1850. They were “on the make”. They exploited the richness of the soil for all it was worth and put the profits back into their businesses. They enjoyed less leisure time than did the major planters. They worked in the fields, often alongside their slaves, and few of them employed overseers. As their economic condition improved they upgraded their style of living.

image018A third group included most of the slaveholders in the South – over 154,000 in 1850 – all those who held nine slaves or fewer. About 60 percent of this group owned farms ranging in size from 50 to 300 acres. Over 60 percent of the non-slaveholding farmers of the South operated farms of about the same size as the small planter.

In the Appalachian highlands and the sandy pine woods dwelt yet another group of Southerners often referred to as Southern Highlanders. They were herdsmen, forced off the lower grasslands who moved into the grasslands of the pine belt and grassy hills and valleys of the highlands. These folks, who preferred the life of the hunter or herdsman to that of the farmer or planter, were then driven into the highlands and pine woods as the
agrarians preempted the better lowland soils. They built rough cabins, often cleared several acres and grew vegetables and perhaps some cotton or tobacco as well.

image019About 500,000 Southerners of yet another class, often simply labeled “poor whites,” inhabited the South in 1860. They shared the pine woods and the highlands with the herdsmen, or they could be found on the edges of towns, or indeed in almost any corner of any Southern state, barely subsisting on neglected or unproductive lands. They lived primarily by hunting, fishing, and occasionally produced a few garden vegetables. The source of this poor white class is not clear, but the fact that almost every frontier in American history had similar elements suggests that they might have been bypassed by the Southern frontier and driven to less desirable areas by migrants and greater zeal. Thus, except for the highlanders and poor whites, the smaller planters and non-slaveholding farmers composed the bulk of the white population in the South. By 1850, non-slaveholding white farmers were increasing more rapidly as a group than were slaveholders.

Although primarily a rural land, the South in 1860 had a lively urban population that included merchants and manufacturers centered in 20 cities with over 10,000 population each, the largest of which were Baltimore and New Orleans. By 1860, the South had more than $96,000,000 invested in about 20,000 factories. Nearly 110,000 factory workers were turning out products worth approximately $155,000,000 annually. Many of the laborers
toiled in the plants only a portion of their time, for many of the factories still operated on the old domestic or putting-out system. The professional classes of the South were not unlike anywhere else, except that their prosperity depended upon the success of the planters. The doctors, lawyers, journalists, and career-military officers – economically and socially tied into the planter economy.

Another class that existed in the South were the “free blacks”. “Free”, in reference to Southern black Americans who were not slaves. They had been freed by former masters legally, had bought their way out of slavery from masters who allowed it, or had been born to manumitted slaves. Most of the 250,000 free blacks lived in Virginia and Maryland, but clusters could also be found in Louisiana, particularly around New Orleans, in North Carolina, Tennessee, and in the border states of Kentucky and Missouri. Free Southern blacks in most communities held unskilled jobs, working usually as farm hands or day laborers. Some were trained as artisans and followed trades such as carpentry or shoemaking. A few became wealthy, like Thomy Lafon, a New Orleans tycoon who amassed a fortune of over $500,000. The “Charleston Mercury” reported in its Sunday, September 8, 1861, edition that free blacks in Charleston, South Carolina, had contributed $450 to the Confederate war effort.

image021Some free blacks became slaveholders themselves. Carter G. Woodson, a pioneer black historian, reported that 4,071 free blacks held 13,446 slaves in 1830. The largest concentration of black slaveholders were around New Orleans (753 owners with 2,351 slaves) Richmond, and in Maryland.

The final class we find in the South is the black slave. The slave existed in a closed system. Some masters allowed their slaves to purchase their freedom but the vast majority were the unconditional property of their masters. The master defined the slave’s role, provided them with a clear and simple script, judged their performance, and rewarded or punished them according to its quality. In this closed system the slave had only limited contacts with free society. The masters provided the food, clothing, and shelter for their slaves.

Many slaves worked under the “task” system. This system provided the slave with a set of tasks to be completed within a given period of time. Should those tasks be completed before the given period of time had elapsed, the slave could then spend time in leisure, hire themselves out (with the foreknowledge of the master), or could work producing goods that could be sold, with the slave retaining all of the profits made from the sale. It was under the task system that some slaves were made able to buy their freedom.

References and Details:

The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 2, 3 and 4.
Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South” by Grady McWhiney.
The Confederate Nation” by Emory M. Thomas, Chapters 1 and 2.
The History of the Confederacy 1832-1865” by Clifford Dowdey, Prologue, Chapter 2

D. Economic Issues

image022The U.S. Gross National Product (GNP) of the 1850’s was driven by Southern exports (cotton, tobacco and sugar). By 1860 Southern agricultural exports accounted for at least 3/4 of the total federal budget. Southerners viewed this situation as one in which money was leaving the South and going to the North to fuel the Northern industrial revolution. Southerners were quick to point out that the South also furnished the largest parts of the nation’s exports. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1850, cotton alone accounted for nearly half of the nation’s foreign shipments, $71,984,616 out of $144,376,000. Ten years later the situation remained unchanged. The exportation of domestic produce in 1860 was $333,576,000 of which raw cotton represented $191,807,000.

image023The financial panic of 1857 saw the South survive the collapse much better than the North. Senator James Hammond, of South Carolina, stated, “When the abuse of credit had… annihilated confidence, when thousands of the strongest commercial houses in the world were coming down and hundreds of millions of dollars of supposed property were evaporating in thin air, when you came to a deadlock and revolutions were threatened, what brought you up? Fortunately for you, it was the commencement of the cotton season, and we have poured upon you 1,600,000 bales of cotton just at the crisis to save you from destruction.”
image024The panic of 1857 was caused in part to changes in the world market at the conclusion of the Crimean War and signaled the end of the boom times that followed the Mexican War for the United States. Corruption businessmen in Northern America saw their hold on wheat markets falling, because Russians were now able to send their grain crops to market. Needing to raise quick cash, the Northern capitalists under priced the American crops they bought in order to export grain competitively, thus depressing American grain product prices. As demand for US grain continued to drop, Northern export profits dwindled. With overproduction in the mid-west, the wheat market collapsed, causing an economic depression in the West. At that time British investors began to remove funds from American banks questioning their soundness. The falling grain prices spread economic misery into rural areas. Manufactured goods began to pile up in warehouses, leading to massive layoffs. Widespread railroad failures occurred, an indication of how badly over-built the American system had become, and Land speculation programs collapsed with the railroads, ruining thousands of investors. Several major railroad embezzlement scandals were exposed, shaking up their creditors on Wall Street. The largest bank in Ohio, the New York Branch of the Ohio Life and Insurance Company failed following massive embezzlement scandal. This sent shock waves through the Northern economy. Most Northern banks reacted by hoarding reserves, and tightening credit. Over 800 banks collapsed and numerous wealthy manufacturers and investors went bankrupt.

The steamship S. S. Central America carrying over $1 million dollars in commercial gold and a shipment of 15 tons of federal gold valued at $20 an ounce sank near South Carolina on her voyage from San Francisco. She went down in a hurricane on September 12, 1857. The gold intended for the Northeastern banks went down with the ship. This sent a shock wave through the financial community.

image026The panic turned into national depression that lasted for several years. Greed, corruption, overextension of credit drove this crisis in the North and West. Northern politicians at the time fraudulently used the panic as an excuse to promote their tariff policies on the South, in effect using the European demand for Southern cotton and tobacco to cover their losses in the grain markets. Cotton and tobacco production was not affected by the economic downturn. The South survived the 1857 panic because of Europe’s continued demand for cotton. Southern cotton and tobacco producers took European manufactured goods in trade and were thus not dependant upon cash for payment. This further removed from the financial crisis centered in the North on banking and credit. Production increased, and the South prospered. Senator Johnson showed that the daily wages for bricklayers in New Orleans and Charleston averaged $3. Wages for bricklayers in Chicago and Pittsburg was $1.50. Carpenters in New Orleans/Charleston earned $2.50 a day. The same in Chicago/Pittsburg earned $1.50. General laborers in these Southern cities earned $1.25. Their counterparts in the North earned $.75. The Federal Government gained more power using the excuse of preventing future recessions and depressions. Many Southern farmers realized that if the tariffs were removed, they could ship their cotton directly to European markets for greater profit. Howell Cobb, Senator James Hammond, A. Dudley Mann, and others labored to establish direct trade with Europe and direct mercantile and banking connections with England, as the one way to lift the South to economic independence.

