One More on Slavery, Race, and the Confederate Army

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F. C. James

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Did the Southern yeoman fight to preserve slavery ?

This is a little hard to explain, but let me try.

When I see the words - "The South fought the Civil War to preserve slavery", it gives me a bad feeling. Not because it is not true, but because it assumes certain Southern emotions that are not true and conjures up images that are untrue. It implies a certain cruelty.

To me the idea of "preserving slavery" conjures up images of poor and middle class white men who enjoy forcing blacks to work long hours in the hot sun so they can benefit financially. Or in physically mistreating blacks and making them suffer so the white people can mock them. Such is not true. I would wager that not a large percentage of the men who served in the Confederate army ever made much -- if any -- money directly from slave labor. Except for being a part of the system -- which they could not help.

If instead of saying "fought to preserve slavery" (which is untrue) a writer would say "fought to preserve white supremacy" (which is true) -- I don't see how any Southerner could fail to agree.

I doubt if many ante-bellum Southern men gave a **** about the profits of the would be potentate down the street who owned 50 slaves. Just because his lordship mimicked the ways of the English Gentry, does not mean he impressed his neighbors. But his neighbors did not want the old rascal to lose control of his slaves -- and thereby make them the problem of the Plain Folk. For that reason -- and only that reason -- did the Southern men fight to "preserve slavery". Racist ... they were. Cruel ... they weren't.

Just a Southern thought :smile:
 

OpnOlympic

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Well, for the sake of discussion, I think I can accept the substitution of 'for the preservation of white supremacy' in place of "for the preservation of slavery'.
As long as it is not forgotten, that, in actual fact, since secession started the war and secession was to protect the institution of slavery, then the CSA's armies were fighting to preserve slavery.
The motivation of individual soldiers may have been varied but the goal of the csa(and its armies), not so much.
 

ole

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Both Opn and F.C. have gone a long way toward getting at the nut-meat inside a hard shell.

Ole
 

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This is a little hard to explain, but let me try.

When I see the words - "The South fought the Civil War to preserve slavery", it gives me a bad feeling. Not because it is not true, but because it assumes certain Southern emotions that are not true and conjures up images that are untrue. It implies a certain cruelty.

To me the idea of "preserving slavery" conjures up images of poor and middle class white men who enjoy forcing blacks to work long hours in the hot sun so they can benefit financially. Or in physically mistreating blacks and making them suffer so the white people can mock them. Such is not true. I would wager that not a large percentage of the men who served in the Confederate army ever made much -- if any -- money directly from slave labor. Except for being a part of the system -- which they could not help.

If instead of saying "fought to preserve slavery" (which is untrue) a writer would say "fought to preserve white supremacy" (which is true) -- I don't see how any Southerner could fail to agree.

I doubt if many ante-bellum Southern men gave a **** about the profits of the would be potentate down the street who owned 50 slaves. Just because his lordship mimicked the ways of the English Gentry, does not mean he impressed his neighbors. But his neighbors did not want the old rascal to lose control of his slaves -- and thereby make them the problem of the Plain Folk. For that reason -- and only that reason -- did the Southern men fight to "preserve slavery". Racist ... they were. Cruel ... they weren't.

Just a Southern thought :smile:
And what was the chosen mechanism used to "preserve white supremacy?"
 

cash

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This is a little hard to explain, but let me try.

When I see the words - "The South fought the Civil War to preserve slavery", it gives me a bad feeling. Not because it is not true, but because it assumes certain Southern emotions that are not true and conjures up images that are untrue. It implies a certain cruelty.

What did slavery mean to them? What did its preservation mean to them?

It doesn't matter what it means to any of us today. What matters is what it meant to them.

It wasn't just profits for rich men. It was the foundation of their society, the linchpin of their entire economy, and therefore it meant they and their families wouldn't starve, and it meant safety for their wives and children from what had happened in Haiti.

Would you fight for that? They sure would.

"If the policy of the Republicans is carried out, according to the programme indicated by the leaders of the party, and the South submits, degradation and ruin must overwhelm alike all classes of citizens in the Southern States. The slave-holder and non-slave-holder must ultimately share the same fate --- all be degraded to a position of equality with free negroes, stand side by side with them at the polls, and fraternize in all the social relations of life; or else there will be an eternal war of races, desolating the land with blood, and utterly wasting and destroying all the resources of the country.

