Slavery; THE Cause?

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unionblue

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Friends,

Well, here it is. The 'new' thread Bill Torrens and myself have talked about beginning, over the sole issue of slavery. Was it THE primary cause of the Civil War? Or was it merely one issue of many issues that led to the four years of blood shed and destruction that engulfed the nation for four terrible years? One of the many strains and stresses that led to the breaking away of the Deep South or THE primary reason for that break?

I myself have maintained on this board many times that slavery is THE cause, the one and only, that brought this nation to near destruction, that no other issue could bring about the war that has uniquely defined this country we call the United States of America.

How that cause came about and why it sparked this war will be my primary argument here on this thread and I will try to use historical documents and evidence where ever I can to prove that record reinforces that view.

I invite all to participate, to place your views on the subject of slavery and it's effect upon the war.

And with that, I await your pleasure.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

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max

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Slavery was certainly a strong friction point. I don't see where state rights and tariffs would have led to the the war. Even though slavery was in the forefront, it wasn't the cause of the war. It was the reason that the south left the union. Union leaders felt that the south didn't have the right to leave, and pushed their agenda till war was the result. With my meager knowledge of the war, I would have to say that secession was the reason for the war..

Max
 

mobile_96

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jenna

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This is my best responce to the whole issue:

We are a band of brothers
And native to the soil,
Fighting for the property
We gained by honest toil;
And when our rights were threatened,
The cry rose near and far--
"Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star!"

CHORUS: Hurrah! Hurrah!
For Southern rights hurrah!
Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.

As long as the Union
Was faithful to her trust,
Like friends and like brothers
Both kind were we and just;
But now, when Northern treachery
Attempts our rights to mar,
We hoist on high the Bonnie Blue Flag
That bears a single star.--CHORUS


To me it says it all. They even wrote a song on how they felt and why they did it. Slavery was an issue that abolisionists and politicians talked about back in the 1830's already, so yes, it was an underlying factor, but it is not the only soul factor.

Jenna
 

hawglips

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Mr. Epperson's site is arguably the most biased "objective" site on the subject online.

One only needs look at the section called "selected quotes" to see what his agenda is.

I think it is nearly criminal that though slavery was mentioned in only a very small fraction of letters etc from soldiers as a reason for fighting prior to the EP, yet he searched high and low to find one such rare instance and presented it on his site to mislead innocent seekers of knowledge.

No, Epperson's site should not be recommended unless one goes in there with the realization that what you see is there to further the "slavery was THE cause" argument.

Hal

(Message edited by hawglips on October 04, 2004)
 

mobile_96

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Hal, something very important should be done in this thread, to separate the causes of the war from the reasons soldiers fought. They are not the same thing. A bunch of guys didn't decide to become soldiers go out and start a war. A war was initated and men of the North joined together and and men of the South joined together to fight against each other in a war. And until this difference between cause of war and reasons people fought is recognized, this thread will accomplish nothing.
Chuck in Il.
 

unionblue

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Dear Jenna,

If we are going to use music and songs from the war to help point out it's causes, then what are we to make of 'The Battle Hymn of The Republic?'

YMOS,
Unionblue
 

unionblue

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Hal,

I have noted your concerns over the web sites of Mr. Epperson. You have stated that you think the site 'nearly criminal' because of it's potential to mislead innocent seekers of knowledge concerning the causes of the Civil War.

I have often felt the same way when I bump up against certain sites on this information highway that make the same type of claims which state slavery had nothing to do with the war, that Lincoln was a dictator on the scale of Hitler or Stalin and a mass murderer just like the 9/11 terrorists.

And yet, Mr. Epperson, unlike most of the sites I have mentioned above, lists historical documents, articles and writings, generally leaving the documents to speak for themselves, with little or no commentary from himself. And I must say, that I have found more than a small fraction of letters, not many to be sure, but more than a small fraction, from soldiers in other publications and books that show their concern with slavery, even when the war was being lost.

I too, have problems with certain web sites and certain authors and books that present what I consider a poor case for such conclusions on their part. But I would not limit their viewing just because I disagreed with them. To try and limit such viewing of views and sites we find personally objectable limits our search of history and the the ability to draw our own conclusions.

