By Mike Scruggs-
“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”
In February 2012, I published a 12-thousand-word article on the Morrill Tariff in the Confederate Veteran, the magazine of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
A large part of that work dealt with the history, economic impact, and North-South political tensions from 1815 to the final passage of the Morrill Tariff in March 1861 and beyond. In the summer of 2012, I addressed a Stephen D. Lee Institute (SDLI) symposium in Savannah on protective tariffs and other economic issues regarding “Lincoln’s Economic Legacy.”
The SDLI is an educational subsidiary of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. My February 2012 article was later published in the book, To Live and Die in Dixie: The Struggle Continues—by Seventeen Southerners, in 2014.
Yesterday, February 29, I attended an SDLI symposium in Raleigh. Just over 70 people gathered to hear six distinguished academics and authors and discuss the most recent attacks on Southern history and culture. The general topic was Southern culture as it extends broadly to American culture. This time we had to have two police officers at the symposium hotel because of a threat from the usual sort of Marxist/Antifa community organizers. The group called itself “Smash Racism Raleigh.” I never saw any of them, but about 2:00 PM the police were reinforced by ten police cars and three motorcycles. About 50 protesters had been deterred from coming on hotel property but gathered in the street to create a media event. They did so by taunting the Raleigh Police, chanting:
“Black lives matter, Blue lives don’t” and “Cops and Klan go hand in hand.”
The protesters left abruptly, however, and I was witness to a sweet event that followed and probably made the day a wonderful day for the two police officers in the hotel and for me. A pretty young girl of about seven-years approached the officers and told them: “Thank you for your service.” Despite cultural Marxism, Antifa, and the misguided purveyors of totalitarian political correctness, many of the good things of Southern and American culture and traditions still survive.
I was also pleased that several of the speakers mentioned the protective tariff issue in their talks and responses to questions. I was especially pleased to be mentioned in the text and footnotes of Samuel Mitcham’s 2020 book, It Wasn’t about Slavery: Exposing the Great Lie of the Civil War, published by Regnery. Mitcham is a former Army helicopter pilot and author of both Civil War, and World War II topics. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Command and General Staff College, and has a Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee. I could not help but note that so many members of the Sons of Confederate veterans are themselves veterans, many of them with distinguished service and combat records. About 60 percent of current U.S. military personnel come from the South and culturally Southern Border States. I believe two of the academic speakers had been Army helicopter pilots.
Several years ago in an Alabama book store, I attended a short talk by a well known Civil War author, often seen on PBS. He took questions after his talk, and a lady asked him what part the Morrill Tariff had in causing Southern secession. He quickly tried to dismiss the issue as unimportant, but his answer revealed that he knew so little about the Morrill Tariff that he confused it with the 1828 and 1831 Tariffs of Abominations and the 1833 Nullification Crisis, of which. his knowledge was shallow. That is typical of the current generation of academics. Knowledge of the important influence of tariff policy on sectional tensions leading to the War has been suppressed, because it undercuts the politicized narrative that the War was a Northern crusade against slavery. The votaries of this false narrative have created an environment of politically correct oppression that discourages investigation, analysis, publication, and truth.
However, more courageous recent academic research reveals the tremendous potential of protective tariffs to redistribute national income, enriching the powerful and impoverishing the weak. In a 2006 study using mathematical regression analysis, Douglas Irwin analyzed the impact of the 30 percent average tariff during the year 1885. He found that protected industries were not able to increase their profits by the full 30 percent because the higher prices caused by the tariff increase also increased their costs. Their net profit increase through government protection was thereby reduced to about 15 percent, which explains why they kept crying for still higher tariffs. On the other side of the coin, the tariff reduced exporter profits by about 11 percent. The total redistribution of income across commercial interests and regions was a whopping 9 percent of total GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Most consumers, however, were not directly involved in importing or exporting goods, so their economic loss was less visible, and politicians were able to favor special commercial interests with minimal impact at the polls.
The U.S. annual GDP in 2019 was $21.427 trillion. So in today’s terms, that would have transferred $1.928 trillion dollars per year from South to North, and that nearly $2.0 trillion would go from one-third of the population to two-thirds of the population. This is a pretty wicked robbery of the politically weaker third of the country. This kind of economics, called the American System, had caused great tension from 1824 until the Morrill Tariff, which promised even worse.
