Sunday, June 12, 2011

Back When Republicans Were Northerners

Mary Spencer Ringold. The Role of the State Legislatures in the Confederacy. Athens, Ga.: University of Georgia Press, 1966.

The Confederate Constitution, while not specifying state’s rights, deliberately left “general welfare” out as a means for Confederate Congressional taxation. This meant general welfare issues were left to each state. General welfare issues, in addition to maintaining economic and political operations during war time, were the primary concerns of Confederate Governors and state legislators.

In six weeks in 1861, successions conventions were held in South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas for approving succeeding from the United States. A Confederate government was formed that was later joined by Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee.

Many of the laws in Confederate states were initially existing laws changed to omit references to the United States. Laws on treason were changed. Three days after succession, Louisiana transferred all Federal offices and Postal employees to Louisiana jurisdictions. Louisiana took over Federal revenue collection duties. Federal courts became state courts. Other states followed in similar fashion, including some taking control of Indian reservations.

South Carolina adopted the powers to make foreign treaties and appoint foreign agents.

Louisiana established state-owned stores to sell necessities to civilians. North Carolina had state owned ships to go past Union blockades to bring back supplies for civilian and military use.

Six Confederate state legislatures moved from biennial to annual meetings. North Carolina, Mississippi, Texas, and South Carolina all had several extra sessions.

Defeating was widely felt throughout the Confederacy in 1863. Growing public expression was expressed that state legislatures could not find solutions to the many problems created by the war. Economic, political, and social disintegration grew. A man of “Unionist stripe” was able to win election to the Alabama legislature. Some newspapers condemned secessionist leaders for grabbling powerful position and then serving incompetently. The bigotry of Conference legislators was denounced. The images of legislators fleeing as Union armies were emerging added to the atmosphere of defeatism.

Governor John Milton of Florida in 1862 wanted a militia to protect Florida instead of leaving the defense of Florida to Confederate troops. The legislature refused to agree to this until 1864.

The North Carolina legislature authorized financing 10,000 volunteers for the war efforts and later increased this to 11,000. Tennessee optimistically established 55,000 volunteers. Texas authorized one regiment for one year. Texas also created a Ranger Corps under Confederate command that could not leave Texas. South Carolina approved some Ranger and two cavalry companies but did not establish an army until 1863. Louisiana authorized $50 and 80 acres after the war to anyone becoming a private or non-commissioned officer,

Virginia created a militia and a reserve militia. Their system was considered the most practical as other states created various militia and brigades. South Carolina allowed its militia to go into other states as long as it continued being directed by the South Carolina Governor. The Union invasion of Mississippi caused the legislature to lower the militia age to 16 and increase the upper age limit to 55. Some newspapers criticism was the militia added little militarily and that the men would have been more effective at home. The militia laws were not popular everywhere. The exemption of public officials form militia services upset many.

The Confederacy wanted volunteers for the war’s duration while Governors were creating units to serve for one year. The Confederacy at first sent back volunteers who were not agree to serve for more than a year. The Confederacy eventually accepted troops for a year if they arrived completed armed and equipped. The Union invasion of Virginia in 1862 coincided when many one year conscriptions were ending.

The Confederate Congress suspended the writ of habeas corpus. The Florida legislature in 1864 upheld the writ and declared their authority supreme. The North Carolina legislature in 1863 approved the authority of Sheriffs to take into custody anyone state law considered to be wrongly held by Confederate law. In 1865, North Carolina law allowed the Confederacy to only suspend habeas corpus for alleged accused criminals. This made it difficult for the Confederacy to organized and maintain a military force.

The Confederate army impressed to obtain supplies. North Carolina and Virginia legislatures voted to make impressions more equitable so people would not lose all they have. Seven states enacted penalties for overly impressing.

The Confederate army began with $389,267 that Louisiana officials found in a min and customs house plus a $500,000 loan from Alabama.

The Confederate Treasury urged states to guarantee the Confederate debt. Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and Mississippi guarantee a proportion of the national debt, according to some proportion of their state size. Georgia declined to do this, arguing for restraining the financing powers of the Confederate government.

Several states created banking laws. There were no banks in Arkansas and Texas. Historians observe the banks engaged in war time speculation. Banks did well but farmers did not. The Union blockade cut purchases of farm goods, the war decreased the number of farm workers, and railroads carrying agricultural goods were disrupted by war needs. A large supply of unsold cotton developed. Mississippi and Alabama created taxes on cotton seed to lower cotton production. Arkansas limited cotton to two acres per hand and create large fines for exceeding this. Florida enacted tougher production restrictions with exceptions for own use and low priced sales. The Georgia legislature voted down stricter limits and enacted a three acre per hand limit on cotton.

North Carolina sought to increased food production and lower alcohol production by taxing whiskey at 30 cents per gallon up to a date in 1862 and then banning production after that date. Whiskey brought into North Carolina was taxes $1 per gallon. Florida limited whiskey production except what that which the government contracted. Florida later prohibited rum production. Alabama’s Governor unilaterally halted all distilleries. The legislature then concurred and gave the Governor control of distilleries with distillery profits allocated to indigent soldier families. South Carolina similarly created state control of whiskey. Georgia and Mississippi created licensing. Louisiana prohibited spirits.

Louisiana and Alabama passed laws to control areas that produced salt. North Carolina required adequate salt production. Georgian and South Carolina subsidized salt production. Mississippi allocated $500,000 for salt works.

Louisiana and Georgia created commodities production entities owned by the state. Louisiana sold goods in stores owned by the state.

Tennessee loaned $17 million for railways. North Carolina allocated funds to build 900 miles of track. South Carolina issued grants and bonds to 12 railroad companies. Alabama brought stock in companies to expand rail in Alabama. Georgia seized control of a militarily strategic rail owned mostly by shareholders in Northern states.

Louisiana issued bonds for $6,000 per mile of rail. Arkansas issued loans and bought rail stock. Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, and Alabama issued land grants and credit for railroads. These were costly investments as Union troops destroyed much of the rail system.

Florida let troops ride rails for free for a year. This law was then repealed.

There were fears that a war involving slavery would lead to slave rebellions. Florida created weekly patrols of plantations. Virginia created county police that could arrest escaping slaves or anyone calling for a slave rebellion. Tennessee created a law that five people who were found credible could accuse a person of insurrection. Incendiary actions brought the death penalty in North Carolina.

Mississippi created a $500 fine and 60 day imprisonment for giving freedom to a slave. Texas prohibited slaves from owning farm animals. North Carolina prohibited a free Black person from having slaves.

A bill creating legal marriage among slaves passed a Mississippi Senate committee but went no further.

The laws in Florida required slaves and even freed slaves to be tried by a jury of 12 slaveholders with a decision made by majority vote of jurors.

The death penalty in Arkansas could be given for sodomy, perjury, bigamy, incent, for embezzling public money, burglary, robbery, Negro stealing and other higher crimes such as murder.

All Confederate legislators passed stay laws to create debtor relief, to the chagrin or merchants and banks.

Georgia created public schools funded by a dedicated tax. Counties could use some revenues from the tax for soldier relief or for buying necessary goods.

Texas had a $2 million school fund where fraud and railroad borrowing against this fund led to a repayment values of 6% to 10% of the value borrowed.

Louisiana shifted free school funds to the general fund, eliminated the State Superintendent of Education in 1865, and allocated $100,000 for school books that were sold to students who could buy them and were free to students who could not buy them.

North Carolina’s Governor was a strong supporter of public schools. Schools continued through the war and expanded in 1864.

Poor morale of Confederate troops spurred several states to exempt them from property and poll taxes and to provide relief from sales for collecting their debts. North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida allowed troops to vote by absentee ballot.

North Carolina allocated$300,000 for a hospital and a surgeon in Virginia to treat North Carolina soldiers. Alabama created a hospital in Virginia for wounded Alabama soldiers.

Arkansas created a hospital and homes within Arkansas for its soldiers. Florida created wayside homes. Virginia allowed wounded discharged soldiers to attend university for free.

In 1861, Florida placed price controls of 33% profit on key food substances. This was repealed by a state convention in 1862. Mississippi penalized speculation with imprisonment of one year of less and/or a $1,000 fine. Texas law required beef sales to be reported but did not regulate them.

Relief laws for assisting poor families of men in military service were enacted throughout the Confederacy. Many let counties tax and administer this relief. Relief was later expanded for needy families regardless of having a family member at war. Mississippi and Virginia allowed for seizing supplies for relief purposes.

Every Confederate state government except South Carolina had major revenue problems. Most state gambled the war would not last long and assumed large debt. Consumer confidence made it difficult for states to sell bonds. Tennessee’s state government collapsed. South Carolina raised taxes in 1861 which increased its revenues by $200,000 to a total of $800,000. Taxes were raised even more in 1864.

Desertion from the Confederate military became rampant. North Carolina, Alabama, and Mississippi had large parts of their states controlled by deserters. In addition, the declining Confederate economy and weakened Confederate patrols created growing illegal trade with Union merchants. This trade became so common, especially since it was often done out of necessity, that both sides did little to stop it.

State legislators in North Carolina and Georgia debated in 1864, but did not pass, offers of peace and reconciliation with the Union.


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