I myself feel that reading the original documents, and not all that I have read are to my own personal liking (As Mr. Torrens and yourself have that annoying habit of producing historical letters, articles and documentation of such), but they do tend to carry the most weight with me as they espouse, more clearly than I ever can, the feelings and attitudes of the people we are studying.

And I will let you in on a little secret. There are already a bunch of us "slavery was THE cause" types, even before we knew about Mr. Epperson's site. We had read a bunch of things called 'books' before we ever got on this new-fangled thing called the 'internet.'

Hal, you share one of my greatest concerns, that history can be bent or twisted to present one, very slanted side of a story or cause, while excluding other facts and reasons of that same story or cause. While it is right to question and doubt and even speak against another's version or presentation of the facts, it is just as important to hear them and let others make up their own minds if it is what they wish to believe or disbelieve, is it not?

I look forward to the continued debate and discussion on this thread, as I think it will present many sides and arguments that will make all who check in here, think and reason in their own minds and come their own conclusions. Things said here might even cause some to reconsider and rethink their positions on the subject, maybe even reverse a few.

Exciting, don't you think?

Sincerely,
Unionblue

(Message edited by Unionblue on October 04, 2004)

(Message edited by Unionblue on October 05, 2004)
 

bill_torrens

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Neil,

If you don't mind, I'm going to copy the bulk of my post on this subject which I put on the Constitutions thread. I'd be interested to receive your thoughts in due course.

As I have argued before, I believe that the simple truth is that all white Americans in this era (bar perhaps a few hundred) believed implicitly in the moral and intellectual inferiority of negroes; they also believed that it would be quite impossible for the two races to co-exist unless negroes were forcibly kept in a condition of subordination. The steps taken to enforce subordination varied, and the main variable appears to have been the ratio of blacks to whites in the population of each region.

New Englanders had almost no contact with negroes and no practical knowledge of slavery; they were the likeliest to favour abolition because they had absolutely nothing to lose if the great social experiment backfired. A Princeton chum of Marylander McHenry Howard admitted to him: “certainly if this slavery question is to be the touch stone in our political battles, I am tired of it. In the first place not one man in a thousand with us knows any thing about it except by hearsay and in the abstract.” [Ruffner, Maryland’s Blue & Gray, pp.49-50.] Midwesterners often favoured abolition because they thought their indigenous negro population would then move south; and they opposed slavery in the territories mainly because they did not want any social interraction with a race they loathed. As the Illinois State Journal put it, “we have, in common with nineteen twentieths of our people, a prejudice against the n---er.” [Voegeli, Free But Not Equal, p.28.] Southerners were the most conservative on this issue for the good and simple reason that they had the most to lose: not merely money but also – potentially – their homes and their very lives.

Here’s the rub. If you accept the premise that Negroes have to be kept in a subordinate role if you wish to avoid murderous anarchy, slavery is the most logical way of subordinating several million of them. Indeed, it is difficult to see any viable alternative. And that is why Garrisonian Abolitionism caused such terrible harm: the zealots in Boston never did suggest a viable alternative. Private David Holt of the 16th Mississippi wrote that “the abolitionists never showed a way to get rid of slavery, nor a way to provide for the negroes after they were free.” [Holt, A Mississippi Rebel in the Army of Northern Virginia, p.62.] From a Southern perspective, mindful of Nat Turner and the massacres in the Caribbean, Garrison stood over a metaphorical open barrel of gunpowder and spent thirty years trying to strike a match. So when you criticise Southerners for their stubborn refusal to compromise over slavery, you are criticising ordinary Americans for refusing to take huge risks with their future livelihood and safety at the behest of people who were risking precisely nothing. Not only were these other people risking nothing but – and this is what made it absolutely insupportable – they also had the gall to strike a pose of sanctimonious moral superiority.

I have no difficulty in accepting that slavery was the short-term cause of secession in 1861. As you and others have pointed out, it is mentioned often enough in the primary source materials of the time. I simply state that, on this issue, the South was genuinely the aggrieved and injured party. Because over the course of thirty years an increasing proportion of the Northern population came to favour making a change in Southern society that they would never have stomached in their own states. They would not live cheek by jowl with large numbers of Negroes themselves, but they were largely indifferent to the problems and dangers which this experience might cause their Southern fellow citizens. That is the fundamental hypocrisy of Northern anti-slavery sentiment. In one debate Representative Albert G. Porter of Indiana argued that his state had “elected in favor of the white race by prohibiting slavery” while Missouri had chosen slavery and thereby agreed to accept its disadvantages. If any “inconveniences” should follow emancipation, “the duty to be just to the freedmen is yours, and you cannot fairly shift either the burden or the duty to us.” [Voegeli, Free But Not Equal, p.20.] And so Pilate washed his hands.

