Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Captain Nate

The American Civil War

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Nations do not have rights – people do. Your right to liberty and property includes the freedom from being forced to “liberate” other people.

Now in the case of secession, the only obligation of the older portion is to allow the citizens of the new state to leave (preferably with their property) to guarantee the same level of rights they had before. So if the U.S. was free, and the South were imposing slavery, the blacks should be allowed to leave (by force if necessary.) But that was not the case. Both the Union and the South allowed slavery at the start of the war, and the war was not started over freeing the slaves, but keeping the Union together. In fact, the Emancipation Proclamation only liberated slaves in the South (essentially as a propaganda tool to encourage revolt, since the Union did not control the area it “liberated”) and not in the North.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I highly doubt that emancipation was that far down the list of actual reasons for opposing the South. Obviously there was huge idealogical divide between the South and the North, one that rested on the issue fo slavery, no?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I highly doubt that emancipation was that far down the list of actual reasons for opposing the South. Obviously there was huge idealogical divide between the South and the North, one that rested on the issue fo slavery, no?

The ideology involved was an issue of the relationship and power of the federal government over the states, period. Slavery was an economic issue for most and a moral issue for some, the hot button issue that caused the split. Today, you could substitute slavery for gay marriage and get the same result, where states believe marriage is an issue to be determined by the states and not the feds. Most people were content with slavery confined to the states that it was in, but the Dred Scott decisions removed that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I must say I'm surprised to see David say that people have a right to secede from a country without interference, even if it is for immoral purposes. What if the city of Chicago decided to secede for the purpose of resurrecting the practice of sacrificing humans to the Aztec gods? Yes, this is a ridiculous scenario, but it illustrates the same point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, and if a state can secede, and a city can, can I then form my own country that just consists of my room? :thumbsup: Secession rights are just weird when you reduce them to their logical limits...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

David, I remember you making a post on Hobbes a while back about your list of 20 greatest/worst Americans. If I remember correctly, Lincoln was on that list. Is that reconciliable with your stated views on the Civil War, or have your views changed?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I did say “distinct geographic and social group.” What that means is debatable, but my point is that if a group of people just wants to be left alone, we should let them. Even if they want to offer sacrifices to the sun god – as long as they offer up each other.

I do believe that the governments ought to exist mainly at the state and city level. That doesn’t mean that I support city-states, but the original very limited government envisioned by the Constitution. However, if the federal government becomes tyrannical, the threat of secession can be very effective.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
have your views changed?

Yes. That list is here: http://www.rationalmind.net/2004/05/18/20-...test-americans/

Although he would not make my list now, Lincoln should be credited of changing the focus of the war into a positive goal – the abolition of slavery. Is that worth 600-700 thousand lives? Given that slavery would have probably ended on its own, and that Reconstruction in some ways worsened racism in the South, I don’t think so.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that slavery was on its way out, but that's hindsight. Decisions have to be made based on what is known at the time, not what is known 150 years after the fact.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In fact, the Emancipation Proclamation only liberated slaves in the South (essentially as a propaganda tool to encourage revolt, since the Union did not control the area it “liberated”) and not in the North.

Yes, I've read that same canard numerous times. The Emancipation Proclamation didn't free slaves in the North because under the Constitution they were still the property of American citizens and thus could not be arbitrarily seized. The Emancipation Proclamation did, however, free all the slaves in any areas occupied by Union armies after 1 January 1863, which meant that almost all Southern slaves had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation by the end of the Civil War; it also declared free all slaves who had already escaped to Union lines. The border states abolished slavery on their own (under Lincoln's urging) before the end of the Civil War, except for Kentucky (there the slaves were freed by the 13th Amendment).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What parts of

"Virginia's state convention voted 88 to 55 april 17 1961 to put the question to the citizens, however the governor put the state under federate command without waiting for a vote."

and

"In 1860, before Lincoln was even in office, South Carolina declared indepndence. They surrounded federal troops that December, and on April 12, 1861 fired on fort Sumter(?) after Lincoln informed south Carolina he was sending food, but no ammunition, by sea to the fort"

do some of you not understand?

The south was the aggressor.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*** Mod's note: Merged with an earlier thread.   sN ***

 

The Founding Fathers largely, if not exclusively, accepted slavery and acquiesced to the Three-Fifths clause of the Constitution, even when those such as Jefferson and Washington believed that slavery was morally wrong and an obvious impingement upon freedom. They overlooked this glaring contradiction to their Enlightenment ideals and all that they believed America represented and promised because, a ) they believed that to push the issue of slavery would destroy America and lead to secession, civil war, and even leave it vulnerable to future outside attack (In light of the Second American Revolution and the quasi-war with France, this was a perfectly legitimate fear.); and b ) they believed that if they restricted slavery's expansion and importation, it would die out of its own accord. Unfortunately, the Louisiana Purchase and the cotton gin both promised to make the slavery and permanent feature of the American south--and, sort of, the west. In short, it was believed that to press the issue of slavery would not only destroy the Union but also lead to the subjugation of all people in the Americas to some other tyrannical power; and in any case, could be destroyed in time by means of suffocation.

I'm curious what arguments people here would marshal for or against having tolerated slavery.

Edited by softwareNerd
Merged topics

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The Founding Fathers largely, if not exclusively, accepted slavery and acquiesced to the Three-Fifths clause of the Constitution, even when those such as Jefferson and Washington believed that slavery was morally wrong and an obvious impingement upon freedom. They overlooked this glaring contradiction to their Enlightenment ideals and all that they believed America represented and promised because, a ) they believed that to push the issue of slavery would destroy America and lead to secession, civil war, and even leave it vulnerable to future outside attack (In light of the Second American Revolution and the quasi-war with France, this was a perfectly legitimate fear.); and b ) they believed that if they restricted slavery's expansion and importation, it would die out of its own accord. Unfortunately, the Louisiana Purchase and the cotton gin both promised to make the slavery and permanent feature of the American south--and, sort of, the west. In short, it was believed that to press the issue of slavery would not only destroy the Union but also lead to the subjugation of all people in the Americas to some other tyrannical power; and in any case, could be destroyed in time by means of suffocation.

I'm curious what arguments people here would marshal for or against having tolerated slavery.

In 1787 the issue of Union and survival of the new Republic took precedence over the abuse of Black slaves. At that time, most Americans believed that Black Africans were not quite human so they looked to their own immediate interests. Later on the issue of slavery came back to haunt the nation. The Butcher's Bill was 620,000 killed 1.5 million maimed in a country with a population of 30 million. Relative to today's population that comes to 6.2 million killed 15 million maimed.

This quote from Thomas Jefferson comes to mind:

God who gave us life, gave us liberty. And can the

liberties of a nation be thought secure if we have

removed their only firm basis: a conviction in the

minds of men that these liberties are the gift of God?

That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?

Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that

God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.

Bob Kolker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First, as a technicality, the idea of dehumanization of slaves was actually not present during the Revolution but only came in the mid-1800s as a reaction against ever more passionate anti-slavery movements.

But secondly, I'm not sure I understand your argument. You quote the famous words from Jefferson, but Jefferson also likened slavery in America to holding a wolf by its ears: You hate to do it, but you dare not let go.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Being a Brit I'm just catching up with American history, but I thought that the 3/5th Clause was introduced as a means of capping the influence of the slave-owning Southern states as they were pushing to have each and every member of their constituencies, regardless of race, accepted towards the total of people they represented...and thus, they would have a greater amount of sway in the newly-forming government. the Northern states realised that the numbers would indeed be unchallengeable, especially as the South could just buy in more 'people to be represented' to swing the balance in the future if needed. Therefore the North agreed to the 3/5th not as a seeming recognition of the (false) lesser-value of Blacks, but to control the balance within the government to allow them a chance to settle and deal with the problem at a later date.

This doesn't mean that the North was abridging the rights of the Blacks with regard to their representaion, but rather an astute acknowledgement that those Blacks living under the state-governance of the South would not be allowed to have their views relayed fairly and impartially by the current and near-future governing-bodies in those southern states and so to allow their (full) sheer numbers to be used, but not their opinions, would be a travesty and an almost insurmountable problem to deal with in years to come.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Being a Brit I'm just catching up with American history, but I thought that the 3/5th Clause was introduced as a means of capping the influence of the slave-owning Southern states as they were pushing to have each and every member of their constituencies, regardless of race, accepted towards the total of people they represented...and thus, they would have a greater amount of sway in the newly-forming government. the Northern states realised that the numbers would indeed be unchallengeable, especially as the South could just buy in more 'people to be represented' to swing the balance in the future if needed. Therefore the North agreed to the 3/5th not as a seeming recognition of the (false) lesser-value of Blacks, but to control the balance within the government to allow them a chance to settle and deal with the problem at a later date.

This doesn't mean that the North was abridging the rights of the Blacks with regard to their representaion, but rather an astute acknowledgement that those Blacks living under the state-governance of the South would not be allowed to have their views relayed fairly and impartially by the current and near-future governing-bodies in those southern states and so to allow their (full) sheer numbers to be used, but not their opinions, would be a travesty and an almost insurmountable problem to deal with in years to come.

Actually, the Three-Fifths Clause was a complicated compromise. The principle behind the House of Representatives is that it represents the will of the people and so the representation from each state is proportionate to the population of each state. So the question became, do we count slaves as citizens or not? Assume that we count them as citizens--then they must vote in order for them to be represented, or else the whites in southern states would have artificially large numbers in the House. Assume that we do not count them--then the North gains all of the political power. The South would be dissatisfied by either outcome and was already very skeptical of joining the Union. So instead, the Three-Fifths Clause still allowed the Southern states to hold a powerful presence in the House of Representatives while denying the citizenship of slaves.

And to say a word about Northern recognition of slavery, notice that the Constitution does not anywhere contain the word "slavery". Everybody wanted this subject to be perfectly quiet. Notice that the North was relatively happy letting slavery suffocate, so that there would be no public spectacle of slavery. Instead of saying that "three-fifths of the slaves shall be added to the whole number of free persons," they spoke of adding to the whole number of free persons including those bound to service for a term of years and excluding Indians not taxed, "three-fifths of all other persons". Washington almost never addressed the issue, but for a few muffled words in a private letter. Jefferson was publicly opposed to slavery, but made no great pronouncements on it or federal opposition to it while he was president. Northern states ratified a Constitution with implicit acceptance of slavery, and while proposing a Bill of Rights, they never fostered a movement to make slavery un-Constitutional. The North was never comfortable with slavery and there were organizations that were actively against slavery, but it was really only about the time of the Missouri Compromise and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin that the North began vociferously tackling the issue of slavery in America.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The Founding Fathers largely, if not exclusively, accepted slavery... because, a ) they believed that to push the issue of slavery would destroy America and lead to secession, civil war, and even leave it vulnerable to future outside attack; and b ) they believed that if they restricted slavery's expansion and importation, it would die out of its own accord... In short, it was believed that to press the issue of slavery would not only destroy the Union but also lead to the subjugation of all people in the Americas to some other tyrannical power; and in any case, could be destroyed in time by means of suffocation.

I'm curious what arguments people here would marshal for or against having tolerated slavery.

As for the against tolerating slavery:
  • gaining one's safety at the expense of sacrificing that of slaves ain't legit
  • I doubt a slave would consider a European monarchy to be more tynannical than slavery
  • having implicitly legitimized slavery (and/or given it sanction), they couldn't be sure slavery would be destroyed on its own

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've read that until the mid-1820s white people could be forced into slavery for a certain period of time, and that one of Lincoln's Vice Presidents was that kind of slave and eventually escaped his indentures. Any truth to such claims?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've read that until the mid-1820s white people could be forced into slavery for a certain period of time, and that one of Lincoln's Vice Presidents was that kind of slave and eventually escaped his indentures. Any truth to such claims?

Indenture is a kind of labor contract. The indentured worker is in no-wise the property of the person to whom he owes his labor. Additionally the indenture contract could be bought out for money. Indenturing was a way of financing a heavy burden. For example if some young man in England wanted to go to America but could not afford passage he could indenture himself to a party in America who would pay his passage. The money was repaid by serving a period of labor.

Bob Kolker

I've read that until the mid-1820s white people could be forced into slavery for a certain period of time, and that one of Lincoln's Vice Presidents was that kind of slave and eventually escaped his indentures. Any truth to such claims?

One could be sentenced to penal servitude as a punishment for a crime. It is still legal. Read the 13-th amendment and you will see the exception for penal servitude. Think road gang here.

Bob Kolker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I've read that until the mid-1820s white people could be forced into slavery for a certain period of time, and that one of Lincoln's Vice Presidents was that kind of slave and eventually escaped his indentures. Any truth to such claims?

Good question, I've never heard about it though there was a southern American philosopher living just before the Civil War, George Fitzhugh, who argued that white people should be slaves just like black people. Common arguments for slavery at that time were:

  • Slavery benefits the slaves because they are cared for when they are too stupid, lazy, or otherwise dysfunctional to care for themselves.
  • Slavery benefits society by creating a clearly defined social hierarchy in which each citizen understands his role. It also allows for a nobility which has the leisure to concentrate on civility and learning.
  • Societies throughout history, back to Egyptian times and before, have all had slaves.
  • The Bible does not condemn slavery and even gives provisions for it.

Fitzhugh argued that, if you accept these arguments, they just as well apply to whites. There were many lazy and incompetent whites who would benefit just as much from forced labor and a distinct social hierarchy, he claimed. And if you're going to look to historical precedent for slavery, let's not forget that many of the slaves in European history were Europeans. Naturally, Fitzhugh greatly unsettled southern whites. Reaction to him became ever shriller as the Civil War neared, and southerns increasingly argued that blacks were deformed or retarded humans, or not human at all.

To talk to your question directly, though, I know of no such thing. And I don't think that indentured servitude nor penalization could quite qualify, since you say that this was forced.

Edited by aleph_0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As for the against tolerating slavery:
  • gaining one's safety at the expense of sacrificing that of slaves ain't legit
  • I doubt a slave would consider a European monarchy to be more tynannical than slavery
  • having implicitly legitimized slavery (and/or given it sanction), they couldn't be sure slavery would be destroyed on its own

Well, if this is the only point of view, I might as well play devil's advocate--or perhaps otherwise called, Jefferson's position.

(1) What do you really mean by legitimacy? Certainly slavery is not legitimate politics. Nor is killing innocent civilians, but sometimes you have to accept collateral damage to obtain a greater goal, and sacrifices are necessary. We accepted slavery for our safety, yes. I own that. But let us not be so cynical--we also accepted slavery in order to keep some people free. What good would it have served to split the union only to then be subjugated to the British or the French in little time, and so simply wipe away all of the gains that we had made in the Revolution? Then nobody would be free in the long-run.

On the other hand, by accepting slavery but cutting off its supply, it seemed to everybody that slavery would die out naturally (as most slaves eventually die or are freed by their owners). Nobody doubted that slavery would die any more than we doubted that we would find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I mean, come on! How the hell do you predict Napoleon taking over France and selling acres of American land for pennies! That's just absurd! Nobody could have seen that coming, and if somebody had predicted it, he would have been laughed out of society. If that never happened, slavery probably would have died out and the Civil War would never have happened.

The cotton gin is a little bit different. Jefferson, Franklin, and other American greats were innovators, and it wouldn't have taken a lot of creativity to imagine a new instrument that would improve cotton production. But it would have taken a little bit more foresight and consideration to realize that this would perpetuate slavery by increasing cotton production and so increase demand for slaves.

