Did Slavery Cause the Civil War?

Who would even ask such a ridiculous question in the 21st century? Apparently lots of people. From a recent story in the Washington Post entitled “Five myths about why the South seceded”:

One hundred fifty years after the Civil War began, we’re still fighting it — or at least fighting over its history. I’ve polled thousands of high school history teachers and spoken about the war to audiences across the country, and there is little agreement even about why the South seceded. Was it over slavery? States’ rights? Tariffs and taxes?

Now why on earth would people believe that “states’ rights” was a more significant causal factor than slavery? Um, maybe because they went to school in Texas. According to the new social studies standards adopted by the State Board of Education last year, Texas 8th graders will be expected to:

explain the issues surrounding causes of the Civil War, including sectionalism, states’ rights, and slavery…

And lest you think that the order of this list is not intended to connote importance, this was was actually an amendment made by politicians on the board to the original draft standards prepared by teachers and scholars. Conservatives on the SBOE proactively voted to insert this phrase during the May 20, 2010 meeting, and the discussion before the vote made perfectly clear that they believed sectionalism and states’ rights superseded slavery in terms of importance. In other words, the order of this list is no accident.

The same state board members also insisted that the new standards require students to study Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ inaugural speech. And guess what? Davis’ speech didn’t even mention the word “slavery.” The speech featured instead a long attack on the federal government and a defense of states’ rights — as if he were the original Tea Partier and slavery had nothing to do with southern secession. (Never mind that Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens made the truth about slavery’s centrality clear in his “Cornerstone Address” just a month later.)

So what does the Washington Post article say about the importance of states’ rights in the lead-up to the Civil War?

Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states’ rights — that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.

On Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina’s secession convention adopted a “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” It noted “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” and protested that Northern states had failed to “fulfill their constitutional obligations” by interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage. Slavery, not states’ rights, birthed the Civil War. [emphasis added]

Surprise, surprise. The Texas SBOE got it wrong. And a damaging historical myth is passed on to another generation of students.

54 thoughts on “Did Slavery Cause the Civil War?

  1. Let me add another telling fact here that may be true—a fact that we rarely ever hear. I picked this fact up several years ago from a television interview with a historian who had just written a book on the Civil War. When he mentioned this fact, which I had never heard before, I was just floored. However, if true, it underlines the paramount importance of slavery to the Southern states and the reason it would force them to secede.

    According to the historian:

    Looking back on the Civil War, people talk about the primacy of the industrial north. However, the thing they do not realize is this. In the years leading up to the Civil War, the cotton agriculture industry in the south, with its extensive overseas trade, was the primary engine driving the American economy. Southern economic output in those years far outstripped that of all the northern and western states/territories combined. Cotton really was king!!! It was king because of the economic advantages of slavery where millions of people were essentially forced to work long days of hard labor for minimal food, clothing, and shelter only. Sure, the north’s industrial infrastructure was the base that allowed it to win the Civil War eventually, but the South had always been the prime mover of the American economy. Therefore, the prospect of an end to slavery actually threatened all that the South possessed and all that made it important within the overall context of the nation.

    Actually, be the truth known, I think the Civil War was caused by all of those major factors that people cite rather than just one—but slavery was the BIGGY among them. My cousin the math professor that I have spoken of here before is also something of a local history buff. When I paid a visit last year, he/she had acquired one of those famous old books that mourned the loss of the old South and the reasons for it. Actually, the author put forward a pretty good purely legal argument that the South was treated unjustly. Without going into it in any great depth, his point was simply this. The U.S. constitution clearly made allowance for slavery by officially counting slaves as only a fraction of a person. The clear right to slavery was effectively written into the constitution in 1787 and accepted officially as a “given” of American life. Thus, northern attempts to end slavery were a clear violation of the constitutional rights of southern slave holders—and the south was forced to secede because it was no longer accorded the constitutional protections that it had been guaranteed since 1787. The proper thing that should have been done was to attempt an amendment to the constitution to rescind slavery rather than corner the South into an intolerable situation where secession and war was the only way out.

    In that argument, you will no doubt notice that the South voluntarily putting an end to slavery

  2. was not viewed as “another way out.” Once again, even in this southern argument written right after the civil War, slavery is the creme that rises to the top as the BIGGY factor in causing the Civil War.

    The Texas SBOE has it all wrong and is attempting to rewrite American history to appease American racists.

  3. That sounds good and true. Let’s restate that:

    “The Texas SBOE is attempting to rewrite American history to appease racists.”

    The married old man and woman (now dead) that once lived across the street from me were stalwart members of the Republican Party back in the 1980s. One was a a local party official. On numerous previous occasions, they had made it clear to me that they had no use for black people. Neither did the old couple from South Carolina that lived up the street from them. Well, I was sitting in a lawn chair in their front yard one night, and we were just gabbing away about all sorts of things. Right sudden like, this grave look came over the face of the Republican official’s wife, and she began quivering with agitation in her seat. Earlier in the day, she had been on a shopping trip to a local strip shopping center when she encountered a group of small black children riding bicycles towards her on the sidewalk. Filled with utter contempt that they would even dare to be in close proximity on the same side walk as her, she recounted how she yelled out at them:

    “Get out of here you dirty little little n-words. Shoo flies!!! Shoo!!!!!”

    I have had enough personal experiences with these sorts of people in my life to be able to honestly say this in my opinion:

    “Republican Party—thy very name is racist.”

  4. The South did not have to secede to keep thier “peculiar institution”, staying in the Union would have allowed the South to defeat any constitutional amendment that abolished slavery, and could do so even today. It only takes one quarter of the states to preclude ratification of any amendment. Seven slave states seceded followed by four more once Lincoln called for troops after Ft Sumter was fired on. Four slave states stayed with the Union followed by West Virginia which seceded from Virginia.

    The Emancipation Declaration did not free the slaves in those parts of slave states under Union occupation, it only freed the slaves in the Confederacy.

    After slave states were occupied by Union forces, the existing civil establishment continued to function. Those who ran against Lincoln in his last election did not make emancipation an issue, they wanted the war to end and for the South to return.

    The surrender instruments signed by Grant and Sherman did not disestablish the existing Southern establishment. As soon as Confederate troops returned home, they picked up where they left off. They ignored the Emancipation Proclamation, and many were elected to Congress. That was politically unpalatable to the Republican Administration, and the concept of Reconstruction was devised that placed the former Confederate States under a military occupation.

    The Constiutional basis for Reconstruction included the 12th, 14th, and 15th Amendments aka “Reconstruction Amendments” The Fourteenth Amendment, clauses 3 prohibited Southern officials and officers who had been Confederate officials or officers were barred from public service. Public debts of the Confederacy were annuled as were instruments of debt. This drove the former Confederate establishment out of Southern Governance.

    The states who had seceded were not readmitted until these Amendments were ratified by their legislatures. These same legislatures excluded the former estabiishment. Since the Union position through the Civil War was that states could not secede, it seems odd that they had to be readmitted having never left, but that’s the way politics worked.

    While slavery was an underlying condition it could still be around today if Southern hot heads had not thrown a serious temper tantrum and petulantly stormed out of the Union.

    It would still be around if George B McClellan, the Democrats candidate had won the electoral vote over Lincoln in the election of 1864. Lincoln had 55% of the popular vote and 90% of the electoral vote. Not exactly close.

    In 1850 the capital investment in slaves in the 11 Confederate states that seceded was equal to the capital value of all agricutural property and land, not counting the value of slave productivity. Emancipation wiped out that half and, taking in the fact that the South wasn’t big on industry, blasted their economy, something that did not begin to recover until WW 2 demands for product.

    The essential difference between North and Southern labor was that Southern slave labor was an asset, while Northern labor was and is, an expense. When there is an economic downturn, employees can’t be sold to raise capital, slaves could. That’s why Marx called capitalism, wage slavery. As capital goods, it made sense to provide a modicum of welfare to keep the slaves healthy and productive, while today’s management cuts costs regardless of the value of the employee.

    As for emnacipation of the slaves, that really didn’t take place until the Civil Rights movement of the Sixties and Seventies.

    As for Southern petulance, it might be relevant to point out that getting in wars you don’t understand is hardly new.

  5. CHARLES: Please, give me a break! You cite a coupe of anecdotal experiences and declare MILLIONs of people (Republicans) racists! Shame on you! You are just another big time hypocrite and you stereotype people in the very way YOU do not want to be stereotyped,,,,,,you sound very prejudiced and small minded (and not very bright)!

    I am a registered “Independant” but am mostly conservative and have lived ALL of my life in the northeast,,,,,,I think that couple from SC and who was of a certain generation, was aweful (especially what she said to those kids),,,,but that couple and 1 or 2 more DO NOT represent the Republican party any more than crimanl rappers or gang members represent ALL black people,,,,,STUPID!!!! So, the Dem party has a looooooong history of racists, KKK guys and segregationists in its past and the Repub party has a looooooong history of getting the majority of black voters,,,,,,I am sure that hurts you to read that!

    Remember, it was a REPUBLICAN who FREED the slaves and, because of that, black people ONLY voted republican for many decades and white southerners mostly voted DEOMCRAT for DECADES up until the civil rights legislation of the 1960’S,,,,do not be so unedcuated and myopic!

    I am just so tired of people attacking groups with broad brushes as being ALL this, or ALL that,,,,utter nonsense and smacks of low intelligence and ALOT of prejudice,,,,,,I could easily call ALL Democrats and Libs as being as nutty and looney as Pelosi, Frank, Reid and others but realize the average american lib and Dem are individuals with a myhriad of views,,,,,the same is true for Independants and Republicans,,,,,

    Lastly, if looney libs could just undertand ECONOMICS 101, maybe we could respect them more!


    It is called “The Emancipation PROCLAMATION” (not declaration),,,,,,

  7. Tom:

    You know as well as I do that the Republican Party has given a political “safe haven” to every racist in the United States since the 1960s. You can publicly decry them all you want and say that they are disgusting all you want. It rings hollow for me because the Republicans love their presence in their corner at election time—and that love has been especially sweet over the past few years since they have had to deal with one of “them” as their President.

    I just wish Republicans and Independents could understand BIBLE 101, which clearly puts across the message that ECONOMICS 101 is a crock of excrement because PEOPLE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN MONEY.

  8. I am continually amazed when people like “Tom” use the “Republicans freed the slaves” canard. The Republican Party then has no relationship, other than name, to the Republican Party of today. I seriously question whether Abraham Lincoln would be the presidential nominee for the current GOP. Interesting that he decries the use of “…broad brushes….”, while excoriating the “…looney libs….”

    I heard many racist attacks when I visit my home in Louisiana. First hand anecdotes with people referring to President Obama in the most derogatory racist terminology. You are not doubt true when you state that not all Republicans are racist, but everyone of these aforementioned individuals vote straight ticket Republican.

  9. Oh, by the way Tom, this uneducated guy would like to offer up a famous quote from the 19th century about the concept of “nullification.” As you know, just like it was among southern white racists in the 1960s, nullification is all the rage these days among conservatives like you, especially with regard to the Obama health care bill. It was all the rage in South Carolina in 1832 because the citizens of that state were upset with a federal tax law that had just been imposed on them. With regard to the concept of nullification, Andrew Jackson said that it is “…Incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed.”

    Jackson went on to point out that he had sworn an oath to uphold the laws of the United States, including the tariff, and that if South Carolina did not back down on its threats about nullification; war; and secession over the tax, confrontation with federal troops would ensue. Here is the precise Jackson quote on that, “Be not deceived by names. Disunion by armed force is treason. Are you ready to incur its guilt?”

    Sigh!!!!!!!!!!!! I must just be a 2011 Union sympathizer If the wingnuts on the right insist on another Civil War, you can be pretty much assured that it is precisely what they will get. Are you ready to fight and die in a shooting war just because you have to shell out a few extra dollars to help a sick person in some hospital. If your answer to that is “yes,” then you are no American in my book. However, I feel certain that the citizens of South Carolina would be happy—even today—to receive you as one of their own. They were for parting with England in 1776 and for the U.S. constitution in 1789. After that, they have wanted nothing else more than to be their own separate nation—even so today.

  10. Yeah, yeah. If slavery had never existed, the Civil War would have happened anyway, right?


  11. ****** Lurker111 Says:
    April 3, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Yeah, yeah. If slavery had never existed, the Civil War would have happened anyway, right?

    /snark *********

    Slavery was the main cause of the Civil War, stop making excuses.

    ************* Tom Says:
    April 2, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    CHARLES: Please, give me a break! You cite a coupe of anecdotal experiences and declare MILLIONs of people (Republicans) racists! Shame on you! You are just another big time hypocrite and you stereotype people in the very way YOU do not want to be stereotyped,,,,,,you sound very prejudiced and small minded (and not very bright)! ***********

    You obviously have no idea of what the Republican Party stands for. They promised to stay out of people lives and once elected, they lied.
    They are racist and anti American for trying to rewrite history to suit their needs. Shame on you for protecting these racists.

  12. The amazing thing about this whole thing—and they say American is the land of opportunity—is that they have found a whole new “race” to hate to go along with all the other races they hate: Mexicans, blacks, non-Christians, and now

    “…them what bows east, covers they hayuds, and speaks Arab.”

    This might seem like an odd combination to be putting under the heading of “race.” However, having known a number of openly avowed racists, my experience informs me that actual racists can and do divide up the world this way. For example, a close relative of mine who did not like black people would frequently state to me, and this is essentially an exact quote:

    “I like the British people, but they are a naturally immoral race.”

    It therefore follows that the managers of BP gasoline stations are a naturally high-gas-pricing race—I suppose. So, ultimately, the definition of race takes a flight of fancy into the world of the “selected group I don’t like this week.”

  13. Charles, it’s the French that are naturally immoral. The British always feel guilty.

    jdg, I think Lurker agrees with you. He was being sarcastic.
    I think.
    Tom: I agree with Charles. In fact, everyone knows the racists gravitate to the GOP, and have ever since the Dixiecrat rebellion of the ’60’s. The parties flipped with respect to race. Everyone knows that.

    What’s more important is that the Republican policies are racist. Now we get to the meat. It’s interesting because the assassination of Martin Luther King is coming up and his death pretty much coincides with the period with the zenith of social justice in this country, the rise of the broad middle class, and the power of collective bargaining. The dismantling of the Great Society started with the Nixon admin. The Reagan years represented the beginning of the full assault on social justice, education, and collective bargaining, and the redistribution of wealth from the middle class to the super-wealthy. Black unemployment skyrocketed. I lived in Oakland, CA during the early ’80’s. I know the truth, which was that THERE WERE NO JOBS, which further drove the trade in illicit drugs.
    Now we’ve come to the end (I hope) of our descent into hell. Now white working persons understand what black working persons have known for 30 years.
    It’s hard to rise up out of poverty into the middle class when there is no middle class, and there are no jobs.

  14. *************** David Says:
    April 3, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    Charles, it’s the French that are naturally immoral. The British always feel guilty.

    jdg, I think Lurker agrees with you. He was being sarcastic.
    I think.*********

    Doesn’t sound like it.

  15. I agree that the French are most likely a more immoral “race” than the British, but one has to wonder why the British are feeling so guilty if they have done nothing morally wrong.

    But let’s take this a step further. The conservative members of the Texas SBOE are mostly of British extraction (including Scotland and Ireland, which were both part of Great Britain in the old days). Scotland is semi-autonomous now. If these members of the Texas SBOE have arguably engaged in immoral activity in their approach to dispensing their duties as elected officials, then it would follow that they should feel some measure of guilt for what they have done. Yet, I see no sign of that. Does this then mean that their British surnames are all aliases? Perhaps we should ask for their birth certificates? How do we know that her real name is no Gail Umfwala Limpopo?

  16. Well, I was joking about the French being immoral. The novel, “Tom Jones” takes away any British claim to moral rectitude.
    The conservatives on the SBOE and their ilk are so infantile and ignorant they can hardly be held accountable for their behavior.

  17. I red this site often, but have almost never commented, but this post reminded me of my childhood. In my 9th grade history class in Amarillo my History teacher made a big deal of his assertion that the civil war was all about states rights. even then I was very dubious, ( I was known for arguing with him when I disagreed, but he still seemed to like me) When I went to University in WA state and minored in History (Latin American History luckily) I was very entertained by how much my history teachers had taught me was laughable in other states. Now I am going back to school to be a middle school teacher, and was openly told by my adviser that while the official curriculum is sad, that I should change it in the class room, (I’m not going to teach in Texas long if I can help it)

  18. Slavery might have just petered out as it had in most of Europe were it not for the cotton gin. Cotton was so labor intensive before the cotton gin, as each batch of cotton had to be hand picked to get the seeds out. The cotton gin increased the output of cotton by reducing the labor needed per bale. Thus cotton became a major cash crop for the South, which could add slaves, machines, and more land to cotton production. Cotton became King. King Cotton.

    Cotton displaced wool as the major textile of France and Great Britain.

    The South gambled on their clout in cotton production like OPEC did for oil. As it was, the cost of the Union Blockade to the South encouraged the textile industries in Europe to seek production elsewhere, which turned out to be Egypt and India. This eventually led to problems in Indian history when Gandhi made his own cotton thread and clothes.

    Cotton production wore out the poor soil in the South which required a shifting of cotton production ever westward, like Texas, Missouri, et al. Add the shift of the source of cotton away from the South plus the destruction of the soil being used to raise it in the first place, plus emancipation one gets a picture of a South that might have experienced devastation regardless of the slavery issue.

    The amount of capital invested in slaves in the two decades prior to the war should exponential growth while in the rest of the Western world, it was dwindling. Succcessful slave revolts in the Caribbean and South America also tended to make Southern slavery more the exceptin rather than the rule in agriculture.

    While the South seceded unnescessarily to preserve slavery, and slavery was not abollished in the parts of the USA under Union control until after the war, it is difficult to say the slavery caused the war. There would have been no Civil War and no invasion of the South if the South had not foolishly seceded.

    It is a matter of some speculation as to when, how and why slavery might have ended in the US. The continued need for more land to plant was an economic necessity to the cotton industry, and the various compromises prior to the war allowed new states west of Texas to become slave. Expansion of slave ownership west of Austin, Texas with it’s wide open spaces and access to slave free Mexico and west to California might have proven interesting.

    The collapse of the cotton market by foreign cotton production would have placed the South in an intersting quandary.

    Bottom line, the South was doomed economically so long as it stayed with cotton as king.

    Tea Party rhetoric is built on the antebellum arguments unembellished by any changes made in the Constitution except the first twelve amendments.

  19. That’s okay Jess. You may find out all too quickly that your students are “redding” rather than “reading,” especially if the likes of Joe McCarthy get glorified in Texas classrooms.

  20. Which brings up a basic principle of evolution Gordon. I learned this in my human paleontology classes back in 1975:

    “The key to extinction is overspecialization in adaptation to the environment.”

    Put all of your eggs in your cotton basket—and your asking for trouble—as you point out so wisely.

  21. Did any one ever look into the fact that the Majore Business in the NORTH also had a type of slavery in that the wages were not enough for the people to live on. Also did any one ever mention that the NORTH was the one importing the slaves from Africa and saleing them to the South. Guess this part of history is to controversel.

  22. Sure it was about states rights and the right that the south was most interested in was keeping slavery in place. If you read the book “The Road to Disunion” by William Freehling he makes a compelling case that a secessionist minority in the lower south exploited sectional tensions to forge a majority for disunion. This minority was fearful that slavery might erode or eventually crumble so they went on the offensive to force wavering moderates into the secessionist fold.

    If you look at all the key events that led up to disunion: Kansas Nebraska Act, Dred Scott, John Brown, and the election of 1860 they all revolve around one key issue, slavery.

  23. The concept of states rights in the context of the Civil War was the contention that a state could leave the Union if it so desired. The Union side of the Civil War, by adopting the term “Union” as a brand name asserts that states could not leave the Union. Once the Confederate states had been conquered by the Union, thier Ante-bellum political establishment was disestablished and a military government put in place. The states that could not secede from the Union were then forced to jump through a number of hoops in order to be “readmitted”.

