California: The Prize of Secession and the following War of Southern Aggression

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#1
When I taught American history (1492--present) a decade or so ago, I used to begin my discussion of of the Civil War with a Rohrschach polling of my students. I asked them: What is the first state that comes to your mind, when I say the words "Civil War"? Invariably they would say things like South Carolina, North Carolina (where I taught), Virginia, Georgia, or even northern states like Massachusetts and New York. Of all of them, totally saturated with grade school drivel, not one student ever mentioned California; but at the conclusion of the poll, I did. I told them that the reason they named the states that they did is because that is where most of the battles were fought, i.e., in the eastern United States. I told them what the war was really about was the prize of California, that after all was said and done it was a war for real estate, a war for soil more than slavery --not excluding slavery, of course, but just more over soil than slaves. South Carolina's Declarations about slavery was just a cheerleading pretext for the South to do something it had wanted to do for thirty previous years. California was clearly and simply the prize both sides were fighting for, as that Golden State possessed ports on the Pacific for trade with Peking that both sides were striving for in order to achieve permanent commercial hegemony. The war was really not much different than the American Revolution, when the Colonists were disgusted with Britain's monopoly on tea and other trade, and so the war was on. Right after the conclusion of the war, one of the first things the new states did was to engage in the trade with China. As Don Doyle points in his fine book, The Cause of All Nations, by late 1864 into early 1865, Jefferson Davis and others were ready to throw in the towel on slavery, if only the Union would let them go in peace. Lincoln, an old land surveyor like the "Father of His Country" (who according to one wag said was also "the father of Governor Posey of Indiana"), said "No deal." The clear implication of this Confederate capitulation was --and still is-- that simple independence was the core goal of the seceding states.

To pre-empt one complaint against this view, it is true that I do not recall seeing the words "California" or "China" in the Secession declarations of any of the states. I could be wrong, as I am going by recall rather than re-reading them all. However, California is clearly in view in light of the frequent reference to "western territories" in these Declarations. It is axiomatic that the South had no intention of stopping with New Mexico and Arizona, to say nothing of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. But most of all: California.

Are there other posters out there who agree with me?

James
 

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#3
I can agree with your southern premise. But the northern premise is driven by abolitionist agitators, and the fight was provoked on the Senate/House floor with demonstrable acts against each other. The verbal reprimands and curses and insults created an atmosphere that superseded the quest for anything but blood settlement.
Lubliner
 
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#4
So "both sides were fighting for [California]" but "simple independence was the core goal of the seceding states".
Thanks for your post.

You read me correctly. You may wish to keep in mind that I side with Andrew Jackson who in 1833, after the failure of nullification, prophesied that in the future the next "pretext" for independence would be "slavery." I might be wrong in my view, but I am at least in decent company. I am willing to credit Jackson more than I am a generation of contemporary historians who have swallowed South Carolina's Secession bait every bit as much as Charleston swallowed it in 1860. I do NOT believe that hindsight is always 20-20, as I think is the view of those who claim it was all about slavery. I think they have not only had cotton but wool pulled over their eyes. Mind you, I do NOT exclude slavery as a factor, as does Charles Beard. In fact, I find slavery to be A MAJOR FACTOR, just not the only or the overriding factor. Yancey's certifiable duplicity that I have come across during the discussions on these threads has done nothing to dim my view but everything to solidify it. Yancey was not a d----d Yankee, he was just a d----d liar. So were the other South Carolina blowhards who peddled the pabulum to people who swallowed it uncritically.

Yes, you read me correctly.

james
 

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#5
I find slavery to be A MAJOR FACTOR, just not the only or the overriding factor.
Again, few if any here have suggested that slavery was the only cause. Most here and elsewhere agree that there were several factors; many agree that of those slavery was the root cause.
 
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#6
I can agree with your southern premise. But the northern premise is driven by abolitionist agitators, and the fight was provoked on the Senate/House floor with demonstrable acts against each other. The verbal reprimands and curses and insults created an atmosphere that superseded the quest for anything but blood settlement.
Lubliner
Thanks for your post and at least a modicum of leaning toward my proposition.

