The Real Cause of Secession

Joined
Oct 3, 2005
This looks like a long term thread containing many different viewpoints on the causes of secession and war, but to help members know me, I will offer my take.

From what I have deciphered, the issues of slavery and economics are indubitably intertwined, but in the step up to secession, economics carried the greater toxicity.

At the time, Northerners were largely indifferent toward slavery, and the growing animosities between the Northern and Southern sections extended more from economic advantages the South's Slave Power gave the Southern oligarchy than the inherent injustice of slavery, the oligarchy's prime economic tool. An economic recession from the Panic of 1857 did more to alienate the sections than abolitionist ideology. Northern commerce was hit especially hard by that event while it barely caused a ripple in the Southern oligarchy's economic machine, and the divergence in the direction of the sections' economies evident in that event inflamed an already serious point of contention. Over the 1850's, low tariffs, achieved in large part with the South's Slave Power, had added greatly to Planter Class wealth. Combined with their expansion of direct trade with European markets over the decade, those economic elements caused Northern political and commercial powers to grow increasingly jealous of and aggrieved by the oligarchy's economic prowess.

Undoubtedly, the secession of the eleven Slave States which formed the Confederacy occurred to perpetuate the section's agricultural, slave-labor driven economy, or more precisely, to preserve and extend their prime economic tool, slavery. But while there was great benevolence in pursuing the end of slavery, Northern interests were more concerned with destroying the Southern economic machine as a whole than the sleazy part of its apparatus, slavery. So, though slavery issues were at play, economic elements held more weight.

I believe strongly that slavery could have been extracted from American society without the rabid destruction and massive blood letting as occurred in the WBTS. And because the demolition seems to have had a malevolent underside, I see slavery being more an excuse to obliterate the South and its wealth than justification for inflicting that type of damage.
What northern interest was concerned with "destroying the Southern economic machine?" Name three. And what they said or did.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
This looks like a long term thread containing many different viewpoints on the causes of secession and war, but to help members know me, I will offer my take.

From what I have deciphered, the issues of slavery and economics are indubitably intertwined, but in the step up to secession, economics carried the greater toxicity.

At the time, Northerners were largely indifferent toward slavery, and the growing animosities between the Northern and Southern sections extended more from economic advantages the South's Slave Power gave the Southern oligarchy than the inherent injustice of slavery, the oligarchy's prime economic tool. An economic recession from the Panic of 1857 did more to alienate the sections than abolitionist ideology. Northern commerce was hit especially hard by that event while it barely caused a ripple in the Southern oligarchy's economic machine, and the divergence in the direction of the sections' economies evident in that event inflamed an already serious point of contention. Over the 1850's, low tariffs, achieved in large part with the South's Slave Power, had added greatly to Planter Class wealth. Combined with their expansion of direct trade with European markets over the decade, those economic elements caused Northern political and commercial powers to grow increasingly jealous of and aggrieved by the oligarchy's economic prowess.

Undoubtedly, the secession of the eleven Slave States which formed the Confederacy occurred to perpetuate the section's agricultural, slave-labor driven economy, or more precisely, to preserve and extend their prime economic tool, slavery. But while there was great benevolence in pursuing the end of slavery, Northern interests were more concerned with destroying the Southern economic machine as a whole than the sleazy part of its apparatus, slavery. So, though slavery issues were at play, economic elements held more weight.

I believe strongly that slavery could have been extracted from American society without the rabid destruction and massive blood letting as occurred in the WBTS. And because the demolition seems to have had a malevolent underside, I see slavery being more an excuse to obliterate the South and its wealth than justification for inflicting that type of damage.
While it would be nice to think slavery would evaporate painlessly somehow, the rather mild restriction proposed by the Republican platform in 1860: restriction of slavery from the west, provoked secession. How would a movement to peacefully "extracted" look like? Especially since even criticizing slavery or even discussing it in less than glowing terms was verboten.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
If we want to argue that the secession crisis was based on "economics," then who cares about the comparatively tiny tariff. The biggest economic fact in the antebellum south was slavery. That's what couldn't be interfered with.

And the reason it couldn't be interfered with went far beyond its massive economic presence. Its a social system that defined humanity into two separate classes, the damned and the saved, which meant that over a third of the population had to be kept in chains, and despised for being in chains, believed to be uniquely suited to be in chains, indeed fortunate to be in chains. This structure of society was socially and even psychologically central. To deny it was heresy, and heretics had a thin time in the antebellum south. Slavery was an economic system to be sure, but it was never like making shoes.
 

KSKEY

Private
Joined
Apr 14, 2020
I did not say slavery was not a cause, but rather, economics carried more weight. Slavery and economics, especially in the South, were intertwined. The average Northerner did not care whether the South was prospering, and that average person was generally indifferent to slavery as well. Northern political and commercial powers, not average Northerners, were agitated by the Southern oligarchy's prosperity, believing, with some merit, they had achieved their wealth at the expense of Northern prosperity.

