June 1, 2013 at 5:01 pm #15184sheyboerParticipant
I’ve read Thomas Di Lorenzo’s “The Real Lincoln” and Thomas Woods’ “Politically Incorrect Guide to U.S. History.” Both downplay the role of slavery as a cause of the Civil War. However, from how I understand it, almost every major issue that created sectional tension was directly related to the slavery issue. Here is a list: reaction to Garrison’s newspaper, reaction to Nat Turner’s Rebellion, Gag Resolutions, “failure” to annex Texas until 9 years after it won independence, issues (slave or free) with the Mexican cession, Southern Rights convention in Tennessee, Compromise of 1850, Fugitive Slave Law, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Underground Railroad, effects of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas, Lecompton Constitution, Dred Scott Decision, Free-Port Question, and reaction to John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. It seems to me that if slavery did not exist in the United States, the country would never have had a civil war. Based on that assumption, which I think is supported by all the events listed, how can one argue slavery was not a primary cause of the Civil War? I know the quotes from Lincoln about slavery, I know Lincoln invaded the south to preserve the Union, but if there were no slavery there would have been no sectional tension created by the above listed events. I’m sensitive to DiLorenzo’s American System argument, but if that was so prevalent an issue, how come it is never discussed or mentioned in any of the events I listed previously?June 2, 2013 at 10:42 am #15185
I’ve never seen the Southampton Rebellion called a sectional issue before, unless by “sectional” you mean “Old Virginia vs. western Virginia.”
The underlying tension between the sections always had southern concern over the future of slavery as one component. As early as the first Congress under the current constitution, a South Carolina representative threatened on the House floor that his state would secede if Congress threatened slavery (in that case, by taxing slave imports). As Dew shows in his magisterial APOSTLES OF DISUNION, Deep-South secession commissioners’ appeal to the other southern states came down chiefly to “Secede with us, because Lincoln is a threat to slavery.”
Notice that no other state joined the Deep South in seceding in response to this call. Still, it was the Deep South’s call.
It is incorrect to say that slavery wasn’t the underlying reason for secession of the Deep South states. Without Virginia, however, the CSA could not have put up a four-year fight in defense of southern independence. Of course, it was Lincoln who decided on war.June 17, 2013 at 10:20 pm #15186
I think Dilorenzo and Woods downplay the morality of slavery as being the main issue of the war. Slavery was definitely an important factor. It was an important part of the Southern economy (and they had beef with the North over tariff rates) and the North was reluctant to enforce fugitive slave laws. But the North (for the most part) was not morally outraged over slavery and certainly was not going to fight a civil war over the morality of the institution.June 23, 2013 at 9:48 am #15187
I’m coming away with the notion that the “Civil War” did have a place for ending slavery–it doesn’t look like it was going away–and, indeed, no matter what the issues were, they all seem to come back to slavery since it was so important to the economy of the South. Unfortunately, what was created afterwards, in my estimation, was an insidious slavery that would worsen in time. I have a difficult time being as sympathetic to the South as the professors. It’s one thing to be suspicious of and appalled by the North but to not be so for the South or to even be apologetic for the South is not something I can countenance.June 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm #15188
Patricia, you say, “I have a difficult time being as sympathetic to the South as the professors.” Will you please show me what I said that was sympathetic to the South? I think analogizing Deep South secession to O.J. Simpson demanding a jury trial, as I’ve often done, is pretty unsympathetic, don’t you?
They had a right to secede, but their reasons for exercising it were pretty loathsome. Lincoln had no right to put down secession, even if the post hoc rationalizations seem appealing.June 24, 2013 at 1:30 am #15189
Kevin, I was just listening to U.S. History to 1877 and was troubled by the commitment to the institution of slavery by the South presumably because the abolition of it was too complicated. Perhaps I wanted editorializing in the lecture that would have inspired in me a sense of justice for how things unfolded. I think I may have been goading in my last post and I apologize for that. Now your work is on my list of things to read.July 4, 2013 at 6:48 pm #15190
There’s a topic somewhere on here where the professors weigh in on how long slavery would have lasted had the South seceded peacefully. Kevin wasn’t as optimistic as Brian and Tom. So there are different viewpoints.July 5, 2013 at 7:04 pm #15191
Slavery was a VERY healthy institution in 1860. In fact, slaves’ value was at an ALL-TIME HIGH. In other words, people certainly didn’t think slavery was about to be abolished at the time.July 6, 2013 at 12:30 am #15192
Kevin, what is your response to Brian’s blog article (http://www.libertyclassroom.com/slavery-and-the-civil-war-revisited/) about how the Confederacy told the British and French that they would abolish slavery in exchange for recognition of sovereignty?July 6, 2013 at 8:57 am #15193
It’s irrelevant to what I said before. Whether some Confederate leaders decided after three years of war that giving up slavery was a price they were willing to pay for independence does not answer the question why the Deep South seceded in the first place.
Besides that, there was substantial resistance in the South, notably in South Carolina, to enrolling black men in the Confederate armies even in 1865. The Rhetts, for example, insisted in The Charleston Mercury that the war was in defense of slavery, and so giving up slavery to win the war made no sense. Georgia’s Governor Joseph Brown made similar statements. I am not saying that this remained a majority position in 1865. We don’t know. The idea of giving up slavery was certainly very far from Deep South politicians’ minds in 1861, however.July 7, 2013 at 9:43 am #15194
This is all very interesting. Another point I came across in the last live session was that the way slavery was abolished peacefully in some or most–I’m not sure–areas was through setting deadlines by which the slave owners unloaded their slaves by selling them into areas that still allowed slavery–hardly righteous. I think it is important to note how the pro-freedom societies benefitted from the slave trade and/or slavery in the pro-slave societies even though they somehow thought their consciences were clear. I’m not suggesting that violent revolution is the answer–I’d prefer protests and boycotting–has that ever worked for the abolishment of slavery in the conventional sense? Let’s face it we have slavery now through redistribution but people don’t know if they’re the net benefactors or net contributors, right? As a side note, I’d like to see more energetic exposure to the extraordinary injustices the state inflict on those that are too self-sufficient or too removed from taxes and regulations for its liking. Tricia.July 7, 2013 at 1:55 pm #15195
correction: net benefactors should be net beneficiariesJuly 7, 2013 at 4:29 pm #15196
Kevin, that is a good point. Personally, I just find it hard to believe slavery would have lasted a long time had the South had won the war quickly. But really, it’s an impossible thing to project.July 18, 2013 at 1:01 am #15197coldcomfortfarmMember
I’m reading it now and I must say it’s a revelation. If they had told us this in school it would be a miracle if anyone felt that Lincoln was anything but dishonorable
The themes are these, Northern industrialists wanted to have the South foot the bill to build railroads, and infrastructure, and when SC seceded the North was put on notice that their cash cow was hopping the fence. I was not aware that the high tariffs put the burden of the costs of government 85 percent on the south, for example. And that the population had shifted giving the North full power to have their way with the legislation. And that Lincoln invaded Maryland and refused to allow the legislature to meet to vote on secession, and threatened their leaders, strictly as a move to stop any more states from joining the Confederacy. Fascinating stuff.
And what about the movie available at Amazon for rent or purchase, “What Really Happened at Fort Sumter”? Have any of you watched this? It’s about how the Ft. Sumter saga unfolded. It’s eye opening to me.July 18, 2013 at 1:05 am #15198coldcomfortfarmMember
In the South under Siege book the author claims that Britain was too worried about impending war with France and too tied economically to industrialists in the North to come to the aid of the South who had such diminished prospects for winning.
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