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Southern States' Official 1861 Statements of Reasons for Secession Emphasized Slavery:

Judging by the number of comments, my post on slavery as the Southern states' motive for secession in 1861 has drawn a lot more interest than I expected. Unfortunately, I have less time than usual to study and respond to comments because I am about to move to the University of Pennsylvania for the fall semester. However, those interested in this issue may want to check out the official statements of reasons for secession issued by four of the eleven seceding states in 1861 - Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. All four discuss slavery far more prominently than any other issue, and three of four don't mention any issues unrelated to slavery (Georgia's statement briefly mentions disputes over the tariff, but far less prominently than slavery). Mississippi's statement gives the clearest account of the centrality of slavery to the secession decision:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

Anderson (mail):
and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun

Well, there you have it. It's a law of nature.

Why was the North opposed to nature and God's will?

Nature also forbids abortion, homosexuality, and oral sex, but happily those weren't issues in 1861.
8.12.2008 4:37pm
DangerMouse:
The southern defenders in the other thread sure are an unsatisfied bunch. The South lost, get over it!

All in all, it's the same crap you hear from partisans on any particular issue. They will bend any fact to fit their argument. I do it all the time, so I should know when it's being done.
8.12.2008 4:42pm
mad the swine (mail):
Two comments:

1) The casus belli given for public consumption is not always the actual cause of the war. See, for example, Iraq. Slavery was a popular rallying cry, yes; but just because it was one of the more common reasons doesn't make it the only, or the most important, reason for secession.

2) Even if slavery was the primary cause of secession, under the law and the Constitution the North had no right to go to war - either to prevent secession or to abolish slavery - because the right to both was guaranteed by the Founding Fathers. As loathsome as modern society considers the peculiar institution - and liberal historians have certainly exaggerated its loathsomeness - its existence did not justify war, forced conscription, an end to federalism and states' rights, and all the other horrors the North forced upon the South in the name of Unity.

There seems to be an argument going around that if the South seceded due to slavery, then it was morally and/or legally right to go to war to prevent secession. Ridiculous. The South had law on its side; the war criminal Lincoln had only 'good intentions'.
8.12.2008 4:52pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Ilya, you still have not even acknowledged that fully one third of the Confederacy declined to secede, mostly because of slavery. They only seceded after Lincoln chose to provoke a war.

This historical white washing is unseemly for a law professor. Slavery was indeed very important to many people, but it was certainly not the only cause.
8.12.2008 4:55pm
Sarcastro (www):
Anderson the slavery being natural law thing was wrong. But this time we got the whole biblical interpretation thing right!

No homosexual marriage or abortion and all prayer in school is the true, inviolate natural law!
8.12.2008 4:55pm
Anderson (mail):
the North had no right to go to war - either to prevent secession or to abolish slavery - because the right to both was guaranteed by the Founding Fathers

So there's no implicit *ban* on secession in the Constitution, but there is an implicit *right* to secede?

The "right," such as it is, is the "right" to revolution, which means you loads your guns and you takes your chances.
8.12.2008 5:00pm
hattio1:
Mad the swine,
And where's your support for the idea that secession was supported by law and the constitution. Let me ask you a question. If secession was supported by law, how come Texas felt the need to specifically include it in their agreement to become a state?

Skyler,
Lincoln provoked the war??? How about that whole attack on Fort Sumter thing? That was supposed to be peachy keen, but the actual re-inforcement of a fort under attack was choosing to provoke a war? Get real.
8.12.2008 5:02pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Just to get 'way back to the original, Ann Althouse-inspired subject, though, the fact that the South seceded (or may have seceded) for ignominious reasons in no way affects whether they had a right to secede. It's the nature of rights that they can be abused.
8.12.2008 5:10pm
DCP:

This reminds me of The Simpsons episode where Apu is trying to become an American citizen. During the citizenship test he is asked what caused the Civil War. He begins to go into a lengthy diatribe about all of the economic and political origins, when the test administrator interupts him and says "just say 'slavery', it's a lot easier that way."

Apu: "ok, slavery"
8.12.2008 5:14pm
EH (mail):
DCP: Too late!. It's perfect for these stories, though!
8.12.2008 5:18pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun
Dusty Baker, is that you?
8.12.2008 5:19pm
mad the swine (mail):
"So there's no implicit *ban* on secession in the Constitution, but there is an implicit *right* to secede? "

Yes. That whole 'limited and enumerated rights' thing. Show me where, in the Constitution, the government is given the right to use force to prevent a state from leaving the Union.
8.12.2008 5:20pm
Ilya Somin:
Ilya, you still have not even acknowledged that fully one third of the Confederacy declined to secede, mostly because of slavery. They only seceded after Lincoln chose to provoke a war.



Actually, nearly all the slave states that ever seceded did so before war broke out. The few slave states that didn't either had very few slaves to begin with (Delaware), or were occupied by Union forces before they could act (Missouri). The key state of Virginia seceded after fighting broke out, but they would have had no reason to support the previously seceding states but for their concern for the future of slavery. In any event, there would have been no war and no Virginia secession but for the states that seceded before Fort Sumter - all of which cited slavery as the primary reason for their actions.




This historical white washing is unseemly for a law professor. Slavery was indeed very important to many people, but it was certainly not the only cause.



It was by far the dominant cause. There would have been no secession without it.
8.12.2008 5:22pm
CJColucci:
Ilya:
Surely you have a sense of the crowd this sort of posrt attracts. Why encourage it? There may, incidentally, be larger issues on the general subject of who attracts what and why, but now is not the time to go into them.
8.12.2008 5:22pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Yes. That whole 'limited and enumerated rights' thing. Show me where, in the Constitution, the government is given the right to use force to prevent a state from leaving the Union.
Asked and answered, many times. Rather than repeating the same ahistorical nonsense as other confederate apologists, go read the other thread on this topic.

