Monday, February 23, 2004

Civil War: Smithsonian Magazine, in an article about the legacy of James Buchanan, quotes Goucher College historian Jean Harvey Baker on Buchanan's career-driven courting of the slave South:
He was totally opposed to abolitionism, and pro-Southern. He wanted to protect the Union as it was, run by a Southern minority. His agenda was appeasement. [Emphasis added.]
I think that's quite a stretch -- that the Union was "run by a Southern minority." I'm not an expert in this stuff, and this can be the subject of some fierce debate, but my undertsanding is that it was the North that had the upper hand, particularly in Congress. The North dominated, for example, of trade policy, which generally protected Northern companies who produced finished goods (textiles, for example) using Southern raw materials (cotton). Any economist will tell you that, lacking mitigating circumstances, one area that sells raw materials to another and buys back the finished product is either a) a colony or b) economically unstable. (The South was an agrarian economy. It's not like they could take the hit on textiles but make it back on software.)

What could Baker be thinking?

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