Accepting that slavery was the main short-term cause of secession in no way invalidates the argument that the long-term causes were issues which were, quite frankly, much more important than slavery.

Bill
 

unionblue

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Bill,

Before I reply, could you please tell me what time it is in England right now? I am always a bit pleased, yet disoriented when I get one of your posts at 04:09AM in the morning here!

Bill, never mind, looked it up on the inter net. As close as I can figure, your 4 hours 'ahead' of me here in Columbus, Ohio, so that makes it around 9:09 AM there for you, right? And I am asuming you are on 'London' time.

Curious,
Unionblue

(Message edited by Unionblue on October 05, 2004)
 

bill_torrens

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Hi Neil,

Mmmmmn....I think it must be five hours ahead. As I write this it is 10.19 a.m.

And I love that reference to being "a bit pleased" to receive my posts. Just for that I'll double my output, you cheeky bugger!

Bill

(Message edited by Bill_torrens on October 05, 2004)
 

unionblue

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Bill,

I will try to answer your excellent post above and no, I do not mind that you copy the bulk of your post from the CSA thread. You raise many excellent points and concerns.

I agree with most of your observations that you make above. I too, believe that the majority of Americans, be they from the South or North, believed in the idea the negroes, not just slaves, were social and mental inferiors. I further agree that there were many who did not want negroes near them and if they were, there had to be some form of control over them (i.e. Ohio's Black Codes, restricting where blacks could live, etc.).

It is at the end of your third paragraph that we begin to digress or separate a bit on our opinions. Not much, but a bit. As a matter of fact, the last line of your third paragraph is were I begin my disagreement. A slight one, to be true, but here it begins. I believe money was the overriding factor, not 'merely' a factor.

From that point on I have trouble agreeing with your conclusions and I must say that the trouble stems from what I have heard from others who support the idea that the Civil War was about ANYTHING other than slavery. Even the idea that the North did NOT go to war with the South over the issue of slavery, that slaves were content in their condition or that slavery was on the verge of being given up by those in the South as it was a dying institution that could not compete with the industry of the North. Then those same folks turn around and get angry with the abolitionists of the North for stirring up the slaves and making them feel unsafe in their homes and fear for their lives. Well, which is it?

And I have always wanted to ask this question; if slavery was on its last legs and about to go away, where were all these slaves going to go? Did the South have any more idea what to do with them than the North did? Were the millions upon millions of dollars needed to ship these people back to Africa going to come from reduced sales of cotton or rice to finance this possible solution? You speak of the fear of Nat Turner and other possible revolts that threatened the lives of white Southerners and yet this argument still floats around that the problem did not exist as the institution was on its last legs anyway!

I also contest your idea that the majority of the North in anyway took up the Abolitionists cause with any kind of fervor or in any large amount of numbers. I feel that I have found enough evidence that this group was not taken seriously until well after the war was started. My God, Bill, Lincoln was still talking about colonization to black representatives early in his administration! Many here on this board will inform you that his ideas before emancipation were mainly that the black man should leave the US and go elsewhere. Does that sound like Garrison or any other abolitionist had any sway over the man at that time? The Northern anti-slavery sentiment you feel was there simply did not have the impact nor the power to do the harm you indicate.

I really feel in my gut and in my heart, that the South was not so totally concerned with the idea of being left with millions of freed slaves in their midsts as a few hundred thousands slave owners were more concerned with losing their profits and their status if those millions were freed. And that pesky historical record shows that slavery was not only the short-term cause of secession, it had been a long-term possible cause since the War with Mexico and the Wilmont Priviso. Slavery had been the biggest source of strife and contention in this country LONG before the election of Lincoln.

While I may find substance in your observations that a vast majority of Northerners would not have been comfortable living 'cheek to jowl' with large numbers of Negroes themselves, I do not find sufficient evidence that a large majority of the North was willing to go to war over slavery.

BUT, there was a considerable amount of men, in power, who would go to war over the issue of slavery, it's protection, it's expansion and it's political advantages of keeping it forever.

I look forward to hearing from you, even if it is only a 'bit' at a time!

Sincerely,
Unionblue

(Message edited by Unionblue on October 05, 2004)
 

jenna

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Neil: there are two sides always to every coin. Yes the Battle Hymn talks of the Northern cause, the Bonnie Blue talks of the Southern. You can debate this topic till the end of time, and with new research coming out every day it to me is pointless to rehash and rehash the same thing. It is like todays war, any war, there is two sides, and the side who wins writes history. So, with the North being victorious in this case, it is easy for one to say that slavery was the main issue and nothing else mattered. But I don't feel that way, and I know allot of others out there don't either.

The South Carolina declaration of secession states:

Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union

The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue......Thus were established the two great principles asserted by the Colonies, namely: the right of a State to govern itself; and the right of a people to abolish a Government when it becomes destructive of the ends for which it was instituted. And concurrent with the establishment of these principles, was the fact, that each Colony became and was recognized by the mother Country a FREE, SOVEREIGN AND INDEPENDENT STATE....


Now I do realize that the document of South Carolina's secession does also include remarks on their right to slavery (so you don't need to posting those parts for I have read the document), but it was not the first issue of the board.

Let's just all face it here, everyone in entitled to their opinion, I have mine, you have yours and that is where it stands. I don't think that by rehashing and rehashing that you will solve all the problems of the world, or the issue of the Civil War. I know it's fun to debate the topic, so I will leave what I have said and move on, because I do feel like, as my father has always said, this may be a conversation going no where. But I did just want to point out that if they wrote a song that told specifically that they were fighting for state's rights, how then can slavery be THE issue that started the war?
 

jenna

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A thought for you: could the war actually have been fought because of Southern jealocy of the North, and that slavery was "used" as an issue? Think about it. At the begining of the 19th century the population of North and South was pretty equal, but by the 1850's, with all the factories, many southerners were moving north for better opportunities and look at the hords of immigrants that came to the north and started working there. The North had a population boom, and the South suffered. It may have been a case of "I want what he has" and keeping up with the Jones'. So instead of playing with the North, they decided to dispute all the North had to offer and acted like a little 2 yr. old and went kicking a screaming that the North wasn't playing fare. And so they fought for their right to play the way they wanted to, and that was to get "Big Brother" out of the picture and move on.
 

dawna

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I thought by now that I might have formulated a concrete opinion as to whether slavery was the main cause of the Civil War, but I find that I remain agnostic in my beliefs. I trust that you will bear with my musings as they are still in their infancy stage and very limited in scope.

I do believe that the main issue dividing both sides was slavery, but it was not the only one, nor was it the issue of the Civil War. But since democracy does not work on the acception of secession, I honestly believe that President Lincoln had no choice but to invade the South. I've often wondered how a civil war could be fought and won to end slavery, but full civil rights not be granted to blacks until a century later.

In my opinion, extremists and politicians on both sides sought to exaggerate the differences between the northern and southern states and prior to the Civil War, a sufficient amount of distrust and suspicion had already been established. Regional governments did nothing to ease the growing discontent but used it to profit politically. This certainly set the stage for conflict to erupt.

It appears that the North had been making concessions to the South time and again, but I'm wondering if Lincoln didn't commit a grave error by not campaigning in the South prior to his election? I think by not doing this, the wrong message was sent to the wrong people, and Lincoln's promises to not interfere with slavery fell on deaf and slighted ears.

In Jenna's post, she mentioned that the main Bills of concern for the Southern Senators were that of high tariffs and state's rights, and I agree that these issues were important, legitimate concerns for Southerners. In examining Southern culture and economics of that time, it appears that the South was in a state of stagnation as the wealth that had been created and consumed was not being re-invested.

As a result of the above, the South had become an exclusive society and slavery had become the reason that the South had fallen back in economic development in the first place. The peculiar industry that had made so many wealthy, also made it impossible for white settlers or the average farmer to prosper. Slavery prevented the creation of sound, economic politics so eventually it would have had to be dealt with.