image028In 1858 Senator James Henry Hammond of South Carolina replied to Senator William H. Seward of New York: “Without the firing of a gun, without drawing a sword, should they

[Northerners] make war upon us [Southerners], we could bring the whole world to our feet. What would happen if no cotton was furnished for three years? . . England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her. No, you dare not make war on cotton! No power on earth dares make war upon it. Cotton is King.”

The South was not receiving, proportionally, what they were contributing to the federal government. Unfair tariffs placed the South in a financial situation that forced them to trade their agricultural goods, primarily cotton, with Northern factories. This allowed Northern factories to purchase Southern agricultural goods inexpensively. The factories could then sell their manufactured goods, made with those Southern agricultural products, to the South at inflated prices that were protected by federal tariffs on imported goods. The North used these tariffs to protect their industries from what they felt was excessive foreign competition. The true reason for the war, wrote Richmond and Charleston newspapers, was that the North placed unequal burdens on the Southern people. The protective tariff, the fishing bounties, the charges of brokers, bankers, and shippers, all wrung a vast tribute from the South.

A plantation owner with 2,000 slaves declared, “Most of us planters are in debt; we should not be if out of the Union. We should have a direct trade with Europe. We should get a better price for our cotton, and our goods would cost us fifty per cent less than now… We must do it now or never. If we don’t secede now the political power of the South is broken.”

image029“We must separate,” Edmund Ruffin was writing in 1857, “and the sooner it is done, the greater will be the relative strength of the Southern party, and the more sure will be the success of the movement.”

South Carolina Governor Robert Barnwell Rhett had estimated that of the $927,000,000 collected in duties between 1791 and 1845, the South had paid $711,200,000, and the North $216,000,000. South Carolina Senator James Hammond had declared that the South paid about $50,000,000 and the North perhaps $20,000,000 of the $70,000,000 raised annually by duties. In expenditure of the national revenues, Hammond thought the North got about $50,000,000 a year, and the South only $20,000,000.

Mississippi Governor John J. Pettus, wrote that Lincoln’s election demonstrated that men eager to “destroy the peace, property, and prosperity of the Southern section” had gained control of the government, and that Mississippi must provide surer safeguards for life and liberty than could be hoped for.

The extent to which the South cherished the ideal of separate nationality was demonstrated in the resolutions of the Southern Commercial Convention, which was held at Savannah, Georgia, after the election of President James Buchanan. Not only did this body call for direct trade with Europe, as opposed to the “triangular trade” that had enriched New York, it also called for the construction by the Southern states and territories of a railroad from the Mississippi, by way of El Paso, to the Pacific. The body also urged the Kentucky legislature to build the final Louisville-Cumberland Gap link in the railroads connecting the Potomac and Mississippi rivers. More so, the convention called for Southern ships to be built in Southern yards, and Southern seamen trained in large numbers by Southern states.

image030The crusade for Southern economic independence was compounded in half a hope to retain the more accessible profits, and half a desire to promote Southern nationalism. Convention succeeded convention. The most important were a series of Southern Commercial Conventions beginning in 1852 and ending in 1859. They adopted endless resolutions – that the duties on railroad iron ought to be repealed or reduced; that a line of Southern steamers should ply direct from Southern ports to Europe; that a Southern route should be chosen for the railway to the Pacific; that all good citizens should use Southern manufactures; that people should buy Southern books, and visit Southern summer-resorts. Eloquent speeches were made. Banquets were held, where governors and mayors uttered valorous words. Articles of the do-or-die variety were printed in newspapers. Meanwhile, Southern railroad conventions were also held, and Macon, Georgia, witnessed in 1852 a convention of planters from all the cotton states dedicated to the worthy cause of making sure that cotton never dropped below ten cents a pound. Sen. James Hammonds wrote to Howell Cobb on March 29, 1859, “Give the South direct trade, give it a fair tariff, land, and taxation system, and it will yet lead the world.”

