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

Potomac Pride

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 28, 2011
Location
Georgia
Since the end of the Civil War, there have been different schools of thought regarding the cause of the Civil War. Below is a list of the historiography of the Civil War which references noted scholars and historians. Some of the different schools listed did not consider slavery to be a significant cause of the war. However, these historians were not considered to be "Lost Causers" as some would label them today. My point is that slavery was an important contributing factor that led to the war but it wasn't the only reason for the war. The belief that slavery was the one and only cause is really an oversimplistic view of the war. Important historical events such as wars can be complicated matters that have more than one cause.

Definition of HISTORIOGRAPHY

1 a : the writing of history; especially : the writing of history based on the critical examination of sources, the selection of particulars from the authentic materials, and the synthesis of particulars into a narrative that will stand the test of critical methods

From Civil War Era: Historiography

Definitions
Nationalist School (James Ford Rhodes, Woodrow Wilson, Edward Channing) 1890: wanted to portray Civil War without the "bitterness" of previous recounts. Increasing Nationalism and Industrialism united the country. Conflict was unavoidable. It was the "collision of impersonal forces beyond the control of individuals." The cotton gin kept slavery from dying out on its own. The war had produced an unforeseen result: nationalism and a united America. Slavery was blamed for keeping the South unindustrialized

Progressive School (Charles & Mary Beard, Matthew Josephson) 1927: The uneven distribution of wealth led Progressive historians to disapprove of the industrialization caused by the war. The resulting industrialization caused a new social class system and gave the government new power. The economy was completely renovated and focused on private profit. Slavery did not seem to play a significant part in the causes of the war.

Marxist School (James S. Allen) 1930: Great Depression hits America. The obvious implications of the economy in the U.S. then played a part in the historiography of the Civil War. Specifically, eliminating slavery caused the development of capitalism and the growth of the labor movement. Slavery was not a major cause of the war.

Southern Agrarians (Ulrich Phillips, Charles Ramsdell Frank Owsley) 1930: The Depression is a problem in the U.S. The Southern characteristic of anti-materialism was necessary for the good of the country. Relied on perceptions of the South as an honorable, peaceful community while the North looked like a cold, industrialized area. Claim that Northern industrialists used abolitionist claims for economical reasons.

Revisionist School (Avery Craven, James Randall) 1930-1940: World War I ended and caused the majority of Americans to avoid future conflict based on "greed, arrogance, and national rivalries." The war could have been avoided. It was an evil act that politicians failed to get out of. "Normal" sectional tensions were heightened and ignored. Slavery was purely a symbol of sectionalism.

New Political Historians (Michael Holt) 1960: Political history became a part of historiography. The differences that caused sectional tension were based on things like Protestantism or nativism. Slavery had very little to do with it. When the tension grew to the size politicians could do nothing to ease it, the North and South became each other's scapegoats.

Comparative School (Eugene Genovese, Peter Kolchin, William Freehling) 1990: Slavery's part in the Civil War can only be fully observed and understood when it is compared to the effects of slavery in other parts of the world
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
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

A very useful post. Thank you. I like to see terms defined.

I have repeatedly been called a "Lost Causer" on several other threads. I do not meet any of these three criteria. what does this say about those who used the expression. I would welcome their self-identification and voluntary repudiation of the sobriquet. They know who they are. If gentlemen, I won't have to ask twice.

My OP is rooted in their irresponsibility.

Did I already say thank you for this post?
 

jgoodguy

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A very useful post. Thank you. I like to see terms defined.

I have repeatedly been called a "Lost Causer" on several other threads. I do not meet any of these three criteria. what does this say about those who used the expression. I would welcome their self-identification and voluntary repudiation of the sobriquet. They know who they are. If gentlemen, I won't have to ask twice.

My OP is rooted in their irresponsibility.

Did I already say thank you for this post?

If your intent is to right personal wrongs, this is not the forum to do in.
You appear to be on the knife edge of insulting your fellow members.
Let us stick to Civil War History.
If we discuss events after 1869 then that should be in the reconstruction forum.
Much of lost cause whatever it is, is post 1869.
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
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Location
Pittsburgh
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?

How about “Historian”?
 

GwilymT

First Sergeant
Joined
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Location
Pittsburgh
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.


Are there any serious students of the war who or studies that make this claim? Certainly emancipation was a result of the defeat of the CSA, but I’ve never heard anyone argue that the war was fought by the USA for the purpose of liberating slaves. While emancipation did become a war aim, it certainly was not at the beginning. While some Northern soldiers were no doubt motivated by an anti-slavery ideology, it wasn’t the majority. I was unaware that there are those who argue otherwise.
 

Gene Green

Sergeant
Joined
Apr 30, 2016
Location
Dixie
Here’s what the Richmond Dispatch was saying about Virginia’s situation in April of ‘61:
“If slavery be a curse to the South.it is certainly the most profitable curse that haa ever befallen a community in the tide of time....”
“ Is Virginia willing to strike down her interest in this system of labor—more enriching than the mines of California or the wand of the god ?...”
“Does any one pretend that this increase could have occurred without the agency of her system of slave labor?”...