I cannot argue against what the abolitionists would have created in terms of war against the South, if Congress had awarded the South the footprint of the transcontinental railroad (TRR) so that the South still had a stake in the federal government. My best guess is that they would have continued their tirade to abolish slavery, but I simply cannot guesstimate the results. for oen thing, I think if Congress had awarded the footprint of the TRR to the South that if the South got it built, then they would have seceded and it might not have been possible for the Union to be kept together. However, I see tings as SC Senator, Governor, and Charleston Mayor, Robert Hayne, saw things, namely that as both sides continued commerical intercourse that slavery would have died a natural death when it encountered free labor. Then maybe ever reunion. But lots of guessing here. What I am confident of is that the South seceded because it viewed a golden slave empire that it could create by western expansion. No trans-Mississippi West, no Civil War --at least not in 1861. Maybe later, if the abols had their way; but not in 1861. The War of Southern Aggression was nothing more or less than a falling out among the thieves that both Lincoln and Grant called the Mexican War.

James
 
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#7
Again, few if any here have suggested that slavery was the only cause. Most here and elsewhere agree that there were several factors; many agree that of those slavery was the root cause.
Thanks for your post.

I think a few have argued that it was slavery and slavery alone, but neither you nor I have any interest in going back to collate those responses. I think we would certainly agree that many have come close to that. And it is certainly true that many, probably most, have argued that slavery was indeed the root cause. I, too, would agree that it was "a" root cause, but not the only root and not the largest root. The Colonists and Britain did not fight over slavery. They fought over land and what it could do and who got to do with it what they wanted in spite of what King George III had to say about trans-Appalachia or trade with other countries. It was simply a real estate war. Can you imagine SC seceding, if the total land holdings of the South stopped at the Mississippi River and there were no trans-Mississippi West? I cannot. I might be wrong, but I cannot. As Bill Barney "defied" any one to show him that the South would have seceded in 1860, if Congress had awarded the first TRR footprint to the South, I defy (but I "defy" politely) anyone to show me that SC or the South in general would have seceded, if the United States ended where the Mississippi River is and the Pacific Ocean began there.
 
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#8
Again, few if any here have suggested that slavery was the only cause. Most here and elsewhere agree that there were several factors; many agree that of those slavery was the root cause.
P.S. For whatever it is worth, I do not consider tariffs or state rights or Uncle Tom's Cabin or Oberlin or nutmeg (well, maybe a little nutmeg) to be anything other than minimal factors, if factors at all. at least nothing to write home about.
 
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#9
Declarations of Secession require us to believe what came out of politicians' mouths at the time. I have a hard time buying this, from South Carolina or anywhere else.

I do believe slavery was central to the cause of the War, only that the institution was in no danger whatsoever in 1860. "Preservation of Slavery" is a silly, modern explanation of what happened and handy with respect to the Narrative.
 
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#10
Declarations of Secession require us to believe what came out of politicians' mouths at the time. I have a hard time buying this, from South Carolina or anywhere else.

I do believe slavery was central to the cause of the War, only that the institution was in no danger whatsoever in 1860. "Preservation of Slavery" is a silly, modern explanation of what happened and handy with respect to the Narrative.
Thanks for your post. I can easily agree that slavery or its preservation or extension was central --or at least very close to it-- if by "central" there can be other "central" factors, some weighing a bit more than others.

Nevertheless, I am glad to see that someone else does not buy Charleston's December 1860 baloney.
 

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P.S. For whatever it is worth, I do not consider tariffs or state rights or Uncle Tom's Cabin or Oberlin or nutmeg (well, maybe a little nutmeg) to be anything other than minimal factors, if factors at all. at least nothing to write home about.
How about the idea of southern terror from the John Brown/Harper's Ferry fiasco, and actually dating back to Nat Turner. If the south tried to paint such a vivid picture of peace in all their undertakings, under that guise I am to assume they trembled in fear; scared the blacks would revolt, and blamed Northern antagonists for stirring up trouble. So much is spoken over it dying out (slavery) and yet to me, in the mindset at the time the bonds of slavery were tightening. Fugitive Slave Laws and movement through any territory was now a risk. There was no end in sight, yet another myth spins it as so.
Lubliner.
 
