American Civil War: Population of the South in 1860
Map of the Confederacy, showing the total population of the states according to the 1860 census.
American Civil War Subject Index
Population of the United States in 1860, by race and gender
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Number of United States military fatalities in major wars 1775-2021
Black and slave population in the United States 1790-1880
Number of casualties at the Siege of Vicksburg 1863
Soldier wages in the American Civil War 1861-1865, by rank
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Number of soldiers during the American Civil War 1861-1865
Population of the United States 1860, by race
Population of the United States 1860, by race
Black and slave population in the United States 1790-1880
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Number of casualties at the Battle of Antietam 1862
Cause of Confederate deaths in Union POW camps in the American Civil War 1861-1865
Soldier wages in the American Civil War 1861-1865, by rank
Soldier wages in the American Civil War 1861-1865, by rank
Financial reserves in the United States prior to the Civil War 1861, by region
Financial reserves in the United States prior to the Civil War 1861, by region
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Northern Advantages in the Civil War: Population, Industrial Capacity, and Railroads Help the North
The advantages enjoyed by the North at the start of the American Civil War should have pointed toward a short confrontation, in line with General Winfield Scott’s initial estimation. Even a worried but confident Abraham Lincoln perceived his response as a “police action” designed to bring the recalcitrant states back in the Union. Yet is was the immense advantages of the North that ultimately allowed the Union cause to prevail as war goals and strategies transformed into unconditional surrender.
Advantages of the Union in 1861
When the war came, the North had a total population of twenty-two million people of which 1.3 million worked as industrial workers. The South only had nine million people with 110,000 employed as industrial workers. Moreover, as the 1860 census demonstrated, many Southern counties had a majority of non-white persons, slaves, which would not be conscripted into the war effort other than the usual tending of agricultural enterprises. In South Carolina the slave population outnumbered the white population by over 100,000.
Immigration patterns remained steady both at the start of the Civil War and during the course of the war. The Irish comprised one of the largest pre-Civil War immigrant groups, settling, for the most part, in the large urban centers of the North. Civil War statistics demonstrate the immigrant advantage in terms of population size. Over 170,000 Irish served in the Union armies, compared to 40,000 for the Confederacy. Germans, the other large pre-war immigrant group, also contributed large numbers to the Union cause.
Northern industrial production was valued at $1.5 billion compared to $155 million for the South. Additionally, the ratio of textiles was 17 to 1. Much is written about the Southern military tradition where every man had a firearm and knew how to use it. This is often cited as a Southern advantage. Yet in actual numbers, the ratio of firearms between the North and the South was a staggering 32 to 1.
Railroads Benefited the North More than the South
The use of railroads would prove crucial to the Union’s ultimate victory. The ability to rapidly transport soldiers and supplies greatly assisted the effort to defeat the Confederacy. At the start of the war, the North boasted 22,000 miles of track compared to 9,000 in the South. Further, as the war progressed, the inability to properly maintain the Southern system hurt Southern defensive strategies.
The employment of the railroads to effectively wage war did not go unnoticed by Prussian observers. Prussian victory in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War was due in large part to the German rail system which had more than twice the track of the French. The military use of an extensive rail system was only one war innovation learned by the Europeans avidly watching the course of the war.
The North possessed a fleet of warships that effectively blockaded Southern ports from the first weeks of the war. Although the South utilized “blockade runners” as well as raiders that harassed Union shipping like the CSS Alabama, the Union blockade, part of General Scott’s initial “anaconda plan,” kept the South from receiving desperately needed supplies and munitions from Europe.
Comparing the Leadership Skills of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis
Leadership also played a major role in the Northern advantage. Although the South had better military leadership as the war began, with most field grade officers coming out of West Point, most historians agree that Abraham Lincoln was a better leader than Jefferson Davis. Davis’ personality was cold and abrasive. Lincoln was sincerely humble but a fast learner, spending hours in the Library of Congress reading and seldom intervening directly in field operations.
In 1861, the South fervently hoped that the North would allow it to leave the Union peacefully. Yet even Jefferson Davis questioned this seemingly naïve notion when he arrived home at his Mississippi plantation, telling his wife that everything would be lost. The industrial and military might of the North ultimately overwhelmed the South, demonstrating the Northern advantages.
North and South
The economic differences between the North and South contributed to the rise of regional populations with contrasting values and visions for the future.
The Civil War that raged across the nation from 1861 to 1865 was the violent conclusion to decades of diversification. Gradually, throughout the beginning of the nineteenth century, the North and South followed different paths, developing into two distinct and very different regions.
The northern soil and climate favored smaller farmsteads rather than large plantations. Industry flourished, fueled by more abundant natural resources than in the South, and many large cities were established (New York was the largest city with more than 800,000 inhabitants). By 1860, one quarter of all Northerners lived in urban areas. Between 1800 and 1860, the percentage of laborers working in agricultural pursuits dropped drastically from 70% to only 40%. Slavery had died out, replaced in the cities and factories by immigrant labor from Europe. In fact an overwhelming majority of immigrants, seven out of every eight, settled in the North rather than the South. Transportation was easier in the North, which boasted more than two-thirds of the railroad tracks in the country and the economy was on an upswing.
Far more Northerners than Southerners belonged to the Whig/Republican political party and they were far more likely to have careers in business, medicine, or education. In fact, an engineer was six times as likely to be from the North as from the South. Northern children were slightly more prone to attend school than Southern children.
In contrast to the factory, the plantation was a central feature of Southern life. (Library of Congress)
The fertile soil and warm climate of the South made it ideal for large-scale farms and crops like tobacco and cotton. Because agriculture was so profitable few Southerners saw a need for industrial development. Eighty percent of the labor force worked on the farm. Although two-thirds of Southerners owned no slaves at all, by 1860 the South's "peculiar institution" was inextricably tied to the region's economy and culture. In fact, there were almost as many blacks - but slaves and free - in the South as there were whites (4 million blacks and 5.5 million whites). There were no large cities aside from New Orleans, and most of the ones that did exist were located on rivers and coasts as shipping ports to send agricultural produce to European or Northern destinations.
Only one-tenth of Southerners lived in urban areas and transportation between cities was difficult, except by water. Only 35% of the nation's train tracks were located in the South. Also, in 1860, the South's agricultural economy was beginning to stall while the Northern manufacturers were experiencing a boom.
A slightly smaller percentage of white Southerners were literate than their Northern counterparts, and Southern children tended to spend less time in school. As adults, Southern men tended to belong to the Democratic political party and gravitated toward military careers as well as agriculture.
A brief history
Trans-Atlantic slavery began in the early sixteenth century, when the Portuguese and Spanish forcefully brought captured African slaves to the New World, in order to work for them. The British Empire introduced slavery to North America on a large scale, and the economy of the British colonies there depended on slave labor, particularly regarding cotton, sugar and tobacco output. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century the number of slaves being brought to the Americas increased exponentially, and at the time of American independence it was legal in all thirteen colonies. Although slavery became increasingly prohibited in the north, the number of slaves remained high during this time as they were simply relocated or sold from the north to the south. It is also important to remember that the children of slaves were also viewed as property, and (apart from some very rare cases) were born into a life of slavery.
African American population distribution post-emancipation
Race has always been a highly controversial topic throughout U.S. history. Race can be defined as a simple characteristic of a person, but it has far greater implications and labels in reality. Race has become a process of classification that holds significance on social, cultural, and authoritative levels (Omi and Winant, 2014, 105). Starting in 1850, the U.S. Census included the “mulatto” race category as an attempt to study how the mixing of two races affected a person (Hochschild and Powell, 2008, 68). This was the beginning of an obsession with racial mixtures from racial scientists that had ended by 1930 (Hochschild and Powell, 2008, 71). This obsession ended and what followed was a specific racial hierarchy (Hochschild and Powell, 2008, 71). This post focuses on the white and black race categories in this post with regards to population distribution over this time. The black population in America was heavily restrained up until the 1870 census due to slavery, but after the emancipation proclamation they had the freedom to move. After the civil war, the U.S. population now had set social definitions of what it meant to be black or white (Hochshild and Powell, 2008, 71). I look at how these definitions affected the change in black and white population levels in four different regions of the country in this post.