I'm suggesting that the underlying causes of the civil war were both social and economic, and that slavery was the yoke chosen to drive the oxen. It's apparent that slavery was abolished elsewhere without such horrendous carnage, and it seems to me that both sides gave up far too quickly on conciliation.

Dawna
 

felinelady

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A thought for you: could the war actually have been fought because of Southern jealocy of the North, and that slavery was "used" as an issue?
If I might interject into this thought you posed to Neil, Jenna, please pardon my intrusion.
I think you make a valid bid at the fact that jealousy was a factor in the issue of the conflict BUT couldn't it have been the other way around? If anything the Northern people could have been jealous of the Southern way of life. Hence the tariffs and taxes that were issued against that very way of life.
I want to make myself very clear on one point. I do not believe that slavery was an institution that was moral or right. BUT I can not condemn my ancestors for what they felt was a necessity in THEIR lives. I do not believe that Slavery was the sole issue that brought about the war. I do believe tho that it was the smoking gun used by the North (and SOME Southern factions) to bring about the total and complete submission of the South to a Government rule that they could not support willingly.
This said I will now sit back and read some more of your very interesting comments on this subject.
Kat
 

sockknitter

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I found myself figuratively nodding agreement with everything Dawna Hepburn wrote in the post above until I got to

“As a result of the above, the South had become an exclusive society and slavery had become the reason that the South had fallen back in economic development in the first place. The peculiar industry that had made so many wealthy, also made it impossible for white settlers or the average farmer to prosper.”

That made me wonder: why then did Southern volunteers fight so determinedly in battles they knew would be awful? If it the war was a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight, I don’t think it would have been supported by poor men if they didn’t individually feel driven to take up arms against the Federal army. It is important to remember the South was invaded, regardless of the cause. As well, I haven’t read of any Southern Americans packing up and emigrating to other countries—apparently they were content with conditions in their homeland.

And maybe I’m ignorant but it was a new notion to me to consider that Lincoln did not campaign in the South. That would appear to be a big mistake.

I realize in those days candidates didn’t think it was becoming to go out campaigning, and left that to their supporters. Does anybody know if Lincoln’s handlers were organized enough to compose a strategy for Southern publicity?
 

dawna

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Socknitter:

My suggestion regarding why many Southern men fought so determinedly is that although most did not have a financial investment in slavery, they deeply believed in the Southern way of life. I further suggest that the typical Southern male was convinced that Northern threats to undermine slavery would unleash the pent-up hostilities of millions of slaves who had been subjugated for centuries.

Dawna
 
A

aphillbilly

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Dawna,
I have no real desire to enter into this thread's debate but since I feel sure no one from the Higher-Latitude-Placed-Persons-Living-On-Continent-Of-North-American-Living-With in-The-Borders-Of-The-United-States school of thought will object to this statement on their own I guess I will have to do so.

You said "I've often wondered how a civil war could be fought and won to end slavery, but full civil rights not be granted to blacks until a century later."
This is indeed the big myth presented in schools today. The war was not fought to end slavery. Regardless whether one might believe it was the cause of the war. Even Lincoln admitted the EP was just a military move.

As to the ending of slavery, again, another big myth. The Amendment 'ending' slavery... doesn’t. You cannot end slavery if you insert an exception. So basically it still allows slavery. In fact now it is promoted by the State. And much more profitable to the business owner as the State pays for upkeep.

As to civil rights. No excuses although there was a cause and effect. Reconstruction set many of the legal precedents and the incalculable resentments created during the war and especially during reconstruction topped with natural fear for making a living. Racism was the cherry on the top. In fact there is a solid school of thought that says racism as we know it did not exist before the war. That the war and reconstruction created it.

As Always
YMOS
tommy
 

johan_steele

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Sock Knitter, there are numerous accounts of families moving out of the South, before, during and after the war. Generally this was to the west, of note after the War quite a few couldn't/wouldn't live under Union rule so they left the Country to Canada, Mexico etc. Of note American Mercenaries (many former Confederates) served w/ distinction in several European Armies. Of note, the last known Rebel Yell sent up on the Battlefield was at Plevna... fighting for the Turks against the Russians.

Also of note the Confederacy was the first to start conscription... desertion rates for CSA Regiments were considerably higher than their Union counterparts. A variety of reasons from defeatism tnot agreeing w/ the why of the fight.
 
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