Déjà vu (Understanding the War for Southern Independence and the the TEA Party explosion)
by Hank Martin
Where are the statesmen? Where in current America would one search to find an illustration of a “good statesman”? I thoroughly reject former President Bill Clinton’s axiom that states “it depends on how you define good.” Finding a good statesman also depends on a distinct comprehension of the difference between a politician and a statesman.
Elected officials are human beings who are predisposed to spend far more capital to win elected position than they will ever obtain in salary from said elected office. This fact alone causes taxpayers, who are forced to pay for the services of elected officials, to challenge the motive of those seeking elected office. Upon appropriate deliberation on that issue, there can only be two motives;
- The person seeking elected office is ready to expend more than he will ever get back by reason of the fact, he is community spirited, philanthropic, a spirit who voluntarily pours out his life in the service of a higher calling or
- The individual seeking office is an ingenious, parasitical, businessperson, who seeks civic office to use the authority, rewards and privileges analogous with elected office to ameliorate himself and those with close connections to the office holder. “Those with close connections” are generally those persons and businesses that provided the colossal sums of cash essential to “win” election and once “their man” wins, they anticipate pay back for their investment.
If the first inducement describes the individual seeking elected office, then he would be better described not as a politician but as a statesman. Due to the simple unpleasant reality that “money is the mother’s milk of American politics” even those who would be statesmen must compromise in order to get the money necessary to run a successful political campaign. It is not unattainable to elect statesmen but the feasibility of doing so is exceedingly small. Even if a “good” person is elected it is unlikely he will retain his characteristics when surrounded by those who use the political status quo to enrich themselves and those with close connections to the political status quo.
Consider this. A “good” conservative, family values candidate is elected, from a conservative, Bible Belt state. What happens when that “family values” office seeker becomes immersed in the corrupt and corrupting political status quo of Washington, D.C.? He begins to “ear mark” pet legislation. Just like the liberals, he begins to ignore moral values issues, and he becomes intoxicated with the arrogance of power and eventually gets caught up in a whore house scandal! Our “good” elected official now becomes a poster boy for the secular humanist left to demonstrate how hypocritical people are who claim to hold “Christian” moral values. Political power is corrupting, therefore to protect liberty we the people must keep political power as small as possible. The more power we grant government the more corrupted our society becomes. As government gets larger our tax burden get larger until we are reduced to tax serfs. Basic rule: More politicians, more political power, more government, more taxes—less freedom.
This explains the TEA Party, and its almost simultaneous, seemingly inherent, birth into today’s governmental atmosphere. In the truest sense of the word, as our founders fathomed the philosophy and the ideology of these suddenly verbal citizens, the TEA Party could best be described as Anti-Federalists. They are the 21st century version of Patrick Henry and his political clan. They rightfully seek an end-run around the political status quo. As Anti-Federalist they pursue the right of “we the people” within each distinctive Sovereign State to nullify onerous acts of Federal politicians. They seek an option to “politics as usual.” Even “good” politicians will not control themselves, if it is to be done “we the people” of the Sovereign States must do it! Why? Because politicians have a vested concern in presuming the perks, privileges, and authority intrinsic in the political status quo. They will never essentially transform the status quo. If it is to be done, those of us who must pay the tax bill will have to do it. The chore will not be done using conventional party (or even third party) political science. Only the Anti-Federalist Revolution, as currently expressed in the TEA Party type political action groups, has the solution to an out of control, tax, borrow and spend government.
The United States has been here before, and not that long ago. As I understand our history, I see us rapidly reapproaching two important dates from our past. Yes, of course, 1776, that goes without saying. However, I also see us rapidly approaching 1860. Now, before I continue, I will openly admit that my family roots come out of North Carolina. Many men in my family fought under the flag of the Confederacy. None of these men owned slaves; indeed, many were barely lucky to own shoes, a rifle and a shack. However, they were like the other 94% of the non-slaveholding residents of the south, who fought for states rights. They could not afford to own slaves, and their own sense of Christian Duty to their Savior, would not have allowed them to if they did. They did however see the threat to their lives, and the lives of their children, given the acts of the Federal Government at the time. For their courage, for their spirit and for their sacrifice, I will not apologize. For we can all now see they were right, for we are all about to become slaves to a tyrannical government.
