How Did Slavery Cause Secession - A Discussion Thread

jgoodguy

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Assuming slavery caused secession what was it about slavery that led to secession and violence.

No loss of slaves or money from slaves happened. No oppressive laws. There was an intense fear of loss. There was a sense that Southerners were inherently superior to Northerners and that Southerners had honor but northerners none.

So What say you all.
 

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ForeverFree

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I think South Carolina explains things well in its secession declaration. Part of that declaration reads:

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.​

As stated by South Carolina, there is an ongoing conflict between the non-slaveholding States and the slaveholding States over the fate of slavery. The chief threat is the Republican Party, which SC says is a sectional party that believes "a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States."

SC is especially fearful of the incoming Republican President, who "has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,"" and also declared "that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction." SC is fearful that under Lincoln and the Republicans the South will be excluded from the common territory in the west, by prohibiting slave labor; and also fearful that Republicans will make "judicial tribunals sectional" by placing persons into such offices who will be hostile to slavery.

Especially interesting to me is the criticism that "in some of the States" persons have been elevated to citizenship who "by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety." SC is upset that negroes ~ who can not be US citizens according to the Dred Scott decison ~ are being given the vote in nonslaveholding states, and their voting power is being used to elect persons whose policies are hostile to the South (the only such hostile policies noted in the declaration are those which involve slavery).

SC makes it plain: under a Republican administration, the Federal Government will become the enemy of the slaveholding states. This is a situation the state will not tolerate.

Secession must be understood as a preemptive strike against the twin evils of the Republican Party policies of abolition and racial equality. SC believed the most prudent way to deal with the forthcoming assault on slavery was to leave the Union.

Ironically, secession did not prevent a war against slavery; it precipitated a war against slavery. The United States employed black soldiers, sailors, and civilians in its war effort, and offered enslaved people their their freedom so as to garner black support. Secession and war led to the very anti-slavery apocalypse that South Carolina feared and dreaded.

- Alan
 
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jgoodguy

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I think South Carolina explains things well in its secession declaration. Part of that declaration reads:

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.

The guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection, and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.​

As stated by South Carolina, there is an ongoing conflict between the non-slaveholding States and the slaveholding States over the fate of slavery. The chief threat is the Republican Party, which SC says is a sectional party that believes "a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States."

SC is especially fearful of the incoming Republican President, who "has declared that that "Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,"" and also declared "that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction." SC is fearful that under Lincoln and the Republicans the South will be excluded from the common territory in the west, by prohibiting slave labor; and also fearful that Republicans will make "judicial tribunals sectional" by placing persons into such offices who will be hostile to slavery.

Especially interesting to me is the criticism that "in some of the States" persons have been elevated to citizenship who "by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety." SC is upset that negroes are being given the vote, and their voting power is being used to elect persons whose policies are hostile to the South (the only such hostile policies noted in the declaration are those which involve slavery).

SC makes it plain: under a Republican administration, the Federal Government will become their enemy of the slaveholding states. This is a situation the state will not tolerate.

Secession must be understood as a preemptive strike against the twin evils of the Republican Party policies of abolition and racial equality. SC believed the most prudent way to deal with the forthcoming assault on slavery was to leave the Union.

Ironically, secession did not prevent a war against slavery; it precipitated a war against slavery. The United States employed black soldiers, sailors, and civilians in its war effort, and offered enslaved people their their freedom so as to garner black support. Secession and war led to the very anti-slavery apocalypse that South Carolina feared and dreaded.

- Alan
Very good, but the main question is the why underlying that.

Take this "As stated by South Carolina, there is an ongoing conflict between the non-slaveholding States and the slaveholding States over the fate of slavery". That has been going on for 80 years or more. Political conflicts have been going on forever. Anything bad lies in the indefinite future. So why does SC feel this way?
 
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ForeverFree

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Very good, but the main question is the why underlying that.

Take this "As stated by South Carolina, there is an ongoing conflict between the non-slaveholding States and the slaveholding States over the fate of slavery". That has been going on for 80 years or more. Political conflicts have been going on forever. Anything bad lies in the indefinite future. So why does SC feel this way?
The problem is that never in US history had there been a president who wanted to wage a war against slavery. "Membership" in the Union was fine as long as the federal government respected the "social institutions" of the white South. The anti-slavery Lincoln represented a unique threat to those institutions. This is why secession happened after Lincoln's election, and not previously.