"Who can look upon such a picture without a shudder? What Southern man, be he slave-holder or non-slave-holder, can without indignation and horror contemplate the triumph of negro equality, and see his own sons and daughters, in the not distant future, associating with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality, and the white man stripped, by the Heaven-daring hand of fanaticism of that title to superiority over the black race which God himself has bestowed? In the Northern States, where free negroes are so few as to form no appreciable part of the community, in spite of all the legislation for their protection, they still remain a degraded caste, excluded by the ban of society from social association with all but the lowest and most degraded of the white race. But in the South, where in many places the African race largely predominates, and, as a consequence, the two races would be continually pressing together, amalgamation, or the extermination of the one or the other, would be inevitable. Can Southern men submit to such degradation and ruin? God forbid that they should." [Letter of Stephen F. Hale to Gov Magoffin of Kentucky, 27 Dec 1860, OR Ser IV, Vol. 1, pp. 4-11]

Hale died in a charge of the 11th Alabama on the Federal position at Gaines Mill.


Regards,
Cash
 

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If instead of saying "fought to preserve slavery" (which is untrue) a writer would say "fought to preserve white supremacy" (which is true) -- I don't see how any Southerner could fail to agree.
Neither is true.

The North cared nothing about slaves or racial equality.

"...An agricultural people, whose chief interest is the export of a commodity required in every manufacturing country, our true policy is peace, and the freest trade which our necessities will permit. It is alike our interest, and that of all those to whom we would sell and from whom we would buy, that there should be the fewest practicable restrictions upon the interchange of commodities. There can be but little rivalry between ours and any manufacturing or navigating community, such as the Northeastern States of the American Union. It must follow, therefore, that a mutual interest would invite good will and kind offices. If, however, passion or the lust of dominion should cloud the judgment or inflame the ambition of those States, we must prepare to meet the emergency and to maintain, by the final arbitrament of the sword, the position which we have assumed among the nations of the earth..."

Jefferson Davis, Inaugural Speech, 18 February 1861

*

"...If the two sections can no longer live together, they can no longer live apart in quiet till it is determined which is master. No two civilizations ever did, or can, come into contact as the North and South threaten to do, without a trial of strength, in which the weaker goes to the wall...
...We must remain masters of the occasion, and the dominant Power on this continent..."

New York Times, 9 April 1861

*

“To keep this Northern division of the continent as the field for millions of the white race to claim their natural birthright in, and exercise their energies and their talents for their own advantage and the general prosperity, it is essential that but one Government shall exercise authority from the Gulf of Mexico to Canada, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific. What would this country be, broken up into pieces, and divided into different confederacies, with rival interests, and rival institutions? How could the enterprise and industry of the free North develope itself with another and rival government, based on principles so entirely opposite to free labor, limiting its expansion southwardly, and holding three-fourths of the line of the sea coast of the country in its own possession?….
To be cut off at one blow from this privilege, and to be deprived of the freedom of the coasting trade, would be ruinous to our commercial interests, and crippling to every other pursuit on which our prosperity is founded.”

Philadelphia Public Ledger, 7 June 1861
 

OpnOlympic

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So, F.C. James, as you can see, many southern apologists are really not interested in historical fact, but, instead, are actually only interested in 'agenda' polemics.
Even though there would have been no CW without slavery, neo-confederates cannot admit that a southern victory would have guaranteed slavery in the confederacy.
The societies of the slave states had only one cause that could unify them in a common war, Slavery.
Slavery was the source of whatever made southern culture 'distinctive' and separate from the Noth.
 

F. C. James

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I appreciate the comments of all you good people. For fear of being misunderstood, let me try to explain what I mean.

I realize to a historian or a scholar it sounds trivial, but I don't think it is. I am not talking about the strict meaning of slavery -- used by scholars - but of the image that is in the minds of most people -- now and in 1860 --when they think about it. It's an image handed down to us from the Bible. And most of us who discuss the Civil War are neither historians or scholars.