Just in case you don't, I will once again point out that the federal government is explicitly authorized to suppress insurrections and to suspend habeas corpus in cases of rebellion. And the constitution explicitly defines treason as making war on the U.S., which firing upon U.S. troops certainly is.
8.12.2008 5:24pm
keithwaters (mail):
I doubt that the Constitution would have passed had the ratifiers known they were entering an arrangement they could not leave.

The posters who say the Union was indivisible from the start could helpfully provide us with quotes from the Framers. I believe they will search in vain. That is, unless you dredge up something from the guy who was shot in New Jersey by Aaron Burr.

Why they wanted to leave is unimportant. The issue is could they leave?
8.12.2008 5:26pm
Ilya Somin:
1) The casus belli given for public consumption is not always the actual cause of the war. See, for example, Iraq. Slavery was a popular rallying cry, yes; but just because it was one of the more common reasons doesn't make it the only, or the most important, reason for secession.

Even if this is true, it implies that the southern public believed that the war was about slavery, even if the leaders didn't - which still suggests that slavery was the main motive of most secession supporters. In reality, of course, the leaders did not have some secret agenda other than slavery. Most of them were big slaveowners themselves.


2) Even if slavery was the primary cause of secession, under the law and the Constitution the North had no right to go to war - either to prevent secession or to abolish slavery - because the right to both was guaranteed by the Founding Fathers. As loathsome as modern society considers the peculiar institution - and liberal historians have certainly exaggerated its loathsomeness - its existence did not justify war, forced conscription, an end to federalism and states' rights, and all the other horrors the North forced upon the South in the name of Unity.


Federalism and states' rights did not "end" with the Civil War. The Federal government remained quite limited until the 1930s. Neither slavery nor secession is "guaranteed" by the Constitution. The latter isn't even mentioned in the text. Slavery in the states was indirectly protected against federal govt interference by limits on federal power. However, the North was not proposing to abolish slavery in the states by ordinary legislation.

Be that as it may, even if slavery was legal, that doesn't mean that secession to protect slavery was justifiable. Some principles are more important than legality. Freedom, in my view, is one of them.
8.12.2008 5:26pm
Hoosier:
David M. Nieporent and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun
Dusty Baker, is that you?


OK. That was great.
8.12.2008 5:26pm
darelf:
I don't get it. I'm Louisiana born and bred, and slavery ( that is, the stubborn refusal to relinquish racial slavery ) was the reason for all the suffering and war.

It's one thing to be wrong about a moral issue and repent of it. It's a whole other problem to be wrong and then double down.

The fact is that racial slavery was recognized as the abomination it was, and it was being ( albeit slowly ) abolished. Those that supported slavery and strove to maintain it deserved their fate and every drop of American blood shed during the War falls on their heads. They did not deserve the mercy they were granted in the end, yet mercy was extended; more compassion than they had ever shown to their fellow human beings.
8.12.2008 5:26pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Ilya, clearly you are a law professor and neither an historian nor a mathematician.

Eleven states were in the Confederacy. Four of the eleven didn't secede until after Lincoln provoked the war.

These four states had voted against secession, and then Lincoln decided to push harder and provoke a war. He could have waited and let heads cool off but he perferred killing people.
8.12.2008 5:31pm
Ben DeGrow (mail) (www):
For those inclined to wade more deeply into the debate,
I have written about this subject at length:

Thanks to the author of this post for also introducing the evidence of official secession resolutions from four of the Deep South states - including the two that seceded first (SC &MS) and pushed the momentum toward disunion.
8.12.2008 5:32pm
CharlesO.:
nteresting article by Murray Rothbard on this issue:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard175.html



The road to Civil War must be divided into two parts:
1. the causes of the controversy over slavery leading to secession, and
2. the immediate causes of the war itself.
The reason for such split is that secession need not have led to Civil War, despite the assumption to the contrary by most historians.
The basic root of the controversy over slavery to secession, in my opinion, was the aggressive, expansionist aims of the Southern "slavocracy." Very few Northerners proposed to abolish slavery in the Southern states by aggressive war; the objection -- and certainly a proper one -- was to the attempt of the Southern slavocracy to extend the slave system to the Western territories. The apologia that the Southerners feared that eventually they might be outnumbered and that federal abolition might ensue is no excuse; it is the age-old alibi for "preventive war." Not only did the expansionist aim of the slavocracy to protect slavery by federal fiat in the territories as "property" aim to foist the immoral system of slavery on Western territories; it even violated the principles of states' rights to which the South was supposedly devoted -- and which would logically have led to a "popular sovereignty" doctrine.
8.12.2008 5:34pm
keithwaters (mail):
Were the people at the Hartford Convention also traitors?

If you want to read a tortured interpretation of the preamble to the Constitution, take a look at White v. Texas in which the Supreme Court did a nineteenth century version of Harry Blackman's abortion reasoning.
8.12.2008 5:34pm
MarkField (mail):

I doubt that the Constitution would have passed had the ratifiers known they were entering an arrangement they could not leave.


I hate to burst your bubble, but every single state ratified the Articles of Confederation, the full formal title of which was "Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia."

This wasn't a secret.
8.12.2008 5:37pm
TomH (mail):
Mad the Swine's observation that - The casus belli given for public consumption is not always the actual cause of the war. Is likely true to a large extent.

It is the province of pundits (bloggers,commenters and conspirators), and unending grist for the mill, to point out that any express statement by a person made in a political context, is just a smokescreen for their "real" intentions.

Makes me sad and frustrated to believe that I can trust nothing and the whole world is inscrutable.

By the way, since the 1861 South, and the leadership there, was presumably not ashamed of its "peculiar institution," why would either the governments or the people bother to whitewash the reasons for secession with some blather about states rights and tariffs? Some could consider it to be benign ex post facto justification.
8.12.2008 5:37pm
MarkField (mail):

Were the people at the Hartford Convention also traitors?


Did they levy war against the United States? Adhere to the enemies of the United States, giving them aid and comfort?