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#13
View attachment 292788
The Indianapolis Journal., September 24, 1893, The Sunday Journal, PART TWO, p. 12.
The rest of the article argues against Mr. Ingall's theory, but you may find it of interest anyway. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82015679/1893-09-24/ed-1/seq-12/
What a wonderful contribution, Dr. Elliott!! Absolutely wonderful. I will share this with Bill Barney so he does not feel alone.

Did I already say wonderful?!!

An aside. I know of Ingalls. He had a withering sense of humor, to wit, he once referred to his college president as a "peripatetic dung hill." However, I think I like the quote you found much better!

James
 
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#14
How about the idea of southern terror from the John Brown/Harper's Ferry fiasco, and actually dating back to Nat Turner. If the south tried to paint such a vivid picture of peace in all their undertakings, under that guise I am to assume they trembled in fear; scared the blacks would revolt, and blamed Northern antagonists for stirring up trouble. So much is spoken over it dying out (slavery) and yet to me, in the mindset at the time the bonds of slavery were tightening. Fugitive Slave Laws and movement through any territory was now a risk. There was no end in sight, yet another myth spins it as so.
Lubliner.
Yes, I grant that as a factor of importance. Thanks for your post. At the same time in this regard, I still think slavery was safer in the Union than out of it. If the Rebels could take in the North, surely they could have managed a slave uprising.
 
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#15
When I taught American history (1492--present) a decade or so ago, I used to begin my discussion of of the Civil War with a Rohrschach polling of my students. I asked them: What is the first state that comes to your mind, when I say the words "Civil War"? Invariably they would say things like South Carolina, North Carolina (where I taught), Virginia, Georgia, or even northern states like Massachusetts and New York. Of all of them, totally saturated with grade school drivel, not one student ever mentioned California; but at the conclusion of the poll, I did. I told them that the reason they named the states that they did is because that is where most of the battles were fought, i.e., in the eastern United States. I told them what the war was really about was the prize of California, that after all was said and done it was a war for real estate, a war for soil more than slavery --not excluding slavery, of course, but just more over soil than slaves. South Carolina's Declarations about slavery was just a cheerleading pretext for the South to do something it had wanted to do for thirty previous years. California was clearly and simply the prize both sides were fighting for, as that Golden State possessed ports on the Pacific for trade with Peking that both sides were striving for in order to achieve permanent commercial hegemony. The war was really not much different than the American Revolution, when the Colonists were disgusted with Britain's monopoly on tea and other trade, and so the war was on. Right after the conclusion of the war, one of the first things the new states did was to engage in the trade with China. As Don Doyle points in his fine book, The Cause of All Nations, by late 1864 into early 1865, Jefferson Davis and others were ready to throw in the towel on slavery, if only the Union would let them go in peace. Lincoln, an old land surveyor like the "Father of His Country" (who according to one wag said was also "the father of Governor Posey of Indiana"), said "No deal." The clear implication of this Confederate capitulation was --and still is-- that simple independence was the core goal of the seceding states.

To pre-empt one complaint against this view, it is true that I do not recall seeing the words "California" or "China" in the Secession declarations of any of the states. I could be wrong, as I am going by recall rather than re-reading them all. However, California is clearly in view in light of the frequent reference to "western territories" in these Declarations. It is axiomatic that the South had no intention of stopping with New Mexico and Arizona, to say nothing of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. But most of all: California.

Are there other posters out there who agree with me?

James
Why would the Confederacy which had virtually no trade with China go to war to access Pacific Coast ports in California? Trade with China has you know amounted to only two percent of total US international trade in the Nineteenth Century.
The Confederate Army only made one small scale attempt to seize territory in the South West and was defeated. The Confederate Army never again tried to seize Western Territories. Do you have any primary sources that the Secessionists deliberately lied in their Ordinances of Secession and truly tried to seize California as their main war goal.
Leftyhunter
 