In any case, all things considered, it the prospect of slavery perpetuating after its importation had been cut off just seemed unrealistic. Hence, to make a measured and long-term approach to securing freedom for all, we had to accept slavery for some in the short-term.

(2) True, and we all felt guilty about the specter of slavery just to our south. What could we do about it, though? If we had not united, slavery would have continued. If you look at it from the perspective of the slave in the South, neither option was particularly attractive. In fact, dissolution might have been even worse for slaves because then the North could not have imposed its ban on the importation of slavery, and families might have been more often split up and moved around.

(3) I've mostly answered to this in (1).

Edited by aleph_0

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*** Mod's note: Merged with an earlier thread. sN ***

The Confederacy was created in a political act to eliminate federal political control over the South, and to allow Southerners to live under a system of law that they believed was morally just. It might be the case that slavery was the primary motive for wanting freedom from federal control, but that doesn't change the nature of the political act of creating the Confederacy, as a political act. Hence, the use of the Confederate flag by those who wish to demonstrate that they don't give their moral sanction to federal governmental controls.

If I understand your argument correctly, it sounds as if you are arguing that it is acceptable to appreciate a political act, as a political act, regardless of the context in which it was done. This attitude is incredibly dangerous.

Would it be morally acceptable to romanticize symbols of Muqtada Al Sadr's al-Mahdi Army in Iraq. His militia were fighting U.S. allied forces in Iraq as well as moderate Shiites in the present Iraqi government to impose a radical form of Shiite Islam in the Iraqi government. However, as a political act, the militia was merely fighting against a foreign occupier and a foreign installed government. Should emblems of his militia be worn by individuals who oppose Islamic Fundamentalism but wish to express admiration for courage against a foreign occupier?

What about how Hamas essentially swept the Palestinian parliamentary elections? Many have argued that Hamas, an infamous international terrorist organization whose stated goal is the total destruction of Israel, merely won the hearts of the Palestinian people from their promises to weed out the corruption of Yasser Arafat's Fatah Party. Would it be acceptable for a youth who opposes radical Islam to display a Hamas flag to symbolize a movement against political corruption?

the Civil War cannot be reduced to "a war over slavery."

Anyway, all of this being discussed, it remains to be established that the Civil War was indeed a war over slavery. I really do not see a good argument for how it was not. Leading up to the war, essentially all of the disputes between the North and the South centered around slavery. For some examples, consider the disputes that ended in The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850 as well as the "Bleeding Kansas" incident.

Many claim that the Southern states seceded to assert "states' rights." Be this as it may, the main right the Southern states wanted to assert was the right to keep slavery legal. It basically seems that the North stood for a mixture of Statism, Abolitionism and a "One United States" policy. The Southerners essentially stood for popular sovereignty, which in other words is the right for a majority of the population to vote to enslave the rest of the population. In the case of the South, this was primarily to literally keep blacks in slavery.

To claim that the South stood for "states' rights" seems analogous to claim that the present Libertarian Party stands for "liberty". Both platforms are just floating abstractions. Any libertarian can arbitrarily define what liberty means for him as long as it involves some sort of non-aggression principle. Analogously, the idea of popular sovereignty allows state governments to essentially define whatever states' rights are for them regardless of what individual rights might be trampled on in the process.

Anything significant the South stood for during the American Civil War seems to amount to justification for the right to own and trade slaves.

"Being Southern" was a big part of the decision to rebel

Incidentally, I definitely agree that "allegiance to fellow Southerners" was another strong motivating factor for most of the poor residents in the South. But this is just an observation on how it can be easy to get a large population of non-philosophical individuals to march in the same direction. Even today, there is an extraordinary number of individuals who are blindly pro-Democrat and a comparably large number of individuals who are blindly pro-Republican. This mentality was surely no different back in the mid-1900s.