I gathered data from the Integrated Public-Use Microdata Series (IPUMS) for this project. I included 1% samples from the years 1850-1960. I used the SEX, RACE, REGION and PERWT variables from these samples for my research. The PERWT variable represents the sample weight of each individual. The SEX and RACE variables denote the gender and racial profile of that person. I separate the RACE variable into white, black, and other. The white category includes the white population of the United States which incorporates most European immigrants as well as Mexican immigrants until the early 20th century. The black category encompasses all persons that reports themselves as black as well as those who were classified as mulatto (In the census from 1850-1930), quadroon or octaroon (In the census from 1890-1930). The other category of race represents people who do not fall into the white or black race groups. The REGION variable indicates the region where each individual is currently living during the year of that census. I separate the REGION variable into these four categories: Northeast, South, Midwest, and West.
I graphed the free population of America by race, sex and region in order to see how the distribution of the black population changed by region following the emancipation of slavery. I also graphed the different race populations as percents of the total population in each region to see how the percents of the population changed over time. I created two graphs that give each gender and region its own image. I used the race categories I created to fill in the bars on each figure. The blue portion of each bar represents the white population, the red represents the black population, and the green illustrates the other race category. The Code for my project can be found here.
Figure 1 illustrates the total population of each region by sex and race from the 1850-1960 census. There is a steep jump in the black population in the south between the 1860 and 1870 census following the civil war due to the census counting the newly freed black population. There is also steady rise in the population of each race category in each region and by both genders over this time period. In the West we can see an exponential rise in the total population over this period. This rise in population in the west is due to the increase in the ‘white’ population in the region. After the emancipation of slavery, both male and female black persons became a significant portion of the Southern population. While the total population of the Southern region increases greatly over this time period, the black population barely increases with it. The white population increase in the South overshadows the black and other population increases. The Northeast does not start off with a significant increase in its black population after the civil war like the South but steadily over this time period. This difference between the Northeast and South is due to the significantly lower number of slaves in the Northeast that would have augmented the population upon being freed. The overall rise in Northeast population is similar to the rise in the Northeast black population. The same story plays out in the Midwest. There is a steeper population increase in the Midwest than in the Northeast, but there is also a steady increase in the black population like in the Northeast. There is no difference between population patterns of male and females.
Figure 2 illustrates the same data as figure 1, but it displays each race category as a percent of the total population of each region. This graph reveals more about how the black population migrates from region to region. In the West, like in figure 1, the black population does not constitute a significant portion of the population during the this time period. The population of the South after the civil war changes from almost completely white to about 60% white and 40% black in the 1870 census. As time goes on, the percentage of the black population in the South decreases until it is cut in half to around 20% of the total Southern population by 1960. There is not much change in the Northeast and Midwest immediately after the civil war, only a few percent increase of the black population as a part of the whole. The black percentage of the total population increases steadily up to about 5% in 1960.
These results illustrate the inability for the black population to migrate from the South to other regions of the country. I assumed that the black population would want to leave the South after the civil war due to the extreme racism practiced in the South. The black population became a smaller percent of the total population in the South over this period not because they left in large numbers, but because the white population grew far more quickly than the black population in that region. In fact, figure 1 shows that the black population grew each year in the South. There is evidence for some migration to other regions, but the change in percent of the black population as a portion of the total population in the other regions is very small. This illustrates that either the black population did not want to move out of the South following the emancipation of slavery, that the South successfully kept the black population in the same region as an act of dominance, or a combination of both.
Tera W. Hunter (1993) Domination and resistance: The politics of wage household labor in New South Atlanta, Labor History, 34:2-3, 205-220.
Hochschild, Jennifer L., and Brenna Marea Powell. “Racial Reorganization and the United States Census 1850–1930: Mulattoes, Half-Breeds, Mixed Parentage, Hindoos, and the Mexican Race.” Stud. in Am. Pol. Dev. Studies in American Political Development 22.01 (2008): 59-96. Print.
Confronting Civil War Revisionism: Why The South Went To War
The rewriting of history in any area is possible only if: (1) the public does not know enough about specific events to object when a wrong view is introduced or (2) the discovery of previously unknown historical material brings to light new facts that require a correction of the previous view. However, historical revisionism – the rewriting “of an accepted, usually long-standing view… especially a revision of historical events and movements” 1 – is successful only through the first means.
Over the past sixty years, many groups, exploiting a general lack of public knowledge about particular movements or events, have urged upon the public various revisionist views in order to justify their particular agenda. For example, those who use activist courts to advance policies they are unable to pass through the normal legislative process defend judicial abuse by asserting three historically unfounded doctrines: (1) the judiciary is to protect the minority from the majority (2) the judiciary exists to review and correct the acts of elective bodies and (3) the judiciary is best equipped to “evolve” the culture to the needs of an ever-changing society. These claims are directly refuted by original constitutional writings, especially The Federalist Papers. (See also the WallBuilders’ book, Restraining Judicial Activism.)
Likewise, those who pursue a secular public square seek to justify their agenda by asserting that the Founding Fathers: (1) were atheists, agnostics, and deists, and (2) wrote into the Constitution a strict separation of church and state requiring the exclusion of religious expressions from the public arena. These claims are also easily rebuttable through the Founders’ own writings and public acts. (See also the WallBuilders’ book, Original Intent.)
A third example of historical revisionism involves the claim that the 1860-1861 secession of the Southern States which caused the Civil War was not a result of the slavery issue but rather of oppressive federal economic policies. For example, a plaque in the Texas State Capitol declares:
Because we desire to perpetuate, in love and honor, the heroic deeds of those who enlisted in the Confederate Army and upheld its flag through four years of war, we, the children of the South, have united together in an organization called “Children of the Confederacy,” in which our strength, enthusiasm, and love of justice can exert its influence. We therefore pledge ourselves to preserve pure ideals to honor our veterans to study and teach the truths of history (one of the most important of which is that the war between the states was not a rebellion nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery), and to always act in a manner that will reflect honor upon our noble and patriotic ancestors. (emphasis added)
Other sources make the same false claim, 2 but four notable categories of Confederate records disprove these claims and indisputably show that the South’s desire to preserve slavery was indisputably the driving reason for the formation of the Confederacy.
1. Southern Secession Documents
From December 1860 through August 1861, the southern states met individually in their respective state conventions to decide whether to secede from the Union. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to decide in the affirmative, and its secession document repeatedly declared that it was leaving the Union to preserve slavery:
[A]n increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding [i.e., northern] states to the institution of slavery has led to a disregard of their obligations. . . . [T]hey have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery. . . . They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes [through the Underground Railroad]. . . . A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the states north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States [Abraham Lincoln] whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common government because he has declared that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. . . . The slaveholding states will no longer have the power of self-government or self-protection [over the issue of slavery] . . . 3
Following its secession, South Carolina requested the other southern states to join them in forming a southern Confederacy, explaining:
We . . . [are] dissolving a union with non-slaveholding confederates and seeking a confederation with slaveholding states. Experience has proved that slaveholding states cannot be safe in subjection to non-slaveholding states. . . . The people of the North have not left us in doubt as to their designs and policy. United as a section in the late presidential election, they have elected as the exponent of their policy one [Abraham Lincoln] who has openly declared that all the states of the United States must be made Free States or Slave States. . . . In spite of all disclaimers and professions [i.e., measures such as the Corwin Amendment, written to assure the southern states that Congress would not abolish slavery], there can be but one end by the submission by the South to the rule of a sectional anti-slavery government at Washington and that end, directly or indirectly, must be the emancipation of the slaves of the South. . . . The people of the non-slaveholding North are not, and cannot be safe associates of the slaveholding South under a common government. . . . Citizens of the slaveholding states of the United States! . . . South Carolina desires no destiny separate from yours. . . . We ask you to join us in forming a Confederacy of Slaveholding States. 4
On January 9, 1861, Mississippi became the second state to secede, announcing:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. . . . [A] blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution [slavery], a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove. The hostility to this institution commenced before the adoption of the Constitution and was manifested in the well-known Ordinance of 1787. [On July 13, 1787, when the nation still governed itself under the Articles of Confederation, the Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance (which Mississippi here calls the “well-known Ordinance of 1787”). That Ordinance set forth provisions whereby the Northwest Territory could become states in the United States, and eventually the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota were formed from that Territory. As a requirement for statehood and entry into the United States, Article 6 of that Ordinance stipulated: “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory.”
When the Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, the Founding Fathers re-passed the “Northwest Ordinance” to ensure its continued effectiveness under the new Constitution. Signed into law by President George Washington on August 7, 1789, it retained the prohibition against slavery.
As more territory was gradually ceded to the United States (the Southern Territory – Mississippi and Alabama the Missouri Territory – Missouri and Arkansas etc.), Congress applied the requirements of the Ordinance to those new territories. Mississippi had originally entered the United States under the requirement that it not allow slavery, and it is here objecting not only to that requirement of its own admission to the United States but also to that requirement for the admission of other states.]. . . It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves and refuses protection to that right on the high seas [Congress banned the importation of slaves into America in 1808], in the territories [in the Northwest Ordinance of 1789, the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854], and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction. . . . It advocates Negro equality, socially and politically. . . . We must either submit to degradation and to the loss of property [i.e., slaves] worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers to secure this as well as every other species of property. 5
(Notice that the Union’s claim that blacks and whites were equal both “socially and politically” was a claim too offensive for southern Democrat states to tolerate.)
Following its secession, Mississippi sent Fulton Anderson to the Virginia secession convention, where he told its delegates that Mississippi had seceded because they had unanimously approved a document “setting forth the grievances of the Southern people on the slavery question.” 6
On January 10, 1861, Florida became the third state to secede. In its preliminary resolutions setting forth reasons for secession, it acknowledged:
All hope of preserving the Union upon terms consistent with the safety and honor of the Slaveholding States has been finally dissipated by the recent indications of the strength of the anti-slavery sentiment in the Free States. 7
On January 11, 1861, Alabama became the fourth state to secede. Like the three states before her, Alabama’s document cited slavery and it also cited the 1860 election victory of the Republicans as a further reason for secession, specifically condemning . . .
. . . the election of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin to the offices of President and Vice-President of the United States of America by a sectional party [the Republicans], avowedly hostile to the domestic institutions [slavery] and to the peace and security of the people of the State of Alabama . . . 8
Georgia similarly invoked the 1860 Republican victory as a cause for secession, explaining:
A brief history of the rise, progress, and policy of anti-slavery and the political organization into whose hands the administration of the federal government has been committed [i.e., the Republican Party] will fully justify the pronounced verdict of the people of Georgia [in favor of secession]. The party of Lincoln, called the Republican Party under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. . . . The prohibition of slavery in the territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by its [Republican] leaders and applauded by its followers. . . . [T]he abolitionists and their allies in the northern states have been engaged in constant efforts to subvert our institutions [i.e., slavery]. 9
Why was the Republican election victory a cause for secession? Because the Republican Party had been formed in May of 1854 on the almost singular issue of opposition to slavery (see WallBuilders’ work, American History in Black and White). Only six years later (in the election of 1860), voters gave Republicans control of the federal government, awarding them the presidency, the House, and the Senate.
The Republican agenda was clear, for every platform since its inception had boldly denounced slavery. In fact, when the U. S. Supreme Court delivered the 1857 Dred Scott ruling protecting slavery and declaring that Congress could not prohibit it even in federal territories, 10 the Republican platform strongly condemned that ruling and reaffirmed the right of Congress to ban slavery in the territories. 11 But setting forth an opposite view, the Democrat platform praised the Dred Scott ruling 12 and the continuation of slavery 13 and also loudly denounced all anti-slavery and abolition efforts. 14
The antagonistic position between the two parties over the slavery issue was clear so when voters gave Republicans control of the federal government in 1860, southern slave-holding Democrat states saw the proverbial “handwriting on the wall” and promptly left the United States before Republicans could make good on their anti-slavery promises. It was for this reason that so many of the seceded states referenced the Republican victory in their secession documents.
It was not just southern Democrats who viewed the election of Lincoln and the Republicans as the death knell for slavery many northern Democrats held the same view. In fact, New York City Democrat Mayor Fernando Wood not only attacked the Republican position on slavery but he also urged New York City to join with the South and secede, explaining:
With our aggrieved brethren of the Slave States, we have friendly relations and a common sympathy. We have not participated in the warfare upon their constitutional rights [of slaveholding] or their domestic institutions [slavery]. . . . It is certain that a dissolution [secession of the State of New York from the Union] cannot be peacefully accomplished except by the consent of the [Republican New York] Legislature itself. . . . [and] it is not probable that a partisan [Republican] majority will consent to a separation. . . . [So] why should not New York City, instead of supporting by her contributions in revenue two-thirds of the expenses of the United States, become also equally independent [i.e., secede]? . . . In this she would have the whole and united support of the southern states. 15
Other northern Democrats also assailed the anti-slavery positions of the Republicans – including Samuel Tilden (a New York state assemblyman and later the chair of the state Democrat Party, state governor, and then presidential candidate). Tilden affirmed that southern secession be could halted only if Republicans publicly abandoned their anti-slavery positions:
[T]he southern states will not by any possibility accept the avowed creed of the Republican Party as the permanent policy of the federative government as to slavery. . . . Nothing short of the recession [drawing back] of the Republican Party to the point of total and absolute non-action on the subject of slavery in the states and territories could enable it to reconcile to itself the people of the South. 16
Even the editorial page of the New York World endorsed the Democrats’ pro-slavery positions and condemned Republicans:
We cannot ask the South – we will not ask anybody – to live contentedly under a government . . . which burdens white men with oppressive debt and grinding taxation to try an unconstitutional experiment of giving freedom to Negroes. . . . A proposal for an abolition peace can never gain a hearing in the South. If the Abolition Party [Republicans] continues in power, the separation is final, [both] in feeling and in fact. 17
However, returning to an examination of southern secession documents, on January 19, 1861, Georgia became the fifth state to secede. Georgia then dispatched Henry Benning to Virginia to encourage its secession. At the Virginia convention, Benning explained to the delegates:
What was the reason that induced George to take the step of secession? That reason may be summed up in one single proposition: it was a conviction – a deep conviction on the part of Georgia – that a separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of her slavery. This conviction was the main cause. 18
On January 26, 1861, Louisiana became the sixth state to secede. Days later, Texas was scheduled to hold its secession convention, and Louisiana sent Commissioner George Williamson to urge Texas to secede. Williamson told the Texas delegates:
Louisiana looks to the formation of a Southern Confederacy to preserve the blessings of African slavery. . . . Louisiana and Texas have the same language, laws, and institutions. . . . and they are both so deeply interested in African slavery that it may be said to be absolutely necessary to their existence and is the keystone to the arch of their prosperity. . . . The people of Louisiana would consider it a most fatal blow to African slavery if Texas either did not secede or, having seceded, should not join her destinies to theirs in a Southern Confederacy. . . . As a separate republic, Louisiana remembers too well the whisperings of European diplomacy for the abolition of slavery in the times of annexation [Great Britain abolished slavery in 1833 by 1843, southern statesmen were alleging – without evidence – that Great Britain was involved in a plot to abolish slavery in America. Southern voices therefore called for the immediate annexation of pro-slavery Texas into the United States in order to increase pro-slavery territory, but anti-slavery leaders in Congress – including John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster – opposed that annexation. Their opposition was initially successful and in his diary entry for June 10 & 17, 1844, John Quincy Adams enthused: “The vote in the United States Senate on the question of [admitting Texas] was, yeas, 16 nays, 35. I record this vote as a deliverance, I trust, by the special interposition of Almighty God. . . . The first shock of slave democracy is over. Moloch [a pagan god requiring human sacrifices] and Mammon [the god of riches] have sunk into momentary slumber. The Texas treason is blasted for the hour.” That victory, however, was only temporary in 1845, Texas was eventually admitted as a slaveholding state.] not to be apprehensive of bolder demonstrations from the same quarter and the North in this country. The people of the slaveholding states are bound together by the same necessity and determination to preserve African slavery. The isolation of any one of them from the others would make her a theatre for abolition emissaries from the North and from Europe. Her existence would be one of constant peril to herself and of imminent danger to other neighboring slave-holding communities. . . . and taking it as the basis of our new government, we hope to form a slave-holding confederacy . . . 19
Williamson’s encouragement to the Texans turned out to be unnecessary, for on February 1, 1861, even before he arrived from Louisiana, Texas had already become the seventh state to secede. In its secession document, Texas announced:
[Texas] was received as a commonwealth, holding, maintaining, and protecting the institution known as Negro slavery – the servitude of the African to the white race within [Texas] – a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slaveholding states of the Confederacy. . . . In all the non-slave-holding states . . . the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party [i.e., the Republican Party] . . . based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these southern states and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men irrespective of race or color – a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of divine law. They demand the abolition of Negro slavery throughout the Confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and Negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us so long as a Negro slave remains in these states. . . . By the secession of six of the slave-holding states, and the certainty that others will speedily do likewise, Texas has no alternative but to remain in an isolated connection with the North or unite her destinies with the South. 20
On April 17, 1861, Virginia became the eighth state to secede. It, too, acknowledged that the “oppression of the southern slave-holding states” (among which it numbered itself) had motivated its decision. 21
On May 8, 1861, Arkansas became the ninth state to join the Confederacy. Albert Pike (a prominent Arkansas newspaper owner and author of numerous legal works who became a Confederate general) explained why secession was unavoidable:
No concessions would now satisfy (and none ought now to satisfy) the South but such as would amount to a surrender of the distinctive principles by which the Republican Party coheres [exists], because none other or less would give the South peace and security. That Party would have to agree that in the view of the Constitution, slaves are property – that slavery might exist and should be legalized and protected in territory hereafter to be acquired to the southwest [e.g., New Mexico, Arizona, etc.], and that Negroes and mulattoes cannot be citizens of the United States nor vote at general elections in the states. . . . For that Party to make these concessions would simply be to commit suicide and therefore it is idle to expect from the North – so long as it [the Republican Party] rules there – a single concession of any value. 22
As Pike knew, the federal government under the Republicans was unwilling to abandon its anti-slavery positions therefore the only recourse for the guarantee of continued slavery in Arkansas was secession – which Arkansas did.