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#16
How about the idea of southern terror from the John Brown/Harper's Ferry fiasco, and actually dating back to Nat Turner. If the south tried to paint such a vivid picture of peace in all their undertakings, under that guise I am to assume they trembled in fear; scared the blacks would revolt, and blamed Northern antagonists for stirring up trouble. So much is spoken over it dying out (slavery) and yet to me, in the mindset at the time the bonds of slavery were tightening. Fugitive Slave Laws and movement through any territory was now a risk. There was no end in sight, yet another myth spins it as so.
Lubliner.
The institution of slavery was in a bad way by early 1861. Attempts to expand slavery in Nicaragua by Southern slave owners failed. Efforts to expand slavery in the Kansas Territory failed after a bloody struggle. The FSL was on paper but difficult to enforce.
The slave owners lobbied the US government to purchase Cuba from but that effort failed despite the US willingness under President Pierce and Buchanan to pay a high price for Cuba.
Cotton exhausts the soil. Cotton growers knew that that's why they sought new lands.
Slave owners could not be happy that after the execution of John Brown there was a popular backlash in the North. Their certainly was a possibility of John Brown copycat attacks against slavery.
Slave owners also had to know that eventually their would be competition in the West European export market with cotton growers from British India and also from Egypt.
Time was not on the side of the slave owners especially after Lincoln's election.
Leftyhunter
 
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#17
To pre-empt one complaint against this view, it is true that I do not recall seeing the words "California" or "China" in the Secession declarations of any of the states. I could be wrong, as I am going by recall rather than re-reading them all. However, California is clearly in view in light of the frequent reference to "western territories" in these Declarations. It is axiomatic that the South had no intention of stopping with New Mexico and Arizona, to say nothing of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. But most of all: California.

Are there other posters out there who agree with me?

James[/QUOTE]

The references to the "Western territories" obviously didn't include California, which was already a state.
I've read thousands of newspaper articles during this period and not once do I remember ever seeing a newspaper article claiming that CA was a major--or even minor--cause of secession.
 
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#18
To pre-empt one complaint against this view, it is true that I do not recall seeing the words "California" or "China" in the Secession declarations of any of the states. I could be wrong, as I am going by recall rather than re-reading them all. However, California is clearly in view in light of the frequent reference to "western territories" in these Declarations. It is axiomatic that the South had no intention of stopping with New Mexico and Arizona, to say nothing of Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. But most of all: California.

Are there other posters out there who agree with me?

James
The references to the "Western territories" obviously didn't include California, which was already a state.
I've read thousands of newspaper articles during this period and not once do I remember ever seeing a newspaper article claiming that CA was a major--or even minor--cause of secession.[/QUOTE]

Thanks for your post, Private.

"Obviously didn't include California"? And you never remember seeing this before?

Welcome to Civilwartalk.com which in my view renders a far greater service to historians and American taxpayers in general than the Department of history at Harvard. No, this is not a paid endorsement, just a sincere belief. You can always say you heard about California in the minds of Confederates first on this thread.

I will respond to your statements after you reply to a question of mine --or even, if you don't. I am a real estate broker, as well as an historian. I like nice legal descriptions of real property. Since you already know that "western territories obviously didn't include California," please tell me exactly what in your view that "western territories" DID include. I look forward to your reply after which we will together celebrate your arrival at this thread with a serviceable citation.

Sincerely,

James
 
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#19
Why would the Confederacy which had virtually no trade with China go to war to access Pacific Coast ports in California? Trade with China has you know amounted to only two percent of total US international trade in the Nineteenth Century.
The Confederate At only made one small scale attempt to seize territory in the South West and was defeated. The Confederate Army never again tried to seize Western Territories. Do you have any primary sources that the Secessionists deliberately lied in their Ordinances of Secession and truly tried to seize California as their main war goal.
Leftyhunter
Thank you for your post, Lefty.

Short answer: Dreams, Lefty, Dreams. And dreams expressed in clear writing. Read Benton, as I suggested earlier. And you can also read a citation I am about to give to a new Private in response to his claim that "western territories obviously didn't include California" (emphasis mine).

"Small scale" attempt to take New Mexico and Arizona? How many men did it take to seize Texas from Mexico? How many did Walker need?

I have no idea what you mean about "primary sources" that show SC's Seceshers were deliberately lying or else I would reply. But I don't need any such primary sources anyway. I can smell smoke for a century or two away. I don't need any help other than common sense.

James
 
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