Sunday, December 05, 2010

Confederate Dissent Over Protective Tariffs and Bounties

I have written several times in the past concerning Article I, Section 8, Subsection (1) of the Confederate Constitution, which, among other things, barred "bounties" and protective tariffs.

Toward the end of his fine book, The Fragile Fabric of Union: Cotton, Federal Politics and the Global Origins of the Civil War, Brian Schoen provides a brief outline of the debate leading to the provision. Surprisingly - since protective tariffs and bounties had long been complaints of the lower south - there appears to have been a fair amount of dissent (the internal quotes are from Robert Barnwell Rhett, A Fire-Eater Remembers: The Confederate Memoir of Robert Barnwell Rhett [ed. William C. Davis]):
Some [delegates] argued for the desirability and even necessity of offering incentives to manufacturing by permitting protective tariffs, also noting that such a policy would help attract Upper South states. When [Robert Barnwell] Rhett, an ardent free trader, proposed a constitutional prohibition on protective tariffs or bounties, to his "astonishment" he "found great opposition to this policy. Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana were opposed to it; South Carolina, Florida and Texas were in favor of it." In the end, at least according to his autobiography, direct personal negotiation with the Alabama delegation resulted in that state's support.
About the illustration, entitled Funeral Obsequies of Free-Trade (1846):
A gloomy view of the effects of the Polk administration's Tariff of 1846. The artist echoes Whig condemnation of the measure as adverse to American trade. A funeral cortege, composed of administration supporters, carries the coffin of "Free Trade" to a grave marked by a monument with the names of sixteen states. The names of Pennsylvania and New York, two states particularly resistant to the new tariff, appear in large letters. Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia are missing. Over the grave is a banner reading, "Here lies Free Trade! Be it understood / He would have liv'd much longer if he could." The pall-bearers are (left to right) Vice President George M. Dallas, James K. Polk, Secretary of State James Buchanan, and Secretary of War William L. Marcy, wearing his characteristic fifty-cent trouser patch (see "Executive Marcy and the Bambers," no.1838-5). Polk: "This is a dead weight and verry heavy Mr. Vice." Dallas replies: "I agree with every thing you say Mr. President. if you were to insist that the moon was made of green Cheese I would swear to it for a Consideration." Buchanan complains: "I say, army lower down your side a little, you are throwing all the weight on me." Buchanan, from Pennsylvania, drew considerable fire from his native state for his support of the new lower tariff. Marcy suggests: "Raise your side, state and then we'll throw the whole weight on our leaders." The mourners are administration supporters: editor Thomas Ritchie (here called "Mother Ritchie" and dressed as a woman), senators John C. Calhoun and George McDuffie, and congressmen Ambrose H. Sevier, Robert Barnwell Rhett, and Dixon Hall Lewis. Ritchie: "If he should be resucitated! What a paragraph it would make in my paper!! Nous Verrons." Calhoun: "Hung be the heavens with black!" McDuffie: "If the whigs should get in we must resort to Nullification!" Sevier: "this sticks in my gizzard!" Lewis (notoriously obese): "We must grin and bear it, though it makes me feel very heavy!" Rhett: "a plagu of this sighing! it wells one up most villainously!" In the lower margin is the narrative: "This unfortunate youth died of Home Consumption & was buried at Washington in Nov: 1846 [the date the tariff was passed]. He was carried to the grave by Polk, Dallas, Buchanan & Marcy. The chief Mourners were his Nurse Mother Ritchie, [. . .] the cenotaph is to be erected by the Whigs. 16 States have already contributed & others are coming in."

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff. The Confederacy had a lot more internal dissent and disagreement than many realize. It wasn't all "peaches and cream" all the time, even (especially?) in the Peachtree State.


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