    This is Orwellian double speak befoe Orwell was born. States being required to be readmitted because they could not secede/

    Slavery was an issue that defined the difference between the southern big agriculture economy with northern budding industrialism that depended on cheap disposable labor. While these differing economic systems produced different political objectives, the South’s decision to secede was more petulance than prudence.

    The economic threat to the South was protectionism of Northern manufacturing represented by tariffs. The South could always prevent a Northern initiative to raise tariffs by having at least half the votes in the Senate. The tariff threat was seen by the South as making British and French made industrial goods too expensive. This, however, was not an existential threat to the Southern economh or to slavery.

    The most interesting question left unanswered in the discussions is what would Lincoln have done if he had not been assassinated. He had selected a Southerner as Vice President, Andrew Johnson who turned out to be a bit tepid in Reconstruction vengeance. Both Grant and Sherman who took the surrenders of the main Confederate forces, assumed that status antebellum was going to be the default. Lincoln’s second inaugural address had cited “With maline towards none, and charity for all” did not portend of a punitive occupation of the kind that Reeconstruction became. Would Lincoln have allowed a buy out of slaves? The lost of the value of the capital invested in slaves plus the worthless land left the South destitute and exploited by carpet baggers (Yankees) and scalawags (Quislings).

    In this regard, John Wilkes Booth was the South’s biggest nightmare, a nightmare that still haunts us.

  24. Quisling was the von Rumfeld of Norway who switched sides to become Fuhrer of Norway. The actual Cvil War equivalent were the Copperheads in the North who made plats and hatched terrorims on behalf of the South. Lincoln didn’t have the equivalent of the Patriot Act or of Wilson’s Sedition Act to round up semi-traitors.

    So the Reconstrucion Quisling were the Scalawags, portrayed in “Birth of a Nation” as a former slavemaster who exceeded the bound of acceptable whipping of slaves, and was rousted out of the South by the kindly old slave owner. Likely on the grounds that exceeding the whipping allowance would void the guarantee on the slave’s operating ability.

  25. Quisling (name of Norwegian traitor put into power by National Socialists or Nazis) and Scalawag are totally different concepts, at least in Australia and even some of the better educated parts of Texas, where a scalawag is a naughty, rebellious individual. The term is occasionally used as one of endearment towards a child. This whole argument is very interesting with bits and pieces of history chosen to prove different and opposite points. I weep that some of the spelling is so bad and thus undermines what might otherwise be a good argument. It is hard to see how the Civil War could have been prevented given the attack on Fort Sumter which was going a step too far for the Union.

  26. Old eyes, small print and no spellcheck. Sorry for the mispling.

    The term scalawag in ordinary usage does refer to a rascal, a cut up, a card, and harmlesss scalawagery. The term Scalawag as used in the ReconstructionSouth, however, was a specific and malicious rascal of dubioos parentage, certainly criminal, and in cartoons was the basis for Snively Whiplash of Bullwinkle fame.

    Texas counter- reconstructionism resulted in an allocation of the real power of state government in the hands of the Lieutenant Governor with the office of the Governor more front man than powerhouse. That’s one of the secrets of the W’s experience in governance prior to the Presidency that few outsde Texas are aware of.

    Naturally, there is considerable subterfuge at state level.

  27. @jdg, others:

    Yes, I was being sarcastic. That’s the reason for the /snark. The “If slavery had never existed, the Civil War would have happened anyway” line is my way of shutting down the conversation after a state’s righter starts going off on his hobby horse.

  28. @Gordon Fowkes: I meant shut down as in real-person-propaganda-spouting. You go to a party or meeting and some asshat starts blathering that the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery–that’s the provocation for my rejoinder.

  29. The opposing assertion that slavert caused the Civil War or that the North fought to free the slaves is equally over simplistic. The Emancipation PROCLAMATON did not free the slaves in the Union, only in the Confederacy.

    The Emancipation Proclamation was the most ingenious piede of propaganda in the hisotry of propaganda. “Freeing” the slaves in the South was a green light for slaves to defect as the Proclamation effectively neutered the Dred Scott decision. The legal foundation of keeping slaves in the Union becameT politically incorrect. Thr Proclamation essentially pullled the rug ouot from slavery with the XIII Aamendment becoming more of a fomality.

    The Proclamaton also ended any chance of Geat Britain from recognizing the Confederacy. English textile factory owners were in favor of supporting the South, and the Confederate Navy was built in British shipyards whose ships sank the US whaling fleet, and drove ship owners to change to flags of convenience elsewhere. After the War, the US and UK almost came to blows over the losses to the shipping industry and the American Merchant Marine. The US was tired of war, and a new gimmick was invented to solve the problem … an International Court of Law was established, and ruled in favor of the US.

    The Democrat party ran George B McClellen, who built the Army of the Potomac, but became a consumate screwup in losing his battles. MClellan and the Democrats supported ending the war wihout ending slavery. Lincoln as winnier had only revealed his theme of maline towards none and charity towards all to be the basis of a way to set the slaves free withut a brutal federal occupation. We will never know.