References and Details:

Economic Growth of the United States, 1790-1860“, by Douglass C. North
A Vindication Of Virginia And Of The South” Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. I. Richmond, Virginia., February, 1876. No. 2
Attack On Fort Gilmer, September 29th, 1865. ” Southern Historical Society Papers Vol. I. Richmond, Virginia, June, 1876. No. 6
Life, Services and Character of Jefferson Davis.” Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XVII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1889
When in the Course of Human Events“, by Charles Adams, Chapter 4
The South Under Siege 1830-2000” by Frank Conner, Chapters 4, 7, 8 and 9
The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapters 4 and 5.
Story of the Confederate States” by Joseph T. Derry, Part 2 Chapter 2
Selections from the Letters and Speeches of the Hon. James H. Hammond, of South Carolina pages 311-322.

E. State’s Rights

The South stood by their beliefs in the existing Constitution, in that it provided for state sovereignty. Southerners felt that they should be governed locally and that the federal government was an agent of the states, to be used to the advantage of all of the states. The South felt that Northern politicians were trying to create a strong centralized federal government. They felt that the North was trying to shift powers away from the states and to the federal government. The tendency toward a greater national power worried practical Southerners who, like Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia, thought the strong government an instrument for sectional exploitation. “All that we ask of you is – keep your hands out of our pockets,” said Stephens.
The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, known collectively as the Bill of Rights, were adopted as a single unit two years after ratification of the Constitution. Dissatisfaction with guarantees of freedom listed in the Constitution led the founding fathers to enumerate personal rights as well as limitations on the federal government in these first 10 amendments. The Magna Carta, the English bill of rights, Virginia’s 1776 Declaration of Rights, and the colonial struggle against tyranny provided inspiration and direction for the Bill of Rights.

image006The 10th Amendment states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This amendment was the basis of the doctrine of states’ rights that became the rallying cry of the Southern states, which sought to restrict the ever-growing powers of the federal government. The principle of states’ rights and state sovereignty eventually led the Southern states to secede from the central government that they believed had failed to honor the covenant that had originally bound the states together. The term “State’s Rights” embraces the doctrine of absolute state sovereignty that was espoused by John C. Calhoun.

The nullification crisis of the 1830s was a dispute over Northern-inspired tariffs that benefited Northern interests and were detrimental to Southern interests. The legal basis for the Southern call for nullification of the tariff laws was firmly rooted in states’-rights principles. Northern proposals to abolish or restrict slavery- an institution firmly protected by the Constitution- escalated the regional differences in the country and rallied the Southern states firmly behind the doctrine of states’ rights and the sovereignty of the individual states. Southerners viewed the Constitution as a contractual agreement that was invalidated because its conditions had been breached. The Confederacy that was subsequently formed by the seceded states was patterned on the doctrine of states’ rights.

The South viewed a strong centralized government as a form of a monarchy. The South well remembered their War for Independence from Great Britain and they did not desire to come under such rule again. The South could see that the federal government was becoming more and more like the old government that their forefathers had shed their blood to free them from.

References and Details:

The South Was Right” by James R. Kennedy and Walter D. Kennedy, Chapter 9.
The Truths of History” By Mildred L. Rutherford, Chapter 1.
When in the Course of Human Events“, By Charles Adams, Chapter 1.
The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 1

F. John Caldwell Calhoun

image006John C. Calhoun was an American statesman who was born in 1782, near Abbeville, South Carolina. He was an honor graduate at Yale in 1804. He played an important part in national affairs for forty years. He served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He also served as Secretary of War, Secretary of State, and Vice-President.

