1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!
Dismiss Notice
--- Please Take Note! ---
All discussions about the removal of Confederate Monuments must be restricted to the following two threads. Any other new threads about monument removal will be deleted without warning.
- New Orleans Monuments
- St. Louis Monument
Thanks for your understanding on this issue!

Washington Post: Five myths

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by carson_reb, Jan 12, 2011.

  1. carson_reb

    carson_reb Sergeant Major

    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2010
    Messages:
    2,360
    Location:
    Carson City, Nevada
    Hello everyone:

    I ran across this Washington Post article by James Loewen, published 1/9/11. It is titled "Five myths about why the South seceded."

    I know that this topic has probably been beaten into the ground ad nauseum, but I'm interested in reading your take on the article. Is it accurate? Mostly accurate? Barely so? Or a complete falsehood?

    I thought I'd change tactics and start introducing topics in threads before I join the discussion. I'd rather learn first and talk later. So, with that, my eyes are open to your analyses.

    Thanks!

    ----------------------------------------------

    Five myths about why the South seceded

    By James W. Loewen
    Sunday, January 9, 2011; 12:00 AM

    One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War began, we're still fighting it -- or at least fighting over its history. I've polled thousands of high school history teachers and spoken about the war to audiences across the country, and there is little agreement even on why the South seceded. Was it over slavery? States' rights? Tariffs and taxes?

    As the nation begins to commemorate the anniversaries of the war's various battles -- from Fort Sumter to Appomattox -- let's first dispense with some of the more prevalent myths about why it all began.

    [FONT=Arial,Helvetica]1. The South seceded over states' rights.
    [/FONT]
    Confederate states did claim the right to secede, but no state claimed to be seceding for that right. In fact, Confederates opposed states' rights -- that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery.
    On Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina's secession convention adopted a "Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union." It noted "an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery" and protested that Northern states had failed to "fulfill their constitutional obligations" by interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage. Slavery, not states' rights, birthed the Civil War.
    South Carolina was further upset that New York no longer allowed "slavery transit." In the past, if Charleston gentry wanted to spend August in the Hamptons, they could bring their cook along. No longer -- and South Carolina's delegates were outraged. In addition, they objected that New England states let black men vote and tolerated abolitionist societies. According to South Carolina, states should not have the right to let their citizens assemble and speak freely when what they said threatened slavery.
    Other seceding states echoed South Carolina. "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery -- the greatest material interest of the world," proclaimed Mississippi in its own secession declaration, passed Jan. 9, 1861. "Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of the commerce of the earth. . . . A blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization."
    The South's opposition to states' rights is not surprising. Until the Civil War, Southern presidents and lawmakers had dominated the federal government. The people in power in Washington always oppose states' rights. Doing so preserves their own.

    [FONT=Arial,Helvetica]2. Secession was about tariffs and taxes.
    [/FONT]
    During the nadir of post-civil-war race relations - the terrible years after 1890 when town after town across the North became all-white "sundown towns" and state after state across the South prevented African Americans from voting - "anything but slavery" explanations of the Civil War gained traction. To this day Confederate sympathizers successfully float this false claim, along with their preferred name for the conflict: the War Between the States. At the infamous Secession Ball in South Carolina, hosted in December by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, "the main reasons for secession were portrayed as high tariffs and Northern states using Southern tax money to build their own infrastructure," The Washington Post reported.
    These explanations are flatly wrong. High tariffs had prompted the Nullification Crisis in 1831-33, when, after South Carolina demanded the right to nullify federal laws or secede in protest, President Andrew Jackson threatened force. No state joined the movement, and South Carolina backed down. Tariffs were not an issue in 1860, and Southern states said nothing about them. Why would they? Southerners had written the tariff of 1857, under which the nation was functioning. Its rates were lower than at any point since 1816.