Edited by softwareNerd
Merged

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

DW, thanks for starting a new thread. Great post too.

I want to add this: In trying to figure out what caused a historical event, one should look for fundamental causes. A modern approach is to list a whole laundry list of reasons why something happened. The real question is which reason -- or small set of reasons -- was fundamental.

For instance, suppose someone says: "Southerner X did not own slaves; he signed up late and only because when it came to choosing sides, he thought it was his patriotic duty to fight with his state...and there were many like him". All that means is that people like Southerner X , were not -- in this role -- the fundamental drivers of history. A historical fact like that does not tell us anything about why the war started.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The Confederacy was created in a political act to eliminate federal political control over the South, and to allow Southerners to live under a system of law that they believed was morally just. It might be the case that slavery was the primary motive for wanting freedom from federal control, but that doesn't change the nature of the political act of creating the Confederacy, as a political act. Hence, the use of the Confederate flag by those who wish to demonstrate that they don't give their moral sanction to federal governmental controls.

But political acts have to be judged ultimately by the explicit ideas driving them. I agree that a great part of the motivation for the southern states seceding and especially for its citizens to fight and die for what they proudly saw as their own new nation was a devotion to the "Southern way of life." But intellectually that's no better than the Russian peasants who marched for bread and land or the Germans who supported the Reich (2nd or 3rd, take yer pick) because of their devotion to the German Heimat, etc. And this is what irritates me no end about the Southern propagandists who compare the secession of the Southern states to the American Revolution. Secession was by and large in the service of pro-slavery political thought, and when its philosophical roots were made explicit (rather than cozy fantasies of happy, well-tended slaves living under better conditions than Northern factory workers, as if the liberty of the workers was nothing compared to the supposed well-being of the slaves), they were tied in with such things as Aristotle's pronouncements on natural slavery and essentially aristocratic virtues like a touchy sense of honor; and if you look at the political thought of Jefferson, say, then of Calhoun, then of Calhoun's successors among the secessionists like Brown or James Henry Hammond (governor of South Carolina, 1842-44; U.S. Senator, 1857-60), you see a continual (and in my view repulsive) degradation of political argument in which the insistence on the equality of all men is sacrificed to the insistence on the superiority of white skin. By the 1850s, slavery had long since gone from being a shameful problem the new leaders had inherited from the dark past to an institution in the service of which the leading Southern political and legal thinkers twisted, distorted, and bastardized the ideas of liberty and a constitutional republic. And as I pointed to briefly before, in the service of slavery the Southern political leadership was perfectly happy to muzzle free speech, ride roughshod over the "states rights" of Northern states, and insist on running the country their way, even though they themselves proudly admitted they were only one section of a larger nation whose sole interests were paramount; when Lincoln was elected, they knew they couldn't get their way any more, so they precipitously went to war like a band of aggrieved feudal nobles. This bundle of political ideas is what the Southern nation was founded on and it is those ideas by which it and its flag should be judged, not unfocused love of one's native county and folkways, which you can find on the cheap in every corner of the globe--and at the root of those ideas was the overriding need to defend, protect, and expand slavery.

And, hence, my statement that the Civil War cannot be reduced to "a war over slavery." I was taught in school that it is as simple as, "The Civil War was fought because the South wanted to preserve slavery, and the North wanted to end it." There is much more that is worth thinking about here, such as, should States have more or less autonomy, with respect to the federal government? And, can secession from an established country ever be morally justified?

What rights of Southerners (as opposed to the perceived political interests of the Southern sectionalists), and especially of Southerners in particular as opposed to people from other sections of the country, was the federal government infringing on before 1860? Forget the haggling over the tariff; this was couched in sectional terms by the 1840s and no one was arguing for its repeal, only for tilting it to the interests of one section or another. If you look dispassionately at the record, the most striking fact is that the federal government bent over backwards to support the slave system in the face of massive opposition by Americans outside the South (abolitionists within the South were gagged by law, of course, which tells us just how devoted to liberty the Southern slave-owners really were), and it was when this was threatened that Southerners rebelled. The fact is that it was an ideological battle, and both sides saw themselves as defending the principles of liberty and right and the good society, and thus no compromise was possible. But the good society that the Southern secessionists fought for was indissolubly linked to slave-owning, and the sectional interests that latter-day Southern propagandists play up, such as the tariff, were skirmishes over secondary issues, mere consequences of the fundamental ideas of the political systems of the North and the South.

