Wigfall vs. De Bow: Two Views of Southern Economic Independence

US Senator Louis T. Wigfall of Texas

By Hunter Wallace

The following excerpt comes from Michael Lind’s Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States:

“In 1861, former US senator from Texas Louis T. Wigfall told a British correspondent: “We are a peculiar people, sir! We are an agricultural people; we are a primitive but a civilized people. We have no cities – we don’t want them. We have no literature – we don’t need any yet … We want no manufactures; we desire no trading, no mechanical or manufacturing classes … As long as we have our rice, our sugar, our tobacco, and our cotton, we can command wealth to purchase all we want from those nations with which we are in amity, and to lay up money besides.”

The journalist James B. D. De Bow, writing before the Civil War, did not share Wigfall’s complacency: “Our slaves work with Northern hoes, ploughs, and other implements. The slaveholder dresses in Northern goods, rides on a Northern saddle … reads Northern books … In Northern vessels his products are carried to market … and on Northern-made paper, with a Northern pen, with Northern ink, he resolves and re-resolves in regard to his rights.”

Here’s another relevant excerpt from Kvach’s book on De Bow:

“A Review contributor questioned why more Southern shipbuilders had failed to materialize, despite the South’s abundance of lumber, naval stores, and cotton to transport. A disenchanted reader noted that the delegates to the 1858 Vicksburg Commerical Convention had traveled on northern-built railroad cars and rode on iron rails produced in northern factories. Once they arrived at the convention, delegates used chairs and desks that had been assembled by northern workers and after a long day retired to “lie down to dream of southern independence in a Yankee bed.”

Lind notes:

1.) The North had 22,000 miles of railroad to 9,000 miles in the South plus the industrial capacity to make necessary repairs.

2.) The North had 19 million people compared to 9 million in the South. 3 million of those were slaves.

3.) The North had 10x the industry and the manufactured products of the Confederacy added up to less than one-fourth of New York’s manufacturing.

4.) The North had 14 of the 15 largest American cities.

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24 Comments

  1. I loved the quote from Wigfall, Sir!

    My Lord, he was, and, mostly still is, jack-daddy on the spot – or, at least as far as my neck of the woods is concerned.

  2. ‘The North had 19 million people compared to 9 million in the South. 3 million of those were slaves.’

    This is not the figure given by Ken Burns, in his series,’ The Civil War’.

    His figure was 20,000,000 in the North and 10,000,000 in the South, of which, in the latter, approximately 4,000,000 were slaves.

  3. As subsequent events demonstrated, Wigfall was tragically mistaken. The foreign policy corollary of this worldview – the notion that “Cotton is King” – was equally unfounded. Britain was the world champion of anti-slavery and failed to intervene because the South couldn’t sustain itself.

  4. @Richard Bird…

    ‘Wars are won or lost long before they ever begin.’

    In many cases true, as Wellington said : ‘90% of the battle is won before the first shot’

    That said, The Confederacy could have won that war with a different strategy; one similar to what North Vietnam pursued in their war with Western powers.

  5. ‘Once they arrived at the convention, delegates used chairs and desks that had been assembled by northern workers and after a long day retired to “lie down to dream of southern independence in a Yankee bed.’

    Sir, the argument could be easily turned around…

    ‘Once they (Yankees) arrived at the convention, the northern delegates smoket pipes and cigars of Southern tobacco, and sat at used chairs and desks that had been assembled by northern workers, from wood lumbered in The South and finisht with a varnish of Carolina Turpentine and linseed oil, and after a long day retired to lie down to dreams of a Northern freeing the South of it’s backward ways … whilst in pajamas, sheets, and pillows, of Southern cotton, and being tuckt in by a negro servant, who was disappointed to find his life not much different, in New Hampshire, than that from which he had run away in Gerogia…’

  6. “Britain was the world champion of anti-slavery and failed to intervene because the South couldn’t sustain itself.”

    I don’t know what you mean by that: “failed to intervene because the South couldn’t sustain itself.”

  7. I wonder why we didn’t move into manufacturing? Best guess I have is that the people with capital sufficient to move into manufacturing were already making money sufficient for their needs off of slavery.

    Junius Daniel,”…The Confederacy could have won that war with a different strategy; one similar to what North Vietnam pursued in their war with Western powers.”

    Not so. We had no sanctuary and no independent power funding the South. Totally different circumstances. If we chose guerrilla war they would have just ground us to dust and nothing would have been left in the South but Negros, scalawags and carpet baggers.

  8. The Communists lost every engagement in Vietnam, but the real battle was being fought back in the USA. Winning in the USA is what gave the Communists victory in Vietnam.

  9. The war came at the wrong time. If it had come earlier then the North would not have been as industrialized. If it had come later the South would have greater industrial capacity. During the 1850’s capital in the South was flowing into commodity agriculture since that is where the greatest returns were to be found due to cheap land. If the war had come some decades later return on investment from agriculture would have been more comparable to the return on industry and the South’s industrial capacity would have grown.

  10. Off topic, but I can’t help noticing that your “Rednecks” song is composed and performed by a South-hating third rate Hollywood jew. Why?

  11. @ Feric Jagger…

    ‘More important than who wins the war is who wins the peace that follows. America won the Cold War but Cultural Marxism won that peace that followed.’

    Yes, it’s a sad fact that bolting the front door does not necessarily protect the berry bushes, out back.

  12. @Sam J.

    ‘Junius Daniel,”…The Confederacy could have won that war with a different strategy; one similar to what North Vietnam pursued in their war with Western powers.”

