17 November 2020

The role of capitalism and profits in the American Civil War

"Williams also told Waddell he thought the Confederacy had erred in not sending a cruiser to the Arctic earlier in the war, “for the destruction of that northern whaling fleet, from which New England gathered her wealth, would have more seriously affected the Northern mind than a dozen battles in Virginia.”

Williams’ comment, said Waddell, indicated a just idea of the Yankee character and its policy in the war; they made money by it, and for this reason they waged it.  Politicians fed on fat contracts and immense government expenditures, enriching the agents through whose hands the money passed.  A high tariff taxed the people without their seeing it, while the manufacturers realized fortunes.  The newspapers of the large cities, filled with the details of battles, greatly increased their circulation, and their proprietors grew correspondingly wealthy.  The government simulated business by issuing paper and creating a debt that it intended the South is eventually to pay.  It is thus that the war is waged and continued, and it is only to be stopped on the mercenary principle of showing that it would no longer pay to keep it up!”
-- from The Last Shot: The incredible story of the CSS Shenandoah and the true conclusion of the American Civil War, by Lynn Schooler (Harper Collins, 2005), p. 209 (Ch. 14).

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