Eventually, North Carolina and Tennessee became the tenth and eleventh states to secede, thus finishing the formation of the new nation that titled itself the Slave-Holding Confederate States of America. Southern secession documents indisputably affirm that the South’s desire to preserve slavery was the driving force in its secession and thus a primary cause of the Civil War.
2. The Declarations of Congressmen who left Congress to Join the Confederacy
Beginning on January 21, 1861, southern Democrats serving in Congress began resigning en masse to join the Confederacy. During this time, many stood in their respective federal legislative chambers and delivered their farewell statements unequivocally affirming what the secession documents clearly declared.
For example, Democrat U. S. Senator Alfred Iverson of Georgia bluntly told his peers:
I may safely say, however, that nothing will satisfy them [the seceded states] or bring them back short of a full and explicit recognition and guarantee of the safety of their institution of domestic slavery. 23
Democrat U. S. Senator Robert Toombs of Georgia (soon to become the Secretary of State for the Confederacy, and then a general in the Confederate Army) declared that the seceded South would return to the Union only if their pro-slavery demands were agreed to:
What do these Rebels demand? First, that the people of the United States shall have an equal right to emigrate and settle in the present or an future acquired territories with whatever property they may possess (including slaves). . . . The second proposition is that property in slaves shall be entitled to the same protection from the government of the United States, in all of its departments, everywhere, which the Constitution confers the power upon it to extend to any other property. . . . We demand in the next place . . . that a fugitive slave shall be surrendered under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 without being entitled either to a writ of habeas corpus or trial by jury or other similar obstructions of legislation. . . . Slaves – black “people,” you say – are entitled to trial by jury. . . . You seek to outlaw $4,000,000,000 of property [slaves] of our people in the territories of the United States. Is not that a cause of war? . . . My distinguished friend from Mississippi [Mr. Jefferson Davis], another moderate gentleman like myself, proposed simply to get a recognition that we had the right to our own – that man could have property in man – and it met with the unanimous refusal even of the most moderate, Union-saving, compromising portion of the Republican party. . . . Mr. Lincoln thus accepts every cardinal principle of the Abolitionists yet he ignorantly puts his authority for abolition upon the Declaration of Independence, which was never made any part of the public law of the United States. . . . Very well you not only want to break down our constitutional rights – you not only want to upturn our social system – your people not only steal our slaves and make them freemen to vote against us – but you seek to bring an inferior race into a condition of equality, socially and politically, with our own people. 24 (emphasis added)
Democrat U. S. Senator Clement Clay of Alabama (soon to become a foreign diplomat for the Confederacy) also expounded the same points:
Not a decade, nor scarce a lustrum [five year period], has elapsed since [America’s] birth that has not been strongly marked by proofs of the growth and power of that anti-slavery spirit of the northern people which seeks the overthrow of that domestic institution [slavery] of the South, which is not only the chief source of her prosperity but the very basis of her social order and state polity. . . . No sentiment is more insulting or more hostile to our domestic tranquility, to our social order, and our social existence, than is contained in the declaration that our Negroes are entitled to liberty and equality with the white man. . . . To crown the climax of insult to our feelings and menace of our rights, this party nominated to the presidency a man who not only endorses the platform but promises in his zealous support of its principles to disregard the judgment of your courts [i.e., Lincoln had indicated that he would ignore the Supreme Court’s egregious Dred Scott decision], the obligations of your Constitution, and the requirements of his official oath, by approving any bill prohibiting slavery in the territories of the United States. 25
Democrat U. S. Senator John Slidell of Louisiana (soon to be a Confederate diplomat to France and Great Britain), echoed the same grievances:
We all consider the election of Mr. Lincoln, with his well-known antecedents and avowed [anti-slavery] principles and purposes . . . as conclusive evidence of the determined hostility of the Northern masses to our institutions. We believe that he conscientiously entertains the opinions which he has so often and so explicitly declared, and that having been elected on the [anti-slavery] issues thus presented, he will honestly endeavor to carry them into execution. While now [as a result of secession] we have no fears of servile insurrection [i.e. a slave revolt], even of a partial character, we know that his inauguration as President of the United States, with our assent, would have been considered by many of our slaves as the day of their emancipation. 26
Democrat U. S. House Representative William Yancey (who became a Confederate diplomat to Europe and then a Confederate Senator) similarly complained:
[The North is] united in pronouncing slavery a political and social evil. . . . There exists but one party that, either in spirit or sentiment, manifests any disposition to stand by the South and the Constitution, and that is the Democratic Party. . . . The institution of slavery. . . . exists for the benefit of the South and is its chief source of wealth and power and now in the hour of its peril – assailed by the great Northern antagonistic force [the Republicans and abolitionists] – it must look to the South alone for protection. . . . The question then, naturally arises, what protection have we against the arbitrary course of the Northern majority? . . . The answer is . . . withdraw from it [i.e., secede]! 27
Perhaps the no-holds-barred pro-slavery position of Democrats and southern states was best summarized by Democrat U. S. Senator Judah P. Benjamin of Louisiana (who became the first Attorney General of the Confederacy, then its Secretary of War, and finally its Secretary of State), who declared:
I never have admitted any power in Congress to prohibit slavery in the territories anywhere, upon any occasion, or at any time. 28 (emphasis added)
Once the South seceded and organized its Confederate government, it immediately sought official diplomatic recognition from Great Britain and France, wrongly believing that by halting the export of Southern cotton into those nations they could strong-arm them into an official recognition of the Confederacy. But Great Britain and Europe already held large stores of cotton in reserve and also had access to textile imports from other nations, so the poorly conceived Confederate plan was unsuccessful.
France had been willing to extend official recognition to the Confederacy but would not do so unless Great Britain did the same. But Charles Francis Adams (U. S. Minister to England, and the son of John Quincy Adams and grandson of John Adams) rallied anti-slavery forces in Europe and England to successfully lobby Great Britain not to extend official recognition to the Confederacy. Those early diplomatic successes by the Union were bolstered by President Lincoln’s 1862 announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the American states in rebellion – an act very popular among working-class Britons. By October 1863, the Confederacy, not having received the official support it so badly needed, expelled British representatives from southern states.
Although Great Britain never extended official recognition, she did indirectly assist the South in many ways, including supplying the Confederacy with naval cruisers that pillaged Union merchant shipping and also providing weapons to southern troops, including the Whitworth rifle (considered one of the most accurate rifles in the Civil War). A number of Britons even crossed the ocean to serve in the Confederate Army and in some British ranks, the sympathy for the Confederacy was so strong that after popular Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was accidentally shot down by his own troops, the mourning was just as visible in parts of England as it had been throughout the Confederacy. Some in the British press even likened the death of Jackson to that of their own national hero, Lord Nelson and a British monument to General Jackson was even commissioned, paid for, and transported to Richmond, Virginia by Confederate sympathizers in Great Britain.
Christian leaders in France – seeing Britain’s unofficial support for the slave-holding Confederacy – dispatched a fiery letter to British clergy, strongly urging them to oppose every British effort to help the Confederacy. As the French clergy explained:
No more revolting spectacle has ever been before the civilized world than a Confederacy – consisting mainly of Protestants – forming itself and demanding independence, in the nineteenth century of the Christian era, with a professed design of maintaining and propagating slavery. The triumph of such a cause would put back the progress of Christian civilization and of humanity a whole century. 29
Foreign observers clearly saw what southern Democrat U. S. Representatives and Senators in Congress had already announced: the Civil War was the result of the South’s desire to perpetuate slavery.
3. The Confederate Constitution
On February 9, 1861 (following the secession of the seventh state), the seceded states organized their new Confederate government, electing Jefferson Davis (a resigned Democrat U. S. Senator from Mississippi) as their national president and Alexander Stephens (a resigned Democrat U. S. Representative from Georgia) as their national vice-president. On March 11 (only a week after the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as President [Confederate apologists not only claim that slavery was not the central issue to the Confederacy but they also frequently portray Abraham Lincoln as a dictator, tyrant, atheist, homosexual, incompetent, drunk, etc. To “prove” this view, they rely heavily on The Real Lincoln by Thomas Dilorenzo (2002), The Real Lincoln by Charles Minor (1901), and Herndon’s Lincoln by William H. Herndon (1888). These three books (and a few others) portray Lincoln in a negative light, but literally hundreds of other scholarly biographies written about Lincoln – including by Pulitzer Prize-winning historians such as Carl Sandburg, Ida Tarbell, Garry Wills, Merrill Peterson, Don Fehrenbacher, and others – reached an opposite conclusion.
A similar corollary would be to study the life of Jesus only by reading The DaVinci Code or The Last Temptation of Christ, or to study the life of George Washington only by using W. E. Woodward’s George Washington: The Image and the Man. In both cases, those writings present a view of that person but hundreds of other writings present an opposite and more accurate view so, too, with Lincoln. The view of Lincoln presented by Confederate apologists is indeed a view, but it is contradicted by scores of other writers who, after examining all the historical evidence, reached an opposite conclusion.]), a constitution was adopted for the new confederacy of slave-holding states – a constitution that explicitly protected slavery in numerous clauses:
ARTICLE I, Section 9, (4) No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in Negro slaves shall be passed.
ARTICLE IV, Section 2, (1) The citizens of each state . . . shall have the right of transit and sojourn in any state of this Confederacy with their slaves and other property and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired.
ARTICLE IV, Section 2, (3) [A] slave or other person held to service or labor in any state or territory of the Confederate States under the laws thereof, escaping or lawfully carried into another, shall . . . be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs.
ARTICLE IV, Section 3, (3) The Confederate States may acquire new territory. . . . In all such territory, the institution of Negro slavery as it now exists in the Confederate States shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States. 30
Ironically, southern apologists claim that the Confederacy was formed to preserve “states’ rights,” yet the Confederacy expressly prohibited any state from exercising its own “state’s right” to end slavery. Clearly, the Confederacy’s real issue was the preservation of slavery at all costs – even to the point that it constitutionally forbade the abolition of slavery by any of its member states.
4. Declaration of Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens
On March 21, 1861 (less than two weeks after the Confederacy had formed its constitution), Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens delivered a policy speech setting forth the purpose of the new government. That speech was entitled “African Slavery: The Corner-Stone of the Southern Confederacy.” In it, Stephens first acknowledged that the Founding Fathers – even those from the South – had never intended for slavery to remain in America:
The prevailing ideas entertained by him [Thomas Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature – that it was wrong in principle – socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent [temporary] and pass away. 31
What did Vice-President Stephens and the new Confederate nation think about these anti-slavery ideas of the Founding Fathers?
Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. . . . and the idea of a government built upon it. . . . Our new government [the Confederate States of America] is founded upon exactly the opposite idea its foundations are laid – its cornerstone rests – upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man. That slavery – subordination to the superior [white] race – is his natural and moral condition. This – our new [Confederate] government – is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. 32 (emphasis added)
Notice that by the title (as well as the content) of his speech, Confederate Vice-President Stephens affirmed that slavery was the central issue distinguishing the Confederacy.
Were Economic Policies a Major Factor in Secession?
Many southern apologists assert that the primary cause of the Civil War was unjust economic policies imposed on the South by northerners in Congress, 33 but secession records refute that claim. In fact, of the eleven secession documents, only five mention economic issues – and each was in direct conjunction with slavery. For example:
Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery – the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. 34 MISSISSIPPI
Texas [and] Louisiana . . . have large areas of fertile, uncultivated lands peculiarly adapted to slave labor and they are both so deeply interested in African slavery that it may be said to be absolutely necessary to their existence and is the keystone to the arch of their prosperity. 35 LOUISIANA
They [the northern abolitionists in Congress] have impoverished the slave-holding states by unequal and partial legislation [attempting to abolish slavery], thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance. 36 TEXAS
We had shed our blood and paid our money for its [slavery’s] acquisition. . . . [But b]y their [the North’s] declared principles and policy they have outlawed $3,000,000,000 of our property [i.e., slaves] in the common territories of the Union. . . . To avoid these evils, we . . . will seek new safeguards for our liberty, equality, security, and tranquility [by forming the Confederacy]. 37 GEORGIA
We prefer, however, our system of industry . . . by which starvation is unknown and abundance crowns the land – by which order is preserved by an unpaid police and many fertile regions of the world where the white man cannot labor are brought into usefulness by the labor of the African, and the whole world is blessed by our productions. 38 SOUTH CAROLINA
Clearly, even the economic reasons set forth by the South as causes for secession were directly related to slavery. Therefore, to claim that economic policies and not slavery was the cause of the Civil War is to make a distinction where there is no difference.
Numerous categories of official Confederate documents affirm that slavery was indeed the primary issue that drove the secession movement and was central to the rebellion it is therefore blatant and unmitigated revisionism to assert – as do Confederate apologists – that “one of the most important” of the “truths of history” is “that the War Between the States [Many southerners ardently insist on describing the conflict as “The War Between the States” and strenuously object to use of the descriptor “Civil War” (see, for example, “Let’s Say ‘War Between The States’ “ (at: https://www.civilwarpoetry.org/FAQ/wbts.html) ). However, cursory examinations of dozens of Confederate documents, as well as histories of the war written by Confederates immediately following the conflict, demonstrate that the descriptor they themselves most frequently used was “Civil War.” (Other descriptors used much less often by southern authors include “War Between the States,” “War of Southern Secession,” and “War for Southern Independence.”) Therefore, the assertion that the term “Civil War” is an inaccurate or biased title for the conflict is refuted by an examination of Confederate soldiers and historians who lived at the time of that conflict.] was not a rebellion [While the question of whether the conflict constituted a “rebellion” was not addressed by this work, a simple query raises a significant implication: If the “war between the states” was not a “rebellion” (as modern southern apologists assert), then why did southern leaders during the Civil War describe themselves and other southern participants as “Rebels” – a derivate of the word “rebellion”? The simple descriptor “Rebels” used by the Confederates themselves certainly suggests that they certainly viewed the Civil War as a “Rebellion.”] nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery.” 39
1.The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, © 2004, by Houghton Mifflin Company.
