Even without the moral question of slavery, the economic issues between the North and the South severely strained relationships in the period immediately preceding the outbreak of civil war.  What were the South’s specific economic grievances against the North in this period?  What measures did the South take to remedy its situation, and how successful were these measures?



          …3d. Because they believe that the tariff law passed by Congress at its last session, and all other acts of which the principal object is the protection of manufacturers, or any other branch of domestic industry, if they be considered as the exercise of a power in Congress to tax the people at its own good will and pleasure, and to apply the money raised to objects not specified in the Constitution, is a violation of these fundamental principles….

          8th. Finally, because South Carolina, from her climate, situation, and peculiar institutions, is, and must ever continue to be, wholly dependent upon agriculture and commerce, not only for her prosperity, but for her very existence as a state; because the valuable products of her soil—the blessings by which Divine Providence seems to have designed to compensate for the great disadvantages under which she suffers in other respects—are among the very few that can be cultivated with any profit by slave labor; and if, by the loss of her foreign commerce, these products should be confined to an inadequate market, the fate of this fertile state would be poverty and utter desolation; her citizens, in despair, would emigrate to more fortunate regions, and the whole frame and constitution of her civil polity be impaired and deranged, if not dissolved entirely.…

Source:   “The South Carolina Protest Against the Tariff of 1828,” published on December 19, 1828.



          It would be in vain to conceal that it [the tariff] has divided the country into two great geographical divisions, and arrayed them against each other, in opinion at least, if not interests also, on some of the most vital of political subjects; on its finance, its commerce, and its industry; subjects calculated above all others…[to place] the sections in question in deep and dangerous conflict….  If there be any point to which the…weaker of the two sections is unanimous, it is that its prosperity depends, in a great measure, on free trade, light taxes, economical and as far as possible, equal disbursements of the public revenue, and an unshackled industry, elevating them to pursue whatever may appear most advantageous to their interests….

          Every duty imposed for the purpose of protection, is not only unequal, but also unconstitutional.

Source:  “Mr. Calhoun’s Sentiments,” from the Connecticut Herald, August 30, 1831.



          An Ordinance to Nullify certain acts of the Congress of the United States, purporting to be laws laying duties and imposts on the importation of foreign commodities.

          Whereas the Congress of the United States, by various acts, purporting to be acts laying duties and imposts on foreign imports, but in reality intended for the protection of domestic manufacturers, and the giving of bounties to classes and individuals engaged in particular employments, at the expense and to the injury and oppression of other classes and individuals, and by wholly exempting from taxation certain foreign commodities, such as are not produced or manufactured in the United States, to afford a pretext for imposing higher and excessive duties on articles similar to those intended to be protected, hath exceeded its just powers under the Constitution, which confers on it no authority to afford such protection, and hath violated the true meaning and intent of the Constitution, which provides for equality in imposing the burthens of taxation upon the several States and portions of the Confederacy…

          We, therefore, the people of the State of South Carolina in Convention assembled, do declare and ordain, … [the tariff acts of 1828 and 1832] …, are unauthorized by the Constitution of the United States, and violate the true meaning and intent thereof, and are null, void, and no law, nor binding upon this State, …

Source:   “South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification,” November 24, 1832.



Source:  Railroad Growth, 1840-1860.



          …The prospect then is, that the two sections in the Senate, should the efforts now made to exclude the South from the newly conquered territories succeed, will stand before the end of the decade twenty Northern states to fourteen Southern (considering Delaware as neutral), and forty Northern Senators to twenty-four Southern….

          Had this destruction been the operation of time, without the interference of government, the South would have had no reason to complain; but such was not the fact.  It was caused by legislation of this government, which was appointed as the common agent of all, and charged with the protection of the interests and security of all.  The legislation by which it has been effected may be classed under three heads.  The first is that series of acts by which the South has been excluded from the common territory belonging to all of the states as the members of the Federal Union, which had the effect of extending vastly the portion allotted to the Northern section, and restricting within narrow limits the portion left to the South.  The next consists in adopting a system of revenue and disbursements, by which an undue proportion of the burden of taxation has been imposed upon the South, and an undue proportion of its proceeds appropriated to the North; and the last is a system of political measures, by which the original character of the government has been radically changed….