    That states who were defeated in battle because they could not leave the Union, had to be driven out on paper so they could be readmitted gives States Rightist an argument their own bigotry blights.

  30. So history in reality was not as simple as my 8th Grade textbook summary.
    Anyway, slavery was abolished, eventually voting rights were extended to women, and Jim Crow was defeated.
    Now we’re here not out of concern for history, but for history in the making. The history to be written that these atavistic nunchuks want to perpetrate is not acceptable.

  31. a. Jim Crow is still alive in the Tea Party.

    b. Nunchuks are an Okinawan rice flair used as a weapon. It consists of two sticks joined by a rope or chain and requires considerable practice to avoid whacking one’s self in some sensitive places.

    c. Avatism is an evolutinary throwback which term does not apply to the Okinawan Martial Arts (or rice poundign) expertise in which martial arts requires bypassing the normal fight, flight, or freeze mechanism in order to fight efficiently and without reliance on rage (which rage is counter productive in narrowing the field of view, restricting blood flow, and desensitiving the skin in anticipation of being cut).

    d. Avatism as an evolutionary throwback is very much in evidence in mass political or athletic gatherings.

  32. That’s right David. History is not as simple as your 8th grade textbook summary, which is one reason why the simple-minded conservatives on the Texas SBOE need to get out of the history business. How many people here think they would have known who Quisling was right off the top of their heads without having to look it up? Maybe they did, but I would not have put any of my money on it in a bet.

  33. This is not so new. I learned that slavery was not a cause of the war in high school about 5-6 years ago. Upon reading this I realized I didn’t know what the truth was. This is just another terrible assault on history.

  34. The states’ rights discussion has been around as long as the slavery discussion.
    What’s different about our current epoch is that the “liberal” culture content and media of the ’30’s thru the ’60’s has been replaced and the only ones aware of it are boomers and classic film buffs.
    Films like “Friendly Persuasion” and “Shenandoah” dealt with guns, violence and the civil war. There are many others. In “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”, John Wayne’s closest male friend is the black hired hand, played by Woody Strode.
    “Inherit the Wind” deals with the evolution and superstitious religion pretty well. When I was a kid, only the backward uneducated hillbilly types held to a literal interpretation of the Bible.
    What’s going on now with the right is something new and something very Orwellian.

  35. I have said this here before—a couple of years ago—but it bears repeating. In my opinion, one of the great mistakes of the past 50 years was making low interest federal student loans and free grants to poor college students. I was one of those students, so I am not against the idea per se. I am against what may have happened.

    As David said above, “When I was a kid, only the backward uneducated hillbilly types held to a literal interpretation of the Bible.”

    All the student grants and loans did was to create a generation of forward-looking, highly educated hillbilly types that cling to a literal interpretation of the Bible. In other words, it gave them just enough education to be dangerous to themselves, their country, and their fellow man.

  36. I think that it is more correct to say that the South’s greatest reason to secede was to preserve slavery for it’s financial value, but that the North’s greatest reason to go to war was to save the Union, not to end slavery. The point being that the right to freedom of blacks as a moral issue was secondary to both sides. The issues were much more financial than moral – wars are fought over resources, not over philosophy.

  37. Augusta, in 1861 there was no way that the US Congress or President to abolish slavery without a Constitutional Amendment which Amendment reguired three quarters of the state legislatures to ratify, one quarter plus one could block this or any other amendment. There were fifteen slave states, more than enough to block abollition by Constitutional Amendment. There were thirty five states in Union, eleven being more than enogh to stop abollition.

    The Emancipation Proclamation “freed” only the slaves in the Confederacy (States still in rebellion) but not in the Unon. General McClellan, who built the Army of the Potomac, and lost most of his battles against Robert E Lee, was the Democratic Party candidate for President. He did not support abolition.

    Grant and Sherman’s conditions to the defeated Confederates was in accordance with Lincoln’s last known instruciton…. status quo antebellum (no abolition).

    The former Confederate states started to go back to business as usual, beleiving that since they could not have legally seceded, they were still a part of the Union, entitled to elect and send members of Congress who were then rejected for seating by the existing Republican majority.

    After the 1866 election resulting in a strong radical Republian majority (in no small way due to preventing Southern delegates to be seated, and then abolished the Southern state governments and place them under a military occupation. This had the same effect in 1866 as did Prides Purge in England in December 1648 (the only military coup in English history) which put Oliver Cromwell in as military dictator of Englsnd. This was a Congressional coup that is unquestionably unconstitutional.

    The states having been expelled from Congressional representation were allowed to be “readmitted” so long as they ratified the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments.

    The decapitalization of the South has taken over a century to be reconsituted. The changes in the Constitution that had to be swallowed by the South, was not digested, and is being regurgitated as we speak. The lesson in this is that there are limits to the amount of humiliation that a people will accept. Eventually, there will be a reckoning. And that applies to those nations defeated in WW2.

    That there is an unholy mix in the TeaParty between the openly totalitarian quasi-Nazi rhetoric with that of a totally different tradition of ante-bellum South should not be taken as happenstance. There is a lot of pent up anger that cannot be matched to any particular recent cause, even as recent as the so0called Anti-War movement of the Sixties.

  38. We’ve come a long ways, and it was not always easy.
    That being said, we are where we are.
    A dumbass will always find a reason.

  39. Um just wow.. i came looking at this artice for help on an AP class, and i walk away with so much more… the snide comments in here made my day and i just want to thank you for bringing humor into my morning 🙂

  40. Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens’ Cornerstone speech:

    “The prevailing ideas entertained by [Thomas Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically….

    Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone 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.”

    That appears pretty clear cut to me.


  41. Kenny, Abolition caused the Civil War. Without the threat of Abolition there would have been no Secession and no Civil War

    The South seceded in a moment of pique and petulance at the election of an openly abolitionist President. At first only seven states seceded with four more following on the heels of Presidential orders to invade the South and restore the Union. Four slave states stayed with the Union.

    Union forces which had captured Confederate territory occupied former Confederate owned slave run plantations and kept the slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves on Union occupied ground.

    If the South kept it’s cool and stayed with the Union, slavery would not have been abolished as the fifteen slave states could stop any Constitutional Amendment in a nation of 33 states. Seven states could stop ratification then and thirteen could stop one today.

    Lincoln’s assasination sped up the process of ratification of the “reconstruction Amendments (13-15)” as well as the expulsion of the former Confederate states from the Union and subsequent decade long illegal military occupation.

  42. Certainly slavery was an ‘issue’ at the time of the Civil War.
    But if, as you many propose, it were THE reason for the civil War:
    –Slavery had been in the ‘New World’ for 200 years. Why did the north only attack AFTER South Carolina seceded?
    –Why would Lincoln say if he could free all of the slaves to save the union, he would do so. If he could save the union by freeing none of the slaves, he would do that. And if he could free some of the slaves but not all of them in order to save the union, he would do THAT. (which is what he did)
    –If slavery were THE reason then why wasn’t there an IMMEDIATE emanciapation of ALL slaves (instead of just some of them 2 years into the war)(done at that time only to prevent the south from arming them to fight in the war and to keep England from supporting the Confederacy / a purely political move).

    The south stuck by the U.S.Constitution: the federal govt was intentionally restricted by our country’s founders to prevent it from becoming a dictatorial behemoth (sound familiar?). The ‘union’ was to be an alliance of individual ‘countries’ (this is why Lee, a federal soldier, ended up fighting for the south / he could not abandon his “country”: Virginia).
    WashDC was already beginning the dictatorial invasiveness that is the SOLE reason our country is in such a pathetic condition as it is today.
    Jefferson Davis experienced immense difficulties in raising armies and funds because the southern states would not let HIM dictate to them! (the Confederacy adopted the U.S.Constitution pretty much verbatim)

    Today, we have a similar conflict called the ‘Sovereignty Movement’: 31 States, I believe, have already issued edicts telling the feds to “cease and desist” (AZ) from conducting unConstitutional activities. A few have spoken of secession. (the States recognize what’s going on even if most citizens are stupid or oblivious).

  43. Old posts usually wither away, but the issue of the Tea Party and the Confederacy isn’t going away any time soon.

    At the time the first southern states seceded, there was a question of whether there was necessarily going to be a war. Once a polity, like the former Soviet states, left for greener pastures, the question of who owned what assets belonging to the former Soviet state that would go with the seceding states. This was, and still is, a serious question about former Soviet bases like Sevastopol with the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. This fleet was divided up, those that still floated, and the Russian state leases the former base.

    This problem was presented throughout the Southern states with mixed results. That which pulled the trigger was firing on Fort Sumter by South Carolina militia instead of continuing the negotiations for a peaceful turnover. Once that shot was fired on what was considered Federal property, the die was cast, and Lincoln called for volunteers.

    That call resulted in the Secession of four more states, and increased hostilities. For most of the war, the rationale for Union operations, and note that “Union” was the name taken to point out the fundamental position of the Federal government, was that the states could not secede from the Union. That was the default policy in place that Grant and Sherman offered to the surrendering Confederate forces, that the nations wounds would be bound up and proceed with charity for all and malice towards nome. Lincoln’s assassination wiped that policy of the table.

    Those states that had returned to the Union proceeded to elect their former Confederates to office which rendered the surrender meaningless to the Abolitionists. Then Congress refused to seat the elected Southerners and Reconstruction was started to “readmit” Southern states to the Union that they could not have left, according to Abe Lincoln.

    The military occupation of the South continued until it became necessary to have Southern votes to elect a Republican President, and the Reconstruction governments run by blacks, and Yankee sympathizers were shut down, and segregation replaced slavery. This status continued for another century, until the Freedom Riders, and the Civil Rights Acts of the Sixties were put into effect.

    And now, the Tea Party takes up the cause not forgotten of a return to the fabled days of Ante-Bellum Southern aristocracy, dirt poor whites, and blacks who know how to kept their eyes cast down.

    The greatest battle the South lost, was the Assasination of Lincoln. People today should figure out what his dream could have been and see if it would work today. I think that, despite Yankee chicanery, that better world for the South’s latest economic boom is just that.

