The Chicago Tribune editorialized that the people of the Northwest would never negotiate for free navigation of the Mississippi river.
“It is their right and they will assert it to the extremity of blotting Louisiana out of the map.”
Midwesterners were assured that no impediment would be established on the Mississippi or at the port of New Orleans to their commerce. To address this concern, the Louisiana Secession delegates pledged free access to all river traffic. The Confederate Congress meeting in Montgomery, Alabama promised the same treatment for river traffic on the Mississippi and its tributaries.
To add to the drama, President Lincoln was concerned that if his administration did not do something the Midwestern governors would feel forced to negotiate some sort of agreement with the Confederate States on their own. So, despite assurances from the Confederates, Midwestern governors continued to be concerned about the unhindered use of the Mississippi, free access to the port of New Orleans, and to the river cities of Memphis, Natchez and Vicksburg.
The questions were:
- Could Midwesterners trust the CSA assurances that river commerce would be guaranteed free access as they had prior to secession?
- Could they live with New Orleans being in the hands of a foreign power?
- Could future generations of Confederate leaders be trusted not to tax commercial
traffic? The temptation would certainly be very real.
The Midwestern governors told Lincoln that they thought the issue was worth going to war over, even if he did not.
In early 1861, William Sherman wrote his wife that, despite assurances of free trade, “Collisions are sure to follow secession, and the states lying on the upper rivers will never consent to the mouth being in possession of a hostile state.”
Next: The Decision for War
During the Secession Winter, the business community in the North had urged the Lincoln administration to do what was necessary to maintain the peace. Toward that end, the stock market soared on news from Secretary of State Seward that Fort Sumter would be evacuated. It seemed that a peaceful solution had been reached on the issue of Federal forts in Southern territory, and a profitable business relationship with the Confederate States would therefore continue.
Slavery and union was of little concern. Peace was good for business. The Northern press agreed.
“If the Cotton States shall become satisfied that they can do better out of the Union than in it, we insist on letting them go,” wrote Horace Greely, editor of the New York Tribune. “We hope never to live in a republic whereof one section is pinned in the residue by bayonets.”
But, with the passage of a low revenue tariff by the C.S.A. on March 11, it appeared that a tariff war with the United States would commence instead. It was suddenly apparent that foreign shipping and goods would flow to Southern ports instead of Philadelphia, New York, Boston and Baltimore. Iron and cotton goods virtually prohibited by virtue of the Northern Morrill Tariff would flow into the Free Trade Zone’ of the South and find their way north through the porous 2,000 mile shared border. Thus the Northern press changed their tune and trumpeted that a ‘Tariff War’ would ruin the entire Northern economy.
Faced with this new fear, Northern merchants petitioned Washington that they would not pay the new duties unless the Federal government collected the new import duties in all Southern ports, too. Northern bankers, industrialists and the northern press changed from supporting a policy of accommodating the new southern nation to one of restoring the Union, even if coercion was necessary.
Even Lincoln’s cabinet did a turn-around after March 11. On his inauguration day, all but two members of his cabinet had urged accommodation with the Confederate States; give them Fort Sumter.
With the outcry, after March 11, from the northern business community and the press, all but one member of Lincoln’s cabinet reversed their view and supported his position of holding on to Sumter and the remaining federal property in the South.
More to come.
In March of 1861, the federal tariff again became part of the national discussion. From the earliest days of the Republic, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party had supported a revenue tariff only. On the other hand, Hamilton’s Federalist Party, later the Whigs, later the Republicans, supported a protective tariff.
The Tariff of Abominations and Nullification Issues were settled during the Jackson administration. And, by 1846, a tariff structure satisfactory to both the industrial North and the agricultural South was in place. In 1857, despite bank failures in the North, Northern and Southern Democrats in the House and Senate lowered tariffs in response to a Treasury surplus and a desire to stimulate trade.
Nevertheless, the newly formed Republican Party and a few Northern Democrats supported the idea of higher tariffs to protect various industries in the North, particularly the iron industry in Pennsylvania and the textile industry of New England.
The emergence of the Republican Party in the North saw increased pressure to pass a protective tariff. During the 36th Congress the Republican majority in the House of Representatives passed a sharply increased tariff called, the Morrill Tariff. This bill was passed On May 10, 1860 by a vote of 105-64. The vote largely followed sectional lines:
All but 2 Northern Republicans voted for the bill, 89-2. The Southern vote was heavily against the protectionist measure, 39 – 1. There were 55 abstentions.
The bill was sent to the Senate where it was bottled up in the Democratic Party controlled Finance Committee. But that power was lost when seven Deep South states left the Union taking their Senators with them.
The Morrill Tariff was then signed into law by President Buchanan on March 2, 1861. On March 11, 1861 the Confederate Congress responded with a tariff bill instituting a much lower tariff for the Confederate States of America.
The scene was set for a tariff war.
More on the Tariff War later.
The Crittenden Compromise was the earliest of the efforts to find a way to bring the seceding states back into the Union and calm the fears of the Border States. Those who met in Washington City, under the leadership of Kentucky Senator John J. Crittenden, suggested that several constitutional amendments be adopted:
- To declare slavery inviolate except by state law.
- To compensate owners of fugitive slaves not returned.