Source:  A speech by John C. Calhoun on March 4, 1850



          …In the South and as an unavoidable inference, does it follow that the industrial economy and the system of foreign relations of the nation, so far as based on commercial principles, should spring from, and be controlled by the cotton growing States.  Why is it otherwise, but that in the nation there is another section supported by interests antagonist to these, in other words, a section which is in fact, a foreign power.  We have shown that in the vital principle of political organization, the relation of labour and capital, the North and the South are irreconceivably hostile, that their social and political systems cannot co-exist—that the one in the nature of things wages internecine war against the other.  Now we need not attempt to prove that cotton can be produced in quantities sufficient for the world’s wants, only where labour and capital stand in the relation of master and slave….

Source:  The Position and Course of the South,” by William Henry Trescot of Charleston, 1850.



          …It appears, by going to the report of the Secretary of Treasury, which are authentic, that last year the United States exported in round numbers $279,000,000 worth of domestic produce, excluding gold and foreign merchandise re-exported.  Of this amount $158,000,000 worth is the clear produce of the South; articles that are not and cannot be made at the North.  There are then $80,000,000 worth of exports of products of the forest, provisions and breadstuffs.  If we assume that the South made but one third of these, and I think that is a low calculation, our exports were $185,000,000, leaving to the North less than $95,000,000.

          In addition to this, we sent to the North $30,000,000 worth of cotton, which is not counted in the exports.  We sent to her $7 of $8,000,000 worth of tobacco, which is not counted in the exports.  We sent naval stores, lumber, rice, and many other minor articles.  There is no doubt that we sent to the North $40,000,000 in addition; but suppose the amount to be $35,000,000, it will give us a surplus production of $220,000,000.  But the recorded exports of the South now are greater than the whole exports of the United States in any year before 1856.  They are greater than the whole average exports of the United States for the last twelve years, including the two extraordinary years of 1856 and 1857….

          With an export of $220,000,000 under the present tariff, the South organized separately would have $40,000,000 of revenue.  With one-fourth the present tariff, she would have a revenue with the present tariff adequate to all her wants, for the South would never go to war; she would never need an army or a navy, beyond a few garrisons on the frontiers and a few revenue cutters….

          No, you dare not make war on cotton.  No power on earth dares to make war upon it.  Cotton is king….

Source:   “Cotton is King,” a speech given by James Henry Hammond on March 4, 1858.




          …Now, my friends, if we will only act conscientiously and rigidly upon this great principle of popular sovereignty, which guaranties to each State and Territory the right to do as it pleases on all things, local and domestic, instead of Congress interfering, we will continue at peace one with another.  Why should Illinois be at war with Missouri, or Kentucky with Ohio, or Virginia with New York, merely because their institutions differ?  Our fathers intended that our institutions should differ.  They knew that the North and the South, having different climates, productions and interests, required different institutions.  This doctrine of Mr. Lincoln, of uniformity among the institutions of the different States, is a new doctrine, never dreamed of by Washington, Madison, or the framers of this Government.  Mr. Lincoln and the Republican party set themselves up as wiser than these men who made the Government, which has flourished for seventy years under the principle of popular sovereignty, recognizing the right of each States to do as it pleased….  [Mr. Lincoln and his party] are trying to array all the Northern States in one body against the South, to excite a sectional war between the free States and the slave States, in order that the one or the other may be driven to the wall….

Source:  Speech given by Stephen Douglas during the first of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, August 21, 1858.





Source:  Cotton Exports as Percentage of All U.S. Exports, 1800-1860.




          There is not a pursuit in which man is engaged (agriculture excepted) which is not demanding legislative aid to enable it to enlarge its profits and all at the expense of the primary pursuit of man—agriculture….  Those interests, having a common purpose to plunder, have united and combined to use the government as the instrument of their operation and have thus virtually converted it into a consolidated empire.  Now this combined host of interests stands arrayed against the agricultural states; and this is the reason of the conflict which like an earthquake is shaking our political fabric to its foundation….  These states struggle like a giant, and alarm these incorporated interests, lest they may break the chain that binds them to usurpation; and therefore they are making this fierce onslaught upon the slave property of the southern states.

Source: Reuben Davis of Mississippi in 1860 .




