Mills and Planters
Custom, & the Ports
Nat Turner, & Others
The Southern Slopes
The Mission Coasts
Mills & Planters
Silver & opium
Alamán & Calhoun
Rancheros & Pilots
The War of the South
Siege & Contagion
A Note on Then and Now
What They Called "Civil War"
Outcomes, and Vision
|Toward the end of the First Civil War period, some politicians in the
U.S. North were being called "Cotton Whigs." They were those, close
to the interests of New England mill-owners, who were constantly tender
and watchful toward the South, anxious to avoid hurting the planters who
supplied raw cotton. They kept turning up, ready to guide policy,
whenever the public got tired of gunsmoke and rhetoric.
For sophisticates at the top of the control networks, any civil war was a wasteful distraction. This applies to the Civil War of the 1830s or to that of the 1860s. Each of these conflicts wound down into compromises that preserved and balanced off the control interests of the period. On the U.S. side, these peak interests were:
When it came time to exchange cotton, tobacco, and iron, for cloth, cigars, and nails, there were two ways to set the price:
Of course governments influenced the prices that planters paid for cloth, by either promoting or taxing the importation of goods from abroad.
But they also influenced labor supplies -- in industrial areas by:
These anxieties also discriminated among degrees of success within any sector of the economy. A planter with wide acres of bottom land, and good personal connections to outside markets, was under less pressure to drive his slaves unmercifully (though he still might). An established cotton-mill owner, with a good water-power, and good marketing connections, might even benefit from low tariffs, if the low rates would drive out small-time marginal competitors. Conservative mill-owners, like the Lawrences of Massachusetts, were just as ready as cautious Southern planters to work out some compromise, when the tariff crisis of 1832-33 threatened to get out of hand Specific differences of interest, combined with variations in personal temperament, made great differences in whether any particular operator chose to hang tough, in the moments when compromise was offered.
The political scene was one of constant negotiation -- of competitive cooperation -- among operators who had opposing claims on profit, but who shared an overriding interest in guaranteeing profit to employers in general..
The competitive side of this picture came out clearly between regions that were severely specialized -- like lowland South Carolina and eastern Massachusetts.
The cooperative side dominated where farms and mills were both available to anyone who had money to invest. This included many transitional areas in the United States, such as Maryland and Kentucky.
This side also included much of Mexico. The typical merchant on the Mexico-Veracruz route, when he accumulated capital, was apt to diversify into either agriculture or manufacturing, or both at once -- into raising cotton on one hand, and producing textiles on the other. In any short-run crisis, a politician like Guerrero, or Santa Anna, or Alamán could talk about protecting some old interest, such as mule drivers or hand-loom weavers or respectable land-owners -- while allowing favors to upstart promoters. Issues of free trade versus protection were constantly arising -- and just as regularly leading no politician into a conscientious, aggressive program.
This supposed confusion of special interests did leave much room for wiggle and corruption. It also left absolutely clear, and therefore urgently ignored, the fact that one overriding common interest bound all control agencies. It did not matter whether control worked through military force or market pressure. To both sides what was really important was legitimating profit by those who had no grounded commitment to people in working communities.
Copyright 1999 The Intermountain History Group, email@example.com.
All rights reserved.