2. “Derby, Kansas Middle School Suspension Denounced by Sons of Confederate Veterans,” Sons of Confederate Veterans (at: https://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/TNMAURY/1998-05/0895312266) which declares “[T]he War Between the States was fought over issues such as the rights of individual states to set their own tariffs, establish their own governments, and receive full profit from their agricultural production. . . . the question of slavery was brought into the war by Lincoln in late 1862 as an emotional one to bolster the sagging Northern war effort . . .” and “Children of the Confederacy: Creed,” United Daughters of the Confederacy (at: https://www.hqudc.org/CofC/index.html) which declares “We, therefore pledge ourselves . . . to study and teach the truths of history (one of the most important of which is, that the War Between the States was not a rebellion, nor was its underlying cause to sustain slavery)” etc.
3.Edward McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America During the Great Rebellion (Washington: Philip & Solomons, 1865), pp.15-16, “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union,” December 24, 1860.
4.Convention of South Carolina, “Address of South Carolina to Slaveholding States,” Teaching American History, December 25, 1860 (at: https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?document=433).
5. “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union, January 9, 1861,” The Civil War Home Page (at: https://www.civil-war.net/pages/mississippi_declaration.asp).
6. Addresses Delivered Before the Virginia State Convention, February 1861 (Richmond: Wyatt M. Elliott, 1861), “Address of Hon. Fulton Anderson, of Mississippi,” p. 7.
7. Orville Victor, The History, Civil, Political and Military, of the Southern Rebellion (New York: James D. Torrey, 1861), Vol. 1, p. 194, Florida, “Preliminary Resolution Prior to Secession,” January 7, 1861.
8. Orville Victor, The History, Civil, Political, and Military, of the Southern Rebellion (New York: James D. Torrey, 1861) Vol. 1, p. 195, “An Ordinance to dissolve the union between the State of Alabama and the other States united under the compact styled ‘The Constitution of the United States of America,’” January 11, 1861.
9. “A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Georgia to Secede from the Federal Union, January 29, 1861,” The Civil War Home Page (at: https://www.civil-war.net/pages/georgia_declaration.asp).
10. Dred Scott v. Sanford, 60 U. S. 393, at 449-52 (1856). The Dred Scott decision is arguably the first example of judicial activism by the Supreme Court: it struck down the congressional law of 1820 prohibiting the extension of slavery into certain federal territories.
11. Thomas Hudson McKee, The National Conventions and Platforms of All Political Parties, 1789-1905 (New York: Burt Franklin, 1906 original reprint 1971), p. 98, Republican Platform of 1856.
12. See, for example, the Democrat Platform following the Dred Scott decision not only was there no condemnation of decision, but the platform instead declared: “The Democrat Party will abide by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States upon these questions of constitutional law.” McKee, Platforms, p. 108.
13. See, for example, the Democrat Platform of 1856 declaring: “That Congress has no power under the Constitution, to interfere with or control the domestic institutions of the several States. . . . [And] the Democratic party will resist all attempts at renewing, in Congress or out of it, the agitation of the slavery question under whatever shape or color the attempt may be made. . . . [T]he only sound and safe solution of the ‘slavery question.’ . . . [is] non-interference by Congress with slavery in state and territory, or in the District of Columbia.” McKee, Platforms, pp. 91-92.
14. See, for example, the Democrat Platform of 1856 declaring: “All efforts of the abolitionists, or others, made to induce Congress to interfere with questions of slavery, or to take incipient steps in relation thereto, are calculated to lead to the most alarming and dangerous consequences and that all such efforts have an inevitable tendency to diminish the happiness of the people and endanger the stability and permanency of the Union.” McKee, Platforms, p. 91.
15. “Civil War Era: Mayor Wood’s Recommendation of the Secession of New York City,” TeachingAmericanHistory.org, January 6, 1861 (at: https://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/index.asp?documentprint=435).
16. The Union! It’s Dangers! And How they can be Averted. Letters from Samuel J. Tilden to Hon. William Kent (New York: 1860), pp. 14-15.
17. William P. Rogers, The Three Secession Movements in the United States (Boston: John Wilson and Son, 1876), pp. 16-17, quoting an editorial in the New York World, September 1, 1864, “The Democratic Platform.”
18. Addresses Delivered Before the Virginia State Convention, February 1861 (Richmond: Wyatt M. Elliott, 1861), “Address of Hon. Henry L. Benning, of Georgia,” p. 21.
19. Journal of the Secession Convention of Texas, E. W. Winkler, editor (Austin Printing Company, 1912), pp. 122-123, address of George Williamson, Commissioner from Louisiana, February 11, 1861. See also “Address of George Williamson to the Texas Secessiono Convention,” American Civil War.com (at: https://americancivilwar.com/documents/williamson_address.html).
20. “A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union, February 2, 1861,” The Civil War Home Page (at: https://www.civil-war.net/pages/texas_declaration.asp).
21. “An Ordinance to repeal the ratification of the Constitution of the United State of America by the State of Virginia, April 17, 1861,” The Civil War Home Page (at: https://www.civil-war.net/pages/ordinances_secession.asp).
22. Southern Pamphlets on Secession, November 1860 – April 1861, Jon Wakelyn, editor (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), pp. 334, 338, “State or Province? Bond or Free?” by Albert Pike, March 4, 1861.
23. Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: Congressional Globe Office, 1861), p. 589, January 28, 1861. See also Thomas Ricaud Martin, The Great Parliamentary Battle and the Farewell Addresses of Southern Senators on the Eve of the Civil War (New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Co., 1905), p. 214, farewell speech of Alfred Iverson, January 28, 1861.
24. Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: Congressional Globe Office, 1861), pp. 268-270, January 7, 1861. See also Thomas Ricaud Martin, The Great Parliamentary Battle and the Farewell Addresses of Southern Senators on the Eve of the Civil War (New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 148-152, 167, 169, 170-171, 172, farewell speech of Robert Toombs, January 7, 1861.
25. Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: Congressional Globe Office, 1861), p. 486, January 21, 1861. See also Thomas Ricaud Martin, The Great Parliamentary Battle and the Farewell Addresses of Southern Senators on the Eve of the Civil War (New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 202, 204, farewell speech of Clement Clay, January 21, 1861.
26. Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: Congressional Globe Office, 1861), p. 721, February 4, 1861. See also Thomas Ricaud Martin, The Great Parliamentary Battle and the Farewell Addresses of Southern Senators on the Eve of the Civil War (New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 222-223, farewell speech of John Slidell, February 4, 1861.
27. The Secession Crisis, 1860-1861, edited by P. J. Staudenraus (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1963), pp. 16-18, speech of William Yancey, delivered at Columbus, Georgia, in 1855.
28. Congressional Globe, 36th Congress, 2nd Session (Washington: Congressional Globe Office, 1861), p. 238, January 3, 1861. See also Thomas Ricaud Martin, The Great Parliamentary Battle and the Farewell Addresses of Southern Senators on the Eve of the Civil War (New York and Washington: Neale Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 222-223, speech of Judah P. Benjamin, January 3, 1861.
29. William J. Jackman, History of the American Nation (Chicago: K Gaynor, 1911), Vol. 4, p. 1124.
30. “Constitution of the Confederate States March 11, 1861,” Avalon Project (at: https://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_csa.asp). See also Edward McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America During the Great Rebellion (Washington: Philip & Solomons, 1865), pp. 98-99.
31. Echoes From The South (New York: E. B. Treat & Co., 1866), p. 85. See also The Pulpit and Rostrum: Sermons, Orations, Popular Lectures, &c. (New York: E. D. Barker, 1862), pp. 69-70, “African Slavery, the Cornerstone of the Southern Confederacy,” by Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy.
