“Freed of the southern incubus…”

I’ve been re-reading parts of James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom (thanks Sis!), often billed as the best one-volume history of the Civil War era. While it goes into quite a bit more detail about orders of battle and such than I feel the need for — there’s too much about the war and less than I’d like about the war era — its early chapters do an excellent job of explaining the discord in preceding decades that led up to the conflict (Missouri Compromise, Kansas-Nebraska Act, all that).

But what caught my eye this time was the following passage about the first session of Congress after the southern states seceded (pp. 450-51). Emphasis mine for easy scanning.

The second session of the 37th Congess (1861–62) was one of the most productive in American history. Not only did the legislators revoloutionize the country’s tax and monetary structures and take several steps toward the abolition of slavery; they also enacted laws of far-reaching importance for the disposition of public lands, the future of higher education, and the building of transcontinental railroads. these achievement were all the mroe remarkable because they occurred in the midst of an all-consuming preoccupation with war. Yet it was the war — or rather the absence of southerners from Congress — that made possible the passage of these Hamiltonian-Whig-Republican measures for government promotion of sociaoeconomic development.

… Republicans easily overcame feeble Democratic and border-state opposition to pass a homestead act. …

For years Vermont’s Justin Morrill … had sponsored a bill to grant public lands to the states for the promotion of higher education in “agriculture and the mechanic arts.” … The success of the land-grant institutions was attested by the later development of first-class institutions in many states and world-famous universities at Ithaca, Urbana, Madison, Minneapolis, and Berkeley.

transcontinental railroadFreed of the southern incubus, Yankee legislators highballed forward … Lincoln signed the Pacific Railroad Act granting 6,400 acres of public land (later doubled) per mile and lending $16,000 per mile (for construction on the plains) and $48,000 per mile (in the mountains) of government bonds to corporations organized to build a railroad from Omaha to San Francisco Bay. …

Most Americans in 1862 viewed government aid as an investment in national unity and economic growth that would benefit all groups in society.

By its legislation to finance the war, emancipate the slaves, and invest public land in future growth, the 37th Congress did more than any other in history to change the course of national life. As one scholar has aptly written, this Congress drafted “the blueprint for modern America.”

Do you think we could convince them to secede again?



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14 responses to ““Freed of the southern incubus…””

  1. Big Sis Avatar

    “Do you think we could convince them to secede again?” Yes, that thought certainly crossed my mind.

    What really struck me after reading it was how similar our current political conflicts are to those of the 1850’s (though I’ll grant that we aren’t now fighting something as enormously evil as an entire economy built on slavery).

  2. Asymptosis Avatar

    @Big Sis

    Yeah. Absent secession, do you think we could convince them that they lost the Civil War?

  3. john f Avatar
    john f

    I don’t think you have to convince them to secede, a glance through the archives at lew rockwell’s and the gonna mises institute’s websites shows some of them have been floating the idea for years. Some of the publications I’ve picked up at gun shows revive a lot of the arguments made in the Anti-Federalist Papers concerning the threats to liberty under the Constitution and the need to remain under the Articles of Confederation. To some of the neo-secessionists, the predictions of the Anti-Federalists have come true and there Is no way to reform our political situation. As David Hackett Fisher’s work Albion’s Seed shown, many aspects of our political discourse have very deep roots going back to the British Isles, especially the Glorious Revolution era between the Cavalliers, the Royalists etc. IIRC

  4. Suzan Avatar

    Texas is leading the way.

    They are just full up with leaders.

    Off the cliff!

    Thanks for the thoughtful essay.


  5. Suzan Avatar

    May I blogroll you?


  6. john f Avatar
    john f

    Thanks Steve , those are some interesting links. One of the books I pulled off of my bookshelf was one titled Hologram of Liberty: The Constitution’s Shocking Alliance with Big Government by Kenneth Royce aka Boston T Party author of Boston’s Gun Bible. Secession is considered one solution to the political issues of our time. Hologram was first published back in 1997, so secession has been getting discussed for quité a while.

  7. Becky Hargrove Avatar
    Becky Hargrove

    This post just helped me connect a few dots. The attack I received before Christmas at Glasner’s blog was by someone with the moniker I Miss Nixon. That person tried to shut down at least four of the monetary/macro sites I frequent. (I’m still stuck in Texas but I’ve been trying to figure out the best northern city for some time)

  8. Asymptosis Avatar

    @Becky Hargrove
    I also read somewhere recently, can’t remember, something, also can’t remember, about a major monetary change in 1863.

  9. Big Sis Avatar


    The creation of a national banking system and a “uniform national currency” is perhaps what you were thinking of? Being curious, I googled “monetary change 1863” and the first link was this one: http://www.occ.gov/about/what-we-do/history/history.html

  10. Asymptosis Avatar

    @Big Sis “The creation of a national banking system and a “uniform national currency”

    Ah. Yes. Some people might consider that to be a significant event in the country’s transformation into a prosperous modern economy. 😉 This was not the first time a national bank was created, of course. Hamilton did it. Jackson eradicated it.

  11. Asymptosis Avatar

    @Asymptosis This is part of the constant battle and tension between advocates for two extremes: “free banking,” in which there’s no national bank and all money is created by private banks (though still designated in “dollars”), and “full-reserve banking,” in which the government is the monopoly supplier of money.

    I’m developing a fondness for the latter idea, though I have a lot more thinking to do on it.