Then no.
8.12.2008 5:39pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
These four states had voted against secession, and then Lincoln decided to push harder and provoke a war. He could have waited and let heads cool off but he perferred killing people.
He "perferred" [sic] killing people, so he... sent food? Not very efficient. Seems like he could have instead just ordered shot the traitors who were besieging an American fort, if he wanted to kill people.

Seems like the people who actually attacked American military forces would be the ones who ought to be accused of provoking the war.
8.12.2008 5:40pm
Aultimer:
Prof - Good week to move to Philly - temps in the low 80s and enough folks "down the shore" that there's light traffic everywhere.
8.12.2008 5:45pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
The Virginia Ordnance of Secession makes no mention of slavery, only of states rights. Slavery was certainly an issue, but the attempt to blast all the states with the same brush is misguided.
8.12.2008 5:51pm
trad and anon:
Just to get 'way back to the original, Ann Althouse-inspired subject, though, the fact that the South seceded (or may have seceded) for ignominious reasons in no way affects whether they had a right to secede. It's the nature of rights that they can be abused.
I have no interest in the question of whether the Southern states had a "right" to secede. If the Union's end of the Civil War was unconstitutional, then so much the worse for the Constitution.
8.12.2008 5:52pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
Madswine:
Slavery was not the primary motive for secession because the Southerners *said* that slavery was the primary motive for secession. And we all know that when you secede, you want to put a good face on your secession by concealing your real reason behind something that gets lots of good PR--like slavery.

Madswine:
Slavery was not the primary motive for secession because the South had the right to secede.

Skyler:
Slavery was not the primary motive for secession because as many as 1/3! of the seceding states did not secede as soon as Lincoln was elected.

Skyler:
Slavery was not the primary motive for secession because I call Lincoln a war criminal!
8.12.2008 5:52pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
The Virginia Ordnance of Secession makes no mention of slavery, only of states rights.

Curiously the regions of Virginia that had a high percentage of slaves voted overwhelmingly for secession and the regions that did not voted overwhelmingly against it and later broke away.
8.12.2008 5:56pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Nieporent,

You have a modern concept of American forces. Back then, states were sovereign. Most people, before that war started, identified themselves as citizens of a state, not the US.

It was a terrible war, started for very bad reasons with only one good result, the abolition of slavery. The victorious northerners like to rewrite history to make it appear that this sole good result was the entire cause of the war, the only reason it was waged. It's not that simple.
8.12.2008 5:59pm
KRS:
wow. that's about as clear as it gets, I think.
8.12.2008 6:01pm
Anderson (mail):
The Virginia Ordnance of Secession makes no mention of slavery, only of states rights.

As Mr. Mandias's comment suggests, the drafters had very sound political reasons for not wishing to appear to stake their bets on slavery.

Besides which, they probably just had better taste than the Miss. drafters. That tropical Virginian sun wasn't going to pass the laugh test.
8.12.2008 6:05pm
Anderson (mail):
victorious northerners like to rewrite history

Wow. Good thing for Skyler that irony isn't fatal.
8.12.2008 6:05pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):
Just curious, how is slavery so different than socialism? Just seems to me many people argue against slavery very rabidly, but also believe in more social or "national" programs.

Also, if the north fought to end slavery, could there not have been an easier less bloody way to end slavery, kind of like what happened in the rest of the world save some few countries.
8.12.2008 6:07pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Anderson, please remain civil.
8.12.2008 6:08pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Anderson, please remain civil.
8.12.2008 6:08pm
Bama 1L:
Professor Somin, did you really not see this coming?

I wonder if anyone wants to argue that the Protestant denominations split over something other than slavery.
8.12.2008 6:09pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
Also, if the north fought to end slavery, could there not have been an easier less bloody way to end slavery, kind of like what happened in the rest of the world save some few countries.

I have always believed that the slaves should have been liberated with rosewater and elderstalk squirts.
8.12.2008 6:10pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
I wonder if anyone wants to argue that the Protestant denominations split over something other than slavery.

Or the Democratic party.
8.12.2008 6:11pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
Or the American party.
8.12.2008 6:11pm
Bama 1L:
Also, if the north fought to end slavery, could there not have been an easier less bloody way to end slavery, kind of like what happened in the rest of the world save some few countries.

If the southern states hadn't seceded and begun a Civil War, we might have found out.
8.12.2008 6:13pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):
I have always believed that the slaves should have been liberated with rosewater and elderstalk squirts.


Have you never looked at how the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, among others ended slavery? Those obviously did not end in open massive warfare like the U.S. did, if the North truly wanted to end slavery why did it take the most violent way?
8.12.2008 6:14pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):
If the southern states hadn't seceded and begun a Civil War, we might have found out.

What if the north did not try to alienate the south by pushing the rapid abolition of slavery? The north had many people like John Brown that wished open fighting against the south to stop slavery as soon as possible, that would rightly frighten the south. That's very much like the north having very good public transportation while the south doesn't (which is mostly true right now) and then the north pushing strict enviromental laws to ban private vehicle ownership, it would not very much hurt the north, but would decimate the south, which it did.
8.12.2008 6:19pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
Have you never looked at how the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, among others ended slavery?

None of these really had slavery in their home territories and in any case their colonies didn't secede when they abolished slavery. Not really sure what your point is. That the South shouldn't have seceded? Agreed.
8.12.2008 6:22pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
What if the north did not try to alienate the south by pushing the rapid abolition of slavery?

The North didn't push the rapid abolition of slavery. Abraham Lincoln ran on a platform of prohibiting the expansion of slavery into the federal territories while leaving it alone in the states where it already was. Douglas ran on a platform of allowing each territory to decide for itself whether it wanted slavery or not. Breckinridge (the Southern candidate) ran on a platform of *requiring* slavery in all federal territories and protecting it with a federal slave code. The Northern vote was split between Lincoln and Douglas. No candidate ran on a platform of *pushing abolition*.
8.12.2008 6:25pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
if the North truly wanted to end slavery why did it take the most violent way?

