Secession, Slavery and Import Duties

Civil War Chat

(December 16, 2019) While most modern historians can cite statistics showing a correlation between a Southern state’s propensity to secede in 1861 and its proportional slave ownership, they never cite statistics showing that the propensity also applies to those states opposed to the Morrill Tariff. Since the second correlation does not fit the currently popular Civil-War-was-all-about-slavery interpretation, it is hard to find. Consequently, the tariff-vote data in the table below comes from the May 1860 Morrill Tariff vote in the House of Representatives. Since that vote was six months before Lincoln was elected President, it wasn’t distorted by the secession crisis that began in December 1860.

To be sure, the table documents a correlation between the percent of a state’s 1860 population that is slave and its inclination to secede. But it also shows a correlation between committed opposition to the Morrill Tariff and secession. For example, slaves composed 47%…

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