October 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm #14887
Brion McClanahan mentioned Alexander H. Stephens as a moderate who championed the confederate constitution. If he is a moderate, then I’m afraid it does seem that the south was as racist and fire-breathing as people say. And it does seem that there was no intention of ever ending slavery.
Here are some excerpts from Alexhander Stephens’ Cornerstone Speech:
1) “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.”
2) “Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system.”
Not sure how I would respond if people brought up these quotes and said, “See! The South never would’ve compromised on slavery. A war would’ve been necessary at some point to free the slaves, even if there was no intention on the part of Lincoln’s administration to do so.”
Any comments?October 6, 2012 at 8:45 pm #14888
Slavery was a very healthy institution, both economically and politically, in 1860. It is very unlikely that it would have ended anytime soon, if even by now, in case the Union had not decided first to make war on the CSA to prevent secession, and second to free the slaves. This to my mind is a separate issue from the constitutionality of secession.October 7, 2012 at 10:56 am #14889woodsParticipant
Kevin, if South Africa could not sustain apartheid before world opinion, how could the CSA have sustained slavery?October 7, 2012 at 11:04 am #14890Brion McClanahanMember
Stephens was a moderate on the issue of secession. He was, in fact, friends with Lincoln. He argued against secession in the Georgia convention elected to deal with the issue and was elected Vice President of the CSA for that reason. He was no “fire-eater” on the issue of separation. That was my point.
As to slavery, certainly the issue was important to the South, but to say that slavery would or would not have continued had the South won the war is pure conjecture. There were those, Robert E. Lee for example, who were more moderate on the issue. Perhaps the South would have gone the way of Brazil, which ended slavery in 1881. Perhaps not. Slavery was profitable in the cotton producing areas of the South, but less so in the upper South. This may have led to some reform on the issue. Of course, the Confederate Constitution strictly forbade the central government from interfering with slavery in the States. It would have required a constitutional amendment, just as in the U.S. Stephens, of course, backtracked on this issue after the War, which has led some to suggest that he was disingenuous in his history of secession.
As Kevin said, however, the issue of secession (self-determination) and the end of slavery are two separate issues. The South certainly had the right to secede, just as the American States seceded from the British empire in 1776. To suggest otherwise is to reject first American principles.October 7, 2012 at 11:07 am #14891Brion McClanahanMember
Tom: That is a good point. I think slavery would have ended long before the 20th century in the South, as it did in every other Western country by the end of the 19th century. I don’t believe Southerners were lying when they suggested that slavery was a dying institution.October 7, 2012 at 4:46 pm #14892
Thanks for the replies. That definitely makes the issue clearer. Unfortunately, when in debates with people about the right of secession, they will quickly bring up quotes or opinions from southerners that are extremely racist. However, their conclusion then that secession is unlawful seems to be a conflation of two entirely separate issues as you all seem to agree ^^^
ThanksOctober 8, 2012 at 8:46 pm #14893cboyackKeymaster
I’m curious how the southern states seceding was a separate issue from slavery when the issue of slavery was mentioned among the reasons for secession?
-AndrewOctober 8, 2012 at 9:27 pm #14894
The separate issues would be (1) the legality of secession and (2) the desire on the part of the south to perpetuate the institution of slavery. They are not separate as in unrelated. But they are separate in the sense that the desire on the part of the south to perpetuate slavery does not relate to the whether or not those states had the right to leave the union.October 8, 2012 at 9:34 pm #14895cboyackKeymaster
I agree with you that the right to secession was separate from slavery. My point is that the motivation for secession wasn’t completely unrelated, but I now realize that isn’t even the issue, so don’t mind me…
-AndrewOctober 19, 2012 at 10:50 pm #14896jamesrutledgeroeschMember
Economics, not slavery, was the cause of Southern secession and the War for Southern Independence. From 1824 onward, federal protective tariffs were the chief bone of contention between North and South, the latter objecting that they amounted to legalized plunder in which Southerners were forced to make a lose-lose choice between overpriced Northern manufactures and overtaxed European manufactures. Either way, the government-protected Northern monopolies or federal government were enriched at the expense of the South. In addition to the creation of Northern monopolies (the artificially high prices of which lowered the Southern standard of living), protective tariffs, by reducing demand for European imports, in turn reduced European demand for Southern exports, thus decreasing overall income and employment in the South. In short, the economic burden of federal protective tariffs fell squarely on the South.
Southerners, by and large, viewed their plight as analogous to that of their Revolutionary forebears, who were also subject to taxation without representation under the system of British mercantilism preserved and resuscitated in the frozen North. Federal protective tariffs were raised in 1824, 1828 (the “Tariff of Abominations,” which South Carolina famously nullified), and 1860. In 1860, the “Morill Tariff,” for which Abraham Lincoln’s enthusiasm was a key factor in the otherwise obscure Republican’s presidential nomination, more than doubled existing tariff rates. Lincoln made federal protective tariffs a central feature of his presidential campaign, and swore support for the Morrill Tariff if he were to take office.
At this point, Southerners saw the writing on the wall; the prospects for a peaceful and prosperous union were grim. Acting in the tradition of their Revolutionary forebears, the Southern states declared independence (or, “seceded”) from the federal government, which had become more like a European imperial nation-state rather than the voluntary republic of sovereign states confederated in peace and trade that the Founding Fathers originally intended.
First, the “Deep South” (South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas) seceded, but the “Upper South” (Virginia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Maryland) remained in the Union, hoping to negotiate a compromise. Initially, many Northerners took a thoroughly Jeffersonian view of Southern secession, but when Northern industry and the federal government realized that a free and independent South meant the loss of the captive customers and taxpayers whom they were accustomed to looting, the war drums began beating. After manipulating the Confederacy into firing the first shot at Fort Sumter (by threatening war if federal taxes were not enforced in the Confederacy, which forced the Confederacy to choose between surrendering to federal tariffs – thus negating the whole point of secession – or drawing a line in the sand and calling Lincoln’s bluff), however, Lincoln then unilaterally ordered state governors to marshal 75,000 troops for the conquest of the Confederacy, an unconstitutional declaration of war which the Constitution reserves to the Congress. If Lincoln had obeyed the Constitution, Upper-South Democrats may have been able to force a diplomatic resolution, but Lincoln’s usurpation of legislative authority prevented any possibility of peace. Lincoln having crossed the Rubicon, the remaining Upper-South governors were openly defiant in their rejection of Lincoln’s orders, and their states promptly seceded – all but Maryland, the government of which Lincoln had overthrown in a military coup, and remained occupied under martial law for the rest of the war – to defend themselves and their Southern brethren.
Moreover, at the time of Southern secession, Republicans were attempting to pass a constitutional amendment (the “Corwin Amendment,” what would have been the Thirteenth Amendment) which would have made slavery permanent in the states in which it already existed – i.e. the Southern states. Lincoln and the Republicans were pledging aggression on taxation and appeasement on slavery, yet despite this supposed concession, the Southern states still seceded, for the burden of federal mercantilism was simply too bitter to be borne. As Charles Dickens – yes, that Charles Dickens – wrote, “The South, instead of seceding for the sake of slavery, seceded in spite of the fact that its separate maintenance will expose them…to risks and losses against which the Union would afford security.”
According to census data from 1860, of the 5.3 million people living in the South, approximately 6% owned slaves. Even then, approximately half of that percentage were yeoman farmers who worked in the fields alongside their slaves. The other half were the aristocratic planters, gallant cavaliers, and Southern belles who lived in the grand plantations featured in American classics like Gone With The Wind. The vast majority of Southerners, however – a whopping 94% – owned no slaves. Since so few Southerners actually owned slaves, Northerners claimed that wealthy Southern planters, protecting their own interests, had manipulated the general population into a rebellion against their best interests. Actually, logically, the fact that so many Southerners fought and died for a cause in which they apparently had no stake implies the opposite – that they may have had other motives, such as liberating themselves from federal economic exploitation (the chief motive of the earliest Confederate states of the Deep South), or defending their homeland from invasion (the chief motive of the later Confederate states of the Upper South). Robert E. Lee, for instance, resigned his position in the U.S. Army to command the Army of Northern Virginia, but abhorred slavery and freed his own slaves. Two of Lee’s most famous corps commanders, Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart, owned no slaves themselves. Even during the dark days of Reconstruction, during which the federal government was disenfranchising Southern whites and privileging blacks, Lee himself said that, “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished.” Lee and his fellow officers – as well as the hundreds of thousands of non-slaveowning men under their command – would not have led an army they believed was fighting for slavery.
Finally, slavery would have eventually died of natural causes, without a cataclysmic war. In “Human Action,” Ludwig von Mises explained why markets made slavery obsolete: the costs of owning labor (providing food, clothing, shelter, education, etc.) vastly exceeded the costs of simply renting labor. Just as slavery was peacefully abolished everywhere else in the Western world, so it would also have been abolished – both de facto and de jure – in the South.
To the extent that slavery was an issue, it centered mainly on the expansion of slavery into the Territories, which ultimately reduced to yet another instance of federal protectionism. Northerners, coming from states with oppressive “Black Codes” which ranged from depriving blacks of property rights to prohibiting them from residing in a state altogether, wanted to keep the Territories free for white settlers only. By prohibiting slavery in the Territories, whites would be protected from black competition, and thus artificially richer than they would have been if Southerners had been permitted to settle with their slaves.
Even if slavery was the cause of the war – which it most certainly was not – as Woods and McClanahan have noted, that neither detracts from the justice of self-determination as a natural right, nor legitimizes the total war which Lincoln waged against the Confederacy, in which hundreds of thousands of Southern men, women, and children were plundered, raped, enslaved, and murdered.October 20, 2012 at 11:18 am #14897
Tom, if the CSA had survived, slavery would not have come under the widespread opprobrium that it did. Rather, one of the most powerful, influential, and prosperous countries in the world would have been a slave society (not merely, as in Berlin’s typology, a society with slaves).
It is very common for libertarians to point to the economic nonsense underlying various historic social and governmental systems, and then to conclude that those systems must have ended ere now. What such analyses overlook is that the same reasoning leads to the conclusion that all government would have ceased to exist ere now as well. Slavery was a powerful, entrenched, popular, profitable institution in the CSA in 1861, and there’s little reason to assume that it would have been abolished by now.October 20, 2012 at 11:36 am #14898
Interesting analysis from Kevin above. So, was the war justified from the emancipation proclamation onward? Also, Ron Paul always used to get the question: would you intervene if another country across the world was enslaving and murdering its own citizens?October 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm #14899
Presidents, Cabinet secretaries, and members of Congress are sworn to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution says that Congress will have only the granted powers, and it does not give the Federal Government an arbitrary power to decide which Korean will rule South Korea. Ergo, I would not vote to do so.
Since the Civil War was a war to deny the CSA the right to secession, it was an anti-constitutional war.October 23, 2012 at 9:22 pm #14900ronmicleMember
JRR, that is an excellent post. Really sums up the true causes of the war. Do you have a link to the data showing the percentage of slave owners in the 1860 South?
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