Slavery as the Primary Cause of the Civil War: the Real Lost Cause Argument.

jgoodguy

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Phil Leigh likes to use the term "Righteous Cause Mythology" as a counter to Lost Cause Mythology.

https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/blog/righteous-cause-mythology/

Since the cause declarations of some of the seven Cotton States in the first secession wave cite the protection of slavery as a prime reason for leaving the Union, Righteous Cause historians conclude slavery was the only cause of the Civil War. The paragon example is Battle Cry of Freedom author James McPherson who said, “Probably…95 percent of serious historians of the Civil War would agree on…what the war was about . . . which was the increasing polarization of the country between the free states and the slave states over issues of slavery….” McPherson and his acolytes dismiss all other issues even when such factors are evident by comparing the US and Confederate constitutions. For example, the Southern central government was prohibited from (1) imposing protective tariffs, (2) spending taxpayer money on public works, and (3) subsidizing private industries. Although Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederacy and doubled its White population only after the Federal government required they provide soldiers to invade the Cotton States, Righteous Cause historians insist that the four upper-south states also fought only for slavery.​
The Righteous Cause also dismisses the fact that two-thirds of Southern families did not own slaves. Acolytes spill oceans of ink arguing that non-slaveholding Southerners willingly left their homes and risked their lives chiefly – if not exclusively – to promote the “slavocracy.” Although tens-of-thousands of Union volunteers rose up spontaneously to defend their homes in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania when Rebel armies approached those states, Righteous Cause historians don’t credit Southerners with the same instinct, evidently because of endemic Yankee moral superiority. Of course it’s illogical and a lie. As the venerable William C. Davis writes:​
The widespread northern myth that the Confederates went to the battlefield to perpetuate slavery is just that, a myth. Their letters and diaries, in the tens-of-thousands, reveal again and again, that they fought and died because their Southern homeland was invaded and their natural instinct was to protect their home and hearth.​
Righteous Cause Mythology falsely equates the reasons for secession with the reasons Southerners chose to fight. But they are not the same. Southerners fought to defend their homes. The more pertinent question is to ask why Northerners fought. After all, the Northern states could have let the Southern states leave in peace, without any War at all. It was precisely what prominent abolitionists frequently advocated prior to the War. Examples include William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Beecher, Samuel Howe, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Clark, Gerrit Smith, Joshua Giddings, and even Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner who would become a leading war hawk. For years Garrison described the constitutional Union as “a covenant with death and agreement with hell.”​
The Righteous Cause Myth is a natural consequence of the false insistence that the South fought for nothing but slavery. Thus, if the South waged war only to preserve slavery, then it logically follows the Yankees waged war for the sole purpose of freeing the slaves. It is a morally comfortable viewpoint for historians who came of age during and after the twentieth century civil rights movement. But it’s as phony and useless as a football bat.
I googled the phase above and found only folks peddling it were a couple of writers for Abbeville Institute. Seems to have died aborning.
 

Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Phil Leigh likes to use the term "Righteous Cause Mythology" as a counter to Lost Cause Mythology.

https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/blog/righteous-cause-mythology/

Since the cause declarations of some of the seven Cotton States in the first secession wave cite the protection of slavery as a prime reason for leaving the Union, Righteous Cause historians conclude slavery was the only cause of the Civil War. The paragon example is Battle Cry of Freedom author James McPherson who said, “Probably…95 percent of serious historians of the Civil War would agree on…what the war was about . . . which was the increasing polarization of the country between the free states and the slave states over issues of slavery….” McPherson and his acolytes dismiss all other issues even when such factors are evident by comparing the US and Confederate constitutions. For example, the Southern central government was prohibited from (1) imposing protective tariffs, (2) spending taxpayer money on public works, and (3) subsidizing private industries. Although Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederacy and doubled its White population only after the Federal government required they provide soldiers to invade the Cotton States, Righteous Cause historians insist that the four upper-south states also fought only for slavery.​
The Righteous Cause also dismisses the fact that two-thirds of Southern families did not own slaves. Acolytes spill oceans of ink arguing that non-slaveholding Southerners willingly left their homes and risked their lives chiefly – if not exclusively – to promote the “slavocracy.” Although tens-of-thousands of Union volunteers rose up spontaneously to defend their homes in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania when Rebel armies approached those states, Righteous Cause historians don’t credit Southerners with the same instinct, evidently because of endemic Yankee moral superiority. Of course it’s illogical and a lie. As the venerable William C. Davis writes:​
The widespread northern myth that the Confederates went to the battlefield to perpetuate slavery is just that, a myth. Their letters and diaries, in the tens-of-thousands, reveal again and again, that they fought and died because their Southern homeland was invaded and their natural instinct was to protect their home and hearth.​
Righteous Cause Mythology falsely equates the reasons for secession with the reasons Southerners chose to fight. But they are not the same. Southerners fought to defend their homes. The more pertinent question is to ask why Northerners fought. After all, the Northern states could have let the Southern states leave in peace, without any War at all. It was precisely what prominent abolitionists frequently advocated prior to the War. Examples include William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Beecher, Samuel Howe, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Clark, Gerrit Smith, Joshua Giddings, and even Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner who would become a leading war hawk. For years Garrison described the constitutional Union as “a covenant with death and agreement with hell.”​
The Righteous Cause Myth is a natural consequence of the false insistence that the South fought for nothing but slavery. Thus, if the South waged war only to preserve slavery, then it logically follows the Yankees waged war for the sole purpose of freeing the slaves. It is a morally comfortable viewpoint for historians who came of age during and after the twentieth century civil rights movement. But it’s as phony and useless as a football bat.

"Phony and useless as a football bat" describes Leigh's argument.

Historians, particularly academic historians, look for the causes of the war, not the reasons that individual soldiers choose to fight. The reasons that individuals fight is, in some sense, irrelevant to the causes of the war.
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
"Lost Schmauser"

I like! But what is a sSchmauser?

I was just thinking moments ago, how about "Lazy Causers," as in the spellbound followers of SC's losing Seceshers who in thinking that slavery was the only or primary cause think that logic still lives in those purveyors of "differences so incredible that we just have to secede for our own sanity's sake --not that we want to secede, not that we want economic independence from the North, etc. blah." "Lazy Causers" are simply too lazy to look beyond the pitifully thin offerings of the losers to find the real reasons for Secession and War. What do you think? Maybe let's try it out the next time someone falsely and lazily characterizes those of us who have a different view of the War's origins as "Lost Causers." I don't mind, of course, being falsely labeled except for the fact that such sobriquets avoid dealing with more comprehensive issues.

"Lazy Causers" it is until anyone cares to trump it.

James
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
I think the OP’s premise is faulty. Most of the loyalists here understand the disconnect (is that a proper word?) between the motives of the rebels and the Americans, that what the rebels were fighting for wasn’t what the Americans were fighting against: that the rebels were fighting to protect slavery but the Americans were fighting to suppress rebellion, not to destroy slavery.

I find the motive of fighting to preserve the United States noble enough and consider the destruction of slavery a useful and righteous consequence of preserving the nation. But preserving the nation was ample motive.

So, if preserving the nation was the cause, how has slavery become the cause?

By the way, I welcome all the disagreement anyone wishes to bring to my OP. But do you have a 2-3-4 syllable word to characterize those who espouse slavery as the primary cause? I just noticed that mine is 4-syllables. I overshot my own budget! If those of us who see other causes and other primary causes are "Lost Causers," what is a fair neologism to characterize the other side?
 

Kelly

Corporal
Joined
Mar 28, 2019
I like the term "Emancipation Mythologists" which makes it clear that any claim that the war fought for the purpose of liberating slaves is a monstrous lie.
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
Without engaging any specific comment here, I would note that it is commonplace for cruel war to be justified, rationalized or idealized after the fact by both by the losers and the winners. It's an unfortunate defect of the human character.

The tragedy of this defect is that it always encourages the beginning of new wars.

Well spoken!
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
"Phony and useless as a football bat" describes Leigh's argument.

Historians, particularly academic historians, look for the causes of the war, not the reasons that individual soldiers choose to fight. The reasons that individuals fight is, in some sense, irrelevant to the causes of the war.

