About Me

My photo
Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Greed Caused the Civil War


Greed Caused the Civil War

Patrick Prescott

 Tariffs in the 1800’s

All my life I was taught, in Jr. High, High School and College that the issue dividing the North and South was slavery. The north were the good guys and the south the bad guys.

The only reason offered by southerners to defend the south’s right to secede was on the issue of Tariffs, but historians always scoffed at this and dismissed it as an excuse, not a reason. The North won and their point of view prevailed.

In my study of the life of Mattew Fontaine Maury I came upon his reasons for leaving the union and siding with the south. It opened my eyes to how greedy northern merchants were as much responsible for the bloodshed of that war as slave owners.

The first thing that opened my eyes was the association of the word Tariff in today’s context with the time period in question. Actually, the word that best explains the duty placed on the south should be Subsidy.

Today’s meaning of tariff: Example: March 5, 2022, President Trump imposed a 25% tariff on Chinese imports. What this meant was that all goods imported by China in the U. S. were assessed 25% extra in cost. An item normally priced at $100, would be $125. The idea is not to make money for the treasury, but to make the Chinese product more expensive and the American consumer would prefer to buy the American product.

The Tariff of 1816, did not raise the price of British goods. It taxed the southern states 25% on cotton, then gave that money to the northern merchants so they could compete on the open market with England. This is today known as a subsidy.

This is an excerpt from:

 “A Vindication of the South and of Virginia”

By M. F. Maury”

 [After the War of 1812], “it was thought wise to encourage manufacturing in New England, until American Labor could be educated for it and the requisite skill acquired for the establishment of workshops. The Southern statesmen took the lead in the passage of a tariff to encourage and protect the manufacturing industries of the North.

In course of time the restrictive laws in England were repealed… Nevertheless, the protection continued, and was so effectual that the manufacturers of New England began to compete in the foreign markets with the manufacturers of Old England. Whereupon the South said “Enough...” the Atlantic Ocean rolls between this country and Europe; the expense of freight and transportation across it, with moderate duties for revenue alone, ought to be the protection enough for these Northern industries. Therefore, let us do away with tariffs for protection. They have not, by reason of geographical laws, turned a wheel in the South; moreover, they have proved a grievous burden to our people.”

The Tariff of 1816 exacted 25% of all cotton to be exported abroad and the money put into the pockets of Northern Merchants. This was agreed to by the Southern leaders as a temporary measure to increase industry and fair trade.

The Tariff of 1824 increased the tariff to 30%. This was not agreed to by the Southern States, it was not needed and certainly adding an extra 5% was excessive, but by this time the Northern and Western States could outvote the South.

The Tariff of 1828 became known as the Tariff of Abomination. It placed the amount to 40%. At this point South Carolina and other states started passing laws to nullify the tariff. Andrew Jackson became president in 1829 and threatened a military invasion if any state refused to pay the tariff.

The compromise Tariff of 1833 began a 2% reduction of the tariff rate until it was down to 20% by 1842.

I want to emphasize here that the Northern Merchants were not only competing on an even playing field with England in 1824, but because of the Monroe Doctrine had almost exclusive rights with Central and South America. They were also expanding into the Pacific and Asia. The theft, (what else could you call it?) from southern cotton was an added bonus, but there is nothing more permanent than a temporary solution. The merchants liked their subsidy even though they didn’t need it.

Again, quoting Maury:

Moreover, peace, progress, and development had, dictated Free Trade as the true policy of all nations. Our senators proceeded to demonstrate by the example of hardships of submitting any longer to tariffs for protection. In their arguments they quoted examples to this effect—The Northern farmer clips his hundred bales of wool, and the Southern planter picks his hundred bales of cotton. So far, they are equal, It went further—re-protected the industry of one section and taxed that of the other… And now came the injustice and the grievance. They both, so the case was made to run, preferred the Charleston market; each with his invoices of one hundred bales, to the Custom House. There the Northern man is told he may land his hundred bales duty free, but the Southern man is required to leave forty of his for the privilege of landing the remaining sixty.

The Real Burden of the Tariff

Here I come to another eye-opening moment. History books always wonder why the poor farmer with no slaves or only a few would go and fight for the plantation owners with large land holdings and many slaves? This is a fallacy.

How many farmers today could live off of only 60% of the crop they produced?

The plantation owners resented the loss of profits, but still lived a life of wealth. It was the small farmer who needed the whole 100% of the fruits of his labors to turn a profit! They shouldered the burden. The tariff kept them poor and barely and on a subsistence level.

Northern and Western farmers were not taxed like this. This is expressly forbidden in the Constitution.

Section 10 states:

No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Control of the Congress.

 Notice the constitution says taxes shall go to the treasury, not the pockets of Northern Merchants.

 In 1840 when the Compromise Tariff was down to 24% Maury says:

  Fifteen years before the war, it was stated officially from the Treasury Department at Washington, that under the tariff then in force the self-sustaining industry of the country was taxed in this indirect way in the sum of $80,000,000 annually, none of which went into the coffers of the Government, but all into the pocket of the protected manufacturer.

Thus, dealt by, there was a cumulative dissatisfaction in the Southern mind towards the Federal Government, and the Southern men began to ask each other, “Should we not be better off out of the Union than we are in it?”

The south rose up because the northern and western farmers weren’t singled out like them. They saw this not as a way of helping their northern merchants in need, but as it was—a sin tax. Slavery was a part of the issue. It was the way for the north's to justify the unfair taxation placed on the south… 

the result of all this Federal partiality, of this unequal protection and encouragement, was that New England and the North fattened upon the tribute forced from the South and prospered as few people have ever done.


Today all history books state that this had a moral cause to end slavery. Not even the Crusades in the middle ages were a moral cause. All wars have as their basis greed. More land, more raw natural resources, tribute, that is what causes wars.

It was the tribute demanded from the south to Northen Merchants that caused the war.

The south was treated as second class citizens, why would they want to stay in such a country and be taxed so unfairly and unconstitutionally?

 All quotes of Matthew Fontaine Maury come from:

 Corbin, Diana Fontaine, A Life of Matthew Fontaine Maury, U.S.N. & C.S.N. Published 1888, Published as E-book on Amazon by Good Earth Press reproduced from original text and artwork January 3, 2013.

 This book contains almost all of Diana’s father’s speeches, articles, and other writings in their entirety. A valuable resource.

 These quotes and more are in: I Maury: The Life and Times of a Rebel

Available as e-book and paperback on Amazon



No comments: