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Doing business with the enemy during wartime

My beloved father was a proud Army Air Force veteran of World War II. He despised anything that smacked of being unpatriotic and had a real disdain for actress Jane Fonda, whose 1960s anti-war antics incensed him (and left me with a total disregard for the Atlanta Braves years later when she and Ted Turner owned them). Dad was not a fan of doing business with one’s enemies.

That being said, it was common practice early in the Civil War for businessmen in both the North and South to figure out methods of maintaining some semblance of trade, despite government orders that forbade such activities. One such entrepreneur and industrialist was York County’s own Arthur Briggs Farquhar, who owned a burgeoning business that produced and sold farming implements and machinery, including “new-fangled” steel plows. Farquhar wrote about how he was able to skip being in the army by paying a substitute (a common practice that even Abe Lincoln used as an example to others), and how he kept his business going despite the legislated loss of several Southern clients.

“Having been married on September 26th, 1860, I was among those who were simply not expected to enlist. I provided a substitute, however, and joined with other men in a troop of volunteer cavalry — a home guard. The majority of the workmen in our shop were unmarried and most of them enlisted, but with those men remaining we could easily carry on, for there was nothing much just then to do.

Much of our business had been with the South and one of the early acts of the Confederacy was to declare that all debts owing to Northerners by Southerners were cancelled as far as the original debtors were concerned, and payable into the Confederate Treasury. A similar statute was enacted by the Union. However, this was a gentleman’s war, and men on both sides, who liked to pay their debts, found ways to do so.
A good many bills were thus paid through Canada as a sort of mutual clearing house — I received several payments in that way during the war and much of the balance was paid after the war.”

A. B. Farquhar added a telling postscript, “There was more bad feeling after the war than during the contest.”