The True Beginning of the Southern Secession Movement

The 1828 protectionist “Tariff of Abominations” was the seed of Southern secession.  After South Carolina nullified the tariff, the federal government was forced to compromise and negotiated a ten-year reduction of the tariff beginning in 1833.  Southerners understood correctly that the Northern states had used their increasing political clout as a tool of plunder:  The agricultural South was forced to pay more for manufactured goods sold by Northerners, and also suffered from lost business in Europe since the protectionist tariff left their European trading partners with fewer dollars with which to buy Southern agricultural products.  On top of that, it was widely believed that most of the money raised from the tariff was being spent in the North.

Then in 1842 the North reneged on its allegedly good will compromise and had the votes to enact another protectionist tariff.  This led to the real beginnings of the Southern secession movement.  Specifically, the first formal meeting to make the case took place on July 31, 1844 in Bluffton, South Carolina, just across the water from Hilton Head Island. The meeting took place near the banks of the May River under a large oak tree that is known today as “the secession oak.”  The “Bluffton Movement” was established by “The Bluffton Boys,” the political descendants of whom did secede some sixteen years later.

The protectionst tariff was the issue that spawned the Southern secession movement a decade before Abraham Lincoln mumbled a single word in public about opposing the extension of slavery into the new territories.

I took this picture of the 350-400-year-old secession oak in Bluffton this morning.  I’ll keep you posted on the next meeting of the 21st century Bluffton Boys.  (Girls welcomed as well).



6:09 pm on January 6, 2021