I love the image of a "football bat." Can't thank you enough for this post!
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
Phil Leigh likes to use the term "Righteous Cause Mythology" as a counter to Lost Cause Mythology.

https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/blog/righteous-cause-mythology/

Since the cause declarations of some of the seven Cotton States in the first secession wave cite the protection of slavery as a prime reason for leaving the Union, Righteous Cause historians conclude slavery was the only cause of the Civil War. The paragon example is Battle Cry of Freedom author James McPherson who said, “Probably…95 percent of serious historians of the Civil War would agree on…what the war was about . . . which was the increasing polarization of the country between the free states and the slave states over issues of slavery….” McPherson and his acolytes dismiss all other issues even when such factors are evident by comparing the US and Confederate constitutions. For example, the Southern central government was prohibited from (1) imposing protective tariffs, (2) spending taxpayer money on public works, and (3) subsidizing private industries. Although Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joined the Confederacy and doubled its White population only after the Federal government required they provide soldiers to invade the Cotton States, Righteous Cause historians insist that the four upper-south states also fought only for slavery.​
The Righteous Cause also dismisses the fact that two-thirds of Southern families did not own slaves. Acolytes spill oceans of ink arguing that non-slaveholding Southerners willingly left their homes and risked their lives chiefly – if not exclusively – to promote the “slavocracy.” Although tens-of-thousands of Union volunteers rose up spontaneously to defend their homes in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania when Rebel armies approached those states, Righteous Cause historians don’t credit Southerners with the same instinct, evidently because of endemic Yankee moral superiority. Of course it’s illogical and a lie. As the venerable William C. Davis writes:​
The widespread northern myth that the Confederates went to the battlefield to perpetuate slavery is just that, a myth. Their letters and diaries, in the tens-of-thousands, reveal again and again, that they fought and died because their Southern homeland was invaded and their natural instinct was to protect their home and hearth.​
Righteous Cause Mythology falsely equates the reasons for secession with the reasons Southerners chose to fight. But they are not the same. Southerners fought to defend their homes. The more pertinent question is to ask why Northerners fought. After all, the Northern states could have let the Southern states leave in peace, without any War at all. It was precisely what prominent abolitionists frequently advocated prior to the War. Examples include William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Beecher, Samuel Howe, John Greenleaf Whittier, James Clark, Gerrit Smith, Joshua Giddings, and even Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner who would become a leading war hawk. For years Garrison described the constitutional Union as “a covenant with death and agreement with hell.”​
The Righteous Cause Myth is a natural consequence of the false insistence that the South fought for nothing but slavery. Thus, if the South waged war only to preserve slavery, then it logically follows the Yankees waged war for the sole purpose of freeing the slaves. It is a morally comfortable viewpoint for historians who came of age during and after the twentieth century civil rights movement. But it’s as phony and useless as a football bat.

Very useful. Thank you for posting this.
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
"Phony and useless as a football bat" describes Leigh's argument.

Historians, particularly academic historians, look for the causes of the war, not the reasons that individual soldiers choose to fight. The reasons that individuals fight is, in some sense, irrelevant to the causes of the war.


Will truth die, if academic historians die? Is there not a lot of academic incest among historians, as there is in almost any groupthink people?

If the strictly academics are to be trusted so much, why do we see so many revisionist essays by other historians?
 

Kelly

Corporal
Joined
Mar 28, 2019
Or "Independence Deniers". That's even better. Maybe even "Government by Consent Deniers".
 

WJC

Major General
Judge Adv. Genl.
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Answered the Call for Reinforcements
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Perhaps an understanding of the term 'Lost Cause' is in order.
Eric Foner briefly describes the 'Lost Cause' as having three elements:
1. Slavery was a fairly benign institution, which probably should have been ended eventually, but it was good for Blacks who were well treated and introduced to Christianity;
2. The Civil War was about States' Rights and local self-government, not slavery; our soldiers fought gallantly and we should respect them all;
3. Reconstruction was a disaster because Blacks were given the right to vote. It was a tremendous mistake to give Blacks the right to vote: therefore, the violent campaigns to take away their right to vote was justified.
"The Lost Cause is a glorification of the Confederacy, but it's also a glorification of White Supremacy."
From Uncovering Reconstruction, a January 21, 2019 interview. Comments appear at the 43-minute point. https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/uncovering-the-civil-war/e/58309163?autoplay=true
 

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