Clipped from Richmond Dispatch, 09 Apr 1861, Tue, Page 2
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Location
los angeles ca
I’m not sure what the Richmond Dispatch’s opinion of Northern motives in 1863 has to do with the question at hand unless you were hoping to show the earliest stages of Lost Cause ideology. Here’s what the Richmond Dispatch was saying about Virginia’s situation in April of ‘61:

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/3205701/virginia_slaves_richmond_va_1861/
They must of missed the part of Sino-American trade relations as being the real cause of the ACW.
Leftyhunter
 

Gene Green

Sergeant
Joined
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Location
Dixie
Those Northerners had to come up with something noble to explain to grieving mothers, fathers, sisters, and brother, and everybody else --like my spinster grade school teachers and other non-thinkers-- that their loved ones did not die in vain or for something as grubby as greed for western land and railroads.
Southerners had to provide a sense of relief to those whites who found dishonor in defeat, and that the Old South was moral and righteous, worth dying for.
I have observed on numerous occasions that whenever anyone suggests an alternative to the primacy of slavery as a cause of the Civil War that such a debater is frowned upon with the stereotypical and vacuous sobriquet "Lost Causer."
That is because the Early and Pollard developed the “lost cause” for precisely the reason of denying slavery’s primacy, and yet Early said :
Reason, common sense, true humanity to the black, as well as the safety of the white race, required that the inferior race should be kept in a state of subordination. The conditions of domestic slavery, as it existed in the South, had not only resulted in a great improvement in the moral and physical condition of the negro race, but had furnished a class of laborers as happy and contented as any in the world.“
This short statement is a contradiction. Blacks had to be kept in subordination for white safety, or fear, but they were as happy as any laborers in the world.
Pollard coined the phrase “Lost Cause”.


Edited - Personal remarks.
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
If your intent is to right personal wrongs, this is not the forum to do in.
You appear to be on the knife edge of insulting your fellow members.
Let us stick to Civil War History.
If we discuss events after 1869 then that should be in the reconstruction forum.
Much of lost cause whatever it is, is post 1869.

Note: I said nothing about righting personal wrongs. I was addressing a common erroar.

Please advise how I am insulting fellow members. I am not on these threads to insult but to serve. Short and simple. end of story.

Again, please advise of any insult and watch it repudiated, if I agree.

Remember: I NEVER invoked "Lost Cause." It was invoked by my critics. All I have done is to respond to its vacuity.
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
“If slavery be a curse to the South.it is certainly the most profitable curse that haa ever befallen a community in the tide of time....”
“ Is Virginia willing to strike down her interest in this system of labor—more enriching than the mines of California or the wand of the god ?...”
“Does any one pretend that this increase could have occurred without the agency of her system of slave labor?”...


Clipped from Richmond Dispatch, 09 Apr 1861, Tue, Page 2

More enriching than California? Maybe that explains the 1849-1861 Rush of people to Virginia!
 

jgoodguy

Banished Forever
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is a terrible thing...
Don’t feed the Mime
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Note: I said nothing about righting personal wrongs. I was addressing a common erroar.

Please advise how I am insulting fellow members. I am not on these threads to insult but to serve. Short and simple. end of story.

Again, please advise of any insult and watch it repudiated, if I agree.

Remember: I NEVER invoked "Lost Cause." It was invoked by my critics. All I have done is to respond to its vacuity.
Please be very polite and we will have no issues. Thanks in advance.
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
If there had never been a trans-Mississippi West, there never would have been the Civil War, as we know it today. The Civil War was fought over the West, just as was the American Revolutonary War was. When the Seceshers likened their war to the War of Independence, they were more right than they knew --or that their ideological successors knew or still know with 175 years of hindsight.
 
Joined
Aug 1, 2018
Location
Nashville, TN
I have consolidated a lot of the primary sources from the Confederacy itself about the preservation of slavery being the cause of secession and the war. Here it is if anyone is interested. I should say that there was plenty of good and bad on both sides of the war. I don't argue that, but the cause is quite clear. The American Civil War WAS About Slavery: A Quick Handbook of Quotes to Reference When Debating Those Who Would Argue Otherwise
Smaller Slavery 2nd Edition copy.jpeg

Once again, I love the South. I live here. I'm deeply involved in Southern culture. My girlfriend was born and raised here. Southern people are great. Equally, Northerners aren't always angels or on the right side of things, trust me, why do you think I moved down here? But it's important that we examine our history with dispassionate and objective eyes. It's important to remember that we weren't there. We did not participate. People who lived here before we did. Their actions, causes, and beliefs do not define us today. It's okay to be nostalgic about the Confederacy and its brave soldiers and heroes.

For the record, I'm not going to participate in any debate on this thread. So say what you want to say. I leave you in peace.
 

James Lutzweiler

Sergeant Major
Joined
Mar 14, 2018
I have consolidated a lot of the primary sources from the Confederacy itself about the preservation of slavery being the cause of secession and the war. Here it is if anyone is interested. I should say that there was plenty of good and bad on both sides of the war. I don't argue that, but the cause is quite clear. The American Civil War WAS About Slavery: A Quick Handbook of Quotes to Reference When Debating Those Who Would Argue OtherwiseView attachment 301904
Once again, I love the South. I live here. I'm deeply involved in Southern culture. My girlfriend was born and raised here. Southern people are great. Equally, Northerners aren't always angels or on the right side of things, trust me, why do you think I moved down here? But it's important that we examine our history with dispassionate and objective eyes. It's important to remember that we weren't there. We did not participate. People who lived here before we did. Their actions, causes, and beliefs do not define us today. It's okay to be nostalgic about the Confederacy and its brave soldiers and heroes.

For the record, I'm not going to participate in any debate on this thread. So say what you want to say. I leave you in peace.

So, the cause is quite clear? This no doubt explains why there has been wrangling over the cause for 160 years. Everyone is blind but the author of this book --and those who took the bait of South Carolina's Seceshers hook, worm, line, sinker, fishing pole, boat, motor, trailer, pickup, loading ramp, Street, and interstate --- to say nothing of the garage it was all stored in.
 

byron ed

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 22, 2017
Location
Midwest
...I characterize those who argue for the primacy of slavery as the cause as the true "Lost Causers." If anyone has a better neologism for responding to these advocates, I would like to find something better...

Legitimate historical data bases and historically-verified accounts; now commonly available to all via the intranet.

Asked and answered.
 

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