The conflicts of the 1850's were about the South's Slave Power and the spread of slavery outside the South, not slavery per se. Lincoln himself said as much in his 1854 speech against the repeal of the 1820 Missouri Compromise which had limited slavery to that geographic area. The Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 removed the geographic line set in 1820 and allowed slavery to be voted on by the people of each new territory, even those in the North.It is significant that at the start of the WBTS, Republicans were not fully engaged in eliminating slavery in the South, that came later more as a means to disrupt the Confederacy rather than as a gesture of benevolence it seems to modern misconceptions.
 

KSKEY

Private
Joined
Apr 14, 2020
What northern interest was concerned with "destroying the Southern economic machine?" Name three. And what they said or did.
That is an interesting challenge, and I will try to oblige, though I suspect it will take a little time to provide a specific response. For right now, I’ll post this general quote from articles in the Tribune. It talks about political dominance and doesn't specify the destruction of the Southern economy was at the forefront of motivations, but something to that effect is implied:

Although civil rights idealism played a part in Radical Republican thinking, and a very great part in their talk, the main role of former slaves would be insuring Republican political dominance in the South and suppressing any rising political opposition. This would have the effect of opening the South to economic exploitation and dominance by enterprising Northern fortune and office seekers. Both Union war casualties and civil rights issues would provide fuel for demonizing the South. Waving the “bloody shirt’ and exaggerated and even fabricated reports of racial injustice and disorder in the South became powerful instruments for gaining and maintaining political power in the North.
 

KSKEY

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Joined
Apr 14, 2020
While it would be nice to think slavery would evaporate painlessly somehow, the rather mild restriction proposed by the Republican platform in 1860: restriction of slavery from the west, provoked secession. How would a movement to peacefully "extracted" look like? Especially since even criticizing slavery or even discussing it in less than glowing terms was verboten.

Slavery, or at least the pains of it, as Shelby Foote said often, is something we shall never be rid of. As for extracting slavery from American society, peacefully, it could only have been achieved with the consent of the South’s slaveholders, and Lincoln’s plan, if someone else had proposed it, with its three-pronged approach including gradual emancipation might have been close to gaining that consent. At the time though, the Southern oligarchy had their sights set on maintaining slavery and believed the election of Lincoln meant the end of slavery despite his professed leniency toward it. I suspect the oligarchy had larger plans and that triggered their strong resistance. Although, at five-hundred dollars a head as compensation to slave owners for their lost property, and the thirty-seven year period of gradual emancipation, Lincoln's proposal should have persuaded some of the slave holders to consent to his plan.

It's all sheer speculation, and if war could have been avoided for a while, the oligarchy may have agreed to some form of gradual, blanket emancipation after some time. I’ll conceded that in 1860, however, they were determined to maintain their economy as it was.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
That is an interesting challenge, and I will try to oblige, though I suspect it will take a little time to provide a specific response. For right now, I’ll post this general quote from articles in the Tribune. It talks about political dominance and doesn't specify the destruction of the Southern economy was at the forefront of motivations, but something to that effect is implied:

Although civil rights idealism played a part in Radical Republican thinking, and a very great part in their talk, the main role of former slaves would be insuring Republican political dominance in the South and suppressing any rising political opposition. This would have the effect of opening the South to economic exploitation and dominance by enterprising Northern fortune and office seekers. Both Union war casualties and civil rights issues would provide fuel for demonizing the South. Waving the “bloody shirt’ and exaggerated and even fabricated reports of racial injustice and disorder in the South became powerful instruments for gaining and maintaining political power in the North.
Thank you for calling one of my posts interesting. I'm not always.

What happened during Reconstruction is setting the cart before the horse a little if we're talking about secession in 1860. Antebellum, I think that slave owners saw their influence inside the United States declining, certainly the writing of the time betrays a sense of siege and defensiveness. That was more demographic reality than any specific threat.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Slavery, or at least the pains of it, as Shelby Foote said often, is something we shall never be rid of. As for extracting slavery from American society, peacefully, it could only have been achieved with the consent of the South’s slaveholders, and Lincoln’s plan, if someone else had proposed it, with its three-pronged approach including gradual emancipation might have been close to gaining that consent. At the time though, the Southern oligarchy had their sights set on maintaining slavery and believed the election of Lincoln meant the end of slavery despite his professed leniency toward it. I suspect the oligarchy had larger plans and that triggered their strong resistance. Although, at five-hundred dollars a head as compensation to slave owners for their lost property, and the thirty-seven year period of gradual emancipation, Lincoln's proposal should have persuaded some of the slave holders to consent to his plan.

It's all sheer speculation, and if war could have been avoided for a while, the oligarchy may have agreed to some form of gradual, blanket emancipation after some time. I’ll conceded that in 1860, however, they were determined to maintain their economy as it was.
In the game of "what if..." we can always have it come out the way that confirms our beliefs. But not me, its always the other guy! Historically, the slave owners never agreed to limit slavery, without an outside, stronger power compelling it to. I paint with a broad brush, many exceptions etc.
 