Because the South had guns and was willing to use them? Why did the Allies have to be so violent in liberating Europe from the Nazis?
8.12.2008 6:27pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):

None of these really had slavery in their home territories and in any case their colonies didn't secede when they abolished slavery. Not really sure what your point is. That the South shouldn't have seceded? Agreed.


Where did you get that idea?

My point was these countries ended slavery without a massive war, what stopped the north from doing that? A few radicals that scared the south into secession? These countries ended slavery in a distant part of their country, much how the north and the south were (and are) very different parts of the same country, was the north so incompetent that they could only end slavery by open war?
8.12.2008 6:27pm
Bama 1L:
Pinkycatcher, consider reframing the question. Why did the leaders of the southern states believe they had to retain slavery at all costs, including disunion and civil war?

The leaders of the southern states seceded and started the war to avoid a particular outcome: their fears of what Lincoln and the Republicans would do. Since they lost the war, they must not have got their way, right?

But didn't they come out okay? Fifty years after secession, southern whites were still in power--really the same families and types of people that had been in power at secession. There was not social, political, or economic equality of the races. Whites were still on top. The post-slavery economic arrangements may have even been more profitable to elites--or at least the more entrepeneurial ones--than the pre-slavery ones had been. Arguably, white southern elites had all the things they had feared the election of Lincoln would cost them--even though they had seceded, lost a bloody war, and had to suffer the fabled horrors of Reconstruction.

Now, would the radical Republican agenda of the 1860s, absent secession and civil war, have resulted in a worse outcome for southern whites? So why did the southern whites calling the shots in 1860-61 choose the bloodiest way possible to preserve the form of chattel slavery, when they could have achieved their goals without it?
8.12.2008 6:27pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):
Because the South had guns and was willing to use them? Why did the Allies have to be so violent in liberating Europe from the Nazis?

So you're saying that the north was morally superior because the south had a dictorial government that exterminated mass amounts of blacks through horrendous means and the south also invaded the rest of the continent?

Wouldn't the extermination of slaves be contrary to actually having slaves? It is in the slave owners best economic and moral interest the keep their slaves happy and healthy and alive, because it seems sick and dead people can't work?
8.12.2008 6:31pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
How strange. Here's a document identifying that slavery was an important institution because it was the foundation of the Southern economy.

Why, I believe that is what I said.

And yet, I was called a "troll" and a defender of slavery. The simple fact that the Southern economy indeed was built on slavery, and indeed would - and did - collapse after its abolition, which indeed meant ruin and abject poverty for countless people... well, that doesn't matter. The consequences of rapid forcible change were not the issue; the change was good. The end justified the means. To end slavery was the goal, let the chips fall where they may, and if that distracted the progressive mind from other human rights violations? Well, we'll just pretend those aren't really human rights violations at all.

Slavery was a central issue of the war. What was not a central issue of the war was the idea that slavery was some sort of common good, which should exist in and of itself because of some racist agenda. The war had nothing to do with human rights, it was about commerce. It was about whether agriculture or industry would have the ears of politicians, but industry wanted everyone to believe it was somehow about their deep concern for the black man in the South, and history is written by the victors.

The war was about money. Not slaves, not states' rights, not human rights. Money. It was always about money. It was never about anything else. The South had it, the North wanted it, so they came down and took it - not like a thief, but like an anarchist, burning what they couldn't build so they could make their own corrupt system in their own twisted image. Slavery wasn't replaced by a just and fair system, but by a system that was unjust and unfair to different people - white people, christian people, for whom suffering was a virtue and virtue was its own reward.

And if you'll defend that, I suggest you would have defended slavery, had it buttered your bread.
8.12.2008 6:34pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):
But didn't they come out okay? Fifty years after secession, southern whites were still in power--really the same families and types of people that had been in power at secession. There was not social, political, or economic equality of the races. Whites were still on top. The post-slavery economic arrangements may have even been more profitable to elites--or at least the more entrepeneurial ones--than the pre-slavery ones had been. Arguably, white southern elites had all the things they had feared the election of Lincoln would cost them--even though they had seceded, lost a bloody war, and had to suffer the fabled horrors of Reconstruction.

But they didn't end up the same, they ended up with reconstruction which was worse on everyone than slavery, the south hasn't recovered from reconstruction to this day. Antebellum the south would have been the third richest country in the world if it were it's own country, industrialization would have soon gotten hold in the south much like it had in the north, increasing agricultural capacities requiring less and less workers would have driven slavery into nothingness where the general public would support abolition. Instead the issue was pressed which would cause the downfall (and did) of the south, so the south seceded, which then led to war. (Who started it is up to intrepretation)
8.12.2008 6:35pm
Hoosier:
"But they didn't end up the same, they ended up with reconstruction which was worse on everyone than slavery, the south hasn't recovered from reconstruction to this day. "

Absolutely untrue. That represents a discredited historiographical trend. The Dunning School is no more, thank God. As it turns out, Reconstruction was puting the South on the path toward economic development, as well as a more just politics. The shame is that it was undone when Northern whites lost interest.
8.12.2008 6:42pm
trad and anon:
It was a terrible war
Indeed. Wars suck; the Civil War was especially nasty.
started for very bad reasons
Agreed. The preservation of slavery was a very bad reason.
with only one good result, the abolition of slavery.
I sure can't think of any others either.
The victorious northerners like to rewrite history to make it appear that this sole good result was the entire cause of the war, the only reason it was waged.
Of course it wasn't the entire cause or the only reason. Historical events of that magnitude never have only a single cause. But that doesn't change the fact that slavery was the most important cause.
8.12.2008 6:44pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):

Absolutely untrue. That represents a discredited historiographical trend. The Dunning School is no more, thank God. As it turns out, Reconstruction was puting the South on the path toward economic development, as well as a more just politics. The shame is that it was undone when Northern whites lost interest.