Most Americans presume the War for Southern Independence was over slavery. They have to a tremendous degree been miseducated. The method and timing of treatment of the slavery issue were at issue, although not in the overly simplified moral sense that exists in postwar and modern day politically correct propaganda. Had there been no Morrill Tariff, it is highly probable, there may never have been a conflict that cost of the lives of 650,000 Union and Confederate soldiers and as many as 50,000 Southern civilians and rendered poverty-stricken many millions for generations. A smoldering issue of unjust taxation that enriched Northern manufacturing states and exploited the farming South was fanned to a frenzied flame in 1860. It was the Morrill Tariff that stirred the smoldering red-hot coals of regional skepticism and ignited the fires of Secession in the South. This hastened a Northern reaction and call to arms that would engulf the nation in the flames of war for four years. Prior to the War for Southern Independence, there was no U. S. income tax. Notably, more than 90% of U. S. government income was made by a tariff on imported goods. Placing such a high, protective tariff on imported goods makes them more expensive to buy than the same domestic goods. Allowing domestic industries to charge more elevated prices and making more money on sales that would have otherwise been lost to foreign competition due to cheaper prices (without the tariff) or superior quality. This, causes domestic consumers to pay higher prices creating a lower standard of living. Tariffs on some industrial products also hurt other domestic industries that must pay higher prices for goods they need to make their products. Because the nature and products of regional economies vary widely, high tariffs are sometimes beneficial for one section of the country, but destructive to another. High tariffs are especially hard on exporters since they must cope with higher domestic costs and vindictive foreign tariffs that put them at a pricing disability. This has a depressing effect on both export volume and profit margins. High tariffs have been a frequent cause of economic disruption, strife and war.
Prior to 1824, the typical tariff level in the U. S. had been in the 15 to 20 % range. This was believed to be sufficient to meet federal revenue needs and not exceedingly burdensome to any one particular section of the country. The increase of the tariff to a 20% average in 1816 was officially to help pay for the War of 1812. It also represented a 26% net profit increase to Northern manufacturers. In 1824, Northern production states and the Whig Party under the leadership of Henry Clay began to drive for high, protective tariffs. These were strongly at cross-purposes with the South. The Southern economy was largely agricultural and geared to exporting a large portion of its cotton and tobacco crops to Europe. In the 1850’s, the South accounted for anywhere from 72 to 82% of U. S. exports. They were largely dependent, however, on Europe or the North for the manufactured goods needed for both agricultural production and consumer needs. Northern states received about 20% of the South’s agricultural production. The vast majority of export volume went to Europe. A protective tariff was then a substantial benefit to Northern manufacturing states, but meant considerable economic hardship for the agricultural South.
Northern political dominance enabled Clay and his allies in Congress to pass a tariff averaging 35% late in 1824. This was the cause of economic boom in the North, but economic hardship and political agitation in the South. South Carolina was hardest hit, the State’s exports falling 25% over the next two years. In 1828 in a demonstration of unabashed partisanship and unashamed greed the Northern dominated Congress raised the average tariff level to 50%. Despite strong Southern agitation for lower tariffs the Tariff of 1832 only nominally reduced the effective tariff rate and brought no relief to the South. These last two tariffs are usually termed in history as the Tariffs of Abomination. Does anyone recall the Intolerable Acts of the American Revolution?
This led to the Nullification Crisis of 1832 when South Carolina called a state convention and “nullified” the 1828 and 1832 tariffs as unjust and unconstitutional. The subsequent constitutional crisis came very near inspiring armed conflict at that time. Through the efforts of former U. S. Vice President and U. S. Senator from South Carolina, John C. Calhoun, a concession was effected in 1833 which over a few years reduced the tariff back to a normal level of about 15%. Henry Clay and the Whigs were not contented, however, to have been forced into a compromise by Calhoun and South Carolina’s Nullification threat. The tariff, however, remained at a level near 15% until 1860. An instruction in financial affairs, regional sensitivity, and simple decency should have been experienced from this dispute, but if it was learned, it was disregarded by ambitious political and business factions and personalities that would come on the scene of American history in the late 1850’s as well as being ignored by aspiring governmental, business and globalist factions today.