KSKEY

Private
Joined
Apr 14, 2020
If we want to argue that the secession crisis was based on "economics," then who cares about the comparatively tiny tariff. The biggest economic fact in the antebellum south was slavery. That's what couldn't be interfered with.

And the reason it couldn't be interfered with went far beyond its massive economic presence. Its a social system that defined humanity into two separate classes, the ****ed and the saved, which meant that over a third of the population had to be kept in chains, and despised for being in chains, believed to be uniquely suited to be in chains, indeed fortunate to be in chains. This structure of society was socially and even psychologically central. To deny it was heresy, and heretics had a thin time in the antebellum south. Slavery was an economic system to be sure, but it was never like making shoes.

The tiny tariff was an element that alienated North from South in the economic sense. As noted, slavery was the Southern Oligarchy’s prime economic tool. To maintain slavery, the society had to establish slaves as a class less than fully human. It is sad that they did, and even sadder that they did not realize their error. Though in the case of the Southern oligarchy, they probably did realize their mistake but were too greedy to allow its correction.

My discussion of economics as a weighty cause for secession and war did not exclude slavery from the equation nor should it be assumed an attempt to excuse the immorality of slavery. It was, as Lincoln said, a monstrous injustice. It was indeed, as we see it today, a perverse social system that repressed human beings, devaluing slaves as property similar to cattle and hogs. But in 1860, the times around which the discussions here are limited, not everyone saw them as fully human.
 
Joined
Apr 17, 2020
Your point about secession being legal is false. Secession is illegal based on Texas v.White which in turn is based on antebellum law.
Where? Each state was originally independent, and therefore this would have had to officially change.
The Supreme Court did not have that power, only the states themselves.
I am looking for such an action, but cannot find it.
 
Joined
Apr 17, 2020
The South: We're seceding because you elected a guy who doesn't like slavery

The North: We don't think you can secede, but let's talk about slavery. We're prepared to guarantee you can keep it

The South: We've already left. Get the rest of your Yankee troops out of our forts!

The North: They're still ours. Wanna talk things over?

The South: We'll talk, nation to nation.

The North: You're not a nation.

The North was incorrect, in claiming that the states were never independent.
 

KSKEY

Private
Joined
Apr 14, 2020
In the game of "what if..." we can always have it come out the way that confirms our beliefs. But not me, its always the other guy! Historically, the slave owners never agreed to limit slavery, without an outside, stronger power compelling it to. I paint with a broad brush, many exceptions etc.

No doubt, the human mind has a strong tendency to self-confirm. But our beliefs arise from fact when we know it and faith when we do not. The game of "what if..." or speculation is the arena in which faith lives.

The fact is slave owners never agreed to limit slavery. The faith or speculation is they may have agreed to some form of gradual emancipation in time had not the WBTS occurred. Because the war did occur, however, the suggestion will forever be confined to the game of "what if," or pure speculation. And that's the way I approached it.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Where? Each state was originally independent, and therefore this would have had to officially change.
The Supreme Court did not have that power, only the states themselves.
I am looking for such an action, but cannot find it.
Not sure how you figure "each state is independent". You might want to read Texas v.White.
Leftyhunter
 
Joined
Apr 17, 2020
While it w
While it would be nice to think slavery would evaporate painlessly somehow
How could it continue to exist, once the slave-states left the Union?
It seems that this would preclude it via altering the economic equation; by both ending Fugitive Slave laws, and tariff-agreements, that they had enjoyed under the Constitution; and which were the only factors that allowed slave-states to exist in the first place.
Have these factors ever been considered?
And the 13th Amendment could have been passed immediately by the remaining free-states, which would seal the fate of slavery.
Not sure how you figure "each state is independent".
Leftyhunter
The Declaration of Independence.

You might want to read Texas v.White.
The Supreme Court has no outside power over independent states, so it's a moot point in that respect.
 
Joined
Apr 17, 2020
One is entitled to ones opinion
But not one's own facts.
And it's a fact that courts do not have power to alter the existing sovereign status of independent states.
So it really doesn't matter how the court thinks, since the people of each independent state created the federal court, in ratifying the Constitution; and only the people of each state could likewise alter their state's independence, which I do not see anywhere in the Constitution.
Though many hold this opinion, it is not a fact.
 
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Joined
Apr 17, 2020
Your more then welcome to try to have the US Supreme Court overturn Texas v.White and allow states to secede from the Union. Good luck.
Leftyhunter

None needed, sir.
No federal official ever claimed that the Supreme Court had the power to alter the sovereign status of independent states where it exists, so your opinion on that point is solely your own.
The Supreme Court simply claimed that the states were not individually independent to begin with; which is patently false.
 

Eric Calistri

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 31, 2012
Location
Austin Texas
No official ever claimed that the Supreme Court had the power to alter the sovereign status of independent states where it exists, so your opinion on that point is solely your own.
The Supreme Court simply claimed that the states were not individually independent to begin with; which is patently false.


You are correct in that Supreme Court does not "alter the status of independent states." US laws do that, for example the 1845 Joint Resolution for annexing Texas to the United States. The Supreme Court is granted Judicial power as per Article III.
 

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