A Paradox of Secessionism: Slavery and the Confederate Security State
12 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2015 Last revised: 8 Aug 2015
Date Written: August 4, 2015
Drawing upon insights from public choice political economy and an examination of historical records, this paper posits an explanation for the causes of secession by the original seven members of the Confederacy in 1860-61. Secession is examined as a Hirschman exit, intended primarily to shore up and secure the waning federal subsidies and enforcement expenditures that had been afforded to plantation slavery in previous decades. Fears over the impending decline of these subsidies and protections explain the decision to withdraw from the Union, even though slavery itself was, legally, "much more secure in the Union than out of it," to quote Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens. The premises of secession are most evident in southern declarations complaining of the non-enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, the instigation of slave insurrections, and the decline of southern political clout. These emphases suggest the perceived threat to slavery was more readily realized in its legal enforcement than in the oft-emphasized territorial question.
Keywords: Civil War, Secession, Slavery
JEL Classification: N11
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation