The Cause of the War
By Jeff Paulk
Before 1824 the U.S. had an average tariff of 15 to 20 percent. It was believed that this was enough to meet the needs of the government and not create a burden to any section of the country.
Northern manufacturers, with the aid of Henry Clay of the Whig Party, pushed for higher tariffs in 1824. The South strongly opposed these tariff increases. The South largely depended on the North or Europe for its manufactured consumer and agricultural goods. The North received about 20% of the South’s cotton exports while most of the exports went to Europe. A protective tariff was a benefit to the Northern states, but created an economic hardship on the states of the South.
In late 1824 the politically dominant North passed an average tariff of 35%. This tariff caused an economic boom for the North, but was a hardship on the agricultural South. South Carolina saw its exports fall 25% over the next two years. In 1828 the greedy Northern politicians raised the average tariff to 50%. History usually refers to these last two tariffs as the “Tariffs of Abomination”.
As a result, South Carolina called a state convention to nullify the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 and claimed them to be unjust and unconstitutional. Armed conflict was barely averted due to a compromise in 1833 with the efforts of John C. Calhoun which reduced the tariff back to a normal level of about 15%. It remained at that level until 1860, much to the disdain of Henry Clay and the Whigs.
The Whig Party, as well as the Republican Party which replaced it, always held the policy of high protective tariffs. The U.S. Congress passed the Morrill Tariff Bill in 1860 (named for steel manufacturer and Republican Congressman Justin S. Morrill of Vermont) which raised the tariff from 15% to about 37% with an increase to 47% within three years. Tariff revenues were tripled due to the increase in items covered.
Tariff revenues fell disproportionately on the South, accounting for 87% before the Morrill Tariff. The tariff protected the industrial interests of the North while greatly raising the cost of living and commerce in the South. This reduced the trade value of agricultural exports to Europe and placed an economic hardship on many of the Southern states. What is even more obscene is that over 80% of these revenues were used for public works and industrial subsidies in the North. We call this redistribution of wealth.
Lincoln campaigned for the Morrill Tariff in 1860 which was incorporated into the Republican Party Platform. Two days before the election in November of 1860, the “Charleston Mercury” expressed the feelings of South Carolina with this editorial:
“The real causes for dissatisfaction in the South with the North are in the unjust taxation and expenditure of the taxes by the Government of the United States, and in the revolution the North has effected in this government, from a confederated republic, to a national sectional despotism.”
Upon the election on Lincoln, South Carolina and the Gulf states began to call for secession. In Lincoln’s inaugural address on March 4, 1861, he stated that the revenues would be collected, even from the seceded states. Lincoln manipulated the firing on Ft. Sumter by South Carolina when he lied about not resupplying the fort. This swayed the Northern opinion, which had been in favor of peacefully letting the South go its own way, to that of being angry because the South “fired upon the flag”. Three days after the firing on Ft. Sumter, Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to “put down the rebellion”. This caused the border states to secede as well. The Southern states fought an illegal invasion for four long years, seeing their homes and property looted and burned, crops burned, animals stolen or shot, women (black and white) raped, and innocent civilians murdered. Nowhere in any Union or Confederate diary or letters is the mention of “fighting to free the slaves” or “fighting to defend the institution of slavery”. It was a tariff war, as stated in European newspapers. A war of subjugation and total control perpetrated by greedy Northern politicians and industrialists. Yet, for 150+ years we have had the Marxist rewritten version of Yankee “history” shoved down our throats claiming the North was on a moral crusade to free the poor, downtrodden black race. Bah, Humbug!
(Mostly referenced from “The Un-Civil War”, by Leonard M. Scruggs)