What About My Tariff?

Much has been said about the Declarations of Immediate Causes of Secession as proving that the South  left the Union based solely on the issue of slavery and white supremacy. To an extent both would be true, however they were not the only causes and in reality just minor causes of secession. Anyone with an unbiassed  view of the period history can plainly see that. This statement is supported by facts presented in my previous post.

Now the question is why didn’t the North, or Union, if you will just simply let the South or Confederacy go? If the issue was strictly slavery, then that issue would have been settled. If the issue was white supremacy on the part of Southerners and equality on the part of Northerners then that issue would have been settled. So what is the answer— MONEY. 

I present to you some research on the Lincoln quote– “What about my tariff.”

I believe these few entries will prove my point.


“But what am I to do in the meantime with those men at Montgomery [meaning the Confederate constitutional convention]? Am I to let them go on… [a]nd open Charleston, etc., as ports of entry, with their ten-percent tariff. What, then, would become of my tariff?” ~ Lincoln to Colonel John B. Baldwin, deputized by the Virginian Commissioners to determine whether Lincoln would use force, April 4, 1861.

Jefferson Davis by Amristead Churchill Gordon page 135
Continuing efforts were made to negotiate a peaceful separation. Virginia sent 3 commissioners to meet with Lincoln……………..

According to the VA commissioners he equivocated as to whether he would resort to armed force to coerce the seceded states back into the union. VA at that point had not seceded but was in a state of continuous session to await further developments……………

Lincoln equivocated with the commissioners. However his greatest concern voiced to them was, “What about my tariff?”


This quote about the tariff is supposed to be from C R Vaughan, DD, Editor, Discussions by Robert Dabney, DD, LLD, Volume IV, Hamsburg VA Sprinkle Publications, 1979, pp 87-100 quoting the memoirs of Col John B Baldwin, a member of the VA Peace Commission.

“What then would become of my tariff?” Abraham Lincoln.
This question by President Lincoln has been lately looked for by several of this board and lost to memory, below is where it originated and where it is referenced.

Mr. Seward, of the peace-faction, sent Allen B. McGruder, as confidential messenger to Richmond, to hold an interview with Mr. Janney (president of the convention), Mr. Stuart, Col. Baldwin, and other influential men of the ruling “Union party.” Mr. Seward said that secrecy was all important, and while it was extremely desirable that one of them should see Lincoln, it was equally important that the public should know nothing of the interview. Col. Baldwin responded to the invitation, since, though one of the ablest men of the convention, he was known personally to but few in Washington, having never served in Federal politics. He repaired to Washington as soon as possible, went in a closed carriage to Seward, and from there, in his company, to the White House. But in this short time the policy of the administration had. undergone a change. Seven Republican governors of Northern and North-eastern States representing the ” stiff-backed ” clique had descended on the government, and won the victory over Seward and the rest. With the ignorance of the South, which I am sorry to say is still prevalent with many Northern writers, they represented to Mr. Lincoln that the people of the South were not in earnest; that all their speeches, resolutions, and declarations of resistance were but a “game of brag;” that Virginia and the Border States would never leave the Union; that it would ruin the North to have a free-trade people to the South of them; that it would be but an easy job to conquer the cotton States, etc., etc. Mr. Lincoln, who had vacillated between the parties, found the combined pressure of office-seekers -and tariff-men too much for him; and when Col. Baldwin arrived he had gone over to the stiff-backed men, bag and baggage. But Mr. Lincoln gave him a most private interview, and the latter quickly dispossessed him of his erroneous impressions regarding the intentions of the Border States, who looked to Virginia as their leader. Lincoln’s native good sense, under the influence of Col. Baldwin’^ evident sincerity, immediately grasped the truth. He clutched his shaggy hair, as though he would jerk out handfulls by the roots; he frowned and contorted his features, exclaiming: “I ought to have known this sooner! You are too late, sir, too late! Why did you not come here four days ago, and tell me all this?” turning almost fiercely upon Col. Baldwin. Baldwin replied: “Why, Mr. President, you did not ask our advice. Be sides, as soon as we received permission to tender it, I came by the first train as fast as steam would bring me.” Lincoln rejoined: “Yes, but you are too late, I tell you, too late!” Col. Baldwin pleaded the question with him as he never did a case on behalf of a client in jeopardy of life. One* single step would be sufficient to paralyze the secession movement. This was a simple proclamation, repudiating the right of coercing sovereign States by force of arms, and to rely upon conciliation to bring them back into the Union, as had been the course pursued with respect to Rhode Island and North Carolina in 1790. It was a contradiction to suppose that any State would voluntarily abnegate Union except under conviction of real wrong. The question of the Territories had no such importance in the eyes of the Border States to urge them into secession, but coercion would be universally considered the casus belli. Lincoln seemed impressed by Baldwin’s eloquence and solemnity, and asked: “But what am I to do meantime with those men at Montgomery? Am I to let them go on?” “Yes, sir,” replied Col. Baldwin decidedly, “until they can be peacefully brought back.” “And open Charleston, etc., as ports of entry with their ten per cent, tariff? What then would become of my tariff?” This last question he announced with such emphasis as showed in his view that it decided the whole matter.

Memoir of a Narrative Received of Colonel John B. Baldwin, of Staunton, Touching the Origin of the War. By Rev. R. L. Dabney, D. D.

The Letters and Times of the Tylers, Lyon G. Tyler, Richmond, 1885.
The Southern Historical Society Papers, Vol. I, Jan. to June, 1876.
Jefferson Davis, by Armistead C. Gordon, 1918.
William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine: Vol. 27, Page 224, 1918
Lives of Distinguished North Carolinians, 1898
The New Republic: Vol. 17, 1918
Confederate Veteran: Vol. 25, Issue 10, 1917

Lincoln’s Tariff War:

“Dr. Tyler shows how Lincoln refused to see the Confederate Peace Commissioners, and goes into the matter of the reinforcement of Fort Sumter, in which Lincoln persisted, although warned by his Cabinet that it surely meant civil war. This brings to mind the recent declaration of a Chicago university professor, who could claim a Southern birthright, that [Woodrow] Wilson’s course in thrusting the United States in to the Great War will be as fully justified by history as was Abraham Lincoln for “entering upon” the devastating war of 1861.

Beginning the war, as Lincoln unquestionably knew the reinforcement, or attempt thereat, of Fort Sumter meant, was due, says Dr. Tyler, to the determining influence of the tariff. “There was a Confederate tariff of 10% to 20 % and a Federal tariff of from 50% to 80%, and fears of the successful operation of the former excited fears in the bosoms of Lincoln and his cabinet and the Republicans generally.

Considering the enormous interests that centered around the tariff and the fact that in 1833 the tariff question had actually pushed the country to the verge of war, this explanation is not at all unreasonable. As early as March 16, Stanton, not yet aligned with the Republicans, had noted the apprehensions of that party, and the New York Times of March 30 had observed: “With us it is no longer an abstract question, one of constitutional construction or reserved or delegated power of the States to the Federal government, but of material existence and moral position both at home and abroad.”

The apprehension had grown, weakened the opposition in the cabinet and induced Lincoln to take tentative action in ordering the preparation of a fleet for Fort Sumter. Final action was the result of the concourse at Washington of seven, or as others have it, nine governors of high tariff States, who waited upon Lincoln and offered him troops and supplies.

In the interview…on April 4….with the delegates from the Virginia Convention…and the deputations from each of the five Christian associations of Baltimore,, who spoke for peace, on April 22, Lincoln asked: “And what is to become of my revenue if I let the government at Montgomery with their ten per cent tariff, go on?”

(John Tyler and Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Lyon G. Tyler; book review by A. H. Jennings, Confederate Veteran, June 1929, pp. 212-213)


Northern Gain at the Expense of the Great Mass:

A proposal to restructure postal rates alarmed him. A bill came to the House that proposed changing from a graduated rate based on weight to a set rate of five cents per letter. The Treasury Department would make up the shortfall, up to four and a half million dollars. Proponents rushed the bill through the House in two hours. Yancey objected that he and his colleague, Georgia’s Howell Cobb, knew of no public outcry for this change in the postal service. “Few questions…involved more important principles” than this bill, announced Yancey. He believed he knew who wanted it, and why.

The cities of the North stood to gain “at the expense of the great mass of the country.” Yancey argued that protective tariffs already favored the Northeast by creating more jobs there, and that the postal bill would have the same effect. Tariffs forced the South to pay more for their iron, woolens and cotton textiles, and other consumer goods, and now the northeastern States wanted the South to subsidize the correspondence of their brokers, merchants, and investors. Despite his efforts and his vote, the postal bill passed.

Yancey prophesied that the United States would one day spread from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada. In this vast territory, Yancey insisted, states’ rights would remain supreme. The people of the Union would find themselves regulated only by their State legislatures, with the federal government concerned only with foreign policy.”

(William Lowndes Yancey, The Coming of the Civil War, Eric H. Walther, UNC Press, 2006, pp. 82-83)




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