My dictionary says slavery is : "The state of being under the control of another person" When most people -- now and in 1860 -- think of slavery they think of men like Simon Legree. Men who would take whip in hand and work a slave to death to help his own -- or his employer's profit. The Legrees of the world did exist, but mostly on plantations with 20 or more slaves. Not on the few acres farmed by the owner of one or two slaves.

About 75% of the Southerner families had no slaves. Add to that the families who owned one or two and the population expands to about 85% of the South. Most of these people who kept one or two slaves did not do it for an economic advantage.

My point of all this is that when the father or son of one of these families making up 85% of the South volunteered to go off to war -- he did not do it because he had benefited so much financially from the institution of slavery. The average small farmer didn't see $50 a year in gold.

It was not slavery itself that he supported. No, he was like his Northern counterpart. He supported anything that would keep black people out of his life and his neighborhood. Was he racist ? Of course he was. The original poster gave us a link -- which on pages 3 and 4 says:

"And by today’s standards, one can label the vast majority of nineteenth century Northerners -- even William Lloyd Garrison or Abraham Lincoln, who were more radical than their contemporaries, but did not profess a belief in black equality -- as racist."

Yes, the Southerners were racist. But the Plain Folk were not Simon Legrees.

And yes, the Southerner fought to maintain slavery. But not the "economic institution" of slavery. In the North, they could keep blacks out of their state by means of their state constitutions. The Southerner, with his politics controlled by the planters who owned 50 or more slaves -- could not do this. He had to support whatever would keep slaves away from him. In the South that was slavery -- and only slavery. I'd wager that given a choice between fighting to defend the institution of slavery or fighting to institute deportation, most Southerners would have voted for the latter.

Yes, Southerners were racist. And it was racism that caused them to support the secession which was led by men who were bound and determined to expand their own wealth, even if it cost the lives of every one of their poorer neighbors. It was unfortunate, but it did happen. It happened and it killed two of my ancestors who served in the CSA army. And it impoverished one of their widows. I only learned about this when I did some genealogy research a few years ago.

In closing, let me quote one more passage from the link provided by the original poster. It's a really good work to read. It will be found on page 2:

"...For rebel troops, the Confederacy was a great and bloody gamble to keep the South wedded to the economic prosperity and racial caste system that slavery made possible..."

I suggest that the Plain Folk were not "wedded to the economic prosperity" -- because for most it did not exist. But they did volunteer to fight a war to defend the "racial caste system that slavery made possible..." Had there been no racism, the Plain Folk would not have permitted the secession -- and therefore there would have been no war.

To put it short -- after all is said and done -- it was not the economic aspect of slavery, but the social control aspect of slavery that sent young Southern men to volunteer for military service.

Just one Southerners thoughts ... and thank you.
 

K Hale

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Interesting that Lincoln and Garrison are juxtaposed as being "more radical" than their contemporaries. I thought Garrison was one of those hardcore abolitionists who believed Lincoln to be far too wimpy on the abolition issue?
 

cash

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When most people -- now and in 1860 -- think of slavery they think of men like Simon Legree. Men who would take whip in hand and work a slave to death to help his own -- or his employer's profit.
I disagree. Most Americans in 1860 did not think that way.


About 75% of the Southerner families had no slaves. Add to that the families who owned one or two and the population expands to about 85% of the South. Most of these people who kept one or two slaves did not do it for an economic advantage.
Let's limit that to the states that seceded to form the so-called confederacy. There the percentage of families with no slaves fell to about 66%.

My point of all this is that when the father or son of one of these families making up 85% of the South volunteered to go off to war -- he did not do it because he had benefited so much financially from the institution of slavery. The average small farmer didn't see $50 a year in gold.
About 40% of the Army of Northern Virginia's volunteers were slaveholders or sons of slaveholders.


It was not slavery itself that he supported. No, he was like his Northern counterpart. He supported anything that would keep black people out of his life and his neighborhood.
The white male southerner supported slavery itself if he expected to inherit slaves or aspired to one day be rich enough to own slaves, as well as supporting slavery to keep blacks out of his family.


And yes, the Southerner fought to maintain slavery. But not the "economic institution" of slavery.
They did if they hoped to inherit slaves or aspired to one day own slaves themselves.

In the North, they could keep blacks out of their state by means of their state constitutions.
Can you name a single "Northern" state that had no blacks in it?


