Tariffs & War Pensions for the North
In the following excerpt, author Walter Webb asserts that “The North reduced to the vanishing point the economic power of the South…the armies had taken much, but their damage was small in comparison with that which the politicians wrought later.” The only thing the North failed to do after the war was destroy the spiritual power and pride of the South, even after marital law, enfranchising their former slaves into rulers, and revolutionizing the Southern social structure. Webb underscores this with: “This is the supreme act of degradation, one that has no parallel in world history. This was the Second American Revolution.” Then the North wrote its own version of American history, which is still with us today.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
Wilmington, North Carolina
Tariffs & War Pensions for the North:
“The North did not stop with settling old sectional disputes in its favor. Since 1861 it has, through control of the government, legislated for itself subsidies, pensions, privileges, and bonuses which would, if totaled, make the government expenditures of recent years seem less appalling. The most lucrative bounty that the north has conferred upon itself, largely at the expense of the other two sections, is the high protective tariff. It is true that the protective tariff was not a new problem, but one that has been long disputed in Congress.
When the tariff bill of 1828 was under consideration, a Massachusetts manufacturer, Abbott Lawrence, wrote Daniel Webster sagely about the amendments. Lawrence thought the bill improved as to woolens and some thought the bill now good enough. “I must say,” wrote Webster’s political and economic advisor, “I think it would do much good, and that New England would reap great harvest by having the bill adopted as it now is…This bill if adopted as amended will keep the South and the West in debt to New England the next hundred years.”
Since the Civil War the tariff wall has been built higher and higher, not so much for a nation as around and for the benefit of a section. For seventy-five years, and more, the tariff cornucopia has hung over the North, showering it with thousands of blessings and billions of dollars, bringing it without doubt the greatest gift that any modern government ever bestowed on one group of people at the expense of other groups. Abbott Lawrence was right. His hundred years has passed, and almost a decade to boot, and the South and West are still in debt to the North, more deeply than they were in 1828.
Less remunerative, but no less partial to the North and equally prejudicial to the South and the West, were the federal Civil War pensions. The pension system was put into effect in 1862, about the time the first bandages were removed. After hostilities ceased pensions grew in number and in amount and in a manner most gratifying to recipients and incidental beneficiaries. No need to dwell on the frauds, lying, broomstick wives, attorneys, and perjurers. The Grand Army of the Republic was powerful at the polls, where it won a far larger percentage of victories than it won against the armies of Lee. No politician dared deny the soldier who had saved the Union a lifelong government subsidy which was paid impartially to the pauper and the millionaire. By 1875, the government was giving northern soldiers $29,000,000 annually. This had jumped to $60 million in 1879, to $89 million in 1889, to $159 million in 1893, and to $180 million in 1912. The peak was not reached until 1923, when the veterans received the sum of $238,924,872.
(Divided We Stand, The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy, Walter Prescott Webb, Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1937, pp. 19-20)