    Not so. We had no sanctuary and no independent power funding the South. Totally different circumstances. If we chose guerrilla war they would have just ground us to dust and nothing would have been left in the South but Negros, scalawags and carpet baggers’

    I respectfully disagree, Sir. Northerners have many strengths, but, patience is not one of them, nor was, at that time, spending money of government adventures.

    If we had pursued a policy like North Vietnam, they would have, over the course of 10,15,20 years, gotten tired of trying to subdue us, and would have come to an arrangement.

    As it was, they almost did in 1864, after just 3 years of it.

    Antoehr alternative would have been to secede and peacefully non-cooperate.

    That would have taken time, too, but, would have been much more promising than pitched battles, where we lost what we could not replace.

    At any rate, thank you for your thoughts.

    I, as well, agree with Mr. Crews that, the war came at a very inauspicious time for us.

  13. @ Sam J.

    ‘The Communists lost every engagement in Vietnam, but the real battle was being fought back in the USA. Winning in the USA is what gave the Communists victory in Vietnam.’

    Very true, Sir – which precisely underlines my point : winning engagements is often not decisive or conclusive, but, demoralizing your enemy is.

    The Confederate government was clearly working on that angle, though, again, I think they pursued it in a manner which we could not afford.

    Don’t try to build a piece of furniture that you ain’t got the wood for.

  14. Joining the revolution in 1776 probably was a fatal mistake. Slavery would have been slowly decommissioned and industry set up. A reasonable balance of agriculture and industry.

    The south would have rapidly become the dry dock of Empire.

  15. “Northerners have many strengths, but, patience is not one of them ….”

    Another Southern expert on everything. If it hadn’t been for Northern patience, the electronic world that enabled you to post that wouldn’t even exist. While Southrons were still stewing about the obliteration of their slave empire, Bell Labs was building the Twentieth Century.

  16. @ John Bonaccorsi…

    “Northerners have many strengths, but, patience is not one of them ….”

    Another Southern expert on everything. If it hadn’t been for Northern patience, the electronic world that enabled you to post that wouldn’t even exist. While Southrons were still stewing about the obliteration of their slave empire, Bell Labs was building the Twentieth Century.’

    Sir, you are quite right : when it comes to technology and manufacturing, Northerners are the soul of patience & perserverence, and, furthermore, Northerners are better at holding their tempers.

    Foreign policy is another matter, Sir, and the Northern government has shown, time and time again, that, it can do all the stuff to conquer, but, if that does not come soon enough, or if winning the peace is too complicated afterwards, then it will, one way or the other, abandon the field.

    It is this very impatience, which is most visible watching Northerners in their cars, which has made the North so good in technology – because they like things to happen instantly, with as little sweat as possible.

    I hope this is not offensive. I do not mean it to be.

  17. No, I’m not offended, Junius. As for America’s tenacity in some of its military ventures, well, I would say only that our entire civilization is presently such a confusion of instincts, values, and purposes that it’s amazing America does well at all. With luck, the white race, which doesn’t lack for capable warriors, will pull itself out of this confusion and act more effectively. I guess all of us who post here, at Occidental Dissent, are trying somehow to help it do that. Well–that’s my view of things, anyway.

  18. Obama is about to go full retard tonight.

    1. Free Speech

    2. Guns

    This is going to be a full frontal assault by the asshole.

  19. @Denise “… De Bow was correct …” Reality is always brutal. Fair trade and free trade are myths or false hopes.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2010-10-26/six-reasons-for-u-s-to-drop-free-trade-myth-commentary-by-ian-fletcher
    Those with political and economic power will use their power in amoral ways. You will be exploited and abused by those with better tools and weapons than you have. Jews are enemies of non-Jews. Muslims are enemies of non-Muslims. Blacks and mulattos are biological enemies of civilization.

  20. The Southern coastal cities included Baltimore and New Orleans in 1860 which were two large cities but aside from that, absolutely nothing. Wilmington Beaufort Charleston and Savannah were bit players, Jacksonville and Saint Augustine were little better than Florida frontier towns, Mobile and Biloxi were also-rans to New Orleans and Brownsville Galveston, Houston and Corpus Christi were all both so small that if you blinked hard, you would miss them. Except for the states from Maryland to Georgia, there were hardly no rail lines to speak of. The Memphis and Charleston ran out of Memphis through Northern Miss and Bama before it hooked back into Tennessee, and met all the other railroads in Chatanooga, before continuing east to Charleston.

    The Mississippi River and Ohio River Ports weren’t bad towns but again, their commerce flowed to New Orleans. This included Hannibal Mo, Saint Louis, Cape Girardeau, Helena Ark, Vicksburg, Natchez, Vidalia La, and the Ohio River towns, Paducah, Owensboro, Louisville, Covington/Cincinnati and the tiny communities in Appalachian Kentucky and West Virginia such as Parkersburg and Wheeling. Cincinnati Ohio, although a Northern City, was commerce wise part of Dixie as all of it’s commerce was with the South. It was also the original home of the Ku Klux Klan. The Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) was founded in Lexington KY 1854 but HQ in Cincinnati from 1854-1863. When it was reformed in Pulaski TN in 1865, it took the name Kuklos Klan and later called itself Knights of the Kuklos Klan meaning in English, Knights of the Circle Family.

    I will give you a mystery. The South is supposedly broke in 1865 with antiquated firearms but somehow by 1866 the Klan has modern weapons and could obtain almost anything they needed. How did they get it? Answer their KGC Friends in the North sent them the money. The First Generation Klan, while officially only existing in the south, unofficially existed everywhere.

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