A Paradox of Secessionism: Slavery and the Confederate Security State

12 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2015 Last revised: 8 Aug 2015

See all articles by Phillip Magness

Phillip Magness

American Institute for Economic Research

Date Written: August 4, 2015

Abstract

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

Magness, Phillip, A Paradox of Secessionism: Slavery and the Confederate Security State (August 4, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2639529 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2639529

Phillip Magness (Contact Author)

American Institute for Economic Research ( email )

PO Box 1000
Great Barrington, MA 01230
United States

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