32. Echoes From The South, pp. 85-86. See also The Pulpit and Rostrum, pp. 69-70, “African Slavery, the Cornerstone of the Southern Confederacy,” by Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy.
33. Mike Scruggs, “Understanding the Causes of the Uncivil War,” Georgia Heritage Council, June 4, 2005 (at: https://georgiaheritagecouncil.org/site2/commentary/scruggs-causes-uncivil-war030607.phtml). See also Charles Oliver, “Southern Nationalism – United States Civil War,” Reason, August, 2001 (at: https://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1568/is_4_33/ai_77010131/pg_1?tag=artBodycol1), where he is talking about Charles Adams viewing “the Civil War as a fight about taxes, specifically tariffs.”
34. “A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union,” The Civil War Home Page, January 9, 1861 (at: https://www.civil-war.net/pages/mississippi_declaration.asp).
36. “A Declaration of the Causes which Impel the State of Texas to Secede from the Federal Union, February 2, 1861,” The Civil War Home Page (at: https://www.civil-war.net/pages/texas_declaration.asp).
37. “Georgia Declaration of Secession,” The Civil War Home Page, January 29, 1861 (at: https://www.civil-war.net/pages/georgia_declaration.asp).
38. Edward McPherson, The Political History of the United States of America During the Great Rebellion (Washington: Philip & Solomons, 1865), p. 15, “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union,” December 24, 1860.
American Civil War: Population of the South in 1860 - History
The Civil War represented a watershed moment in the history of American taxation. The quick, limited engagement both sides confidently predicted soon proved a chimera. Instead, the exigencies of protracted, destructive warfare engulfing private property and civilian populations as well as commissioned combatants demanded innovations in government financing. While the outcome of the conflict may be attributed to any number of contingent factors, the varying fiscal strategies undertaken by the Union and Confederate governments undoubtedly influenced the capacity of both societies to sustain the war effort. North and South employed markedly different approaches. The North's proved more efficacious in the long run.
The antebellum south enjoyed one of the lightest tax burdens of all contemporary civilized societies. Local or state governments assessed all obligations. By contrast, the hastily assembled Confederate government lacked the bureaucratic infrastructure to levy or collect internal taxes. Its citizens possessed neither a tradition of compliance nor a means to remit payment. Land and slaves comprised the bulk of southern capital liquid forms of wealth like specie or paper currency were hard to come by in a predominantly agrarian region.
Efforts to raise war revenue through various methods of taxation proved ineffective. The Confederate Congress enacted a minor tariff in 1861, but it contributed only $3.5 million in four years. That same year, Congress implemented a small direct tax (0.5 percent) on real and personal property. But the government in Richmond was forced to rely on the individual states to collect the levy. Reprising the scenario played out during the Revolutionary War, most states did not collect the tax at all, preferring to meet their quota by borrowing money or printing state notes to cover it.
The Davis administration turned to loans to finance the initial bulk of war debts. Riding a wave of patriotic enthusiasm in 1861, the Treasury earned $15 million selling out their first bond issue. The second issue, however, consisting of $100 million in 8 percent yield bonds, sold slowly. Few southerners had the cash to purchase them, but in addition the year-end 12 percent inflation rate threatened to negate any promise of real financial return. It fell to investors to buy up the remainder of the 8 percent bonds, which they purchased with newly minted Confederate Treasury notes.
By necessity rather than choice, the South turned to the printing press to pay most of its bills. In its first year, the Confederate government derived 75 percent of its total revenue from Treasury notes, less than 25 percent from bonds (purchased, of course, with the notes), and under 2 percent from taxes. While the proportion of the latter two would increase slightly in later years, the foundation of Confederate war financing consisted of over $1.5 billion in paper dollars that began depreciating before the ink had a chance to dry. By refusing to establish the notes as compulsory legal tender, Treasury officials hoped to avoid undermining confidence in the currency. They preferred that the currency be backed by public confidence in the Confederacy’s survival (notes were to be redeemable in specie at face value within two years of the end of the war).
This being the case, various state, county, and city notes also circulated widely, diluting the medium further the fact that these poorly printed bills were easily counterfeited did not help matters. Ironically, the Confederate decision to turn to paper money in lieu of a system of internal taxation abetted the most odious, regressive form of de facto taxation southern society endured: runaway inflation, appearing in the wake of military reversals in 1862, and topping 9,000 percent by war’s end.
By the spring of 1863, the crushing burden of inflation motivated Richmond to come up with an alternative to fiat money. In April, they followed the Union’s lead and enacted comprehensive legislation that included a progressive income tax, an 8 percent levy on certain goods held for sale, excise, and license duties, and a 10 percent profits tax on wholesalers. These provisions also included a 10 percent tax-in-kind on agricultural products. The latter burdened yeoman more than the progressive income tax encumbered urban salaried workers, since laborers could remit depreciated currency to meet their obligations. Adding to the inequity, the law exempted some of the most lucrative property owned by wealthy planters their slaves from assessment. Lawmakers considered a tax on slaves to be a direct tax, constitutionally permissible only after an apportionment on the basis of population. Since the war precluded any opportunity to count heads, they concluded that no direct tax was possible. Accumulating war debts and heightened condemnation of a "rich man’s war, poor man’s fight" led to revision of the tax law in February 1864, which suspended the requirement for a census-based apportionment of direct taxes and imposed a 5 percent levy on land and slaves. These changes came too late, however, to have any sustained impact on the Confederate war effort.
In addition to its developed industrial base, the North entered the war with several apparent institutional advantages, including an established Treasury and tariff structure. With the exodus of southern representatives, the Republican-dominated Congress ratcheted up tariff rates throughout the war, beginning in 1862 with the Morill Tariff Act, which reversed the downward trend instituted by the Democrats between 1846 and 1857. Subsequent tariff legislation, especially the 1864 act, raised rates further. Protective tariffs were politically popular among manufacturers, northern laborers, and even some commercial farmers. But Customs duties amounted to about $75 million annually, only nominally more, after adjusting for inflation, than the value of duties collected during the 1850s. Still, the high rate structure established in the Civil War would remain a hallmark of the post-war political economy of the Republican party.
Ideological reservations tempered some of the Treasury’s supposed institutional advantages. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon Chase, like many northern policymakers, generally distrusted any form of exchange other than specie. They preferred to pay government debts by physically moving gold out of the Treasury instead of transferring funds from demand deposits via check. They also refused to utilize established private banks in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia as repositories for federal funds, further complicating financial transactions. Chase hoped to follow Albert Gallatin’s model of financing the War of 1812, which (initially) emphasized borrowing over taxation. Ultimately, however, mounting debts, a shortage of specie, and the threat of inflation led the Union to adopt innovative plans for both borrowing and internal taxation.
In contrast to the Confederacy, which relied on loans for about 35 percent of its war finances, the Union raised over 65 percent of its revenue this way. Having little personal experience, Chase turned to Philadelphia Banker Jay Cooke to administer the sale of war bonds. Although he expected banks and wealthy citizens to purchase most of them, Cooke employed a sophisticated propaganda campaign to market the bonds to the middling classes as well. Patriotic newspaper advertisements and an army of 2,500 agents persuaded almost one million northerners (about 25 percent of ordinary families) to invest in the war effort bond sales topped $3 billion. In this way, Cooke previewed the techniques with which governments in the 20thcentury would fund modern wars.
In order for the bond program to be successful, the North needed an unrestricted currency supply for citizens to pay for them and a source of income to guarantee the interest. The Legal Tender Act filled the first requirement. Passed in February 1862, the act authorized the issue of $150 million in Treasury notes, known as Greenbacks. In contrast to Confederate paper, however, Congress required citizens, banks, and governments to accept Greenbacks as legal tender for public and private debts, except for interest on federal bonds and customs duties. This policy allowed buyers to purchase bonds with greenbacks while the interest accrued to them was paid in gold (funded, in part, by specie payments of customs duties). Investors enjoyed a bountiful windfall, since government securities purchased with depreciated currency were redeemed with gold valued at the prewar level. Taxpayers essentially made up the difference. Because most bonds were acquired by the wealthy or by financial institutions, the program concentrated investment capital in the hands of those likely to use it, much as Alexander Hamilton’s debt plan had sought to do.