I'd wager that given a choice between fighting to defend the institution of slavery or fighting to institute deportation, most Southerners would have voted for the latter.
You'd lose. Recall what Lincoln's proposal for emancipation in 1860 entailed.


I suggest that the Plain Folk were not "wedded to the economic prosperity" -- because for most it did not exist. But they did volunteer to fight a war to defend the "racial caste system that slavery made possible..." Had there been no racism, the Plain Folk would not have permitted the secession -- and therefore there would have been no war.
What would happen to the Plain Folk if the southern economic system collapsed?

To put it short -- after all is said and done -- it was not the economic aspect of slavery, but the social control aspect of slavery that sent young Southern men to volunteer for military service.

Just one Southerners thoughts ... and thank you.
I agree with half of what you said. :smile:

My view is that it was both aspects because they understood how important slavery was to the entire southern economy.

Regards,
Cash
 

ole

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I agree with 3/4 of what F.C. has said. The other 1/4 is shrinking from the idea of massive volunteerism.

Wasn't it just one year after Sumter that the CSA turned to conscription? There were certainly volunteers after that act, but one wonders how many of those volunteered to avoid the taint of having to be conscripted.

Maybe it was just the lack of military-age men that required imposition of conscription. Maybe it was the lack of enthusiasm for volunteering that required conscription.

Meanwhile I'm seeing some eloquent, reasoned arguments. Gratifying.

Ole
 

OpnOlympic

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One does not have to dig very deep into neo-confederate arguments before the twisting and turning begins.
Anyway, a significant number(maybe even a majority) of those in the North were as committed to the 'racial caste' system as southerner and certainly so in the Union armies. But Union trumped slavery in the north and slavery trumped Union in the South, though both subscribed to the 'racial caste' system?
 

F. C. James

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Originally Posted by Cash
Originally Posted by F. C. James View Post

About 75% of the Southerner families had no slaves. Add to that the families who owned one or two and the population expands to about 85% of the South. Most of these people who kept one or two slaves did not do it for an economic advantage.
Let's limit that to the states that seceded to form the so-called confederacy. There the percentage of families with no slaves fell to about 66%.
I have trouble accepting your figure -- or arguing with it. My source for the the 75% figure was in a book, which I can't remember.

I took the total number of owners in America (383,637) an reduced it by the total number who owned one and two (122,604). Which reduced it by almost 1/3 which gave me my 85% figure. I now see that the total in the seceded states was 306,300. And the total who owned one or two was 90,797. Which is also almost 1/3.

I have to stay with my statement that 85% of CSA families owned either 2, 1 or no slaves. Unless you can show me a source that gives a more accurate count. (Mine is the 1860 census)

Originally Posted by F. C. James View Post
To put it short -- after all is said and done -- it was not the economic aspect of slavery, but the social control aspect of slavery that sent young Southern men to volunteer for military service.

Just one Southerners thoughts ... and thank you.
Originally Posted by Cash
I agree with half of what you said.
Darn ! We're almost allies :smile:

PS, this is my first attempt with quotes. I hope it's readable.
 

F. C. James

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Originally Posted by OpnOlympic

Even though there would have been no CW without slavery, neo-confederates cannot admit that a southern victory would have guaranteed slavery in the confederacy.
I'll go one further. Had the CSA been allowed to have left in peace -- or had they won the war, they would have renewed the African slave trade and made alliances with Cuba and Central America. These actions would have caused the number of blacks that are now in the South to have doubled. Which is why I cannot understand why any person who is inclined towards racism would want to use the CSA as a guiding light.
 

cash

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I have trouble accepting your figure -- or arguing with it. My source for the the 75% figure was in a book, which I can't remember.
That number includes Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, and Missouri, slave states which did not secede. If you limit to the states that seceded, then by the US Census the figure drops to about 66%. My figure is only for families that did not own slaves. Sorry for the confusion on that.



I have to stay with my statement that 85% of CSA families owned either 2, 1 or no slaves. Unless you can show me a source that gives a more accurate count. (Mine is the 1860 census)
My 66% figure is for families that did not own any slaves in the states that formed the so-called confederacy. I should not have included your 85% in my excerpt. One of these days I'll get around to calculating for 2, 1, or 0. :smile:

Regards,
Cash
 
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