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To What Extent Did Southern Commitment To States' Rights Weaken The Confederates In The Civil War?

2718 words - 11 pages

To what extent did southern commitment to states' rights weaken the Confederates in the Civil War?The reasons for the secession of southern states that led to the American Civil War were based largely on their belief and ideas of state rights (or "states rights," a variant that came into use after the war). This exalted the powers of the individual states as opposed to those of the Federal government and generally rested on the theory of state sovereignty in which the ultimate authority lay in the separate states. Also associated with this principle was a sense of state loyalty. This strong southern belief played a key part in ante-bellum politics and in many of the sectional issues with the north, from the Nullification Crisis in 1832 to Lincoln's election almost thirty years later. During the war the state rights re-appeared in the Confederacy and affected the southern war effort in a number of ways.The first example of how the belief in state rights weakened the south was due to the reluctance to tax her citizens. The Nullification Crisis in 1832 and the rejection of raising tariffs after the 'Panic of 57' clearly illustrated southern views on taxation. Therefore Congress only enacted a tiny tariff in 1861 which in the whole war made only $3.5 million, and a direct tax of 1.5% on real and personal property. Furthermore, there had been no prepared machinery for levying internal taxing and coupled with southerners' reluctance to pay anyway this proved an added problem. Therefore instead, the Confederates preferred to print money (60% of funds) and suffer rampant inflation which by 1865 had reached 9000%.This inflation created huge problems and was a major reason for the loss of morale in the south. For example, conditions on farms deteriorated uncontrollably. Already suffering from the absence of adult males, the shortage of salt (only means of preserving meat) added to this hardship as prices went up from $2 a bag before the war to $60 a bag by the end of 1862. As the war proceeded, food became more and more scarce and this led to many desertions from the army by soldiers to prevent their families at home starving. A number of riots in protest to this hardship also emanated as a result. For example the Richmond bread riots in 1863, where a mob of more than a thousand broke into shops taking mostly bread, but also other goods.So therefore this state rights belief on taxation was a key cause of the huge inflation in the south that caused so many problems during the war. Its significance can be summed up by Jefferson Davis himself, "inflation is a gigantic evil that has seduced citizens from a determined prosecution of the war to a sordid attempt to amass money".The second example of how belief in state rights hampered the south was a two-fold issue regarding the protection of slavery. The first fold attributes the lack of arms in many southern armies, especially at the beginning of the war, to the insistence of many governors of retaining weapons...

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