Two days before Lincoln’s election in November of 1860, the Charleston Mercury editorialized:
“The real causes of dissatisfaction in the South with the North, are in the unjust taxation and expenditure of the taxes by the Government of the United States, and in the revolution the North has effected in this government, from a confederated republic, to a national sectional despotism.”
Protectionism is particularly hard on exporters. Besides their direct effect on the cost of doing business, tariffs negatively impact the exchange rate at which exports can be exchanged for products burdened with increased tariffs. In effect, not only are the exporters’ costs at home increased, but they are also likely to get less for their product on exchange. Furthermore, exporters often face retaliatory tariffs that result in lost business and even lost markets. The Confederate Constitution outlawed protective tariffs, and the Confederate Congress set a free-trade course
The November 1860 election made Southerners realize that population demographics were going to seal Northern political and economic dominance in concrete. They knew that Northern political dominance would mean continuous economic exploitation and misery for the South. The Republican Party was at the time a purely regional party. Lincoln’s main campaign theme was for a high protective tariff that benefited Northern manufacturers. He also promised to enforce it by arms. The North’s only interest in slavery was to keep it out of the North and new territories. Lincoln’s election was enough to tip the balance for the cotton-states to secede. The tariff political wars since 1824 had shown Southerners that Northern Republicans could not be trusted to treat them fairly.
Mitcham’s chapter on the November 1860 Election returns gives some important insights on the political situation in 1860. Lincoln won with only 39.8 percent of the popular vote, but with 180 electoral votes, he had an easy majority of the 304 total. He was not even on the ballot in most Southern States. The Democratic Convention resulted in a party split. The Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas got 29.5 percent of the popular vote but carried only one state, Missouri and three New Jersey electors for a total of 12. The Southern Democrat, John C. Breckenridge from Kentucky, got 18.1 percent of the popular vote and carried 11 states with 72 electoral votes. Senator John Bell of Tennessee, with the new Constitutional Union Party, took 12.6 percent of the vote, carrying three states and 39 electoral votes.
Bell represented the Southern half of the old Whig and Know-Nothing parties that became the Republican Party in the North in 1856. The old Whig Party, of which Lincoln and his hero, Henry Clay were members, folded in 1854.
It was not Southern Democrats but mainly Southern Whigs that had supported slavery. In the South, the Democrats were originally the party of non-slaveholders. Only about 26 percent of Southern households owned slaves, and there were economic tensions over slave labor between Southern Whigs and Southern Democrats. Later, Northern radicalism drove Southern Whigs into the Democrat Party. In Alabama, the tension between “fur hat” and “silk hat” Democrats remained for many years after the War.
The truth about the “Civil War” is far more complex than our politicized educational and media institutions now dare to teach. As President Woodrow Wilson observed, the slavery issue in the Civil War was greatly exaggerated for propaganda purposes. It was necessary to make a war fought to prevent Southern independence look like a noble cause to end slavery. It was also about money, constitutional issues, and liberal religious trends concerning the authority of Scripture that the South feared had taken over many Northern denominations. The money issue was huge, but there has been a full-court press to cover it up.
“When somebody says it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”—H. L. Mencken
A large proportion of America’s academic, media, cultural, and political establishment has been captured by Cultural Marxism. The drive for cultural Marxist dominance is being felt most strongly in the South, but its target is all Americans. Moreover, Cultural Marxism’s most vicious attacks are against our Spiritual Foundations. We must be strong and alert, because our enemies do not sleep.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Author and Columnist, a.k.a. Leonard M. Scruggs
Mike Scruggs is the author of two books: The Un-Civil War: Shattering the Historical Myths; and Lessons from the Vietnam War: Truths the Media Never Told You, and over 600 articles on military history, national security, intelligent design, genealogical genetics, immigration, current political affairs, Islam, and the Middle East.
He holds a BS degree from the University of Georgia and an MBA from Stanford University. A former USAF intelligence officer and Air Commando, he is a decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and holds the Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, and Air Medal. He is a retired First Vice President for a major national financial services firm and former Chairman of the Board of a classical Christian school.
His viewpoint is unapologetically Christian, conservative, and patriotic. He has been a Republican County Chairman in two Southern states and remains an active participant in church, political, and veterans’ affairs.