Lincoln, Davis in Inaugural Shuffle
Published on: March 5, 2011
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  • Luke Lea

    “. . .the most anti-slavery president in the history of the United States made the most far-reaching concessions to the slave states that any president has ever offered. . . It will not be enough.”

    And I think Lincoln knew it would not be enough. Just as (I suspect) he knew deep down that his carefully calibrated “House Divided” would provoke the South. Lincoln felt half-guilty about his motives in starting the war (“rank is my offense”) because he knew that he had been born with one of those natures to which he alluded in his temperance speech. I do not say this in criticism. It was a simple matter of fact. And unlike Napoleon he put that fact to constructive use.

  • Gerard Michael Burns

    More than the damage done to the soil by cotton, the slaveholders needed to ‘expand’ slavery or watch it vanish because new states being admitted as ‘free states’ were almost certain to overwhelm the slaveholders’ minions where it counted, in the U.S. Senate. This was foretold in print as early as the 1830s. Dr Mead should consult the archives of the abolitionist standard-bearer, Vanity Fair, for confirmation of what I say.
    The much faster-growing population of the North had already led the US House of Representatives to have a reliable majority favoring laws that would reduce and eventually eliminate slavery, but as we know, the Senate has equal representation for each state, even those that consider many of their inhabitants to be “three-fifths” of a person.
    Southern slaveholders made tons of money, and used that money, and violence when necessary, to control the press where they lived. That is why non-slaveholding southerners believed they were ‘fighting for their rights’ in the Civil War.
    But slavery is not a good economic institution for any but the individuals at the very top of it, and so migration from Europe was overwhelming to the North, where jobs for free men existed, and there was even a constant flow of southern whites to the North and West, to places where a man could labor without his wages being determined by competition with slaves, and where he might find and work decent land that had not been already swallowed up by land-hungry slaveholders with nearly unlimited lines of credit (and who could use the human beings they owned as collateral).

    Demographics were determining that newly admitted states were usually going to be “free states”, and to slaveholders of 1860, that meant that abolition was going to achieve control of the Senate within a decade or two unless admission of new states could be carefully controlled by a pro-slavery US president and a slave-supportive Supreme Court. When Lincoln was elected, their game was up, and they took the only course thay could to preserve their evil empire…leaving the Union.

  • Gerard Michael Burns

    A correction to my earlier post. The abolitionist standard-bearer i intended to refer to was Harpers. My apologies for an embarrassing error.

  • Dracovert

    Burns –

    “That is why non-slaveholding southerners believed they were ‘fighting for their rights’ in the Civil War.”

    I question this interpretation and the implication thereof. The North had the votes to create protective tariffs for their nascent industries. These tariffs allowed Northern industries to charge more for their locally produced goods by adding to the cost of imported goods. Either way, the South ended up paying more for what they bought and England, for example, earned less with which to buy Southern cotton. This debate went back at least as far as the formation of our new country. And the effect of the tariffs was to transfer substantial amounts of money from the South to the North for many years.

    The Tariff of Abominations 1828 was the most famous example of several Northern tariff schemes that the South found intolerable. The tariffs were equally applicable for all in the South, and certainly had more effect on Southern slave holders/plantation owners who had more need for manufactured tools.

    Whatever Lincoln’s actual views, in his first Inaugural Address Lincoln was loud and clear that he did not intend to interfere with the practice of slavery, but that the South would certainly be required to pay “the (tariff) duties and imposts” of the national government. This was two weeks after Jefferson Davis had been inaugurated as the CSA president, and just a month before Fort Sumter.

  • Greg Eatoff

    The tariff is a smokescreen. Pro-tariff Millard Filmore won something like 44% of the vote in the slave states in 1856, and pro-tariff John Bell carried 3 slave states in 1860. Before slavery overtook the tariff as the primary political issue dividing the nation, pro-tariff candidates did better in the Deep South than in the Midwest. Nine slave states voted for a pro-tariff presidential candidate at least once in the 1840s. Future Confederate congressman John Tyler signed the last pre-secession tariff increase into law in 1842.

    That’s right, there hadn’t been a tariff increase in almost 20 years. Since then there had been two major reductions, the last in 1857. Future Confederate congressman RMT Hunter drafted the 1857 tariff law, and Jeff Davis voted for it. The Democrats maintained control of the Senate after the 1860-61 elections, so there was no chance of the Republicans pushing through a tax hike unless the south seceded and thus handed both branches of congress to Lincoln’s supporters. It is impossible to take seriously the notion that the South rebelled because the tariff was exactly where they asked to set it and there was no chance the next congress would increase it, but after some future election the federal government MIGHT reverse itself.

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