- To extend the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific.
The president elect, Abraham Lincoln, agreed to support the first two suggested amendments, but not the third.
The second effort at compromise was made by the Peace Convention. The creation of this body was suggested by the Virginia legislature. One hundred thirty-three delegates from twenty-one states met and suggested several constitutional amendments. Some were similar to the Crittenden proposals. Significantly different was one proposal calling for an amendment that would prevent Congress by law and the people by amendment from ever interfering with slavery in any state.
The House of Representatives passed this recommendation on February 27, 1861 as the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It was immediately sent to the states for ratification.
Lincoln supported the adoption of this amendment and throughout the winter of 1861, continued to insist that his administration would not interfere with slavery where it already existed.
Neither the prospect of adopting this amendment to the Constitution of the United States nor Lincoln’s assurances had any effect. None of the secession states returned to the Union.
More on the Secession Winter of 1861 later.
Representatives from seven cotton growing states (the Deep South) met in Montgomery, Alabama on February 7, 1861. There, they wrote a constitution and formed a new government, the Confederate States of America. The Congress of this new government selected Jefferson Davis of Mississippi as their president and Alexander Stephens of Georgia as their vice president.
It is interesting to note that both of these men had been Unionists following the election of Lincoln. They argued that the best course for their respective states and the entire slave South was to give Lincoln a chance before deciding whether or not to leave the Union.
The Border States of the Upper South, Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Kentucky, along with Arkansas and Missouri were slave states, too. But leaders in each of those states chose not to join the Confederate States of America. They would remain in the Union and see how Lincoln’s government would handle the situation.
In Washington City government leaders seemed to take a wait and see stance. Between December 20, 1860 when the South Carolina Secession Convention voted to leave the Union and the Lincoln inauguration of March 6, 1861, President Buchanan chose not to confront the seceding states. He feared angering leaders in the loyal Border States and thus pushing them into secession.
Once in office, President Lincoln chose the same course for basically the same reason. Meanwhile, during the Secession Winter, two serious efforts were made in Washington City to lure the states of the Deep South back into the Union and to calm the fears of people living in the Border States.
More on the Secession Winter of 1861 later.
The November 1860 presidential election was an unusual contest.
On Election Day, the Democratic Party was the only truly national party; and therefore on the ballot in all the thirty two states of the Union. The Republican Party was a sectional party and was not on the ballot in most of the slave states. But the Democratic Party split over the slavery issue and offered two different candidates, each of whom presented two different platforms to the people. A third party, the Constitutional Party, also emerged, further splitting the Democratic vote. On the other hand the Republican Party was united. They had one candidate and one platform. The result was predictable. The Republican Party nominee, Abraham Lincoln, was elected to the office of President. He was the first candidate elected to that office without receiving even one electoral vote from slave holding areas of the United States.
It is not my intention to examine all the reasons for panic and secession in the Slave South. It is my desire here to chronicle the events of the Secession Winter.
Within one month of the election, the South Carolina Secession Convention voted to invoke their perceived right as a sovereign state to leave the Union. A crisis was thus initiated that would occupy the attention of the people of the entire nation until Fort Sumter was fired upon the following April of 1861.
January 1861 saw several more states join South Carolina; Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, and Alabama. Texas followed in February and then joined representatives from these other six states in Montgomery, Alabama to form a new government, the Confederate States of America.
It is interesting that several other slave states did not immediately join this newly formed confederacy. The citizens of Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Arkansas saw their secession convention representatives vote to remain in the Union; for the time being.
Several years before the outbreak of the American Civil War, Esther Howland of Worchester, Massachusetts began selling Valentine greeting cards in her father’s book and stationery store. Already an annual event in England, by 1849 it was reported in Graham’s American Monthly that:
Saint Valentines’ Day is becoming, nay, it has become a national holiday.
During the Civil War era, Valentine’s Day cards were very popular greetings exchanged between soldiers and their worried wives and sweethearts. By that time there were many companies manufacturing cards designed just for lonely sweethearts parted by the war. Locks of hair were commonly included with the card; a keepsake to be treasured by the separated couples.
Memphis to New Orleans on the Queen of the Mississippi
Memphis: Day One –
One hundred forty five passengers and I left Memphis at noon on Saturday headed south on the Mississippi River. The first lecture I gave was on the Sultana disaster of April 27th 1865 which occurred on the river just six miles north of Memphis. This ship was authorized to carry less than 400 passengers. But, on this night it carried over 2,300 hundred, mostly Union soldiers returning home after extended periods as prisoners of war in Confederate prisons. The e4xplosion killed over 1,700 passengers and is considered the worst maritime disaster in American history.
On a cruise from Memphis to New Orleans I gave seven lectures to passengers on the Queen of the Mississippi cruise ship. We started with a talk on the sultana tradegy of april 1865 just north of Memphis. Then we covered topics like ‘How the War Started; War in the West; Why the South Lost; and The Conspiracy Theories Surrounding the Murder of Abraham Lincoln; and The Battle for Vicksburg.
Of the 145 passengers 50 to 90 were usually in attendance. I accompanied them on land tours as well. It was great fun for me and the passengers seemed to enjoy my talks. www.civilwarnovels.com
Here’s a book trailer for my latest novel, 1860 America Moves Toward War.