Topics for a Lincoln Symposium - Trading with the Enemy

With the Lincoln Bicentennial almost upon us, we're all going to have to pull together to keep this from becoming a mind-numbing fifth grade civics lesson. This is one of a series of posts proposing seminar topics to keep things lively and honest. These are obviously panels I would pay to hear.

Lincoln's Trade with the Confederacy - Its Scope and Effects

Congress passed legislation allowing Lincoln to establish a CSA trade policy on July 13, 1861 and to manage trade with the Confederacy through his Treasury officers. A vigorous promoter of such trade, Lincoln once answered critics, "Better give him [the Rebel] guns for it [cotton] than let him, as now, get both guns and ammunition for it..." Was the war prolonged by this trade? Did it undermine the blockade? Who benefitted most from the permit system?

Our panelists:

David G. Surdam, author of "Traders or Traitors: Northern Cotton Trading During the Civil War," and Northern Naval Superiority and the Economics of the American Civil War. Mr. Surdam will address Lincoln's arguments favoring this trade; also the president's issue of permit endorsements to better facilitate movement across enemy lines. He will offer an evaluation of which side benefitted most from this activity.

Ludwell H. Johnson, author of "Contraband Trade during the Last Year of the Civil War" and Red River Campaign: Politics and Cotton in the Civil War. Mr. Johnson will suggest that Lincoln moved beyond the bounds of Congressional authorization towards ever less restraint in commercial dealings with partners behind enemy lines. He will sketch out how enemy trading policies in some cases drove Union strategy.

Jack Levy (shown above) and Catherine Barbieri, authors of "Trading with the Enemy in Wartime: Theoretical Explanations and Historical Evidence." They will present a number of historical examples of the U.S. trading with the enemy in wartime and explore alternative theories explaining the phenomenon.


(For an excellent legal recap of the law surrounding trade with the Confederacy, read this case in Findlaw.)