War and Profits in the North
Published as a textbook well before America’s cultural revolution of the 1960’s, John Hicks “The Federal Union” can be trusted as a fairly accurate source of United States history and without today’s Marxist revisionism. Below, he touches on the North’s generous government supply contracts, child labor and general wartime prosperity while its bounty-enriched blue-clad soldiers (including many foreigners)
devastated Americans in the South to preserve a territorial Union.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
War and Profits in the North:
“When the Civil War broke out the North had not fully recovered from the depression that had followed the panic of 1857, and for a time business interests were more frightened than stimulated by the clash of arms. By
the summer of 1862, however, a surge of prosperity had put in its appearance that was to outlast the war.
With millions of men under arms the (Northern) government was a dependable and generous purchaser of every kind of foodstuff, and its equally great need of woolen goods and leather strengthened the market
also for raw wool and hides. Probably the sales of the farmers made directly or indirectly to the government more than offset the losses sustained by wartime interference with sales to the South.
years, whether a citizen of the united States or an alien who had declared his intention of becoming a citizen, might take up a quarter section of public land, and, after having lived upon it for five years and improved it, might receive full title to it virtually free of charge.
What came in later years to be called “heavy industries” profited enormously from the war. Purchases of munitions abroad practically ceased after the first year because of the rapidity with which American
factories supplied the government’s needs…the government itself went deeply into the business of manufacturing war materials as public opinion would permit.
High tariffs ensured the northern manufacturers against the dangers of foreign competition. A protectionist policy had been demanded by the Republican national platform of 1860, and a higher schedule of tariffs…was placed upon the statute books two days before [James] Buchanan left office. This speedy answer to the prayers of the protectionists was made possible by the withdrawal from Congress of the delegations from the seven seceding States of the lower South, and by the fact that President Buchanan was no longer unmindful of the wishes of the manufacturers of his home State (of Pennsylvania].
The original Morrill Tariff Act was repeatedly revised upward during the war, until by 1864 the average of duties levied on imports had reached forty-seven per cent, the highest thus far in the history of the nation. The significance of this development can scarcely be overemphasized. A policy which the South had persistently blocked in the years preceding the war became an actuality during it, and as subsequent events were to
prove, remained as a permanent fixture in American political and economic life.
The profits of war bred a spirit of extravagance and frivolity among the non-combatants of the north that contrasted oddly with the long casualty lists displayed as a regular part of the daily news. Social life
reached a dizzying whirl, with more parties and dances, theaters and circuses, minstrel shows and musicales than ever had been known before. According to a statement published by the Springfield Republican in
1864, many of the factories whose profits during the war had been “augmented beyond the wildest dreams of their owners” paid their laborers only from twelve to twenty per cent more than before the war. “There is absolute want in many families, while thousands of young children who should be in school are shut up at work that they may earn something to eke out the scant supplies at home.”
(The Federal Union, A History of the United States to 1865, John D. Hicks, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1948, pp. 660-665)