My comments about the Tariff of Abominations and the North's primary motive being to preserve the Union were intended to support my thesis that there were other important issues besides slavery...

There were other important subsidiary issues, granted, some simply due to historical accident but most stemming from the fact that the Southern way of life was based on slavery.

- not to argue that slavery wasn't a very important influence upon the South's decision that political separation from the Union was the right way to go.

More than a "very important influence"--it was the fundamental cause. Don't glom all the different historical factors together in one mish-mash. Historical trends and forces are not all equal--some are basic and active over a longer time scale, others are their consequences and shift or fade away as circumstances change, and all are driven by the basic ideas of the historical actors.

Furthermore, that these issues are present cements the fact that there is a link between resistance to political injustice and the Civil War.

Political injustice--or disappointed sectional interest?

I tried (and failed, in a pinch) to find figures for the % of population enslaved before the formation of the CSA. But the fact that some states with a significant proportion of slaves remained in the Union (i.e. the border states), and that some states with relatively fewer slaves (I believe North Carolina and Tennessee, but again, could not find figures) joined the Confederacy, shows that the decision to join the Confederacy was not tied directly to the number of slaves in a state.

That's a very crude statement of the argument, verging in fact on a strawman. If you want to dabble in statistics, start with (1) the distribution of slaves within each state at the very least at the county level (or at the very very least find a map of the Slave Belt or Black Belt, or whatever it's called in a given state), and (2) the closeness of trade ties with the North. (For example, don't be misled by the importance of King Cotton in the Deep South--further north, where there were far fewer slaves, there was an extensive, long-standing trade in such products as pork and hemp. Pig drovers would drive caravans of pigs and other animals north from Tennessee and Kentucky into Indiana, for example, being joined along the way by hemp and other growers, to train depots for carriage to the East.) And then consider the secession of West Virginia from Virginia, the proposed secession of half of Tennessee from the other (Lincoln dissuaded its proponents from this plan), and the secession of Jones County (a.k.a. "The Free State of Jones") from the rest of Mississippi. And more basically, look at, for example, the failure of a generous plan of compensated emancipation that Lincoln worked hard on in Delaware, in which the 1800-odd slaves still owned there would have been bought by the federal government for $400 or so each. Despite the fact that Delaware was loyal and had by far the smallest slave population of any state, that didn't change the fact that many in Delaware saw themselves as a slave state and voted down the measure--only after which Lincoln turned to the Emancipation Proclamation. And don't forget that while the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery eventually throughout the Deep South and most of the border states ended it by state act, it took the 13th Amendment to end slavery in Kentucky. The question was not whether they owned slaves and how many, the question was whether they felt they would continue to own slaves under a Republican administration and whether the federal government had the right to enforce its decisions by arms. Yes, there were subsidiary issues that criss-crossed the scene, but the fundamental question facing all Southerners was whether, how, and how much to defend slavery. (And the fundamental question facing Unionists was, if they won the war that had blown up in their faces, whether its fundamental causes would be solved if the seceded states were allowed back in the Union without renouncing slavery. The growing realization that they would not be was likely the major reason for the development of Lincoln's policies regarding slavery.)

"Being Southern" was a big part of the decision to rebel, and a big part of being southern was not being politically manipulated from a distance farther than the state capitol.

This is true. It was also a major factor in being manipulated to go to war against one's fellow Americans by the slave-owning powers in the state capitol, because it was a diffuse, often hardly intellectual sentiment that coexisted, however contradictorily, with the belief that it was right to own other human beings.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×