Updated 6/30/13 8:15 P.M. Forbes appears to have taken down both of Marotta’s posts on the Civil War mentioned in this post (h/t Joe Adelman), but you can find them on his personal website here and here. Marotta’s daughter is listed as co-author on his website.

Last week, David John Marotta wrote an opinion piece in Forbes that blamed the Civil War on tariffs, not on slavery. I offered some data to demonstrate the ahistorical nature of his claims.

Marotta is at it again, trying to salvage the Confederate constitution and making similar claims about the origins of the Civil War that are methodologically unsound. For example, Marotta quotes a statement about the tariff that Lincoln allegedly made to Virginian John B. Baldwin.

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?

The quote appears to come from this memoir (p. 449) published in the Southern Historical Society Papers (June 1876). I did a simple Google search, and the language that Marotta uses (including the bracketed explanation) is verbatim from several neo-Confederate sites/postings. (See here, here, and here.)

I’m not a lawyer, but I would call this one example hearsay testimony: Baldwin alleged that Lincoln made this statement, but there doesn’t appear to be corroborating evidence contemporary with Lincoln.

I’ll leave it to constitutional scholars to argue about the usefulness of Marotta’s claims about the Confederate constitution. It’s safe to say, however, that if he is attempting to use history to grind an ideological axe, so far, the efforts are less than impressive.

4 thoughts on “More Silliness about Tariffs from David John Marotta

  1. The quote from John Baldwin comes from a rather infamous and controversial meeting between Lincoln and Baldwin on April 4, 1861. Lincoln wanted to speak to a Virginia Unionist; the leader of the Unionist faction in the Secession Convention sent Baldwin, a poor choice (IMO) who proceeded to lecture Lincoln as to what his policies should be. Baldwin’s Unionism can be measured by his joining the Confederate Army and becoming a member of the Confederate Congress. I’ve given talks on this subject and need to write it up for publication. It is an interesting story, but there is no verifiable account of what happened; most of what has been published is forced to rely on second-hand hearsay accounts.

  2. Excerpts from a paper I wrote on the subject of the Confederate constitution.

    “The Constitution the Founders created had left the issue of voting rights to the states which then over time expanded suffrage beyond that envisioned in 1787. This issue was also addressed in the Confederate constitution. In Article I, Section II, the new constitution strips away some of the powers of the states by specifically denying the right to vote to persons who are not citizens. It also goes on to bar persons of foreign birth the right to vote as well in elections. There were two reasons behind this. The first was clearly meant to deny any black person from ever voting. The second reason was to prevent immigrants from gaining power in the South as some in the South theorized was happening in the Northern states. Ironically, this contradicted the theme of state’s rights by stripping what had been a right of the states to determine away from them.

    One issue which they did get pushed through again stripped the states of their rights; that regarding the institution of slavery. Despite modern day adherents to the Lost Cause mythology regarding the cause of the Civil War not being about slavery, the Confederate constitution gave no such illusions about the subject. Slavery was not only allowed, it was permanently enshrined in the new constitution as part of Article I, Section 9 as, “or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves.” This was one of the most fought over issues the committee dealt with.”

    “In order to eventually punish slaveholding states that might not secede from the US, a new section was inserted in Article I, Section 9. This provision, “Congress shall also have power to prohibit the introduction of slaves from any State not a member of, or Territory not belonging to, this Confederacy,” was designed as an economic threat to recalcitrant slave states that failed to join the Confederacy. A careful look at this area of the Confederate constitution revealed another denial of state’s rights and exposed the myth behind the Lost Cause regarding slavery as not being an issue the war was fought over.”

    In essence the Confederate constitution was created to make slavery a permanent feature in that confederacy with no possible means of preventing its demise. Transportation of slaves was impossible to bar in any state. Any expansion of the confederacy would automatically include slavery. Tariffs were addressed in it as well.

    “Another major change lay with the issue of tariffs, the cause of the Nullification Crisis of 1832. South Carolina had never forgotten its humiliation in being forced to compromise over the issue. Protective tariffs were forbidden in Article I, Section 8, as well as any appropriations for internal improvements. The argument over the national government providing for internal improvements went back to shortly after the original Constitution was ratified. Since the South was still primarily an agrarian based economy in the mold of Jeffersonian idealism, internal improvements such as canals, roads, and railways were not desirable. Add to that the fact that the South also relied upon water routes for the shipment of its products and one can understand the reasoning behind this line of thinking. This veritable lack of transportation routes would be a major impediment for the South during the war as the Union armies built an extensive fleet of ironclads to dominate the waterways which wreaked tremendous havoc on the South’s transportation system. Rivers were so important to the South that the Confederate Constitution contained a provision in Article I, Section 10 allowing for its states to make treaties with each other regarding their use.”

    Copy and paste didn’t put up my sources, but they’re available should anyone request them. Basically you can begin with the Confederate constitution itself.

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