And understand, per the SC secession declaration, bad things will not happen in an indefinite future. The declaration cites a panoply of anti-slavery agitation that occured over the years, and projects that given the power of the Executive, the agitation will escalate into a federal war against the institution... a war that will commence immediately upon Lincoln taking office.

To SC, the Lincoln administration was a clear and present danger to their future as a slaveholding state.

- Alan
 
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jgoodguy

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The problem is that never in US history had there been a president who wanted to wage a war against slavery. "Membership" in the Union was fine as long as the federal government respected the "social institutions" of the white South. The anti-slavery Lincoln represented a unique threat to those institutions. This is why secession happened after Lincoln's election, and not previously.

And understand, per the SC secession declaration, bad things will not happen in an indefinite future. The declaration cites a panoply of anti-slavery agitation that occured over the years, and projects that given the power of the Executive, the agitation will escalate into a federal war against the institution... a war that will commence immediately upon Lincoln taking office.

- Alan
Again, but why? SC and its politicians are the instigators of the Civil War. Secession in this timeline is not possible without SC agitation. Why them and what is their motives? It did not just spring out of a momentary whim at the election results. Why does slavery affect SC so much? Why does it generate such passion? Why does the threat seem so mortal?
 
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ForeverFree

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Again, but why? SC and its politicians are the instigators of the Civil War. Secession in this timeline is not possible without SC agitation. Why them and what is their motives? It did not just spring out of a momentary whim at the election results. Why does slavery affect SC so much? Why does it generate such passion? Why does the threat seem so mortal?
If the question is, why is slavery important to SC, I wonder, do we really need to answer that question, at this late date? The end of slavery meant financial ruin for the slave-based economy, and social chaos by elevating negroes to the status of equals with white men (or at least, secessionists considered this to be social chaos).

How could that not arouse passion? It seems self-explanatory that they would be upset by the election of the first president in history who wanted to wage a war against slavery.

I do think it's useful to note that the first two states to secede were SC and MS. Both of those states were over 50% enslaved, viz:

http%3A%2F%2Fcivilwartalk.com%2Fattachments%2Fconfederacy-confederate-population-slaves-copy-jpg.jpg


After the war, this is what the SC state legislature looked like:

BLACK-WHITE-RADICAL-MEMBERS-SOUTH-CAROLINA-LEGISLATURE-CDV-PHOTO-FORMER-SLAVES-01-vzi.jpg


This is exactly the scenario that the secessionists envisioned and dreaded: negroes being put into positions of power over white men. Being in a white minority slaveholding state, the threat of abolition and racial equality was a lot easier to visualize.

- Alan
 

jgoodguy

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If the question is, why is slavery important to SC, I wonder, do we really need to answer that question, at this late date? The end of slavery meant financial ruin for the slave-based economy, and social chaos by elevating negroes to the status of equals with white men (or at least, secessionists considered this to be social chaos).

How could that not arouse passion? It seems self-explanatory that they would be upset by the election of the first president in history who wanted to wage a war against slavery.

I do think it's useful to note that the first two states to secede were SC and MS. Both of those states were over 50% enslaved, viz:

http%3A%2F%2Fcivilwartalk.com%2Fattachments%2Fconfederacy-confederate-population-slaves-copy-jpg.jpg


After the war, this is what the SC state legislature looked like:

BLACK-WHITE-RADICAL-MEMBERS-SOUTH-CAROLINA-LEGISLATURE-CDV-PHOTO-FORMER-SLAVES-01-vzi.jpg


This is exactly the scenario that the secessionists envisioned and dreaded: negroes being put into positions of power over white men. Being in a white minority slaveholding state, the threat of abolition and racial equality was a lot easier to visualize.

- Alan
All good info, but also local SC politics and passionate young men brought up in an honor system unique to slavery had something to do with it I think.
 

wausaubob

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How many slaves were imported from Africa and the Caribbean between the end of the Revolution and the Civil War?
First there was the legal period up until 1808 and then more were smuggled in especially from Florida after 1808.
Slavery is not one thing. There was a different type of slavery in Virginia, as opposed to South Carolina.
Also, South Carolina was not the only issue. Slavery was so profitable in Texas, Louisiana, southern Arkansas and Mississippi that there was sustained support for a violent type of slavery that could not survive close scrutiny.
 

wausaubob

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But the key rhetorical flourish is equate elections and legislation, including advocacy of changing the Constitution with respect to slavery, with war. Once the idea is accepted that the war already exists, then loyalty controls.
 

wausaubob

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Slavery serves a proxy variable for distance from Washington, DC, duration of membership in the United States, presence of aristocratic French sentiment against the democratic revolution in France and the US, and the youth and vigor of the slave population itself.
 