          By mere supineness, the people of the South have permitted the Yankees to monopolize the carrying trade, with immense profits.  We have yielded to them the manufacturing business, in all its departments, without an effort, until recently, to become manufacturers ourselves.  We have acquiesced in the claims of the North to do all the importing, and most of the exporting business, for the whole Union.  Thus, the North has been aggrandised, in a most astonishing degree, at the expense of the South.  It is no wonder that their villages have grown into magnificent cities.  It is not strange that they have “merchant princes,” dwelling in gorgeous palaces and reveling in luxuries transcending the luxurious appliances of the East!  How could it be otherwise?  New York city, like a mighty queen of commerce, sits proudly upon her island throne, sparkling in jewels and waving an undisputed commercial scepter over the South.  By means of her railways and navigable streams, she sends out her long arms to the extreme South; and, with an avidity rarely equaled, grasps our gains and transfers them to herself—taxing us at every step—and depleting us as extensively as possible without actually destroying us.

Source:  The Vicksburg Daily Whig, January 18, 1860.





Source:  Cotton and Slaves in the South, 1860.




Document A

Calhoun, John.  “The South Carolina Protest Against the Tariff of 1828, December 19, 1828.”  Great Issues in American History: From the Revolution to the Civil War, 1765-1865.  Ed. Richard Hofstadter.  New York: Vintage Books, 1958.  275-278.

Document B

“Mr. Calhoun’s Sentiments.”  Connecticut Herald 30 August 1831.

Davis, David Brion, and Steven Mintz (eds.)  The Boisterous Sea of Liberty: A Documentary History of America from Discovery through the Civil War.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.  367-368.

Document C

State of South Carolina.  “South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification.”  Documents of American History, Volume 1: to 1898.  Eds. Henry Steele Commager and Milton Cantor.  Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1988.  261-262.

Document D

“Railroad Growth, 1840-1860.”
7 February 2002

Document E

Calhoun, John.  “On Slavery.”  Living Documents in American History: From Earliest Colonial Times to the Civil War.  Ed. John A. Scott.  New York: Washington Square Press, 1964-1968.  474-502.

Document F

Trescot, William.  “The Position and Course of the South.”  1850.
5 February 2002

Document G

Hammond, James Henry.  “On the Admission of Kansas, Under the Lecompton Constitution.”  4 March 1858.  Letters and Speeches of the Honorable James H. Hammond.  New York: John F. Trow and Company, 1886.  311-322.
7 February 2002

Document H

Douglas, Stephen.  “First Joint Debate.”  21 August 1858.
8 March 2002

Document I

Gretz, Katherine (ed.).  Retrieving the American Past: 1810-1860.  Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2002.  144.

Faragher, John Mack, et al.  Out of Many: A History of the American People.  New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Document J

Davis, Reuben.  “On Southern Agriculture.”  1860.

Beard, Charles A., and Mary Beard.  The Rise of American Civilization.  Volume II: The Industrial Era.  New York: The Macmillan Company, 1933.  3-51.

Rozwenc, Edwin Charles (ed.).  Slavery as a Cause of the Civil War.  Boston: Heath, 1963.  69-70.

Document K

“On the Imperial North.”  Editorial.  Daily Whig. 18 January 1860.

Stampp, Kenneth (ed.).  The Causes of the Civil War.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 88.

Document L

Garraty, John A., and Mark C. Carnes.  A Short History of the American Nation, Volume 1: to 1877.  New York: Longman, 2001.  308.



1. Calhoun, John.  “South Carolina’s Protest Against the Tariff of 1828.”
7 February 2002

2. Goldfield, David, et al.  The American Journey: A History of the United States.  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001.  443, 445.

3. Gretz, Katherine (ed.).  Retrieving the American Past: 1810-1860.  Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2002.  114-115, 143-145.

Goldfield, David, et al.  The American Journey: A History of the United States.  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001.

4. Harper, William.  “William Harper’s Apology, 1837.”  The American Spirit, Volume 1: To 1877.  Ed. Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.  358-360.

5. Smith, Carter.  Prelude to War: A Sourcebook on the Civil War.  Brookfield, Connecticut: Millbrook Press, 1993.

6. Toombs, Robert.  “On Federal Economic Policy.”  The Causes of the Civil War.  Ed. Kenneth M. Stampp.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991.  86-88.


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Nancy Zhinin & Rachel Abenavoli
Maria Regina H. S.
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