History of the Blue Cockade - Part 1

If you know anything about American Civil War cockades, then you probably know that blue was a favorite cockade color during the 1860 Secession Crisis. But why? What was the symbolism behind the blue cockade?

To find that out, let's head back 28 years to the Nullification Crisis of 1832.

The Abominations
There was a great deal of conflict over tariffs in our nation's history. Without an income tax (the income tax wasn't initiated until 1862 under President Lincoln), much of the government's money came from tariffs. And the South began to take issue with the way tariffs were being handled. You see, since the South had less manufacturing than the North (being mostly agrarian), they imported much more of their goods than did the North. Hence, they paid more in tariffs. But that wasn't all of the problem. The South also felt that government money was being unfairly apportioned in the nation because more was spent for internal "improvements" in the North (such as roads and canals) than in the South.

In other words, the South was paying higher taxes for less benefits. Southerners, in a word, were not happy campers.

Abominations Nullified
Thus it happened that when a particularly onerous tariff law was passed in 1828, called the "Tariff of Abominations," Southerners protested. With the election of Andrew Jackson as president, they hoped to see a reduction in the tariffs but the new compromise tariff law passed in 1832 didn't satisfy many of them. South Carolinians finally had it with waiting on politicians to get it right (sound familiar?) and passed the Ordinance of Nullification against the tariff, declaring it unconstitutional.

Well, the Federal government wasn't going to take this lying down and military forces were mobilized to enforce the tariff. To make things even more exciting, Vice President John C. Calhoun was in favor of South Carolina's Nullification Ordinance, against President Jackson. In fact, Calhoun stepped down as VP in order to run for the senate where he could more adequately defend nullification. Eventually a compromise tariff was negotiated in February 1833 and South Carolina repealed her Ordinance of Nullification.

The Badge of the Nullifiers
And what, ladies and gentlemen, was the emblem of this crusade for states' rights and fair tax laws? You guessed it - a blue cockade! Blackwood’s Edinburg Magazine in 1866 stated of the Nullification Crisis that, "Every man wore a blue cockade, with a palmetto button in the centre, as the emblem of South Carolina, the Palmetto State. Every lady wore the same favour in her bonnet or on her bosom."

Congressman Isaacs of Tennessee is quoted as stating sarcastically, "We learn, also, that they have mounted the blue cockade. I wonder how it came to be blue. I have heard of blue laws and blue lights, of the blue bells of Scotland, and the bonnets of blue; but I never before heard of blue cockades! But, without respect to color, it is a badge of hostility – an emblem of war."

Note this lovely woodcut of a lady (obviously southern by her surroundings) patriotically sewing a blue cockade on a cap.

Of course, all of this brings up an interesting question: Why did the Nullifiers choose a blue cockade for their emblem?

Good question - and I answer it in PART TWO!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, Heather. If you don't mind, I'm going to print this and keep it in my folder with other related info. Thank you for informing us about cockades. As I've started doing research on them, I am finding them facinating.