It has been argued of late that should certain Southern States decide to do what the People therein believe is needed to reclaim their liberties, they should be allowed to perform the Act of Secession so that the world may behold the spectacle of the resulting impoverishment. This claim is made by the Southern states “friends” in northeastern, northern and western states who have benighted themselves as “debtor” states to the aforementioned South. That this state of affairs is not equally loathed by The People from all states living under the Constitution is a symptom of our dystopia. It is further asserted, by implication that this has always been the case and everybody knows it. Media Matters explained it rather un-empirically “But data shows that secession would lead to what is being called a ‘Confederacy of Takers’ because ‘red states’ tend to receive more in federal benefits than they pay in taxes, while ‘blue states’ typically receive less.”
“There are certain modes of governing the people which will succeed. There are others which will not. The idea of consolidation is abhorrent to the people of this country. How were the sentiments of the people before the meeting of the Convention at Philadelphia? They had only one object in view. Since that period, their views have extended much farther. Horrors have been greatly magnified since the rising of the Convention.
But we are told that, if we do not embrace the present moment, we are lost forever. Is there no difference between productive states and carrying states? If we hold out, will not the tobacco trade enable us to make terms with the carrying states? Is there nothing in a similarity of laws, religion, language, and manners? Do not these, and the intercourse and intermarriage between the people of the different states, invite them in the strongest manner to union?
But my greatest objection is, that it will, in its operation, be found unequal, grievous, and oppressive. If it have any efficacy at all, it must be by a faction — a faction of one part of the Union against the other. I think that it has a great natural imbecility within itself, too weak for a consolidated and too strong for a confederate government. But if it be called into action by a combination of seven states, it will be terrible indeed. We need be at no loss to determine how this combination will be formed. There is a great difference of circumstances between the states. The interest of the carrying states is strikingly different from that of the productive states. I mean not to give offence to any part of America, but mankind are governed by interest. The carrying states will assuredly unite, and our situation will be then wretched indeed. Our commodities will be transported on their own terms, and every measure will have for its object their particular interest.
I hope that my fears are groundless; but I believe it as I do my creed, that this government will operate as a faction of seven states to oppress the rest of the union. But it may be said that we are represented, and cannot therefore be injured. A poor representation it will be! The British would have been glad to take America into the union, like the Scotch, by giving us a small representation. The Irish might be indulged with the same favor by asking for it. Will that lessen our misfortunes? A small representation gives a pretence to injure and destroy.
The smallness of their number puts it out of their power to carry any measure. And this unhappy nation exhibits the only instance, perhaps, in the world, where corruption becomes a virtue. I devoutly pray that this description of Scotland may not be picturesque of the Southern States, in three years from this time!”
He [Benton] felt for the sad changes which had taken place in the South in the last fifty years. Before the Revolution it was the seat of wealth as well as of hospitality. Money, and all that it commanded, abounded there. But how now All this is reversed. “Wealth has fled from the South, and settled in the regions north of the Potomac, and this in the midst of the fact that the South, in four staples alone, in cotton, tobacco, rice and indigo (while indigo was one of its staples), had exported produce since the Revolution, to the value of eight hundred million of dollars, and the North had exported comparatively nothing. This sum was prodigious; it was nearly equal to half the coinage of the mint of Mexico since the conquest by Cortez. It was twice or thrice the amount of the product of the three thousand gold and silver mines of Mexico, for the same period of fifty years.
Such an export would indicate unparalleled wealth; but what was the fact? In place of wealth, a universal pressure for money was felt; not enough for current expenses; the price of all property down; the country drooping and languishing; towns and cities decaying; and the frugal habits of the people pushed to the verge of universal self-denial, for the preservation of their family estates. Such a result is a strange and wonderful phenomenon. It calls upon statesmen to inquire into the cause; and if they inquire upon the theatre of this strange metamorphosis, they will receive one universal answer from all ranks and all ages, that it is federal legislation which has worked this ruin. Under this legislation the exports of the South have been made the basis of the federal revenue. The twenty odd millions annually levied upon imported goods, are deducted out of the price of their cotton, rice and tobacco, either in the diminished price which they receive for these staples in foreign ports, or in the increased price which they pay for the articles they have to consume at home.
Virginia, the two Carolinas and Georgia, may be said to defray three fourths of the annual expense of supporting the federal government; and of this great sum annually furnished by them, nothing, or next to nothing, is returned to them in the shape of government expenditure. That expenditure flows in an opposite direction; it flows northwardly, in one uniform, uninterrupted and perennial stream; it takes the course of trade and of exchange; and this is the reason why wealth disappears from the South and rises up in the North. Federal legislation does all this; it does it by the simple process of eternally taking away from the South, and returning nothing to it. If it returned to the South the whole, or even a good part of what it exacted, the four States south of the Potomac might stand the action of this system, as the earth is enabled to stand the exhausting influence of the sun’s daily heat by the refreshing dews which are returned to it at night; but as the earth is dried up, and all vegetation destroyed in regions where the heat is great, and no dews returned, so must the South be exhausted of its money and its property by a course of legislation which is for ever taking from it, and never returning any thing to it.
An agreement, the Constitution, that produced and continues to produce this system of redistribution—according to the map shown above—is in glaring need of amendment and should that rightful remedy fail for want of energy, abandoned so new systems “that insure Their happiness and safety” can be adopted.