Skip to content

Another Court Historian’s False Tariff History

January 18, 2011
Thomas J. DiLorenzo
1/18/2011

More Lies About the Civil War

The only thing worse than a historian who calls himself a “Lincoln scholar” is a sociologist who does the same. This truth was on display recently in a January 9 Washington Post article entitled “Five Myths about Why the South Seceded” by one James W. Loewen.

In discussing the role of federal tariff policy in precipitating the War to Prevent Southern Independence Loewen is either grossly ignorant, or he is dishonest. He begins by referring to the 1828 Tariff of Abominations, which led to South Carolina’s Ordinance of Nullification, whereby the state rightly condemned the 48 percent average tariff rate as a blatant act of plunder (mostly at the South’s expense) and refused to collect it at Charleston Harbor. Loewen writes that “when, after South Carolina demanded the right to nullify federal laws or secede to protest, President Andrew Jackson threatened force.” That much is true. “No state joined the movement, and South Carolina backed down,” Loewen then writes. This is all false. It is not true that “no state joined the movement.” As historian Chauncy Boucher wrote in The Nullification Controversy in South Carolina, Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama joined South Carolina in publicly denouncing the Tariff of Abominations, while the Yankee bastions of Massachusetts, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Indiana, and New York responded with their own resolutions in support of political plunder through extortionate tariff rates.Nor is it true to say that “South Carolina backed down.” South Carolina and the Jackson administration reached a compromise in 1833: Jackson “backed down” by not following through with his threats to use force to collect the tariff, and South Carolina agreed to collect tariffs at a much lower rate. Jackson “backed down” as much (or more) as South Carolina did, but the Official Court Historian’s History of the War, as expressed by Loewen, holds that only South Carolina retreated. The reason for this distortion of history is to spread the lie that tax protesters such as the South Carolina nullifiers, or the Whiskey Rebels of an earlier generation, have never successfully challenged the federal government’s taxing “authority.” But of course they have succeeded; The Whiskey Rebels ended up not paying the federal whisky tax, and the Tariff of Abominations was sharply reduced over a ten-year period.

Loewen next spreads an egregious falsehood about the tariff: “Tariffs were not an issue in 1860, and Southern states said nothing about them,” he writes. “Why would they? Southerners had written the tariff of 1857, under which the nation was functioning. Its rates were lower than at any point since 1816.” Every bit of this narrative is false.

And now… the rest of the story. …..

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: