Author Archives: Phil Leigh

Who Controlled America’s Antebellum Government?

(December 6, 2019) Most modern historians argue that Southerners dominated the federal government until Abraham Lincoln became President in 1861and that they selfishly used the power to promote Southern interests at the expense of national interests.  A good way to evaluate the merits of the assertion is to examine the three branches of the federal government separately.

Presidency. Of the fifteen Presidents elected before Abraham Lincoln, eight were from slave states and seven were from free states. Admittedly, Southerners were Presidents for forty-nine of the years from from Washington to Buchanan (inclusive) whereas Northerners were Presidents for just over twenty-three years. Nonetheless, on the most crucial matters Southern Presidents Washington, Madison, Jackson and Taylor put national interests ahead of Southern interests.

First, Washington signed the 1789 Tonnage Act sponsored by James Madison that levied a 50¢ per ton duty on goods imported by foreign ships whereas American-owned vessels were charged only 6¢. At the time,  America’s maritime and shipbuilding industries were dominated by New England.

Madison further explained  that articles subject to high tariffs “were pretty generally taxed for the benefit of the manufacturing part of the northern community.” He also conceded that the South, then the main wealth-producing part of the nation, would inevitably “shoulder a disproportionate share of the financial burden involved in the transforming the United States into a commercial, manufacturing, and maritime power.”

Second, when Madison was President in 1817 he signed an act that restricted domestic coastal trade to America’s merchant marine. This again was at a time when New England controlled the maritime and shipbuilding industries. The Act enable New York to become America’s dominant international port as a result of the “cotton triangle trade” whereby imports arrived in New York (in American hulls), distributed to Southern ports in monopoly coastal trade where cotton was loaded for shipment to New York and thence to Europe.

Third, when Tennessee’s Andrew Jackson was President in 1832 South Carolina “nullified” the tariffs of 1828 and 1832 thereby announcing that it would refuse to collect duties at its ports starting early in 1833. Jackson responded by obtaining congressional authority to use the United States military to force South Carolina to collect the duties.

He also encouraged Congress to adopt a compromise tariff that would gradually reduce rates to 20% by 1842, but Northerners reneged.  Instead, in 1842 they passed the Black Tariff which increased rates to an average of 40%. President John Tyler of Virginia reluctantly signed the act as a show of national unity. The Black tariff caused a sharp drop in international trade in 1843. Imports into the United States nearly halved from their 1842 and exports, which are affected by overall trade patterns, dropped by about 20%.

Fourth, in 1849 when the balance of power in the Senate between the slave and free states was evenly matched at fifteen states each, President Zachary Taylor of Louisiana favored admission of California as at free state over the objections of fellow Southerners. Once California was admitted as a free state Northerners had control of both houses of Congress.

Congress. Antebellum Southerners never controlled Congress.

Free states controlled the House of Representatives from 1804 to 1861, a period of fifty-seven years. Southerners controlled the House only fourteen years from 1789 to 1804. Significantly, revenue bills such as tariffs could only originate in the House where Northern protectionist tariff members held the majority for nearly sixty years before the Civil War.

Additionally, antebellum Southerners never had a majority of the Senate. For thirty-eight years from 1812 to 1850 the Senate was evenly balanced between free and slave states. With the admission of California in 1850, however, the power in the Senate increasingly shifted toward the free states. By Lincoln’s 1860 election, free states had 18-to-15 edge in the Senate.

Supreme Court. The antebellum Supreme Court was involved in only two important cases applicable to North-South sectional differences.

Most famous was the 1857 Dred Scott ruling, declaring that a black man could not become a U. S. citizen and that a slave could not obtain freedom merely because his owner took him into residence temporarily in a free state. Of the nine justices, five were from slave states and four from free states. Two of the Northerners voted with the majority in the seven-to-two decision against Scott while the other two were the only dissenting votes.

The other case pertinent to the North-South axis was Prigg versus Pennsylvania. In 1842 the court ruled that states cannot be required to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. The decision enabled a number of Northern states to adopt “personal liberty laws” that freed state enforcement officers from any obligation to help capture or return runaway slaves. The ruling was undeniably contrary to the interests of slaveowners. The decision forced the adoption of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act as a component of the 1850 Compromise. Since California’s admission as a free state tipped the Senate balance of power toward the free states, a number of Northern states reneged on promises to honor the new Fugitive Slave Act with impunity.

The Prigg court was composed of nine justices, five from slaves states and four from free states. The majority in the 6-to-3 ruling was composed equally of Southerners and Northerners.

Conclusion: The oft-cited argument that antebellum Southerners dominated the federal government and used that control to put the interests of the “slaveocracy” ahead of the county at large is false.


Looking for good Christmas gifts? Go to my Amazon Author page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

Black Reconstruction Vote

(December 4, 2019) Less than two months after Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson announced his Presidential Reconstruction Plan, which was modeled after Lincoln’s. It set three requirements on the states not yet re-admitted to the Union. First they had to abolish slavery. All but Texas and Mississippi did so by ratifying the Thirteenth Amendment before the end of 1865, which was the year the Civil War ended. Mississippi and Texas recognized the end of slavery in their state constitutions. Second, they had to repudiate all debts incurred by the Confederate States and the individual states while they were in the Confederacy. Third, they had to avow the illegality of secession.

Importantly, however, Lincoln and Johnson wanted Southerners to manage their own state governments. At the last cabinet meeting on the very day of his death Lincoln said:  “We can’t undertake to run State Governments in all these Southern States. Their people must do that, though I reckon that, at first, they may do it badly.” Over a year earlier when he was initiating wartime Reconstruction in Louisiana he stressed that he wanted the new Union-loyal government to send representatives to Washington who were native to the state: “To send a parcel of Northern men as Representatives, elected . . . at the point of the bayonet, would be disgraceful and outrageous.”*

When the former Confederate states sent their congressmen and senators elected under Johnson’s plan to Washington for the first ordinary session of the Thirty-Ninth Congress in December 1865, the Republican-controlled Congress refused to seat them. One of the chief Republican objections was that none of the Johnson-plan states permitted blacks to vote. Even though President Johnson favored limited black suffrage for men who had served in the Union army or others who could meet property requirements like those in New York state, he recognized that suffrage had always been a state’s right. Moreover, only six of the thirty-five Union-loyal states with tiny black populations permitted blacks to vote whereas blacks represented 40% of the population in the eleven former Confederate states.

Although the Righteous Cause Mythology of popular historians credits Republican support for black suffrage in the South (but not the North) as being motivated by a moral impulse for racial equality, the bulk of the evidence indicates that the Party really wanted Southern blacks to vote so that it could remain in power in Washington. When the Civil War ended the Republican Party was barely ten years old. Its leaders worried that it might be strangled in its cradle if the re-admittance of Southern states into the Union failed to be managed in a way that would prevent Southerners from allying with Northern Democrats to regain control of the federal government. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens, who led the committee formulating Congressional Reconstruction, admitted that Southern black suffrage “would insure the ascendancy of the [Republican] party.”

Consequently, the Republican Congress used its two-thirds majority to block Johnson’s plan and replace it with Congressional Reconstruction. The congressional plan required the former Confederate states (except Tennessee) to write new state constitutions. (Tennessee was excluded because it already had a Republican-controlled puppet regime.) Moreover, it required that all adult black males be permitted to vote for delegates and that many former Confederates be denied the right to vote.  As a result, five of the ten ex-Confederate states had black-majority electorates before they even wrote their constitutions.

After nearly driving President Johnson out of office with phony impeachment charges, the Republicans nominated war-hero Ulysses Grant as their 1868 presidential candidate. Despite being the most popular American at the time, Grant won only a minority of America’s white vote, notwithstanding that three former Confederate states were not permitted to vote although eight Carpetbag states were allowed.

His 53%-to-47% popular vote margin was entirely due to the Southern black vote, which was largely controlled by the Carpetbag and Scalawag officers of the Union Leagues and similar organizations. Without it he would have lost the popular vote. Moreover, Grant’s seemingly decisive 241-to-80 electoral college victory was tenuous. In combination with disfranchisement of former Confederates in Tennessee, Missouri, and West Virginia ex-slaves gave Grant 67 of his 214 electoral votes. Without those 67 votes, the 1868 election would have resulted in tie!** Finally, Grant was elected on a Republican Party platform that left black suffrage as a state’s right in the Northern states while requiring it in all former Confederate states, undeniably showing that the Party cared more about black votes than it did their civil rights.

Unfortunately, the Republican Party continued to manipulate black voters and resorted to fraudulent elections in the South in order to sustain the corrupt Carpetbag regimes after President Grant took office. Our country is still living with the consequences of the Party’s selfish political motives that have been mischaracterized as noble attempt at racial equality, as is further explained in U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency.

*This is precisely what the later congressionally-imposed Carpetbag regimes did.
**Albert Castel, Andrew Johnson, (Lawrence: Kansas University Press, 1979), 208


Looking for good Christmas gifts? Go to my Amazon Author page:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

Implications of Morrill Tariff Vote

(December 2, 2019) Historians who minimize antebellum sectional tariff differences should consider the vote on the avowedly protectionist First Morrill Tariff in the House of Representatives. The table below shows that the regional disagreements were extreme. Only one congressman from the eleven states that would form the Confederacy voted in favor of the bill and thirty-nine voted against it. In contrast ninety-seven congressmen from the “free” states voted in favor of it and only fifteen voted against it. The border slave states leaned slightly against the bill with ten “Nay” votes as compared to seven “Yeas.”

Although the bill passed the House on May 10, 1860 it did not pass the Senate until February 20, 1861 by a vote of 25-to-14 after seven Southern states had seceded. But the House vote had greater implications than the Senate vote for five reasons.

First, revenue bills must originate in the House. The decisive House vote shows that it would be almost impossible for Southerners to originate a tariff bill that failed to provide the protectionist welfare desired by Northern manufactures. It also shows that Northerners would not hesitate to use their numerical advantage to dismiss the low-tariff needs of the South’s export economy. The faster growing population in the free states would only amplify the problem for Southerners in the future. In fact, tariffs on dutiable items averaged 45% for fifty-two years after the Civil War started as compared to only 19% when it began.

Second, the South’s ability to gain compromise on House revenue bills when they arrived in the Senate had been eclipsed during the 1850s. After California was admitted in 1850 the Senate balance of power tilted permanently toward the free states, with an initial edge of 16-to-15. By the start of the Civil War the balance tipped further toward the free states, 18-to-15 after Minnesota and Oregon were admitted in 1858 and 1859, respectively.

The situation grew worse when Kansas was admitted as a free state in January 1861. Even though she joined the Union after some Southern states had seceded, Kansas still would have become a state even if the seceded senators had remained. Kentucky Senator John Crittenden’s “Yea” vote would have tipped the balance in favor of Kansas statehood thereby resulting in a 19-to-15 free-to-slave state distribution. Moreover, once the Kansas senators were seated, it is doubtful that Southerners would have had the Senate votes needed to block the Morrill Tariff even if the seceded-state senators had remained.

Additionally, the four border states were not reliably opposed to protective tariffs. Excluding Missouri, the congressmen of the other three border states voted in favor of the Morrill bill, 7-to-6.

Third, the May 10, 1860 House Morrill Tariff vote was six months before Abraham Lincoln was elected President and ten months before he was inaugurated. Thus, it did not take place during the heat of a secession crisis. Since no Southern states had seceded until seven months after the vote, the region had its full voting power available in the House. It was, nonetheless, powerless to stop passage of a tariff injurious to its economic interests, or pass one out of the House compatible with those interests.

Fourth, the protectionist First Morrill Tariff provoked European cotton textile makers to seek feedstock from other countries such as Egypt, Brazil, and India instead of the American south. Normally Europeans generated the exchange credits needed to pay for Southern cotton by selling manufactured goods into the USA, but the Morrill tariff protected too many prime manufactured goods from European competition. Examples include finished products made of cotton, wool, and iron.

Although the war measures of the Southern embargo and Northern blockade also motivated Europeans to find other cotton sources, the Morrill Tariff alone was sufficient incentive even if the Southern states had not seceded. When August Belmont met with Prime Minister Lord Palmerston shortly after Sumter, Palmerston bluntly remarked: “We do not like slavery, but want cotton and do not like your Morrill Tariff.”

Fifth, anyone arguing that the South benefitted significantly from protective tariffs on sugar, rice and tobacco should note that congressmen from the producing regions voted against the Morrill Tariff. Louisiana dominated sugar production, while South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas grew rice and Virginia and North Carolina farmed tobacco. Not a single congressman from those states voted for the Morrill Tariff.

Since antebellum tariffs accounted for 90% of federal tax revenues major sectional differences were certain to be important political matters.

Since many modern Civil War historians have become social activists seeking to tear down Confederate monuments, they tend to minimize all causes of the Civil War other than slavery. Nevertheless, the initial Morrill Tariff vote in the House, as well as other evidence, indicate that the sectional economic differences were far more important than most modern historians want to admit.


Looking for good Christmas gifts? Go to my Amazon author page for:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Trading With the Enemy by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh
U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

When Confederate Statues are Gone

(November 29, 2019) An excerpt from North Carolina author Robert Ruark’s best known novel reads: “If a man does away with his traditional way of living and throws away his good customs, he had better first make certain that he has something of value to replace them.”

Ruark grew up in Wilmington where he learned to hunt and fish with his grandfathers in the 1920s. He entered the Chapel Hill campus of the University of North Carolina (UNC) in 1931 at age fifteen. Ancestors on both sides of his family were Confederate soldiers.  This week the university threw away a part of its tradition when it defied a 2015 state law and banished the Silent Sam Confederate statue from any of the fourteen North Carolina counties that have a UNC campus.

What is the “something of value” that UNC will offer to replace the Confederate soldier’s valor? Its faculty and administration ceaselessly attack a fantastical network of “intersectional oppression;” a made-up world in which American minorities and women are systematically persecuted by evil white males. Unfortunately, UNC is not alone. Outside the hard sciences, most American universities have transformed into Soviet style re-education camps.

If a man throws away his customs, he better be certain he has something of value to replace them.

Student protestors at the College of the Holy Cross, for example, recently blocked access to a speech by conservative scholar Heather Mac Donald. Video obtained by The College Fix shows the demonstrators chant for nearly ten minutes “My oppression is not a delusion!” in response to MacDonald’s signature opinion that “American college students are among the most privileged people in the World.” 

What can we look forward to when the wicked fantasy system imagined by such deluded people is overturned? Will they, with their entitlement mentality, ever announce themselves free from victimhood? Can anyone imagine social justice warriors ever declaring “the war is over?” Will UNC’s Chief Diversity Officer ever agree that her job is done?

It will never happen.

Leftists at UNC and elsewhere are offering to replace freedom of speech with censorship and an endless stream of false accusations fueled by rage, envy and revenge. How many statues of other American heroes must be torn down after all the Confederate ones are gone? How much money will convince those who were never slaves to forgive the rest of us for sins we never committed? Will they ever realize that those who imagine themselves to be a perpetual victim can never be happy?

Feminists at UNC and elsewhere are even trying to erase the imagined unfairness in gender; the Act of God that necessarily assigns some differences in the roles for men and women required to perpetuate any successful society. According to feminists, males must become perpetual self-flagellating eunuchs as punishment for the fantasy of “toxic masculinity.” But what utopian perfection will result when feminists have convinced men to no longer bear the responsibilities of men and women to abandon the functions of women?

Since our traditions and customs have until recently yielded an America with unmatched freedom, wealth and power, we should never abandon them until they can be truly replaced with “something of value.” 


Learn more about Confederate valor by reading:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh
Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh

Today’s post is inspired by a recent Andrew Klavan monologue.

Sharpsburg’s Robert E. Lee Statue

(November 27, 2019) Earlier this year two Maryland Democratic congressmen introduced a bill to remove the pictured statue of Robert E. Lee from the Antietam National Battlefield Park. Although the bill has been stalled in the Republican-controlled Natural Resources Committee that has oversight of federal lands, few, if any, academic historians have publicly objected to the bill.  Evidently, most either believe it is proper to remove Confederate statues from national battlefield parks, or they’re too afraid of retribution from our politically correct culture to voice dissent.

Robert E. Lee statue at Sharpsburg battlefield on the grounds of Antietam Battlefield Park

One reason many academic historians may want Robert E. Lee statues to vanish, is because the memory of Lee is an obstacle to their efforts to transform Ulysses Grant into a paragon of virtue. Fortunately books from Joseph Rose and Frank Varney are correcting the exaggerated evaluations of his military competence, while my own U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency is one that exposes his blundering selfishness as President. Nonetheless,  Steven Spielberg is preparing a Grant biopic to star Leonardo DiCaprio. When Hollywood gets involved, political correctness often takes charge of the narrative.

Be that as it may, Robert E. Lee’s statue should remain at Sharpsburg, and elsewhere. His leadership inspired the valor and victories against long odds of the soldiers under his command. Even today Lee and his men inspire accomplished military officers. Lieutenant-Colonel, and noted author, Ralph Peters has written: “As a serious student of the war and as a soldier, I have come to respect and honor the valor, skill and fortitude of the Confederate infantry—particularly those who served under Robert E. Lee.” Our country may once again hunger for the kind of leadership Lee provided.

First, during the Civil War Lee was undeniably the commander most beloved by the men in his army. This was most famously demonstrated at the Battle of the Wilderness. On the morning of May 6, 1864 the Confederates were in a desperate situation as their defense line was collapsing from a federal attack.  Lee felt the situation was hopeless until a reinforcing brigade of Texas and Arkansas troops—known as the Texas Brigade—arrived in the nick of time.

As the brigade began its successful counter attack Lee joined them and appeared intent on leading the charge on his horse Traveller. A number of  nearby soldiers noticed the general’s foolhardy intention and began to shout along the line, “Lee to the rear!” Some men pleaded with him directly, saying, “Go back, General Lee, go back.” A sergeant took hold of the Traveller’s reins to stop the horse. Prompted by such urgings, Lee turned back and rode off through cheering Confederate troops. “I thought him at that moment the grandest specimen of manhood I ever beheld,” one soldier who witnessed the event later recounted.

Second, while most generals would commandeer the home of a nearby resident for use as a headquarters (HQ) post, Lee normally slept in a tent. Soldiers on both sides were keenly aware of such conduct among their commanders. By contrast, General Grant established his HQ at the Widow Crisp’s house while his men slept under the February stars and snow at the Battle of Fort Donelson in Tennessee. Similarly, when his army was attacked by surprise two months later at Shiloh, Grant was sleeping at the Cherry Mansion where he had located his HQ ten miles from the federal troop encampments.

Third, rather than putting blame on others, which was common among defeated commanders during the war, Lee took full responsibility for his army’s first decisive defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. At the end of the month Lee wrote President Jefferson Davis, “No blame can be attached to the army for its failure to accomplish what was projected by me. . .  I alone am to blame.” A week later he offered to resign, but Davis turned him down.

After Lee’s desperate gamble to win on the third day at Gettysburg with Pickett’s Charge failed, he was seen by one of Lieutenant General James Longstreet’s staff officers to be meeting the returning survivors, “It is all my fault. I take it all. Get together now men, we shall yet beat them.” The staff officer added, “I saw no man fail him.” A British observer saw Lee meet the survivors saying, “All this will come out right in the end, we’ll talk it over afterward, but in the meantime all good men must rally.” (He was anticipating a federal counter attack.) An officer in the First Virginia regiment heard Lee tell Pickett, “General, your men have done all that men can do. The fault is entirely my own.” As returning officers came to him he repeated over and over, “It is all my fault.” Such conduct is rare but infinitely valuable as an example to others.

