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Secession and Civil War: Not just about money

Discussion in 'Civil War History - Secession and Politics' started by ForeverFree, Jan 5, 2017.

  1. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    I have seen this said many many many times in this forum, and I disagree with it. I thought I would open a thread to make my point in more detail.

    There is a popular buzzword among academics now, which is intersectionality. Intersectionality refers to "the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage." What it boils down to is that there are many different dynamics - class, wealth, gender, religion - which explain why certain people are treated differently than others. Some factors are more important (or may even have no importance) than others in a given situation. The big things is, all the factors, and the way they interact with each other, must be reckoned with.

    I submit that the notion of wealth as causing the CW ignores an important component of war causing: the fear of negro equality. I submit that if you don't deal with the fear of negro equality, you can't understand why there was a war; looking at wealth or money just isn't enough. To white southerners, slavery wasn't;t just about the money; it was also about the maintenance of southern civilization; it was also about avoiding a race war; it was also about keeping black men from breeding with white women. The stakes involved in maintaining slavery were such much greater than just the monetary value of enslaved people.

    In response to Mississippi's secession, Jefferson Davis made a farewell address to the Senate, in January 1861. He said in part

    …if I had not believed there was justifiable cause (for secession); if I had thought that Mississippi was acting without sufficient provocation, or without an existing necessity, I should still… because of my allegiance to the State… have been bound by her action. I, however, may be permitted to say that I do think she has justifiable cause, and I approve of her act.

    ...I conferred with her people before that act was taken, counseled them then that if the state of things which they apprehended should exist when the convention met, they should take the action which they have now adopted…

    It has been a conviction of pressing necessity, it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us, which has brought Mississippi to her present decision. She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races.

    Note his language. In this text, Davis does not use the word "slavery." His concern is that the idea of racial equality has been proclaimed (probably referring to Abraham Lincoln's words on the subject), and this idea represents an attack on the South's social institutions.

    It wasn't just about the money.

    - continued -

    - Alan
     

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  3. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    The problem we have today is that many of us see slavery as simply a system of labor, involving property in man. That is incorrect, or more precisely, so incomplete as to be incorrect. I am reminded of John C Calhoun's famous "Slavery as a positive good" speech:

    A large portion of the Northern States believed slavery to be a sin, and would consider it as an obligation of conscience to abolish it if they should feel themselves in any degree responsible for its continuance...

    We of the South will not, cannot, surrender our institutions. To maintain the existing relations between the two races, inhabiting that section of the Union, is indispensable to the peace and happiness of both. It cannot be subverted without drenching the country in blood, and extirpating one or the other of the races. Be it good or bad, [slavery] has grown up with our society and institutions, and is so interwoven with them that to destroy it would be to destroy us as a people.​

    Again, note Calhoun's words. The end of slavery will not just lead to economic ruin: it will lead to a "country drenched in blood" and "extirpating (exterminating) one or the other of the races." To Calhoun, the end of slavery meant, literally, death... not the figurative death of southern society or civilization; it meant the literal death of blacks and/or whites in a race war.

    It wasn't just about the money.

    - Continued -

    - Alan
     
  4. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    - continued -

    For people in the South, slavery meant not just money, but social control. The end of slavery meant, for example, that white women could marry and breed with negro men - a prospect which many whites found horrific.

    For example, consider the comments of GA governor Joe Brown on the eve of the war (Georgia governor Joseph Brown, in response to a "letter requesting me to give to the people of Georgia my views" Milledgeville, Dec. 7, 1860):

    3rd, What effect will the abolition of slavery have upon the interest and social position of the large class of nonslaveholders and poor white laborers in the South? Here would be the scene of the most misery and ruin. Probably no one is so unjust as to say that it would be right to take from the slaveholder his property without paying for it...

    Many people at the North, say that negroes are our fit associates; that they shall be set free, and remain among us-- intermarrying with our children, and enjoying equal privileges with us.

    ...suppose ...negroes were... set free and left among us, (which is the ultimate aim of the Black Republicans,) what would be the effect upon our society? ...I must not lose sight of the 4,500,000 free negroes to be turned loose among us. They, too, must become tenants, with the poor white people for they would not be able to own lands. A large proportion of them would spend their time in idleness and vice, and would live by stealing, robbing and plundering. Probably one fourth of the whole number would have to be maintained in our penitentiary, prisons, and poor houses.

    Our people, poor and rich, must be taxed to pay the expenses of imprisoning and punishing them for crime. They would have to begin the world miserable poor, with neither land, money nor provisions. They must therefore become day laborers for their old masters, or such others as would employ them. In this capacity they would at once come in competition with the poor white laborers. Men of capital would see this, and fix the price of labor accordingly... The negro comes into competition with the white man and fixes the price of his labor, and he must take it or get no employment.

    The negro therefore, comes into competition with the poor white man, when he seeks to rent land on which to make his bread, or a shelter to protect his wife and his little ones, from the cold and from the rain; and when he seeks employment as a day laborer. In every such case if the negro will do the work the cheapest, he must be preferred. It is sickening to contemplate the miseries of our poor white people under these circumstances. They now get higher wages for their labor than the poor of any other country on the globe. Most of them are land owners, and they are now respected. They are in no sense placed down upon a level with the negro. They are a superior race, and they feel and know it.

    Abolish slavery, and you make the negroes their equals, legally and socially (not naturally, for no human law can change God's law) and you very soon make them all tenants, and reduce their wages for daily labor to the smallest pittance that will sustain life. Then the negro and the white man, and their families, must labor in the field together as equals. Their children must go to the same poor school together, if they are educated at all. They must go to church as equals; enter the Courts of justice as equals, sue and be sued as equals, sit on juries together as equals, have the right to give evidence in Court as equals, stand side by side in our military corps as equals, enter each others' houses in social intercourse as equals; and very soon their children must marry together as equals.

    May our kind Heavenly Father avert the evil, and deliver the poor from such a fate. So soon as the slaves were at liberty, thousands of them would leave the cotton and rice fields in the lower parts of our State, and make their way to the healthier climate in the mountain region. We should have them plundering and stealing, robbing and killing, in all the lovely vallies of the mountains. This I can never consent to see. The mountains contain the place of my nativity, the home of my manhood, and the theatre of most of the acts of my life; and I can never forget the condition and interest of the people who reside there.​

    Clearly, Gov Brown was concerned that free negroes would take jobs away from free white men, or work at wages that white men would not accept. But he also said that if slaves were "set free... they will be intermarrying with our children... (the races) enter each others' houses in social intercourse as equals; and very soon their children must marry together as equals... May our kind Heavenly Father avert the evil."

    What could be worse, said Brown, than racial "intermarrying?"

    It wasn't just about the money.

    - Continued -

    - Alan
     
  5. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    - Continued/end -

    Some people are no doubt saying, well Alan, I've heard this before, I've seen the quotes before... so what?

    What I am doing here is challenging the notion, the economic determinism notion, that the was was just about "losing obscene amounts of wealth without some control over it." I'm saying, when you get the urge to say the war was about money - STOP!!!! DON'T DO IT!!!

    Many forum members, such as @Andersonh1, have made the point that slavery was a cause of secession, but not the only factor. I have made the point that there were other sectional conflicts, but none rose to the importance and slavery/black equality when it came to secession causation.

    I think many people see slavery and tariffs as both being mere economic issues, and one being no more important or impactful than the other.

    Republican tariffs may have been a point of contention (at least to SC). But that policy would not result in white women breeding with white women. This was the fear of Republican abolition.

    Republican tariffs did not mean, per GA Gov Brown, white and black children going to the same school.

    Republican tariffs did not mean, per GA Gov Brown, whites and blacks going to church as equals.

    Republican tariffs did not mean, per GA Gov Brown, that "whites and blacks would enter the Courts of justice as equals, sue and be sued as equals, sit on juries together as equals, have the right to give evidence in Court as equals."

    In 1832, Sen Calhoun warned of the results of northern abolitionism: "drenching the country in blood, and extirpating one or the other of the races." I don't think that was going to happen as a result of Republican tariff policy.

    I understand that some CW era people didn't like Tariffs. But Republican tariff policy did not mean the end of the world. In the minds of southerners, that would happen with post-slavery black equality. It's impossible for me to see how tariffs concerns could come anywhere close to the issues involved with racial equality. To be honest, I think it's laughable to say that these two issues resonated in the same way among white southerns. The end of slavery/black equality represented an existential threat to whites that tariffs could never match. And I don't think that white southerners would secede in 1860-1 without that threat.

    I will end by saying again: it wasn't just about the money. Anybody who looks at the war causation solely through the lens of economic determinism is not going to be able to understand the forces that led to secession, War, Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction. The intersection of economics and race must be considered in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the thoughts and feelings and concerns that white southerners brought to their view of the Black Republican abolitionist President-elect Abraham Lincoln.

    So you're all going to do this, right? Just say, "It wasn't just about the money."

    - Alan
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
  6. John Winn

    John Winn Captain

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    I think your analysis and opinion is quite sound. By the time of the war, it was a lot more than just the money although the money issue can't really be diminished much either. I think the notions of inferiority are also reflected in Lincoln's views and actions over the years (which he changed as times and circumstances dictated). He was quite clear that most whites didn't see blacks as equals and that would be a great impediment to freed persons.

    There's also a reason blacks were enslaved and not other groups (maybe European peasants for instance) in the very beginning. So I'd say it was mostly, first, about the money but also about ideas of racial inferiority. It's those notions that, unfortunately, still affect us as a society.
     
  7. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Without money there is no slavery and without slavery there is no war. All the rest can be handled as it was before and after the war by politics and by terrorism.
     
  8. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    Don't forget, it was black men in Africa whole sold other black men into slavery.

    I tend to agree though. In the beginning, I think it was largely about money, and all the other factors @ForeverFree mentioned came into existence as the white and black populations grew together, and theories and methods of control were developed.

    But ask yourself this: if slavery suddenly became unprofitable, and was costing the South money instead of making them wealthy, how long do you think it would have lasted?
     
  9. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    Without race there is no slavery in America. White people Americans in the post-Revolution era would not enslave other white people.

    From the Dred Scott decision:

    It is difficult at this day to realize the state of public opinion in relation to that unfortunate race which prevailed in the civilized and enlightened portions of the world at the time of the Declaration of Independence and when the Constitution of the United States was framed and adopted. But the public history of every European nation displays it in a manner too plain to be mistaken.

    They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect, and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold, and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic whenever a profit could be made by it. This opinion was at that time fixed and universal in the civilized portion of the white race. It was regarded as an axiom in morals as well as in politics which no one thought of disputing or supposed to be open to dispute, and men in every grade and position in society daily and habitually acted upon it in their private pursuits, as well as in matters of public concern, without doubting for a moment the correctness of this opinion.

    And in no nation was this opinion more firmly fixed or more [p408] uniformly acted upon than by the English Government and English people. They not only seized them on the coast of Africa and sold them or held them in slavery for their own use, but they took them as ordinary articles of merchandise to every country where they could make a profit on them, and were far more extensively engaged in this commerce than any other nation in the world.

    The opinion thus entertained and acted upon in England was naturally impressed upon the colonies they founded on this side of the Atlantic. And, accordingly, a negro of the African race was regarded by them as an article of property, and held, and bought and sold as such, in every one of the thirteen colonies which united in the Declaration of Independence and afterwards formed the Constitution of the United States. The slaves were more or less numerous in the different colonies as slave labor was found more or less profitable. But no one seems to have doubted the correctness of the prevailing opinion of the time.​

    There is more there than I have the space to cite. But in summary, the Taney Court says negroes are beings of an inferior compared to whites who can "justly and lawfully" be enslaved "for the white man's benefit." The inference is that whites, being of a superior order, cannot be "justly and lawfully" enslaved.

    Or to put it another way: no race of an inferior order, no slavery in the US.

    But we need to avoid the trap of either/or. The intersection of profit motive AND racial superiority led to the evolution of African slavery (as some called it back then) in the US.

    - Alan
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
  10. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    Why is that relevant? There were all kinds of injustices going on then throughout the globe, you are free to open a thread to discuss any or all of those. I don't see what that has to do with the issue at hand.

    - Alan
     
  11. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    It was a response to John Winn's comment, "There's also a reason blacks were enslaved and not other groups (maybe European peasants for instance) in the very beginning." which seemed to bring up (correctly) white European racial attitudes while overlooking just who sold their fellow Africans to those Europeans in the first place.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
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  12. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    The end of slavery did not result in the end of fears of black equality.

    For example: the end of slavery did not mean that the South would not pass laws against interracial marriage; these laws were not struck down until as late as 1967(!!!)

    Even after the end of slavery, African Americans were still subject to economic and political subjugation, and all kinds of social control, such as sitting in the back of the bus, and the prohibition of interracial marriage. The post-war prejudice against African Americans proves that slavery wasn't just about money.

    - Alan
     
  13. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    In this timeline, wealth motivates politics. Who had the money to lose, slave owners. Who controlled the political levers of the Slave States, slave owners. The rest is derived from justifying slavery to profit the slave owners.
     
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  14. Andersonh1

    Andersonh1 1st Lieutenant

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    Very true, and I wasn't saying there would have suddenly been racial equality. Clearly there would not have been. But the profit motive came first and foremost, and in the absence of profit, I don't see any of the other so-called justifications for slavery saving it.
     
  15. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    Just to be clear, that focus is OK with me. It's OK to place your attention on issues of wealth and capital, just like some want to focus on social or cultural or other things. But I am trying to move us away from saying, it was only about the money. That's not what southerners were saying back then.

    - Alan
     
  16. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    We could say that down every slavery rabbit hole is the dollar sign.
     
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  17. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Lets remember that the statement that launches a thousand posts is
    "The underlying cause of the Civil War was the fear of losing obscene amounts of wealth without some control over it."
    Remove the wealth issue and the rest can be settled outside of war.
     
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  18. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    See, I'm trying to get us away from this, what I feel is, one dimensional view of slavery.

    It is absolutely true that without a profit motive, there is no slavery in America.

    But it is also true that, without the construction of negroes as an inferior race, there would have been no slavery in America. Recollect that, the DofI said "all men were created equal" and had the natural right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This was an anti-slavery resolution, at least for white people.

    There is no slavery without profit motive. There is no slavery in America without the construction of racial superiority. It is NOT one or the other, it is both.

    - Alan
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
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  19. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    The thing is, you're defining wealth in terms of property value. White southerners saw a value in slavery that extended beyond the dollar value of slaves. That's not my opinion, it's what they said in the quotes above, and there's more where that came from. We can't understand the importance of slavery to them by just looking at dollars and cents.

    The value of a male slave: price of maybe $1000.

    The value of political superiority, absolute control of a degraded race, and keeping your daughter from marrying negroes: priceless.

    - Alan
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2017
  20. jgoodguy

    jgoodguy Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Just remembering reading about a Mississippi delegate asking if Negro slaves were $100 who would tote a rifle.
     
  21. ForeverFree

    ForeverFree Captain

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    I interpreted his comment as being about slavery in North America, not elsewhere on the globe. But I'll not make anymore of a big deal about it.

    - Alan
     
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