High protective tariffs were always the policy of the old Whig Party and had become the policy of the new Republican Party that replaced it. A recession beginning around 1857 gave the cause of protectionism an additional political boost in the Northern industrial states. In May of 1860 the U. S. Congress passed the Morrill Tariff Bill (named for Republican Congressman and steel manufacturer, Justin S. Morrill of Vermont) raising the average tariff from about 15% to 37% with increases to 47% within three years. Although this was distinctively suggestive of the Tariffs of Abomination, which had led in 1832 to a constitutional crisis and threats of secession and armed force, the U. S. House of Representatives passed the Bill 105 to 64. Out of 40 Southern Congressmen, only one Tennessee Congressman voted for it. Am I the only one to think that this sounds a lot like the health care bill today? U. S. tariff revenues already fell disproportionately on the South, accounting for 87% of the total. While the tariff protected Northern industrial interests, it raised the cost of living and commerce in the South substantially. It also reduced the trade value of their agricultural exports to Europe. These combined to place a severe economic hardship on many Southern states. Even more galling was that 80% or more of these tax revenues were expended on Northern public works and industrial subsidies, thus further enriching the North at the expense of the South. Just as today’s government, through lack of border control and the attempt to forcibly move money from those who work hard to reward those who do not, do so at the expense of workers. Welcome to the New South, no longer a geographical region, but those possessing an Anti-Federalist attitude.
In the 1860 election, Lincoln, a former Whig and great admirer of Henry Clay, campaigned for the high protective tariff provisions of the Morrill Tariff, which had also been incorporated into the Republican Party Platform. Lincoln further endorsed the Morrill Tariff and its concepts in his first inaugural speech and signed the Act into law a few days after taking office in March of 1861. Southern leaders had seen it coming. Southern protests had been of no avail. Now the South was inflamed with righteous indignation, and Southern leaders began to call for Secession. At first Northern public opinion as reflected in Northern newspapers of both parties recognized the right of the Southern States to secede and favored peaceful separation. A November 21, 1860, editorial in the Cincinnati Daily Press said this:
“We believe that the right of any member of this Confederacy to dissolve its political relations with the others and assume an independent position is absolute.”
The New York Times on March 21, 1861, reflecting the great majority of editorial opinion in the North summarized in an editorial:
“There is a growing sentiment throughout the North in favor of letting the Gulf States go.”
Northern industrialists became nervous, however, when they realized a tariff dependent North would be competing against a free trade South. They feared not only loss of tax revenue, but considerable loss of trade. Newspaper editorials began to reflect this nervousness. Lincoln had promised in his inaugural speech that he would preserve the Union and the tariff. Three days after manipulating the South into firing on the tariff collection facility of Fort Sumter in volatile South Carolina, on April 15, 1861, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to put down the Southern rebellion. Border States, like Virginia, were philosophically and ideologically compelled to secede along with the Gulf States. Lincoln doubtlessly intended for the mere threat of force, backed by a more unified Northern public opinion would quickly put down secession. However, his gambit was a spectacular failure and would burst forth into a dreadful and expensive war for four years. The Union Army’s lack of success early in the war, along with the need to keep anti-slavery England from coming into the war on the side of the South, as well as Lincoln’s need to appease the radical abolitionists in the North ultimately led to the propaganda of the freeing the slaves as a noble cause to justify what was really a dispute over just taxation and States Rights. Remember, The Emancipation Proclamation did not come until after the conflict had been going on for eighteen months. Even then, it only dealt with those individuals no longer under the control of the Federal Government! Writing in December of 1861, in a London weekly publication, the English author, Charles Dickens, who was a strong opponent of slavery, said these things about the war going on in America:
“The Northern onslaught upon slavery is no more than a piece of specious humbug disguised to conceal its desire for economic control of the United States. Union means so many millions a year lost to the South; secession means loss of the same millions to the North. The love of money is the root of this as many, many other evils. (Emphasis Mine). The quarrel between the North and South is, as it stands, solely a fiscal quarrel.”
A horrific example of the damage that protective tariffs can exact was also seen in later history. One of the causes of the Great Depression of 1930-1939 was the Hawley-Smoot Act, a high tariff passed in 1930 that Congress mistakenly thought would help the country. While attempting to protect domestic industry from foreign imports, the unanticipated effect was to reduce the nation’s exports and thereby help increase unemployment to the devastating figure of 25%. It is fairly well known by competent and honest economists now that protective tariffs usually do more harm than good, often considerably more harm than good. However, economic ignorance and political expediency often combine to overrule longer-term public good. As the War for Southern Independence 1861-5 proves, the human and economic costs for such shortsighted political expediency and partisan greed can be enormous.
The Morrill Tariff illustrates very well one of the problems associated with majoritarian democracy: A majority can easily exploit a regional, economic, ethnic, or religious minority (or any other minority) unmercifully unless they have strong constitutional guarantees that can be enforced, e. g., States Rights, Nullification, etc.
Our founding fathers knew and understood this. This is why we were designed to be a Democratic Republic, NOT a democracy. This is what the Confederate leaders knew and understood. They knew the need to limit centralized government power to counter this natural depravity in men was recognized by the founding fathers. They knew and observed well the tantalizing tendencies in both monarchy and democracy, for both civil magistrates and the constituents to succumb to the temptations of avarice, opportunism, and the passion for power. Thus they incorporated into the Constitution such provisions as the separation of powers and very important provisions enumerating and delegating only certain functions and powers to the federal government and retaining others at the state level and lower. Such constitutional provisions including the very specific guaranty of States Rights and limits to the power of the Federal Government in the 10th Amendment are unfortunately now largely ignored by all three branches of the Federal Government, and their constant infringement seldom contested by the States. The Tariff question and the States Rights question were therefore strongly linked. Just as how states are to handle illegal aliens and BP are today. All are in solidarity to the broader issues of limited government and a strong Constitution. The Morrill Tariff dealt the South a flagrant political injustice and impending economic hardship and crisis. Just as today, the proposed solutions to health care and government-controlled industry, and lack of National Border Control, threaten to deal a flagrant injustice against middle America. What therefore made Secession a very compelling alternative to an exploited and unequal union with the North is the EXACT same passion that is now fueling the debates regarding the role of our Federal Government all across the country today.
Just as how to deal with the slavery question was an underlying tension between North and South in 1860, it was but one of many tensions. It cannot be said to be the cause of the war. Fully understanding the slavery question and its relations to those tensions is beyond the scope of time and space available here, but numerous historical facts demolish the propagandistic morality play that a virtuous North invaded the evil South to free the slaves. Five years after the end of the War, prominent Northern abolitionist, attorney and legal scholar, Lysander Spooner, put it this way:
“All these cries of having ‘abolished slavery,’ of having ‘saved the country,’ of having ‘preserved the Union,’ of establishing a ‘government of consent,’ and of ‘maintaining the national honor’ are all gross, shameless, transparent cheats—so transparent that they ought to deceive no one.”
Yet apparently many today are still deceived, are deliberately deceived, and even prefer to be deceived. What deceptions that are allowed to stand and take root in our American culture today, will have to be dealt with and suffered through by our children and our children’s children. That is the kinetic energy of the TEA Party, and the need for honest statesmen to again be elected to rule. Unjust taxation has been the cause of many tensions and much bloodshed throughout history and around the world. The Morrill Tariff was certainly a powerful factor predisposing the South to seek its independence and determine its own destiny. As outrageous and unjust as the Morrill Tariff was, its importance has been largely ignored and even purposely obscured. It does not fit the politically correct images and myths of popular American history. Truth, however, is always stationed upon the high ground and it will have the inevitable victory.
One last point: The war of 1861-65 was not a “civil” war. To call it the “Civil War” is not a historically accurate and honest use of language. Few Southerners had any interest in overthrowing their own or anyone else’s state governments. The Southern states had seen that continued union with the North would jeopardize their liberties and economic wellbeing. Through the proper constitutional means of state conventions and referendums they sought to withdraw from the Union and establish their independence just as the American Colonies had sought their independence from Great Britain in 1776 and for very similar reasons. The Northern industrialists, however, were not willing to give up their Southern Colonies. A more appropriate name for the uncivil war of 1861-65 would be “The War for Southern Independence”, and that is how I have chosen to name this period throughout my lifetime. The running theory in my family had always been, that had it not been for the Morrill Tariff there would have been no rush to Secession by Southern states and very probably no war. The Morrill Tariff of 1860, so unabashed and unashamed in its shortsighted, partisan greed, stands as an astonishing monument to the self-centered depravity of man and to its consequences. A monument that may soon be germinating multiple seeds in a garden of stones, as we all bear witness to the tidal wave of tyranny that is about to spew forth from the pond of passionate greed damned within the beltway of Washington.