So the south is poorer then the north, which was the opposite before the civil war because of something other than reconstruction but reconstruction had nothing to do with it? Please do tell...
8.12.2008 6:44pm
Hoosier:
"The war was about money. Not slaves, not states' rights, not human rights. Money. It was always about money. It was never about anything else. "

Didn't you say earlier that one had to lok at the motivations of the soldiers who fought and died for the Confederacy? What happened to that line of the argument? Or were the Federals all in it for the money?

That just doesn't make a lot of sense.
8.12.2008 6:44pm
Bama 1L:
Pinkycatcher, YES, the issue did not need to be pressed--but it was the southern leadership that pressed it. They could have let slavery die out as it did in Brazil (the example you did not mention and a much stronger one for you). They could have embraced the transition to industry. Instead, they wanted their socio-economic system to stay exactly as it was forever.

So they seceded and pretty much guaranteed abolition. What, exactly, was Lincoln's covert plan to free the slaves during peace?

I'm not up to arguing about reconstruction and its continuing negative effects; I can only deal with one cherished myth at a time. All things considered, the people who started the Civil War got off very easy. When else have insurrectionaries been treated so lightly?
8.12.2008 6:45pm
trad and anon:
with only one good result, the abolition of slavery.
I sure can't think of any others either.
Self-correction: the Reconstruction Amendments were a good result too.
8.12.2008 6:46pm
Hoosier:
"So the south is poorer then the north, which was the opposite before the civil war because of something other than reconstruction but reconstruction had nothing to do with it? Please do tell..."

Pinky--So did you just skip over the "industrialization" chapter in your history book?

Let's add to that the fact that cotton was not nearly as valuable in the decades after the Civil War as it had originally been. King Cotton got fat off exports to Britain. With the embargo during the Civil War, the Brits decided to seek "alternative" fuels . . . um, I mean alternative cotton suplies. Thus, they begin using the Nile Valley as their embargo-proof source of cotton. The result? Cotton prices fall.

Really, it ain't that hard.
8.12.2008 6:48pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):
I'm not up to arguing about reconstruction and its continuing negative effects; I can only deal with one cherished myth at a time. All things considered, the people who started the Civil War got off very easy. When else have insurrectionaries been treated so lightly?

Getting constitutional amendments that change wholly the way the government is run from the bottom up virtually putting in a new type of government, and being barred from serving from office by a constitutional amendment that's the only way it could pass any muster, plus being economically wrecked for over a century, being forced under a government appointed by people who don't live in your state, among other things by the way, is getting off easy?
8.12.2008 6:51pm
trad and anon:
The post-slavery economic arrangements may have even been more profitable to elites--or at least the more entrepeneurial ones--than the pre-slavery ones had been.
Also, the South managed to establish de facto reenslavement of a lot of "free" blacks through a combination of state refusal to enforce the rights of blacks, laws prescribing forced labor (which the state would then sell) for real or imagined petty crimes, and so on.
8.12.2008 6:53pm
AnneS:
Pinkycatcher - YOu clearly don't know or understand history very well. The South became poorer, not because of Reconstruction or even the end of slavery, but because it failed to industrialize as the North did. Its predominant agricultural model was unsustainable, miring its largest landholders in a cycle of perpetual debt.

The abolitionists who were pushing forcible end to slavery in the slave slates, despite Northern and Southern historical revisionism to the contrary, were not a strong political force. The supporters of John Brown were not influential. The South was in no danger of having the end to slavery forced upon it by either a federal law or a rebellion fomented by radical abolitionists. ANd the North did not fight to end slavery - they fought to prevent their country from being split up.

Face it, the South precipitated the end to slavery via military action. It was their decision to secede and their decision to fire on Fort Sumter that set in motion the end to slavery by warfare.

(And not for nothing, but to whoever said that the sole good result of the war was to end slavery - that's a pretty big good result. Most wars don't accomplish half as much good.)
8.12.2008 6:53pm
Bama 1L:
Getting constitutional amendments that change wholly the way the government is run from the bottom up virtually putting in a new type of government, and being barred from serving from office by a constitutional amendment that's the only way it could pass any muster, plus being economically wrecked for over a century, being forced under a government appointed by people who don't live in your state, among other things by the way, is getting off easy?

Compared to being lined up and shot? Yes, it's getting off easy.
8.12.2008 6:54pm
CJColucci:
To press Lincoln's question, what would have satisfied the South?
Southern states began to seceded upon the mere election of a President who had explicitly disclaimed the power to touch the South's peculiar institution where it existed. Apparently, restricting slavery only in the territories did not satisfy them.
The Democratic South refused to vote for the most eminent man in the party, whose platform was popular sovereignty. Leaving slavery up to the people of the territories would not have satisfied them.
Unhappy with being represented in Congress and the electoral college well out of proportion to their free, voting populations, the Southern states wanted federal guarantees of more slave states, whatever the wishes of the people who settled them, to preserve and extend their disproportionate influence in the national government. Why should northern voters have agreed to that?
8.12.2008 6:57pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):
Pinky--So did you just skip over the "industrialization" chapter in your history book?

Let's add to that the fact that cotton was not nearly as valuable in the decades after the Civil War as it had originally been. King Cotton got fat off exports to Britain. With the embargo during the Civil War, the Brits decided to seek "alternative" fuels . . . um, I mean alternative cotton suplies. Thus, they begin using the Nile Valley as their embargo-proof source of cotton. The result? Cotton prices fall.


Ouch, how rude.

So you're saying that the only crop that could in any way be grown in the south was cotton? No, when or if cotton prices would have fell different crops would have been planted, but they wern't and the south was not industrialized, that's probably one of the biggest reasons the south lost. Also are you saying that the south would not have become more industrialized if the civil war was not fought?

That was not one of my best put-together ideas though.
8.12.2008 6:57pm
MarkField (mail):

So the south is poorer then the north, which was the opposite before the civil war because of something other than reconstruction but reconstruction had nothing to do with it? Please do tell...


For one thing, the North was richer than the South prior to the Civil War. In fact, the disparity in resources is something Lost Cause defenders like to cite as evidence that Southern soldiers were better than their Northern counterparts. For another, you're overlooking the impact on the South of the war itself. Sherman, remember? Finally, the abolition of slavery destroyed roughly a billion dollars in Southern capital. The North tried to supply that during Reconstruction, but the Southern terrorists wouldn't allow it.

Really, if you want to know something about Reconstruction, there's no better book than Eric Foner's "Reconstruction".
8.12.2008 6:57pm
Stephen C. Carlson (www):
The Virginia Ordnance of Secession makes no mention of slavery, only of states rights.

No, it mentions "the Southern slaveholding States". Looks like a mention of slavery to me.
8.12.2008 6:57pm
Anderson (mail):
Skyler: if you think being called on laughable b.s. is "uncivil," then I suggest finding other pastimes besides blog commenting ... or, goodness knows, refraining from the posting of laughable b.s.

Free advice!
8.12.2008 7:01pm
trad and anon:
Compared to being lined up and shot? Yes, it's getting off easy.
Yeah. Throughout history, the traditional punishment for treason has been summary execution.
8.12.2008 7:03pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Why would the Confederates have lied about slavery being the sole or primary reason for secession? There are several reasons:

(1) The Confederates could make a constitutional issue out of slavery but not out of high tariffs. The Confederates claimed that the Republicans' and Northern Democrats' opposition to unlimited expansion of slavery in the territories violated the Constitution as interpreted by the Dred Scott decision. Confederates claimed that this alleged constitutional violation freed them from any obligation to remain in the Union.

(2) In the slave states of the middle and upper South, the slavery issue probably had more appeal than the tariffs issue.

(3) The Confederates were exploiting the furor over John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry.

Secession hurt rather than helped the interests of the slaveowners. Secession drastically reduced the power of the slave states in the federal government. Secession split the slave states when they needed to stick together. The Confederates ignored the Corwin Amendment and the Crittenden Compromise, both of which would have permanently barred the federal government from interfering with slavery in the states. There was no near-term threat to slavery. Not surprisingly, many abolitionists were strongly in favor of secession of the slave states.

Southerners could not be expected to tolerate an armed invasion of their states just because one of the issues was slavery.

History is very complicated and there are no single simple answers.
8.12.2008 7:06pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):
Compared to being lined up and shot? Yes, it's getting off easy

I do believe the south would not agree.
8.12.2008 7:10pm
Pinkycatcher (mail):

Really, if you want to know something about Reconstruction, there's no better book than Eric Foner's "Reconstruction".


I do have that book right here actually, not but 3 feet from my desk, I will review it over again though if you wish me to.
8.12.2008 7:11pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
@Pinkycatcher:
"Have you never looked at how the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, among others ended slavery? Those obviously did not end in open massive warfare like the U.S. did, if the North truly wanted to end slavery why did it take the most violent way?"
The situation of European countries was very different:
1) The systematic agricultural slavery that dominated much of the USA was not prevalent in Europe. It was in some colonies, but colonists are less able to muster political control. Thus, slavery thrived in the US far longer than in Europe.
2) The rapid westward growth of the USA, and the democratic government, ensured rapid political change. Each new state admitted could change the balance of congress and the electoral college. Thus, it was obvious that slavery needed to expand in the USA, or it was doomed. Slave states sought to head-off an erosion of slavery, like the 25 year progression in Britain from the Slave Trade Act to the Slavery Abolition Act.
3) Europe was, had been, and would continue to be, a collection of closely spaced, potentially hostile powers. A civil war on the scale of the American Civil War would have been an invitation for outside invasion. The USA was seperated from anyone who could militarily challenge it by oceans, and even then France took advantage of the opportunity to invade Mexico, despite Union objections.

"What if the north did not try to alienate the south by pushing the rapid abolition of slavery?"
As others have noted (including the Confederate apologists who claim that the war wasn't about slavery), the north was not pushing for a rapid end to slavery. They were stopping its expansion.

"The north had many people like John Brown that wished open fighting against the south to stop slavery as soon as possible, that would rightly frighten the south."
John Brown was hanged, and the Republican party condemned his actions.
As for who "wished open fighting", various states seceded (without violent provocation), and rebel artillary fired the first shots when federal forts were not evacuated. So, it appears the south wanted open fighting more.

"That's very much like the north having very good public transportation while the south doesn't (which is mostly true right now) and then the north pushing strict enviromental laws to ban private vehicle ownership, it would not very much hurt the north, but would decimate the south, which it did."
I have no idea where you're getting this, but I assure you that only the very lunatic fringe wants "to ban private vehicle ownership". It's true the "enviromental laws" may raise the price of vehicles, but a tax is not a ban, especially since federal highway funds also subsidize driving; if the cost worries you, maybe the southern states should invest in "very good public transportation".
8.12.2008 7:16pm
Perseus (mail):
"and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun"

Well, there you have it. It's a law of nature.
Why was the North opposed to nature and God's will?
Nature also forbids abortion, homosexuality, and oral sex, but happily those weren't issues in 1861.


But it was Southerners like Alexander Stephens who rejected the Founders' view of natural law in favor of the modern science view of nature to defend slavery (and which is now invoked to defend practices like abortion and homosexual sex):

The prevailing ideas entertained by him [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically...Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea...the truth of this principle may be slow in development, as all truths are and ever have been, in the various branches of science. It was so with the principles announced by Galileo--it was so with Adam Smith and his principles of political economy--it was so with Harvey, and his theory of the circulation of the blood. It is stated that not a single one of the medical profession, living at the time of the announcement of the truths made by him, admitted them. Now, they are universally acknowledged. May we not, therefore, look with confidence to the ultimate universal acknowledgment of the truths upon which our system rests?
8.12.2008 7:19pm
Gregory Conen (mail):
"The war was about money. Not slaves, not states' rights, not human rights. Money. It was always about money."

Of course it was. Most wars in that part of history are about wealth, in one way or another. The people who started the war were fighting for wealth.
8.12.2008 7:20pm
LN (mail):
It was about money... money from the backs of black slave labor. Nothing to do with slavery at all, evil northern revisionists!
8.12.2008 7:28pm
pluribus:
Prof. Somin's post is again on point. And the Confederate apologists and deniers are once again out in force. They will never tire of denying the facts. I am frankly tired of reading the same old obfuscations. The post criticizing Somin as a bad historian and a bad mathematician is typical. If Somin's points were not supported by every serious historian of the Civil War working today, the criticism wouldn't be nearly as ridiculous as it is.
8.12.2008 7:37pm
Randy R. (mail):
Caliban: "The South had it, the North wanted it, so they came down and took it - not like a thief, but like an anarchist, burning what they couldn't build so they could make their own corrupt system in their own twisted image."

Except that the north was far richer than the south due to industrialization. Remember all those poor immigrants you were talking about earlier? Why didn't they settle in the south, if it was so rich? No, they went to where the jobs and opportunities were, which was the north.

But now I get it. You and Pinky have this image of the south being this wonderful Tara-like life, where slave masters treated their slaves with kindness -- giving them a roof, food, clothes to a grateful and ignorant race of people. The south was rich -- rich in traditions, mint juleps, sitting on the porches, telling stories. The south had manners and grace, unlike the unwashed masses up north. The south had *gentlemen*, the north had money grubbers.

Then, for no reason at all other than pure greed, the north decides that it wants that life too, and if they can't, then they will invade the south and destroy it all. And so, a languid life of ease and happiness was just gone with the wind.

How romantic. Except for the slaves, of course. But you weren't called a troll because you think money was the cause of the war, you were called a troll because you explicitly stated that slavery was better for people than what immigrants had up north. Sorry, but any defense of slavery is indefensible.
8.12.2008 8:13pm
Randy R. (mail):
Perseus: "Nature also forbids abortion, homosexuality, and oral sex, but happily those weren't issues in 1861.

But it was Southerners like Alexander Stephens who rejected the Founders' view of natural law in favor of the modern science view of nature to defend slavery (and which is now invoked to defend practices like abortion and homosexual sex)."

Well, I dont' know where you get your information, but I can tell that Nature certianly doesn't forbid homosexuality. Researchers have identified dozens of species in which homosexuality exists to a certain degree.

As for me, I can certainly tell you that Nature hasn't stopped me at all!

But I am curious -- any cite for the notion that 'modern science' supports slavery? oooo -- all those evil scientists wanting to enslave everyone else!
8.12.2008 8:17pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
So the south is poorer then the north, which was the opposite before the civil war because of something other than reconstruction but reconstruction had nothing to do with it? Please do tell

What else might explain why the South was poorer after the Civil War than before? Possibly the Civil War?

Hmm. It turns out that economy is often worse off if you continue on a warfooting until 1/3 of your male citizens are casualties and your economy is suffering rampant shortages and inflation.
8.12.2008 8:18pm
MarkField (mail):

As for me, I can certainly tell you that Nature hasn't stopped me at all!


Reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Richard Brinsley Sheridan: "Nothing is unnatural unless it's physically impossible."
8.12.2008 8:37pm
Spitzer:

The key state of Virginia seceded after fighting broke out, but they would have had no reason to support the previously seceding states but for their concern for the future of slavery. In any event, there would have been no war and no Virginia secession but for the states that seceded before Fort Sumter - all of which cited slavery as the primary reason for their actions.


Ilya,

I hesitate to get involved in this silly historical dispute raging among lawyers, but your logic is simply incredible. First, the "south" did not secede; instead, a bunch of states in the south seceded. That is an important point: it was not a regional secession, but a variety of different secessions, each possibly for their own reasons (and certainly the voting was done by different groups of politicians). To cite a single statement, or smallish group of statements, as evidence for the "motivation" for secession is no different from relying on statements made in darkened committee rooms at 2 in the morning as binding "legislative history".

Second, your point about Virginia is awful. You argue, above, (1) "they would have had no reason to support the previously seceding states but for their concern for the future of slavery" and (2) "there would have been no war and no Virginia secession but for the states that seceded before Fort Sumter". The first point is simply tautological - they seceded to protect slavery because there was no reason to secede but for slavery - when in fact there were many reasons for secession, even among those evil South Carolinians. For instance, there was a longstanding, and deep, economic dispute between the (protectionist) industrial north and the (cotton-exporting, and therefore pro-trade) Deep South. Among the border states, that dispute was lessened somewhat, but that doesn't mean that "slavery" was the only dispute motivated people. Frankly, Virginians may have had many reasons - including slavery - to be sympathetic to South Carolina. But after Fort Sumter - and after Lincoln ordered an army to march on South Carolina - the tempo of events simply favored secession, empowering the radicals (secessionists) and undermining the fence-sitters. So, Ilya, why did Virginia secede? I don't know, and neither do you, but I very much doubt that slavery was the "only" issue for secession to most of the legislators who voted in favor of it.

Second, "there would have been no war and no Virginia secession but for the states that seceded before Fort Sumter"? Are you serious? So WWII was caused by the Poles who failed to surrender the Danzig corridor? Frankly, that's not a good argument, even for a lawyer.

Moreover,
Actually, nearly all the slave states that ever seceded did so before war broke out. The few slave states that didn't either had very few slaves to begin with (Delaware), or were occupied by Union forces before they could act (Missouri).


