If the "War" Wasn't About Slavery?

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Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
I hesitate to add anything to the discussion, once about what accounted for the ferocity of white Democrat opposition to the exercise of voting rights by freed people, who in spite of their fondness for the many kindnesses and blessings bestowed on their carefree existence by their owners, were quite accurately perceived at the time as a large block of Republican voters that would allow "scalawags" and "carpet baggers" to attain electoral victories and thus undermine good old local "home rule" if, in fact, the war was not about slavery after all?

In the 1970s, social history made large inroads in just about every field of historical inquiry. Perhaps nowhere, however, was it more influential than in military history. So the vast majority of Civil War military history is above all concerned with the individual experiences of "Johnny Reb" and "Billy Yank." We learn from such an intimate examination of the everyday, ordinary soldier-level experience that these were young men who were bounded by ties of kinship to their fellow comrades in arms--"bands of brothers" to reuse that term. Their diaries, letters, etc. do not indicate that they shared the same understandings of what "the war was about" that, say, the respective national leaders did. Personally, I'd rather read accounts from that level. On the other hand, a steady diet of such books has effectively blurred the overarching politics of the war. "Why were the armies in the field fighting one another?"

So while we know that Southerners were fighting for home and hearth, and that their identifications and kindred were intensely local, and that "loyalty" to the region, and by extension, the state loomed larger than identification with the entire nation, this has the effect of erasing what precisely caused the war?
From what the Secession Commissioners, whose job it was to explain why the states had seceded & encourage others to do so, said on the subject, the reasons for secession are very straight forward.
Rhetorically, Secession Commissioner Benning of Georgia asked the Virginia delegates, "What was th reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secessioin? That reason may be summed up in a single proposition. I was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia that separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of slavery."
I take Justice Benning at his word as the official spokesman for the state of Georgia.
 

FedericoFCavada

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All dictatorial systems, such as slavery, squander talent. If you were born into a white slaveholding family, no matter how many kinds of idiot you were, blessing flowed.No matter how much natural ability or native intelligence a slave was born with, they still were "docile agricultural workers'. All you have to do is look at the many successful runaway & freedmen who were successful to see the wastefulness of the slave system.
Actually, it is precisely this feature of the U.S. slave system, and the notions of white supremacy that grew up around it, that illustrate why simple terms like "racism" don't really convey the scale and scope of it. Hence the somewhat unwieldy term "racial oppression" or "white supremacy."
 

FedericoFCavada

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Location
San Antonio, Texas
From what the Secession Commissioners, whose job it was to explain why the states had seceded & encourage others to do so, said on the subject, the reasons for secession are very straight forward.
Rhetorically, Secession Commissioner Benning of Georgia asked the Virginia delegates, "What was th reason that induced Georgia to take the step of secessioin? That reason may be summed up in a single proposition. I was a conviction, a deep conviction on the part of Georgia that separation from the North was the only thing that could prevent the abolition of slavery."
I take Justice Benning at his word as the official spokesman for the state of Georgia.
Oh, I agree. I have the declarations and some other primary sources and it is very clear. My point was more along the lines: "Why are people who read amply about the Civil War mostly unfamiliar with these foundational Confederate texts?" Read what they wrote. But people do not. Most people read battle accounts, biographies of one or another person--typically officers and so on--and some "thick descriptions" of army life, or about small unit dynamics or one or another regiment, corps, army etc.

I think the secession declaration of Mississippi is absolutely clear.
 
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Rhea Cole

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Oh, I agree. I have the declarations and some other primary sources and it is very clear. My point was more along the lines: "Why are people who read amply about the Civil War mostly unfamiliar with these foundational Confederate texts?" Read what they wrote. But people do not. Most people read battle accounts, biographies of one or another person--typically officers and so on--and some "thick descriptions" of army life, or about small unit dynamics or one or another regiment, corps, army etc.

I think the secession declaration of Mississippi is absolutely clear.
In March 1862 Jefferson Davis censored Alexander Stephen's Slavery is the Keystone speech. Davis wanted to get European support & knew that anti slavery sentiment was a huge obstacle. From the moment until today, there has been both a witting & unwitting effort to obscure the truth about why the states seceded.
 

FedericoFCavada

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"A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union"
26 Jan. 1861

In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. ...
[It then objects to the Ordinance of 1787 and keeping slavery from the Northwest Territory. It then objects to being deprived of half the Louisiana Territory in 1819-20 with the Missouri Compromise. Next comes the dismemberment of Texas and the Mexican cession with the 1850 compromise... ]"denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction. ... refuses the admission of new slave States into the union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion. ...

It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.
[A reference to the John Brown plot and raid on Harpers Ferry, with the backing of the "Secret Six."]
It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice.
It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists.
It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better [!!].

...
We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this [chattel slaves ]as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/declaration-causes-seceding-states
 