The Union government’s decision to implement a broad system of internal taxation not only insured a valuable source of income, but shielded the northern economy from the sort of ruinous inflation experienced by the South. Despite another $150 million Greenback issue, the overall northern inflation rate reached only 80 percent, comparable with the domestic rates during World Wars I and II. The Internal Revenue Act of 1862, enacted by Congress in July, 1862, soaked up much of the inflationary pressure produced by Greenbacks. It did so because the Act placed excise taxes on just about everything, including sin and luxury items like liquor, tobacco, playing cards, carriages, yachts, billiard tables, and jewelry. It taxed patent medicines and newspaper advertisements. It imposed license taxes on practically every profession or service except the clergy. It instituted stamp taxes, value added taxes on manufactured goods and processed meats, inheritance taxes, taxes on the gross receipts of corporations, banks, and insurance companies, as well as taxes on dividends or interest they paid to investors. To administer these excise taxes, along with the tariff system, the Internal Revenue Act also created a Bureau of Internal Revenue, whose first commissioner, George Boutwell, described it as "the largest Government department ever organized."
The majority of internal taxes and tariffs duties were regressive, consumption-oriented measures that affected lower income Americans more severely than higher-income Americans. In response, Republicans looked to reinforce the system’s fairness by implementing a supplementary system of taxation that more accurately reflected taxpayers’ "ability to pay." The income tax addressed this need.
The first federal income tax in American history actually preceded the Internal Revenue Act of 1862. Passed in August 1861, it had helped assure the financial community that the government would have a reliable source of income to pay the interest on war bonds. Initially, Salmon Chase and Thaddeus Stevens, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, wanted to implement an emergency property tax similar to the one adopted during the War of 1812. This way, the government could adapt the administrative system that state and local governments had developed for their own property taxes. But legislators understood such a property tax as a direct tax. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution required the federal government to apportion the burden among states on the basis of population rather than property values. Emphasizing population over property value would actually render the tax quite regressive. Residents of lower-density western states, border states, and poor northeastern states stood to bear a greater burden than those of highly-populated urban states, despite the latter’s valued real estate. Their representatives also complained that a property tax would not touch substantial "intangible" property like stocks, bonds, mortgages, or cash.
As an alternative, policy makers sought to follow the example of British Liberals, who had turned to income taxation in order to finance the Crimean War without heavy property taxation. Justin Morrill, (R-VT), Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Taxation and the architect of the regressive tariff structure, introduced a proposal for the first federal income tax. Because it did not tax property directly, congressional leaders viewed the income tax as indirect, and thus immune from constitutional strictures.
The first income tax was moderately progressive and ungraduated, imposing a 3 percent tax on annual incomes over $800 that exempted most wage earners. These taxes were not even collected until 1862, making alternative financing schemes like the Legal Tender Act critical in the interim. The Internal Revenue Act of 1862 expanded the progressive nature of the earlier act while adding graduations: It exempted the first $600, imposed a 3 percent rate on incomes between $600 and $10,000, and a 5 percent rate on those over $10,000. The act exempted businesses worth less than $600 from value added and receipts taxes. Taxes were withheld from the salaries of government employees as well as from dividends paid to corporations (the same method of collection later employed during World War II). In addition, the "sin" excise taxes imposed in the 1862 act were designed to fall most heavily on products purchased by the affluent. Thaddeus Stevens lauded the progressivity of the tax system:
"While the rich and the thrifty will be obliged to contribute largely from the abundance of their means . . . no burdens have been imposed on the industrious laborer and mechanic . . . The food of the poor is untaxed and no one will be affected by the provisions of this bill whose living depends solely on his manual labor."
But the war grew increasingly costly (topping $2 million per day in its latter stages) and difficult to finance. The government’s ability to borrow fluctuated with battlefield fortunes. The Confederate navy harassed northern shipping, reducing customs receipts. And inevitable administrative problems reduced the expected receipts from income and excise tax collection.
In response, Congress approved two new laws in 1864 that increased tax rates and expanded the progressivity of income taxation. The first bill passed in June upped inheritance, excise, license, and gross receipts business taxes, along with stamp duties and ad valorem manufacturing taxes. The same act proceeded to assess incomes between $600 and $5,000 at 5 percent, those between $5,000 and $10,000 at 7.5 percent, and established a maximum rate of 10 percent. Despite protest by certain legislators regarding the unfairness of graduated rates, the 1864 act affirmed this method of taxing income according to "ability to pay." An emergency income tax bill passed in July imposed an additional tax of 5 percent on all incomes in excess of $600, on top of the rates set by previous income tax bills. Congress had discovered that the income tax, in addition to its rhetorical value, also provided a flexible and lucrative source of revenue. Receipts increased from over $20 million in 1864 (when collections were made under the 1862 income tax) to almost $61 million in 1865 (when collections were made under the 1864 act and emergency supplement).
The affluent upper middle classes of the nation’s commercial and industrial centers complied widely with the income tax. 10 percent of all Union households had paid some form of income tax by war’s end residents of the northeast comprised 15 percent of that total. In fact, the northeast, a sector of American society that owned 70 percent of the nation’s wealth in 1860, provided the most critical tax base, remitting 75 percent of the revenues. In total, the North raised 21 percent of its war revenue through taxation, as opposed to the South, which raised just 5 percent this way.
33b. Strengths and Weaknesses: North vs. South
As early as September 1861, the CSA began issuing national currency, promising to pay the bearer the face amount &mdash six months after the ratification of a peace treaty.
Within days of the fall of Fort Sumter, four more states joined the Confederacy: Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The battle lines were now drawn.
On paper, the Union outweighed the Confederacy in almost every way. Nearly 21 million people lived in 23 Northern states. The South claimed just 9 million people &mdash including 3.5 million slaves &mdash in 11 confederate states . Despite the North's greater population, however, the South had an army almost equal in size during the first year of the war.
The North had an enormous industrial advantage as well. At the beginning of the war, the Confederacy had only one-ninth the industrial capacity of the Union. But that statistic was misleading. In 1860, the North manufactured 97 percent of the country's firearms, 96 percent of its railroad locomotives, 94 percent of its cloth, 93 percent of its pig iron, and over 90 percent of its boots and shoes. The North had twice the density of railroads per square mile. There was not even one rifleworks in the entire South.
The South was at a severe disadvantage when it came to manufacturing, but the Confederacy managed to keep its guns firing by creating ammunition from melted-down bells from churches and town squares.
All of the principal ingredients of gunpowder were imported. Since the North controlled the navy, the seas were in the hands of the Union. A blockade could suffocate the South. Still, the Confederacy was not without resources and willpower.
The South could produce all the food it needed, though transporting it to soldiers and civilians was a major problem. The South also had a great nucleus of trained officers . Seven of the eight military colleges in the country were in the South.
The South also proved to be very resourceful. By the end of the war, it had established armories and foundries in several states. They built huge gunpowder mills and melted down thousands of church and plantation bells for bronze to build cannon.
The South's greatest strength lay in the fact that it was fighting on the defensive in its own territory. Familiar with the landscape, Southerners could harass Northern invaders.
The military and political objectives of the Union were much more difficult to accomplish. The Union had to invade, conquer, and occupy the South. It had to destroy the South's capacity and will to resist &mdash a formidable challenge in any war.
"We had the poorest commissary arrangements, and all I could get for my men was salt and hard crackers. I made the convalescents shoot squirrels, ground hogs, pheasants, and turkeys with which to make soup for the men." -from the memoirs of Archibald Atkinson Jr., a Confederate surgeon
Southerners enjoyed the initial advantage of morale: The South was fighting to maintain its way of life, whereas the North was fighting to maintain a union. Slavery did not become a moral cause of the Union effort until Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.
When the war began, many key questions were still unanswered. What if the slave states of Maryland, Kentucky, Missouri, and Delaware had joined the Confederacy? What if Britain or France had come to the aid of the South? What if a few decisive early Confederate victories had turned Northern public opinion against the war?
Indeed, the North looked much better on paper. But many factors undetermined at the outbreak of war could have tilted the balance sheet toward a different outcome.