He is best remembered as the theorist of the doctrines of state rights and nullification. It was John C. Calhoun’s leadership in these doctrines that inspired the South’s effort to achieve national independence in the War Between The States.

Calhoun felt that his beloved South Carolina, and the South, were being exploited by the protective tariff. Calhoun wrote “The South Carolina Exposition” for his state’s legislature in 1828. It declared that no state was bound by a federal law which it believed was unconstitutional.

The nation, Southerners said, was a confederation of sovereign independent states. Already the South had suffered heavily from the North in taxation, tariffs, and an unequal distribution of national benefits; and they would not tolerate the erection of a consolidated democracy, for this, as Calhoun had predicted, would end in control, proscription, and political disenfranchisement.

John C. Calhoun applied a theory of checks to the Constitution, involving state rights and state power of nullification. The general government was, in his view, not at all a national government; it was a confederated government, a political union to which the sovereign confederated states were parties. The government had not been created, nor the Constitution ratified, by the people as a whole, but by the people as organized into separate states. The terms or conditions of the union were stipulated in the Constitution; and if they were violated, the parties to the compact had a right to withdraw from their engagement. Each state, that is, was judge of the measures and limits of the general government, and if it found them transgressed, might interpose its veto against any further action. The Southern people viewed John C. Calhoun as the “Sentinel of the South.” Even though Calhoun died in 1850, long before the start of the War Between The States, his theory of checks to the Constitution involving state rights served as part of the foundation for government for the Confederacy. Calhoun believed that liberty, if forced on a people, was a curse, for men must be capable of self-government before they can enjoy liberty.

References and Details:

John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union“, by John Niven
Story of the Confederate States” by Joseph T. Derry, Part 2, Chapter 3.
The South Was Right” by James R. Kennedy and Walter D. Kennedy, Chapter 7.
Life, Services and Character of Jefferson Davis. First Public Appearance in Politics. ” Southern Historical Society Papers. Vol. XVII. Richmond, Va., January-December. 1889

G. Independence

image032When the South seceded from the union and came under attack by the United States, Southerners felt that their conflict equated that of the American Revolution. Many called it the Second American Revolution. A kindling sense of patriotism swung even the dubious from their old allegiances. To join the new movement seemed (especially to the youth) an affirmative, progressive, heroic act. To resist it seemed negative and timid. Many churches in the South preached resistance. The official journal of the powerful Baptist denomination in Mississippi urged citizens to insist upon their full rights within the old nation, or win them outside in a new nation.

The Seal of the Confederacy even includes an equestrian image of George Washington. The South viewed George Washington as the father of their new country. The South even officially declares its founding date as February 22, 1862, which is the 130th anniversary of George Washington’s birth.

Each state believed that they were sovereign and independent and were only part of the union because they had voluntarily agreed to enter into that union. Each Southerner cherished the liberty that their forefathers had fought to secure for them. The South wholeheartedly desired to co-exist peaceably with the United States.

References and Details:

Story of the Confederate States” by Joseph T. Derry, Part 3, Chapter 1.
The Truths of History” By Mildred L. Rutherford, Chapter 2 & 3.
The Lost Cause: The Standard Southern History of the War of the Confederates” by Edward A. Pollard, Chapter 4.

Part 2 Questions:

In short essay format give and support an opinion for at least three of these questions:

1. Explain significant differences in the culture, history, values and orientation of the Northern states populations compared to the Southern states populations prior to 1860.
2. If you were a Southern states resident in the 1850’s how would the shift of population, addition of states and the taking of the census be of concern to you?
3. Compare and contrast the Northern view and the Southern view of Southern classes before 1860.
4. What is your opinion of the South’s reaction to the economic panic and recession of 1857 and do you agree or disagree with their position?
5. How do you interpret the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights as it relates to Federal vs States rights?
6. Do you agree with or dispute John C. Calhoun’s stance on States Rights?
7. Why did the Southerners that wished to withdraw from the Union, consider this a Second American Revolution?

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