  44. Anony I recommend the Pulitzer prize winning history of the civil war, including a broad and thorough overview of the development of the issues that caused the Civil War, “Battle Cry of Freedom” by James M. McPherson. The issues are covered from the birth of colonial America through the war, and without any equivocation, without any doubt, the cause of the Civil War was slavery.
    I don’t know what “edict” you’re talking about that AZ has issued.
    Go do some reading and studying and come back to talk to the grownups when you have something of substance to offer.

  45. David, I accept that most of academic dogmatism about slavery being the “cause” of the Civil War. which is true to the extent that without slavery, there would have been no abolition for there would have been nothing to abolish.

    Absent abolitionism, slavery would have gone on so long as people made money off of it, which was true both North and South. Absent the idiotic move made by the hot heated Tea Party types in the South about pending doom from Abolitionists, the South would have seen no reason to exit.

    Had the South had decided to stay in, and weather the rhetoric no matter how strident, there was noting Abolitionist could have done to abolish slavary by amending the Constitution or any other legal move. So long as proponents of not changing the Constitution, something they only had to do by just saying “no” to any change to the Constitution. It takes THREE QUARTERS of the STATE LEGISLATURES to say “yes” to the proposed Amendment, Today that works out to 38 states with 12 opposed. With 13 opposed, the Amendment doesn’t get added to the Constitution. There were 35 states in the Union then.

    It isn’t about some abstruse theory of who said what, it’s the math.

    The South copied the existing Constitution with a few changes more suited to Confederacy, and with the power to raise armies directly and to collect income tax, something the Union didn’t have in place up front. The absurdity of the argument that the South obeyed the Constitution is beyond ken, they quit, they knew it, and the rewrote it for their own use.

    Much of the hysteria from the Retro-Confederates today is in keeping with the same hysteria by which they cut their own throats at Ft Sumter. The part I can’t quite figure is what element of the Israeli polity is pulling whose strings linking Islamophobia to establishment of Christianity as a state religion, as a necessary effect to keep Islamo-Obama-Liberal-Socialism from sapping and indemnifying our precious bodily fluids.

  46. i wouldn’t call McPherson’s book academic dogmatism. It goes into all the details of all the various social and political developments leading up to the war, from top to bottom, left to right, back to front, inside out, outside in, upside down, rightside up etc.
    Not that I think that’s really necessary to understand the basic fact: The US divided into two parts. One part couldn’t abide with slavery and couldn’t abide with slavery being spread into the new states and territories.
    The other side couldn’t find a way to exist without slavery, insisted on spreading it west (and south, by the way, the major proponents of slavery were also territorial expansionists re Cuba, Haiti, Mexico, Central America, etc. and also sought to expand the slave based economy to those regions.)
    War broke out between these two factions.
    Before the war, slavery was legal in part of the country.
    After the war, slavery was ended.
    Generally speaking, the war was understood to be about slavery for the above reasons, by most of the world. The only place this has ever been routinely disputed is among the South of Jim Crow, the KKK, the John Birch Society, and the inheritors of those traditions, the evangelical right wing.

    Was the context “complicated” ? Sure. The north has no monopoly on morality, and general depravity and hypocrisy is shared by the north and south alike. There were forces and institutions in the north that contributed to the status quo in the south.

  47. Being “about slavery” is not the same thing as slavery causing the war. Abolition was “about slavery”. Abolition could never have occurred by Constitutional Amendment so long as the South stayed in the Union, They didn’t and by way of the fortunes of war, risked their peculiar institution.

    Slavery was not the main theme song of the Unon, as slavery remained legal in the Union in those slave states that stayed in the union and in those parts of Southern states that were under the effective rule of the Union. The Emancipation Proclamationd did not apply to those parts of the Union that were not in rebellion.

    The Emancipation Proclamation did, in effect, doom slavery in any event as, once out, it could not be stuffed back in the slave quarters again. Too many former slaves had moved to the North, and 210,000 of the Union Army were blacks, either Freedmen or former slaves. The fate of the Black troops who went back to the South to support Reconstruction were left out to fend for themselves after terrorist groups like the Knights of the White Camelia, the Red Shirts ambushed and killed Black Republicans, and Republicans in general who were mainstay of the occupation governments of the Reconstruction, in a back room deal to get Rutherford B Hayes elected as President, succeeding US Grant.

    Rutherford removed Federal troops from the South, and political and ethnic cleansing by the KKK with winks and nods from the “Redemptionist” former prewar and Confederate establishment. Black Codes replaced outright slavery and the current state prison model of today was based on Southern prisons for blacks who lacked the proper respect for whites. In effect, slavery was reinstituted but without recovery of the capital value that slaves represented before the war. Under slavery, slaves were capital goods worth maintaining, afterwards they were an expense item of no inherent value commercially. Just like factory workers up north.

    Reconstruction has been glossed over by both sides of the Mason Dixon Line for regional reasons, there was considerable chicanery going on both sides. What is left in the South is pouring out from deeply held resentments from wounds so deep that Yankees can’t see them. The default Yankee reaction is deprecating to the South, and is unwise to remain so.

    Yes, the Civil War was “about” slavery, but in no way was slavery at risk legally until Lincoln was shot.