ForeverFree

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All good info, but also local SC politics and passionate young men brought up in an honor system unique to slavery had something to do with it I think.
There is no doubt that what you say is true. I do not discount the points you make.

But you know, sometimes the obvious answer is the answer. As minority-white slaveholding states, SC and MS had the most to lose from a president who, in the words of the SC secession declaration, sought to wage a war against slavery. They had the most to lose from abolition and racial equality, and so it's not surprising that they would feel the most threatened, and upset, and impassioned over Lincoln's election.

The bottom line is, if SC was 0% enslaved vs 57% enslaved, they would not have seceded. Indeed, not a single nonslaveholding state did secede. The protection of slavery was a passionate issue on its own, no more so than in SC.

{OFF-TOPIC}As we talk about honor, it is important to note that Northerners had a sense of honor too, which played into their response to secession. Many northerners felt that southerners had effectively annulled a fair election because they didn't like the results; that southerners disrespected the flag and their country by taking possession of federal forts; and were traitors who sought to dissolve the Union that the American patriots gave their blood to create.

These were dishonorable and despicable acts which enraged northerners. Many times, northerners are portrayed as reacting to the abstract idea that the beloved Union was under assault. Rather that, northerners believed they were under physical attack from traitors who were a military, economic, and geo-political threat to their country. There was real passion on the other side as well.{/OFF-TOPIC}

- Alan
 
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ForeverFree

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Slavery serves a proxy variable for distance from Washington, DC, duration of membership in the United States, presence of aristocratic French sentiment against the democratic revolution in France and the US, and the youth and vigor of the slave population itself.
All politics are local. I think it's important to realize that most especially SC feared free negroes. Southerners were OK with the federal government as long as, for example, the US government helped to enable the capture of fugitive salves who fled North. That was fine. That was good. Federal power that protected slavery was a good thing.

Again: it is unbelievable to think that if SC was 0% enslaved vs the actual 57% enslaved, they would have seceded. SC did not believe that the Lincoln government would enslave white men (although sometimes such language was used); they believed the Lincoln government would free black slaves. Given the way they viewed the institution and negroes, it is not surprising that SC was upset. I would be upset if I was in their shoes... we all would.

- Alan
 

wausaubob

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The people in Kentucky never seceded, and the northern counties of Virginia split off from the rest of the state.
This suggests that it was not just slavery, but the composition of the slave population that mattered.
Slave populations differed with respect to their degree of assimulation and their age and sex composition.
The deep south had created conditions similar to those that existed in the Caribbean and the slaves in the old southwest were the most dangerous.
The young males who were sold down the river, from Louisville to Memphis, to Vicksburg and Natchez, and finally to New Orleans, were physically threatening and a rapidly rising awareness that they constituted the nation of the enslaved.
 

wausaubob

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I assume jgoodguy has the sources that would demonstrate that in South Carolina the number of people who had the disposable income and leisure time to attend political conventions could easily fit in a large ballroom.
Politics in South Carolina was arranged in a way that maximized pro slavery consensus.
 

OpnCoronet

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Basically, I believe the problem was really about the idea of emancipation. What, exactly, was to be done with freed slaves?

As I hve noted before , I think most whites could not really conceive of a society in which the ex-slaves would be equal to whites were equal under the law. This was an especially compelling argument, in the South, where that equality would most likely be experienced first.

Most southern leader, at least, seemed, I believe, to accept the argument, that in the absence of any plan for relocating freed slaves out of the country, the only alternative was mass extermination of one race by the other..

To those most intimately involved with slavery, emancipation was seen as a 'either-or' question of survival and, it was that kind of mind set to explained Calhoun's prediction, that the South would leave the Union, to protect its slaves and the Union would fight to protect itself.
 
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I'll throw in two thoughts regarding slavery as the cause of the war, and the decision of the white minority of South Carolina to rebel.

First, before the war there was about a 40% price differential between east and west for enslaved African Americans. Smithsonian Magazine's November 2015 article on "Slavery's Trail of Tears" documents this for before the war; Todd's "Confederate Finance" shows it held up even in the first years of the war.

The differential existed because unsettled lands in the territories held up the value of enslaved "capital." Lincoln knew this when he gave the "House Divided" speech and every state that rebelled and gave a reason mentioned his platform proposal to exclude slavery from the territories.