Fourth, Lee was the best example of an army commander who consistently held the respect of both his soldiers and superiors. When Davis replied to Lee’s resignation offer after Gettysburg the President wrote, “To ask me to substitute you for someone in my judgement more fit to command is to demand an impossibility.” No other leader of a field army on either side persistently had such a symbiotic relationship with their superiors. Lee was respectful of his superiors without being submissive.

Fifth, in the last six months of the war when the Confederacy was considering the possibility of enlisting slaves into the army, Congress made little progress until a Virginia politician directly asked Lee for his opinion. On January 11, 1865 he replied, “We must decide whether slavery shall be extinguished by our enemies and the slaves used against us, or use them ourselves at the risk of the effects which may be produced upon our social institutions [e.g. emancipation]. My own opinion is the we should employ them without delay.”

Two months later Congress passed a bill authorizing the enlistment of 300,000. President Davis stipulated that no black man could be enrolled under the Act unless he volunteered and was accompanied by manumission papers from his owner setting him free.

Sixth, after the war Lee urged fellow Southerners to accept the outcome. When the son of former Virginia Governor Henry Wise asked Lee if he should sign a federal parole, the general advised him to do so. When the son told his dad, the former Governor exclaimed, “You have disgraced the family!”

The youth replied, “But General Lee advised me to do it.”

“Oh,” said the governor. “That alters the case. Whatever General Lee says is all right.”

In sum, there were compelling reasons to honor Robert E. Lee with statues. They remain compelling for any American who respects the call of duty.


Learn about Robert E. Lee’s successes by reading:

The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh

Mr. Rogers or Confederate Statues?

(November 26, 2019) The post below borrows from Andrew Klavan’s monologue yesterday.


Whatever is happening to our young men will eventually happen to our country. If we train boys to be wimps, we’ll end up with a tyrannical government. That’s why I am not joining all of the excitement over the new movie about Mr. Rogers. To be sure, Mr. Rogers modeled decency and Christian values, which is good. But he also modeled a wrongheaded form of Christian manhood.

The Goal of Our Academic Historians

For those of you who don’t recall, The Mr. Rogers Show was absolutely intolerable to anyone over three years old. The Christ who threw the moneychangers out of the temple and faced down the full power of the ruling authorities, was not the meek and mild character exemplified by Mr. Rogers.

Instead our nation should find a different model. One that would inspire its young men to principled virility so that they, and the women they protect, can propagate a free and productive society. Perhaps author and Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters has identified one:

The myth of Johnny Reb as the greatest infantryman happens to be true. Not only the courage and combat skill, but the sheer endurance of the Confederate foot soldier may have been equaled in a few other armies over the millennia, but none could claim the least superiority. . . [T]he physical toughness, fighting ability and raw determination of those men remains astonishing.

The Confederate battle flag is a symbol of bravery, not slavery. I’m a Yankee, born and bred, and my personal sympathies lie with the Northern cause . . . To me, though, that red flag with the blue St. Andrews cross strewn with white stars does not symbolize slavery—that’s nonsense—but the stunning bravery of those who fought beneath it.

If Peters is correct, our politicians should not be tearing down Confederate statues. They are destroying symbols of valor that represent the type of men America will need if she is to avoid a government that will marginalize freedom, rule with an iron fist from Washington and tell us how to think. The crumpled statue pictured above illustrates the tyranny that our young men learn from professional historians. Even the politician who doubts that Peters is correct should not reflexively yield to academic zeitgeist but instead pause to consider, “He who marries the spirit of this age will find himself a widower in the next.”

Those wanting to protect Confederate symbols may wish to read the speech I made last summer in their defense. Should any group wish me to make the speech in person, please contact me in the comments section.


To learn more about Confederate valor read:

Lee’s Lost Dispatch & Other Civil War Controversies by Philip Leigh
The Confederacy at Flood Tide by Philip Leigh