[civilwarwest] The War
- Good Evening fellow members,I posted this over in a chat room earlier today and thought I would share it with the rest of you. I know it is not Western Theater peculiar but what the heck, since I set the room up, I guess I can bend the rules just a bit. I know that many of you, especially those of you have been studying the war for a while, always get to the question of it’s causes (don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to start a thread on this) and I thought perhaps you had not looked at it in this light before. This is an email I received and the answer I sent back.I RECEIVEDHi Shotgun (I'd say Mr. Shotgun but that's simply too corny),
As part of an assignment for my AP US History class, we have to have contact with an authority on the civil war. Your website has been a lot of help on my project and the essays and links have been particularly helpful.
Anyway, my question is, aside from slavery what do you think the #2 cause of the war was? Some of the ideas I had were sectionalization of political parties and northern dominence in economics I'd really
appreciate it if you'd get back to me.I SENTHi,First let me say that I, by no stretch of the imagination, put myself up as an authority on the late unpleasantness. I merely enjoy studying it. However I will help if I can. Since you say you have used my website I am going to assume that you found my page on the Causes of the War so I won't go into the many documents that are contained there. What I will tell you is my opinion.You say you are looking for the 2nd cause of the war, with slavery being the first. When one thinks in these terms it conjures up a picture of an ole white "massa" sitting on his verandah sipping Mint Juleps while a cruel overseer is out back whipping the poor black slaves. Then here comes "honest" Abe and his "blue minions" to end this horrible injustice. What a crock! If this was the case why were the slaves in Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware not freed with the mighty freedom document the "Emancipation Proclamation." No my friend, I would propose that this was not about slavery as I just described it. It was about the "economics" that slavery represented. Let me try to explain."In 1800 the United States had exported $5,000,000 worth of cotton, or 7 percent of the nation's total exports. By 1810 this figure had tripled, by 1840 it had risen to $63,000,000 and by 1860 cotton exports were worth $191,000,000 or 57 percent of the value of American exports." Now given these numbers I think you can see where I am going with this. Bear in mind there was no "income tax" in those days to feed the federal coffers. The money came in the form of "tariffs" on goods going in and out of the country. The money that the sale of this cotton represented was a pretty healthy sum to the federal government.Let me continue, "The South had become a cotton empire, nearly 4 million slaves were employed, and slavery looked like an absolutely essential element in Southern prosperity. But if slavery paid, it left men with uneasy consciences. This unease became the most obvious in the North, where a man who demanded the abolition of slavery could comfort himself with the reflection that the financial loss which abolition wound entail would, after all, be borne by somebody else– his neighbor to the South." The average person failed to consider what a financial loss this would be to the federal government in the form of tariff money. That is, at least in the short term until the full industrial might of the northern states could be realized. One other element of this equation I have not touched on is the seaports that the goods, from which the tariffs were realized, flowed. These ports were located for the most part in the South.With the election of Lincoln, the South (or at least the powers in the South) thought that with the westward expansion and a president who leaned toward, if not openly avowed, the abolition of slavery, the collapse of the Southern economy would be inevitable. These powers, most of which were the big land owners , convinced the 75 percent of the white Southern population that did not own slaves that their right to be a sovereign state was coming to an end and the only way to maintain their independence was to secede from the Union and form their own confederation. The powers in the North on the other hand, saw that in they could ill afford to lose the wealth, and especially the seaports, in the South so they elected to hold them in the Union at all costs. By force of arms if necessary. The war came.In summation, I would suggest to you that secession caused the war and the economics of slavery caused the secession. Just my opinion of course.As I say on my website, "I am a Southerner by birth and a Rebel by choice. As I read and study, I pull for Lee, Jackson and Longstreet. As I live, I thank Grant, Lincoln, and Democracy." I will leave you with these words, written by one of my favorites in war, John B. Gordon late of the Confederate Army, "....the four years of fratricidal war between the North and South was waged by neither with criminal or unworthy intent, but by both to protect what they conceived to be threatened rights and imperiled liberty: that the issues which divided the sections were born when the Republic was born, and were forever buried in an ocean of fraternal blood."I do thankee for indulging me with this rather verbose post. Now back to our regular programming :-)I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Dick (a.k.a. Shotgun)