Even without directly abolishing slavery, Lincoln's proposals would harm the existing "investment." Even while promising not to free slaves, he threatened to end slavery itself.

Second, every state that seceded met a certain mathematical threshhold -- every state in which both 20% or more of the population consisted of enslaved African Americans and 20% or more of white families owned black people rebelled. Kentucky was on the cusp, with just a hair under 20% enslaved and 23% of white families having slaves. But its cash crop was tobacco and it was geographically more exposed to invasion from the US than reinforcement from rebels. Still, Lincoln was cautious in handling it right up to 1863.

It's not hard to see why the "20/20 rule" would apply. In every state that met it the entire upper economic quintile -- merchants, doctors, lawyers, and politicians at all levels -- owned black people. And the entire lower quintile -- or nearly three of five quintiles in the first states to rebel -- was black. Even apart from all the reasons DeBow gave for nonslaveholding whites to back slavery, this one would stand out -- no matter how incapable, ignorant, evil, or inebriated a white man was, he was never going to fall into that lower class. There was an obsidian floor holding him up.

In South Carolina more than half the population lived under that floor and 46% of white families had ownership of them.

That's been clear for a very long time. I can't believe we're even having this conversation in 2018.
 

HeyJosh13

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I believe religion played the central role when it came to slavery. In the years leading up to the war there was a flurry of both pro and anti slavery theological literature being spread. During that same time you had several denominations splitting over slavery most famously the Baptists (ever heard "Southern Baptist"?). It was regular to hear sermons regarding slavery. In the Cornerstone Speech, Stephens referred to slavery in a religious manner at one point and referenced the supposed curse upon Canaan. Even after the war he wrote in his prison diary about slavery being according to the ordinances of God. The motto of the CSA was Deo Vindice (God will vindicate) and the preamble of the Confederate Constitution invokes God together reflecting their pro-slavery theology. Many abolitionists were also devout Christians who took a different interpretation, namely Henry Ward Beecher who was a clergyman.

”Slavery was established by decree of Almighty God. It is sanctioned in the Bible, in both Testaments, from Genesis to Revelation . It has existed in all ages, has been found among the people of the highest civilization, and in nations of the highest proficiency in the arts."
—Jefferson Davis

www.confederatepastpresent.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=132:alexander-h-stephenss-prison-diary-with-his-views-on-white-supremacy-and-slavery-as-a-benevolent-system-&catid=38:reconstruction-and-fusion

You can read some biblical slavery argument literature here.

https://www.google.com/search?tbm=bks&q=slavery+and+the+bible
 

gem

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It was the maintaining of slavery that led to secession.

It became apparent to everyone that a house divided can't stand

so the the South decided to form their own house.
 

MattL

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I think part of it is best expressed in South Carolina's address to the other Slaveholding States

December 25th, 1860

Address of South Carolina to Slaveholding States


http://teachingamericanhistory.org/...ess-of-south-carolina-to-slaveholding-states/

----
The Address of the people of South Carolina, assembled in Convention, to the people of the Slaveholding States of the United States

...

Experience has proved, that slaveholding States cannot be safe in subjection to non-slaveholding States. Indeed, no people ever expect to preserve its rights and liberties, unless these be in its own custody.

...

In spite of all disclaimers and professions, there can be but one end by the submission by the South, to the rule of a sectional anti-slavery government at Washington; and that end, directly or indirectly, must be–the emancipation of the slaves of the South.


...
----

I think both things were what most of them were thinking and South Carolina was blunt enough to simply say it. The slave States would never be safe with non-slaveholders having more Democratic power than them. I think many believed (as expressed) it was inevitable for it to end slavery in the South due to that trend (not due to some inclination within the South). Even preventing the expansion of it would be the beginning of the end since they surely wouldn't be gaining more power at that point but losing it even more.

I don't think they were wrong.

As to the deeper reason why? I think it comes down most simplistically to the fact they cared about their survival, prosperity and that of their children. To many who owned slaves or aspired to own slaves that was indeed tied to slavery. Even the more immediate threat by Lincoln's agenda of ending slavery in the territories, that would prevent the children of the salveholders expanding out to where they could actually get good farm land. Each generation meant a narrowing of the best land and the best way to make money for them was to get good farm land and use slaves. Even cutting that off basically meant cutting off many of their children and grandchildren from the same prosperity or opportunity of prosperity they had.
 


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