The Slave States Seceded to Protect Slavery--The Rest is Baloney

Potomac Pride

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Thank you. I got so tired of arguing this without all the evidence in one convenient place that I put together a book on the very subject: The American Civil War WAS About Slavery: A Quick Handbook of Quotes to Reference When Debating Those Who Would Argue Otherwise
Of course the Civil War was about slavery. However, that was not the only issue involved in the conflict. Slavery was an important contributing factor that led to the war but there were other factors such as sectionalism, sovereignty and fiscal policy that existed. To maintain that slavery was the one and only factor involved is really an oversimplification of an important event in history.
 
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uaskme

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Here is a proposed synopsis of what Edmund Ruffin though Lincolns election might bring.

About the time of Lincoln's election there was published a volume by Edmund Ruffin entitled, Anticipations of the Future to Serve as Lessons for the Present Time, in the Form of Extracts of Letters form and English Residents in the United States, to the London Times, from 1864 to 1870, etc, Ruffin was a man of considerable ability. He was known of his long record of valuable services to Virginia and the South at large, chief of which were his contributions to improved methods of agriculture. He was a secessionist of long standing, and one of the leaders of the movement. His book gives such a complete statement of the disunion arguments, colored perhaps by his Virginia viewpoints, that a summary of it is desirable.

Ruffin allowed Lincoln to serve one term and his more radical successor, Seward, to serve part of one without a dissolution of the Union. When, however, Seward proposed to stand for a second term, six cotton states seceded. Whereupon after some attempts at settlement, the federal government established a blockade of Southern ports, and war ensued, the northern slave states remaining neutral. By May, 1868, because of the loss of Southern trade and cotton, there were great suffering, threatening mobs, and sanguinary riots in the North. Northern merchants and manufacturers felt very severely, the loss of $40,000,000 due them form the South and sequestered by the government of the new confederacy. The South suffered also from the blockage; but there were compensations in that it taught the Southern people to be independent of the North. Soon Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland found it no longer possible to remain neutral, and entered the war on the side of the South. Another $50,000,000 of debts were sequestered. The North did not attempt to carry the war into the border states. In July, 1868, it was reported that the imports and revenues of the North had fallen off tremendously; for the "greater part of the former importations to Northern ports and in Northern ships was for transhipment to and consumption in Southern states." In August outbreaks and violence were reported in the impoverished Northern cities; New York wa sacked and burned--a rather butter commentary on the supposed friendship of the South and New York City. Soon the North was unable to continue the war; and a truce was made.

By February, 1869, renewal of commercial intercourse and peaceful relations had given a wonderful impulse to trade and business in the South. But Southern merchants had entirely ceased going to the North to purchase goods of any kind: "For all Northern fabrics being now subject to high duties, would thereby be so much enhanced in price, that but a few kinds can be sold in Southern markets, in competition with European articles subject to the same rates of duties only--or of Southern manufactures, now protected by the same tariff law which had formerly been enacted by the superior political power of the North, and to operate exclusively for the profit of Northern capital and industry." Northern ship owners were transferring their ships to the South; Northern manufacturers were coming; and much Northern capital was seeking investment there. A month later it was reported that the "commercial prosperity of the South is growing with a force and rapidity exceeding any previous anticipations of the most sanguine early advocates for the independence of the Southern states."

The Western states had taken but little part in the war. The South had granted them free trade and free navigation of the Mississippi. Because of this indulgent and conciliatory treatment the people of the Northwest had not tried to open direct trade with Europe, but were content to trade principally with New Orleans. On April 7, 1869, it was reported that New England and the West were a loggerheads over the tariffs. The volume closes with a prediction that the North would soon split, the Western states, upon their own offer, going with the South. "and should New England be left alone, thenceforward its influence for evil on the Southern states will be of as little effect, and its political and economical position scarcely superior, to those conditions of the present republic of Hayti."

By April 14, 1869, it was reported, commercial treaties had been made by the South with European powers. No duties were to be over 20 percent. The treaties might be terminated after ten years. The tobacco growers, who had so often in the old Union requested the government to attempt to secure a relaxation of the heavy duties imposed upon their product by France and England, now had their wishes gratified.

Ruffin's book was written during a political campaign when it was well understood that, in case Lincoln was election, the cotton states would in all probability secede; but its content was only an amplification of a series of letters published in the Richmond Inquirer in December 1856, and January, 1857. And the arguments for secession which he used were typical of the secessionist per se propaganda to which the people of the South had been accustomed for at least a decade. pp187-189
Economics of Southern Sectionalism by Russel

The South wanted Independence. They thought the North would go broke if they seceded. They thought the only way to bolster their economic condition was Social, Financial and Political abandonment of the Union.
 
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Of course the Civil War was about slavery. However, that was not the only issue involved in the conflict. Slavery was an important contributing factor that led to the war but there were other factors such as sectionalism, sovereignty and fiscal policy that existed. To maintain that slavery was the one and only factor involved is really an oversimplification of an important event in history.
What issue were they pulling the trigger on BEFORE the Civil War?

Kevin Dally
 

wbull1

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Well, if you read Economic Aspects of Southern Sectionalism by Russell, which I have. Economic Interest played a huge role. Southerners convinced themselves that Union was the cause of their economic decline. The primary disunionist came to the conclusion that the only way the South could build their MFG Capacity, banking, shipping and railroads was thru Secession. You can argue that their analysis was wrong, which makes no difference whether it was or not. They were convinced that they were right.

Perhaps the ablest and most philosophical of moderate Republicanism made between 1854 and 1861 is George M. Weston's Progress of Slavery, a work which it would have been well worth the while of Southern thinkers to study.We are here concerned only with those of the of the propositions he sought to establish which relate to disunion. He told of nullification in South Carolina and of its partisans and sympathizers in other slave states. "The real cause of this Southern predisposition to listen to the appeals of the Palmetto nullifiers, was Southern discontent at the prosperity of the North,. . . Refusing to see the true cause of their own misfortunes, and eager to attribute them to every cause but the right one, they insisted that they alone were the real producers of wealth, and that the North was thriving at their expense." This doctrine of the nullifiers had been steadily insisted upon during the following quarter of a century. "It has without doubt, become the settled conviction of large numbers of persons in the slave States, that in some way or other, either through the fiscal regulations of the Government, or through the legerdemain of trade, the North has been built up at the expense of the South." These were the views which prompted disunion, He illustrated the reasons for wanting to dissolve the Union by an exact from a public address of John Forsyth, of Mobile:

I have no more doubt that the effect of separation would be to transfer the energies of industry, population, commerce, and wealth, from the North to the South, that I have that it is to the Union with us, the wealth-producing States, that the North owes its great progress in material prosperity. . . The Union broken, we should have what has been so long the dream of the South--direct trade and commercial independence. Then, our Southern emporia of the North have fattened upon favoring navigation laws, partial legislation by Congress, and the monopoly of the public expenditure, will spring into life and the monopoly of the public expenditure, will spring into life and energy, and become the entrepots of a great commerce.

The slavery agitation was not the cause of disunion feeling but the pretext, according to Weston. The disunionist had been chiefly instrumental in getting it up: It is quite notorious that it is not the slaveholding class at the South which particularly favors nullification. pp197-198 Economic Aspects of Southern Sectionalism by Russel.
Interesting. Thanks for this. So would Russel think that the "true cause" southerners were ignoring was their reliance on cotton, produced by slaves and their failure to develop other economic engines of commerce? It seems to me there is no distinct line separating the cotton economy and slavery, without which, there would be no cotton economy.
 
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One thing that sometimes gets lost in the discussions regarding slavery is that slavery was a constitutional right that was essentially invulnerable to attack. Neither the President nor the Congress had any authority to abolish it, and the SC had very recently added protections with the Dredd Scott decision. And a constitutional amendment outlawing it was an impossibility.
 
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One thing that sometimes gets lost in the discussions regarding slavery is that slavery was a constitutional right that was essentially invulnerable to attack. Neither the President nor the Congress had any authority to abolish it, and the SC had very recently added protections with the Dredd Scott decisions. And a constitutional amendment outlawing it was an impossibility.
Which ought to seriously call into question the idea that they seceded solely because they felt it was threatened and the only recourse was to leave the Union, whereupon they would lose all Constitutional protection. It doesn't quite make sense, does it?
 
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Which ought to seriously call into question the idea that they seceded solely because they felt it was threatened and the only recourse was to leave the Union, whereupon they would lose all Constitutional protection. It doesn't quite make sense, does it?

It does not. In fact, the best way to protect slavery, as the case of Kentucky demonstrates, was to remain in the union.
 

uaskme

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Of Northern newspapers which encouraged the Southern people to believe that disunion would be followed by unprecedented prosperity, none was more widely read and quoted or wielded greater influence in the South than the New York Herald. It kept close watch of events and the state of public opinion in the South, and should have known, perhaps did know, the temper of the people. It constantly advocated a policy of meeting Southern demands and avoidance of wounding Southern sensibilities in order that the South might not be compelled to resort to measures which would work injury to the navigating, mercantile, and financial interests of New York, which the Herald represented. In case of disunion, according to the Herald, the imports of the Northern confederation would so fall off that it would have to resort to direct taxation, while the South would have ample revenue. Manufactures would be established in the South with Northern capital. Northern shipping would rot at its docks. Part of the Northern population would migrate to the South, so the disproportion in numbers would cease to exist. The value of real estate in the North would be greatly reduced. pp192 Economic Aspects of Southern Sectionalism by Russel
 

uaskme

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In the North also there was from the first a large class who professed to believe that the cotton states had seceded chiefly for other reasons tan fears of slavery and a belief that constitutional rights had been disregarded. This class responded no confidence in compromises and concessions as Union savers or restorers; no doubt most of them would have been opposed to compromise or concession upon the slavery issue in any case. They advanced various explanations of secession. William H. Seward, in a speech of which the Union savers had expected much, credited disunion chiefly to the defeat of Southern politicians and their loss of power to govern the country. But he did not overlook the influence of the unconditional disunionist: "more than thirty years there has existed a considerable-through not heretofore a formidable--mass of citizens in certain States situate near or around the delta of the Mississippi, who believe that the Union is less conducive to the welfare and greatness of those States than a smaller confederacy, embracing only slave States, would be. Senators Wade, of Ohio, Wilson of Massachusetts, Cameron, of Pennsylvania, Chandler of Michigan and Trumbull of Illinois, inclined to take the view that secession was the outcome of a "rule or ruin" policy on the part of Southern leaders. Senator Simmons of Rhode Island, engaged in a colloquy with Thomas L. Clingman relative to the effect of secession upon revenues North and South and upon the imports of the respective sections. "I know," he said, "part of this scheme has been to make Charleston the great commercial emporium of the South." A select committee of the House of Representatives reported that "the difficulties growing out of the existence of slavery, however viewed by the common people, are so far as the leaders are concerned, but a mere pretense, their real object being to overthrow the Government, that a Southern Confederacy, of a military character may arise. pp252 Southern Sectionalism by Russel
 

matthew mckeon

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Which ought to seriously call into question the idea that they seceded solely because they felt it was threatened and the only recourse was to leave the Union, whereupon they would lose all Constitutional protection. It doesn't quite make sense, does it?
This all begs the question: felt threatened by what? The threat to slavery, something that was foundational(I think that's a word). By seceding they traded membership in a larger Union where their foundational slaveholding was increasingly obnoxious and their membership was shrinking relatively, to a Confederacy where slavery was recognized as the cornerstone of society.
 
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This all begs the question: felt threatened by what? The threat to slavery, something that was foundational(I think that's a word). By seceding they traded membership in a larger Union where their foundational slaveholding was increasingly obnoxious and their membership was shrinking relatively, to a Confederacy where slavery was recognized as the cornerstone of society.
And where a large, powerful and potentially hostile group of states north of them was not likely to let them establish that new nation. They were well aware of that probability, given many of the comments I'm seeing as I go through the SC secession convention. They took a far bigger risk by leaving than they would have by staying.