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WJC

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I think the secession declaration of Mississippi is absolutely clear.
It might be time to reacquaint ourselves with a simple analysis of the text of A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union.
When I've posted this before, the response by some has been that Mississippi's reasons were different than other states, as if Mississippi was the only state concerned about protecting the 'peculiar institution'. This will probably elicit similar responses.
A quick listing of all of the causes presented by Mississippians to justify secession is:
1. Slavery;
2. Concern over Abolition of slavery;
3. US showing hostility toward the institution of slavery.
4. US dismembering Texas and lands acquired through the settlement of the Mexican War;
5. US denying the property rights associated with slavery;
6. US refusing to admit new 'slave states';
7. US seeking to confine slavery to current slave-holding states;
8. US failing to recognize "original equality of the South";
9. US allowing "almost every free State" to ignore the Fugitive Slave Law;
10. US advocating negro equality and promoting "insurrection and incendiarism";
11. US allowing the press, churches, and schools to oppose slavery;
12. US inflaming citizens with anti-slavery prejudice;
13. US making combinations and forming associations which scheme to emancipate slaves;
14. US seeking to destroy the present, benevolence of slavery;
15. US invading a fellow State;
16. US honoring John Brown with martyrdom;
17. US breaking every compact into which entered for "our security";
18. US evidencing a scheme "to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system";
19. US being hopelessly aggressive in schemes against Mississippi;
20. US allowing Republicans to illegally win the election of 1860;
21. US threatening the investors' holdings of $4 Billion worth of slaves;
22.US destroying every hope of reconciliation.
Twenty-two reasons. Your reading of the document may come up with more or fewer.
By my count, 14/22 relate to slavery (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 21); 1/22 relates to disposition of land acquired from Mexico (4); 1/22 is vague and indeterminant (8); 1/22 relates to invasion (15); 1/22 relates to John Brown (16); 1/22 relates to breaking agreements (17); 1/22 for not being nice (19); 1/22 for an illegal election (20); 1/22 for not keeping hope alive (22)
Clearly, slavery is far and away the dominating issue.
 

Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
Joined
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Location
Murfreesboro, Tennessee
"A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify the Secession of the State of Mississippi from the Federal Union"
26 Jan. 1861

In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin. ...
[It then objects to the Ordinance of 1787 and keeping slavery from the Northwest Territory. It then objects to being deprived of half the Louisiana Territory in 1819-20 with the Missouri Compromise. Next comes the dismemberment of Texas and the Mexican cession with the 1850 compromise... ]"denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction. ... refuses the admission of new slave States into the union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion. ...

It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst.
[A reference to the John Brown plot and raid on Harpers Ferry, with the backing of the "Secret Six."]
It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice.
It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists.
It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better [!!].

...
We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this [chattel slaves ]as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England.

https://www.battlefields.org/learn/primary-sources/declaration-causes-seceding-states
Yea, what he said!
 
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FedericoFCavada

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Unless I'm mistaken, much of South Carolina's initial declaration of secession was simply repeated with a few modifications here and there by other secessionists. The point made above about the delegate from Georgia going to Virginia similarly makes it plain.
 
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Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Unless I'm mistaken, much of South Carolina's initial declaration of secession was simply repeated with a few modifications here and there by other secessionists. The point made above about the delegate from Georgia going to Virginia similarly makes it plain.
Look at the posting I did on secession in their own words. I reference the Pew analysis of the seceding states declarations. It is very interesting.
 

wausaubob

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Location
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Virginia had been part of the colonies and US for more than two centuries. NC the same. In 1790 they were ranked No. 1 and No. 3 in term of population. Kentucky began as the 14th most populous state, rose to sixth, and then fell to ninth. Ohio was first counted in the 1800 census. By 1860 it was the third most populous state. https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/preliminary-report/1860e-06.pdf?# Go the diagram at the end of the fourth section. And all of citizens were free and most were white and could vote. Therefore, the southern areas were going to become politically invisible. Either they had to get out of the US, end democracy, or get rid of the 3/5ths compromise, or some combination of those three options.
There had been a large social experiment conducted: barring slavery from Ohio had worked. And collective action in New York, and on the Illinois Central Railroad had also produced a clear result by 1860.
The demographics of the US by 1860 were primarily the result of slavery, and the very harmful disease conditions in Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
No matter what they said, those areas of the cotton south, that had the highest % of slaves, had the lowest rates of population growth and were experiencing a 2/5ths disqualification of the growth of their working class population.
 
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lurid

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All dictatorial systems, such as slavery, squander talent. If you were born into a white slaveholding family, no matter how many kinds of idiot you were, blessing flowed.No matter how much natural ability or native intelligence a slave was born with, they still were "docile agricultural workers'. All you have to do is look at the many successful runaway & freedmen who were successful to see the wastefulness of the slave system. You will enjoy my ‘Black Confederates were Real People, Forrest’s Groom.’ Post. Jim Key was about as remarkable a human & the namesake of perhaps the most remarkable horse that ever lived.
Again, I'm quite sure that's what I meant, but thank you for expounding also.
 

lurid

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On another note, don't you all think it is strange how some people in this modern age log onto to the internet and defend the Confederacy?
 
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Rhea Cole

First Sergeant
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Murfreesboro, Tennessee
On another note, don't you all think it is strange how some people in this modern age log onto to the internet and defend the Confederacy?
I confess that the whole Black Confederate propaganda campaign on the part of the SCV has baffled me from the start. As you well know, the profoundly racist reasons given for secession is, in a modern context, impossible to justify. Any of the grand slaveholding masters would be arrested for serial sex abuse, incest & child molestation, today. Personally, I came to grips with my slaveholding family & the inevitable slave offspring that I am related to a long time ago. Learning about that has been a zillion times more interesting than torturing the historical record to support a made up proposition could ever be. What is really sad is that the SCV claims to be honoring Southern history by rewriting it to suit a modern sensibility. It is so futile & so limiting.
 

wausaubob

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On another note, don't you all think it is strange how some people in this modern age log onto to the internet and defend the Confederacy?
Its easy to see how the traumatized southern nation would want to attach the Civil War to some political issue that the US was willing to concede in 1880. By that time the consensus was the federal government was going to retreat from protecting national citizenship and allow major concessions to state systems of segregation. State rights was still a viable cause, so the Civil War was attached to that. Why some people still identify with the post war southern nation is for psychologists to consider.
 
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