    [FONT=Arial,Helvetica]3. Most white Southerners didn't own slaves, so they wouldn't secede for slavery.
    [/FONT]
    Indeed, most white Southern families had no slaves. Less than half of white Mississippi households owned one or more slaves, for example, and that proportion was smaller still in whiter states such as Virginia and Tennessee. It is also true that, in areas with few slaves, most white Southerners did not support secession. West Virginia seceded from Virginia to stay with the Union, and Confederate troops had to occupy parts of eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama to hold them in line.
    However, two ideological factors caused most Southern whites, including those who were not slave-owners, to defend slavery. First, Americans are wondrous optimists, looking to the upper class and expecting to join it someday. In 1860, many subsistence farmers aspired to become large slave-owners. So poor white Southerners supported slavery then, just as many low-income people support the extension of George W. Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy now.
    Second and more important, belief in white supremacy provided a rationale for slavery. As the French political theorist Montesquieu observed wryly in 1748: "It is impossible for us to suppose these creatures [enslaved Africans] to be men; because allowing them to be men, a suspicion would follow that we ourselves are not Christians." Given this belief, most white Southerners -- and many Northerners, too -- could not envision life in black-majority states such as South Carolina and Mississippi unless blacks were in chains. Georgia Supreme Court Justice Henry Benning, trying to persuade the Virginia Legislature to leave the Union, predicted race war if slavery was not protected. "The consequence will be that our men will be all exterminated or expelled to wander as vagabonds over a hostile earth, and as for our women, their fate will be too horrible to contemplate even in fancy." Thus, secession would maintain not only slavery but the prevailing ideology of white supremacy as well.

    [FONT=Arial,Helvetica]4. Abraham Lincoln went to war to end slavery.
    [/FONT]
    Since the Civil War did end slavery, many Americans think abolition was the Union's goal. But the North initially went to war to hold the nation together. Abolition came later.
    On Aug. 22, 1862, President Lincoln wrote a letter to the New York Tribune that included the following passage: "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union."
    However, Lincoln's own anti-slavery sentiment was widely known at the time. In the same letter, he went on: "I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free." A month later, Lincoln combined official duty and private wish in his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.
    White Northerners' fear of freed slaves moving north then caused Republicans to lose the Midwest in the congressional elections of November 1862.
    Gradually, as Union soldiers found help from black civilians in the South and black recruits impressed white units with their bravery, many soldiers -- and those they wrote home to -- became abolitionists. By 1864, when Maryland voted to end slavery, soldiers' and sailors' votes made the difference.

    [FONT=Arial,Helvetica]5. The South couldn't have made it long as a slave society.
    [/FONT]
    Slavery was hardly on its last legs in 1860. That year, the South produced almost 75 percent of all U.S. exports. Slaves were worth more than all the manufacturing companies and railroads in the nation. No elite class in history has ever given up such an immense interest voluntarily. Moreover, Confederates eyed territorial expansion into Mexico and Cuba. Short of war, who would have stopped them - or forced them to abandon slavery?
    To claim that slavery would have ended of its own accord by the mid-20th century is impossible to disprove but difficult to accept. In 1860, slavery was growing more entrenched in the South. Unpaid labor makes for big profits, and the Southern elite was growing ever richer. Freeing slaves was becoming more and more difficult for their owners, as was the position of free blacks in the United States, North as well as South. For the foreseeable future, slavery looked secure. Perhaps a civil war was required to end it.
    As we commemorate the sesquicentennial of that war, let us take pride this time - as we did not during the centennial - that secession on slavery's behalf failed.

    jloewen@uvm.edu

    Sociologist James W. Loewen is the author of "Lies My Teacher Told Me" and co-editor, with Edward Sebesta, of "The Confederate and Neo-Confederate Reader."
     
    leftyhunter likes this.

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. brass napoleon

    brass napoleon Colonel Retired Moderator Member of the Year

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2010
    Messages:
    14,918
    Location:
    Ohio
    Actually there's already a thread about this article:

    http://civilwartalk.com/forums/showthread.php?90920-Op-ed-Five-myths-about-secession

    But since it didn't really go anywhere, I'll add my take here.

    #1. I agree - initial secession was not about states' rights.

    #2. I also agree - not about tariffs or taxes either.

    #3. I disagree - MOST Southerners chose not to secede over slavery.

    #4. I agree - Lincoln went to war to preserve the Union and defend the Constitution.

    #5. Don't know. I'd say slavery would have lasted at least a couple more generations.

    As for point #3, prior to Fort Sumter, only 7 of the 15 slave states chose to secede. Or I should say the secession conventions of those states decided to secede, and they did so over slavery. But the secession conventions were heavily stacked in favor of the planters. The Georgia Historical Society has determined that in fact a slim majority of Georgia voters actually voted for cooperation, rather than secession, but their secession convention still went overwhelmingly in favor of secession. The 8 slave states that chose not to secede did so with the full understanding that they would now be a distinct minority in the new Union, which made the future of slavery in those states precarious. Still only 4 of them eventually seceded, and that was only after war had already begun, which indicates to me that the main reason for their secession was something other than slavery.
     
    ErnieMac likes this.
  4. TerryB

    TerryB Major

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2008
    Messages:
    8,859
    Location:
    Nashville TN
    I think the use of the word "myth" is unfortunate because it's so often misused. To me a myth is a grand idea that cultures make use of to explain things about the world or about the culture. Academics use it derisively to dismiss ideas they disagree with. To me a myth is not a bad thing. If the author had used the term "debating points" I would have no problem, but a grand idea is not something one dismisses in a few paragraphs. That Lincoln freed the slaves during the war strikes me as being something more a part of our national mythology than what caused the war or why Southerners fought.
     
    damYankee likes this.
  5. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    23,308
    Location:
    Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
    TerryB,

    The choice of the word "myth" is perhaps substituted for the word "lie" to ease into the actual reasons for Southern secession.

    Just a theory.

    Unionblue
     
    TerryB, Pvt.Shattuck and Joshism like this.
  6. prroh

    prroh Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2009
    Messages:
    5,571
    Location:
    Maryland
    The Washington Post uses five myths columns about many topics to help dispel misconceptions. Five myths about obesity, diabeis, health care reform, You get the pictire.
     
    Joshism likes this.
  7. TerryB

    TerryB Major

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2008
    Messages:
    8,859
    Location:
    Nashville TN
    Maybe so, but the word "myth" is degraded in the process. Perhaps they can't spell misconceptions.
     
  8. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2005
    Messages:
    23,308
    Location:
    Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
    TerryB,

    :smile:

    Perhaps not.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     
  9. 16thVA

    16thVA First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Dec 8, 2008
    Messages:
    1,131
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Well, I hope Mr. Loewen keeps a chapter at the end of each of his books to correct the things he got wrong in his previous books. He berated Cleveland, Mississippi for having a Confederate monument because the town was founded after the Civil War. But Atlantic City's Union monument is far grander than Cleveland's, even though Atlantic City barely existed at the time of the war.

    [​IMG]

    http://www.newyorker.com/talk/2010/11/22/101122ta_talk_mcgrath

    He also flamed the UDC for putting up a Confederate plaque on the Charles Town, WV, courthouse, erroneously believing that there were significant numbers of Union soldiers from Jefferson County when there was not enough to make one company.

    People who set themselves up as arbiters of truth have a hard road to hoe.

    I have the most trouble over his number 3 & 5. Number 3 because like most historians he totally misunderstands what happened in West Virginia. West Virginia did not secede from Virginia, it was militarily taken. And the people in Wheeling who did the taking also did everything they could to keep emancipation out of the state constitution. His tying slavery and the creation of West Virginia together is totally bogus.

    In number 5 he ignores technology. By the end of the 19th Century technology would transform the country, and a system such as slavery would be so incompatible with social and technological evolution that it would have self-destructed. There is no way, even without the Civil War, that slavery would have survived the 19th Century.
     
  10. Craig L Barry

    Craig L Barry Sergeant Major

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2010
    Messages:
    1,768
    Location:
    Murfreesboro, TN
    We discuss these "myths" all the time. The Washington Post writer is offering his
    perspective. It is an "Op Ed" piece (opinion/editorial).
     
    J. Horace likes this.
  11. oldnassau'67

    oldnassau'67 Cadet

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2011
    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Florida
    "Five myths about why the South seceded......One hundred and fifty years after the Civil War began...". Mr. Loewen immediately conflates two separate causes: those for secession; those for the Civil War. The South seceded for its reasons; the North denied their right to do so. "In fact, Confederates opposed states' rights -- that is, the right of Northern states not to support slavery...": One could as easily state, "In fact, the Union opposed states' rights -- that is, the right of Southern states to secede."
     
  12. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    8,008
    Location:
    Carlisle, PA
    Except not everyone agreed that the South had a right to secede. The Constitution does not mention secession at all, much less unilateral secession. That decision should have been left to the courts but instead, the South chose the "might makes right" path and lost. Besides, the Union didn't embrace the idea of states' rights, the South did. To embrace that ideal for yourself but deny it to others is more than a bit hypocritical.

    R
     
    jdmnw likes this.
  13. rpkennedy

    rpkennedy Major

    Joined:
    May 18, 2011
    Messages:
    8,008
    Location:
    Carlisle, PA
    I couldn't disagree more. The Southern politicians made it clear that slavery was going to stay at all costs. What technology was coming down the pike that would cause the planters to essentially turn their whole society upside down? They had resisted industrialization and had played with the idea of using slaves for non-agricultural labor. Slavery was far too mixed with the social system to just be tossed aside. The Southern elite would have fought for slavery tooth and nail against all comers.

    R
     
    jdmnw likes this.
  14. jdmnw

    jdmnw Cadet

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2016
    Messages:
    23
    Location:
    Orlando, FL
    FWIW, OpEd originally meant "opposite the editorial page." That's also how I've usually seen it described. There's a wikipedia article that gives a brief history of OpEd.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2017
  15. Mike Griffith

    Mike Griffith Sergeant

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2014
    Messages:
    573
    If you want evidence that Loewen is a mythmaker, and a joke as a "historian," just behold this whopper:

    Maybe the tariff was not an issue in 1860 on Mars, but it was a huge issue in 1860 in the U.S. here on planet Earth. The tariff was a huge issue because there was a major fight going on over the Morrill Tariff. Both parties made the tariff a major issue, especially the Republicans. In some key states, such as PA, the tariff was the most prominent issue pushed by the Republicans. At the GOP convention, the big question was not where Lincoln stood on slavery but where he stood on the tariff. Indeed, James Blaine showed that the tariff had a "controlling influence" on the 1860 election (J. G. Randall, Lincoln the President, volume 1, New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1945, pp. 188-189).

    Maybe the Southern states on Mars in 1860 said nothing about the tariff, but the Southern states here on planet Earth in 1860 screamed bloody murder against the Morrill Tariff, as I have documented at some length from period and scholarly sources.

    Southerners wrote the 1857 tariff? Well, actually, if you go read the debates over the 1857 tariff, Southerners wanted the rates lower but realized they did not have the votes to lower the rates further and were glad to be able to reduce the Walker Tariff rates. So they accepted the 1857 tariff rates as a step in the right direction.
     
  16. O' Be Joyful

    O' Be Joyful Sergeant

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2015
    Messages:
    686

    The Tariff of 1857 was authored primarily by Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter of Virginia. The bill was offered in response to a federal budget surplus in the mid-1850s. Hunter intended to disperse this surplus through a tax cut.

    Supporters of the bill came mostly from Southern and agricultural states, which tended to be export dependent and tended to support the free trade position. They were also joined by a handful of New England wool manufacturers. This constituency traditionally supported protectionism in the nineteenth century. A series of political setbacks for the protectionist movement in the early 1850s, however, prompted them to forgo protection for their own goods in exchange for reduced tariffs on their raw material imports such as Canadian wool.

    According to Kenneth Stampp, the bill:

    “Was possible because it did not represent a victory of one section over the other; nor did it produce a clear division between parties. Its supporters included Democrats, Republicans, and Americans; representatives of northern merchants, manufacturers, and railroad interests; and spokesmen for southern farmers and planters. Opposition came largely from two economic groups: the iron manufacturers of Pennsylvania and the wool growers of New England and the West.”

    Producers from other traditional protectionist constituencies such as iron, glass, and sheep farmers opposed the bill. When the Panic of 1857 struck later that year, protectionists, led by economist Henry C. Carey, blamed the downturn on the new Tariff schedule. Though economists today reject this explanation, Carey's arguments rejuvenated the protectionist movement and prompted renewed calls for a tariff increase.
    http://www.carolana.com/SC/1800s/antebellum/antebellum_tariffs.html


    https://books.google.com/books?id=Q...on on the Brink tariff of 1857 hunter&f=false

     
    jdmnw likes this.
  17. O' Be Joyful

    O' Be Joyful Sergeant

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2015
    Messages:
    686
    The Morrill Tariff was compared to the 1828 Tariff of Abominations by its opponents, although its overall rate was significantly lower. On November 19, 1860, Senator Robert Toombs denounced the "infamous Morrill bill" as the product of a coalition of "the robber and the incendiary...united in joint raid against the South" in his speech advocating secession to the Georgia Legislature. However, Toombs said preservation of slavery was the cause of secession. Of the four Secession Declarations, only Georgia's mentions the tariff issue. The December 25, 1860 address of South Carolina to slaveholding states complains about excessive taxation and heavy import duties - a reference to the then-pending Morrill Bill:

    "And so with the Southern States, towards the Northern States, in the vital matter of taxation. They are in a minority in Congress. Their representation in Congress is useless to protect them against unjust taxation; and they are taxed by the people of the North for their benefit, exactly as the people of Great Britain taxed our ancestors in the British parliament for their benefit. For the last forty years, the taxes laid by the Congress of the United States have been laid with a view of subserving the interests of the North. The people of the South have been taxed by duties on imports, not for revenue, but for an object inconsistent with revenue— to promote, by prohibitions, Northern interests in the productions of their mines and manufactures."

    On the other hand, cotton state representatives hoping to lure Virginia into their new confederation promised a protective tariff that would enable Virginia to become an industrial state, replacing New England as the source of manufactured items
    http://www.carolana.com/SC/1800s/antebellum/antebellum_tariffs.html
     
    jdmnw likes this.
  18. matthew mckeon

    matthew mckeon Brigadier General Moderator

    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2005
    Messages:
    10,002
    The essay reflects our current understanding of the Civil War. There's nothing controversial about it.
     
    jdmnw, Joshism and John Hartwell like this.
  19. Drew

    Drew Captain

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2012
    Messages:
    5,935
    Actually, I will controvert some of it. This is the problem with Loewen, he doesn't get his facts straight. From his essay:

    "Moreover, Confederates eyed territorial expansion into Mexico and Cuba."

    This is actually from the so-called Ostend Manifesto, promulgated in London in 1853 or '54, IIRC. It was written by President Franklin Pierce's ambassador to Queen Victoria, James Buchanan of Pennsylvania and his chosen personal secretary, Daniel Edgar Sickles of New York, who would later serve as a General Officer in the Union Army.

    There was no such thing as "a Confederate" at that time and these two Northern guys were responsible. Loewen of Vermont will put bad weather on "the Confederates," given the chance.
     
    Rebforever and J. Horace like this.
  20. MattL

    MattL First Sergeant

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2015
    Messages:
    1,170
    Slave expansion further south seems to have been a long and complex goal involving multiple interesting. One interesting reference is John C. Breckenridge in Jan 1861
    https://newspapers.library.in.gov/cgi-bin/indiana?a=d&d=OLG18610126.1.1

    ----
    If the Territorial question can be settled at all, it should settled for all time, and locked up in the Constitution. Otherwise, there can be no hope of exemption from incessant antislavery agitation, and the country would be thrown again into the midst of political and financial convulsions. The Southern States cannot afford to be shut off from all possibility of expansion towards the tropics by the hostile action of the Federal Government.
    ----

    Cuba seems to be a prime target due to both it's existing slavery and the existing slave interests there afraid their Spanish rule would fall in line with Britain and abolish slavery, this made those interests a natural ally with Southern slave expansionist interests

    https://history.state.gov/milestones/1830-1860/territorial-expansion

    ----
    These expansionist dreams were aided at first by a Venezuelan-born resident of Cuba, Narciso López, who, like some wealthy Cuban slave-owners, was wary of shaky Spanish rule over the island, and thus sought to have it annexed by the United States in order to ensure slavery’s preservation in Cuba. Cuban property owners were concerned that Spain would give in to British pressure to abolish slavery in Cuba. López organized several failed expeditions to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule, the last resulting in his capture and execution in Havana in 1851. The American public condemned Spanish actions, especially López’s execution without trial, but U.S. President Millard Fillmore did not issue a denunciation. Public anger against Fillmore’s seemingly lukewarm support for expansion contributed to a Whig defeat in 1852.
    ----

    Don't have time to dig more yet, though it seems Southern slave expansion was a long held goal. The annexation of Texas was very controversial and heavily fought over due to this.

    This seems quite logical and natural too after the Missouri compromise.
     
  21. Joshism

    Joshism Sergeant

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    737
    Location:
    Jupiter, FL
    I'm sure "myth" was chosen because myths are something that people bust or debunk.

    To me a myth is pretty much always a bad thing because it is untrue.
     

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
Loading...

Share This Page


(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)