And was slaveholding really "increasingly obnoxious"? Abolitionists were a minority, even in 1860. Abraham Lincoln swore up and down that slavery was in no danger from him. Dred Scott had gone the South's way. It's very clear that there was more going on than a sudden panic about future loss of slaves.
 

matthew mckeon

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And where a large, powerful and potentially hostile group of states north of them was not likely to let them establish that new nation. They were well aware of that probability, given many of the comments I'm seeing as I go through the SC secession convention. They took a far bigger risk by leaving than they would have by staying.

And was slaveholding really "increasingly obnoxious"? Abolitionists were a minority, even in 1860. Abraham Lincoln swore up and down that slavery was in no danger from him. Dred Scott had gone the South's way. It's very clear that there was more going on than a sudden panic about future loss of slaves.
Some southerners were skeptical about secession being the right strategy: Alexander Stephens leaps to mind. But he put slavery front and center of the crisis.

Obnoxious: I think so. Northerners had eliminated slavery in their own territories, and wanted it kept out of the West. There was plenty of self interest: free farmers and settlers didn't want to compete with enslaved labor. Plenty of people thought there was something wrong with slave holding, although few were willing to do anything about it. Regardless of their motivation, their hostility to slavery was real enough, and Lincoln running on an anti-slavery platform, was able to win a national election without a single slave state electoral vote.
 
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Slavery existed for a long time in the US and the colonies without provoking a Civil War. When the cotton growers became a minority among the states that permitted slavery, and the paid labor economy achieved clear domination over the coerced labor economy, that's when a class of cotton farmers provoked secession and shelled a US fort. The evidence is some people were not committed to majority rule and widespread suffrage for the ordinary working man.
 
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As for the idea that the paid labor states needed the south, there is not much evidence that is true. By 1879 cotton production reached pre-war levels. After that it became a foundation of grinding poverty for the mass of white and black farmers who became indebted serfs.
The US bought up the southern railroads by 1890, but that was about it. The modifications from slavery to debt serfdom involved mainly protecting black families and the right to voluntarily relocate. The US was not going to let the south build an independent military and have an independent foreign policy.
 
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If the US had fought the Civil War according to ancient rules of slaughter and enslavement, by 1865 they had the power to eliminate the southern population. At a more restrained level they could have vacated the land titles of the southern farmers, and transferred the land to the people who supported the US. But of course, the only transfer that occurred was that the enslaved got ownership of their own lives and their own families.
 
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The most valuable assets in the US in 1860 were the $6.6B in farms. 12% of the value was in the state of New York, alone. https://www2.census.gov/library/publications/decennial/1860/agriculture/1860b-09.pdf?#
Two things made farm land valuable. Unpaid labor and railroads. Both were complementary inputs to farm production. In some areas the south had both things. Railroads were a permanent part of the US economy. Forced labor was an ancient custom usually based on an advanced society conquering an unstable society.
Railroads rely on engineers and managers. Slavery is a system of permanent violence.
The standard of living, and longevity were increasing the US. The cost and risk involved in moving from Europe to the US was falling, rapidly.
The 17th century conditions that were the foundation of slavery were fading. The conditions that created incentives to hire and retain skilled and semi-skilled workers were expanding.
Slavery had gone past its expiration date.
 
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It was about the future. The cotton industry had reached one of its cyclical peaks. The railroad economy had reached a platform for rapid growth.
The US was going to move on and achieve the destiny that they contended was manifest. Perhaps.
 
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I see this on Amazon as being available in Kindle only. Is there a book (paper) version I can get ahold of? Thank you
Thank you for checking it out. Unfortunately it's not long enough for Amazon to make it available in print. I may do a second edition at some point that will flesh it out a bit more. In the meantime, you can download a free Kindle reader for your computer, tablet, or phone here: https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=16571048011
 



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