Monday, March 17, 2014

Willis Hart Taken In By Myth That Civil War Was About Tariffs

In a 3/15/2014 post the blogger Willis Hart speaks about the Civil War and how he believes we shouldn't have fought it. Regarding why President Lincoln decided fight a war to prevent the South from leaving the union, Mr. Hart says "my personal theory is that he just got so addicted to the tariff revenue... with which he was using to solidify his political power and cronyism that the dude literally couldn't stop himself".

Unfortunately for Willis, a 6/5/2013 NYT article titled "The Great Civil War Lie" points out that tariffs being the reason for sucession is a myth. According to the article, the North worried about England supporting Southern independance because of their "reliance on imported Southern cotton [and that] many in Britain thought that the" reason was the Morrill Tariff. These English pro-Southern succession believed the tariff "so incensed the Southern states that they left the union".

But the truth of the matter is that "passage of the tariff was possible because many tariff-averse Southerners had resigned from Congress after their states declared their secession". Furthermore, the article states that "Pro-Southern business interests and journalists fed the myth that the war was over trade, not slavery – the better to win over people who might be appalled at siding with slave owners against the forces of abolition".

And that is a myth that continues to this day. Because Southern history re-writers, still supporting "states rights" (code for laws intended to prevent Black voters from casting ballots), don't wish the truth about their shameful past to be known. And they surely do not want anyone pointing out the fact that discrimination is still very much alive in the South. When the Conservative SCOTUS members recently voted to strike down section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, Southern States immediately submitted legislation designed to disenfranchise Black voters.

No doubt Willis read about how tariffs were the reason for the Civil War on some Rightwing website - and the gullible fool (who is very much opposed to tariffs) ate it up. Further debunking Mr. Hart's assertion is the fact that the Morill tariff "replaced the low Tariff of 1857, which was written to benefit the South". Wikipedia notes that the original tariff was passed in "1842, but in 1846 the Democrats enacted the Walker Tariff, cutting tariff rates substantially. The Democrats cut rates even further in the Tariff of 1857, which was highly favorable to the South".

Also bogus are Mr. Hart's claims that Lincoln was "so addicted to the tariff revenue" and needed the money to support cronyism. The truth is that "the Treasury was in financial crisis, with less than $500,000 on hand and millions in unpaid bills. The Union urgently needed new revenue".

Willis is way wrong about tariffs causing the Civil War, as the tariff would not have been passed if the Southern states had not left the union. This is a chicken & egg argument, with Mr. Hart getting the order of how things played out mixed up. But, as I already noted, the dude is a strong supporter of unrestricted "free trade", so his falling for this BS is not surprising. Given that this old lie feeds into the Southern states desire to conceal the truth about their voting laws designed to restrict the voting rights of minorities, it is quite unfortunate.

OST #5. See also SWTD #241.

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