That is incorrect. Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina all seceded after Virginia. Maryland tried to secede, but the legislators in Annapolis were convinced otherwise at the point of a gun (though many Marylanders vounteered to serve the CSA). Kentucky and Missouri divided over the war and, of course, part of Virginia (under Union military command) seceded from Virginia. The point here is simple: some states in the Deep South, representing the principal cotton-growing slaveholding pro-free trade region, seceded quickly; the upper southern states, which had fewer slaves and relied less on cotton (and, thus, had fewer economic interests tied up with the free trade issue), joined after the fighting started.


But, to end my comment, I have to state simply that the search for a "single cause" of historical events - and, often, the bigger the event, the more singular the "cause" - is wrongheaded. Major human events like secession involve the collective decisions of millions of people, some with more authority than others. To suggest that the thousands who voted (yes, secession was a "small-d" democratic endeavor) did so on a single issue is equally wrongheaded. Do you deny that people might vote the same way for different reasons? I'm sorry, but this isn't a Supreme Court case, with a single "decision" based on a defined set of facts and laws, this was a democratic human society making a collective judgment. And the only "single" thing about it was the result - secession.

BTW, I am not a confederate apologist or sympathizer, merely a trained historian who gets irritated with simplistic determinism. Complex events are, well, complex, and instead of inventing a simple theory of causation post hoc, such events are better studied and explored for their rich complexity. As for the post about "serious" American civil war historians, I can confidently state that (a) it is not correct that they all simplify the Civil War so, and (b) they are starting to follow the approach taken by historians of England's Civil Wars, who have turned away from the Marxist theories of the past (rise of the middle class caused the war!) to looking to the "functional pressure of events" (see, e.g., Conrad Russell's works, or Chris Haigh's works on the English Reformation(s)). We can all understand the need to simplify and explain - especially when that explanation fits neatly with our personal worldviews and provides a nice pedagogical point or two - but we do ourselves and our ancestors a disservice by lying.
8.12.2008 8:43pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
First, the "south" did not secede; instead, a bunch of states in the south seceded.

Coincidentally, for unrelated reasons. Of course. Hard to explain under your viewpoint why many southerners thought of 'the south,' not their state, as their country, or why the main argument among secessionists was whether each state should act independently, thus pressuring other southern states to secede, or whether the southern states should decide on secession together. But we shouldn't let the facts let us get in the way of our complex, richly nuanced worldviews or of calling people liars.

Perhaps--in your effort not to be simplistic--you could point out where Mr. Somin ever said that slavery was the "only" cause of secession? The quotes are yours, but I'm sure as a trained historian who doesn't attack simplified, strawman versions of posts, you are actually quoting some language of Mr. Somin's.
8.12.2008 8:59pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
You have a modern concept of American forces. Back then, states were sovereign.
I don't think that word means what you think it means. Either that, or you've never read the constitution that they had signed onto.

They couldn't conduct their own foreign policy, enter into treaties even amongst themselves, print their own money, and the constitution and federal law were the supreme law of the land. Nothing about the states made them "sovereign."
Most people, before that war started, identified themselves as citizens of a state, not the US.
I don't think you have any basis for that claim. But it doesn't support your prior statement in any case.
8.12.2008 9:16pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
@Hoosier: "Didn't you say earlier that one had to lok at the motivations of the soldiers who fought and died for the Confederacy?"

No, I never said any such thing.

@Randy R.: "Remember all those poor immigrants you were talking about earlier? Why didn't they settle in the south, if it was so rich?"

Because AMERICA was rich. It wasn't necessary to go to some particular part of America, you just had to get to America, and Europe is due East of the northeastern United States. Go ahead; grab a map of the world, and draw the shortest possible line from Europe to the USA. Does it go to the South? Nope. It goes to New England. So that's where the European immigrants went.
8.12.2008 9:34pm
Perseus (mail):
Well, I dont' know where you get your information, but I can tell that Nature certianly doesn't forbid homosexuality. Researchers have identified dozens of species in which homosexuality exists to a certain degree.

That was precisely what I meant by people who like to invoke the modern science view of nature (especially human nature) in order to justify their conduct. Nature doesn't "forbid" stealing, rape, murder, etc. either if you mean that nature physically restrains it immediately from happening (though those who engage in homosexual sex exclusively--and don't resort to artificial means--would appear to be at a relative long-term genetic disadvantage). The modern conceit is that you can build an edifice of morality without a broader notion of nature.

But I am curious -- any cite for the notion that 'modern science' supports slavery?

A better way to phrase question is: Does modern science support the self-evident (half-)truth of human political equality? Alexander Stephens said no, and developments in modern science since then do not furnish unequivocal support for the proposition.
8.12.2008 9:36pm
MarkField (mail):

To cite a single statement, or smallish group of statements, as evidence for the "motivation" for secession is no different from relying on statements made in darkened committee rooms at 2 in the morning as binding "legislative history".


These weren't just random statements. They were formal declarations of cause, just as the DoI was. Now, we're entitled to read all such Declarations somewhat skeptically in the sense that we expect people to put the best face on their position when making such a statement. Consider, in context, what it says about these Declarations that they considered their "best case" to rest on slavery.

You're also seriously mis-stating Prof. Somin's argument. He never said that this was the ONLY evidence; he merely cited it as particularly convincing (which it is). There's a great deal of additional evidence; indeed, the volume is overwhelming. That's why no serious historian today would deny that slavery caused the war.
8.12.2008 9:39pm
MarkField (mail):

@Randy R.: "Remember all those poor immigrants you were talking about earlier? Why didn't they settle in the south, if it was so rich?"

Because AMERICA was rich. It wasn't necessary to go to some particular part of America, you just had to get to America, and Europe is due East of the northeastern United States. Go ahead; grab a map of the world, and draw the shortest possible line from Europe to the USA. Does it go to the South? Nope. It goes to New England. So that's where the European immigrants went.


One wonders how the South had anyone in it at all.
8.12.2008 9:41pm
AnneS:
". . . developments in modern science since then do not furnish unequivocal support for the proposition."

And natural law or religious approaches are known for their ability to furnish unequivocal and consistent support for specific moral propositions. If you're going to attack a supposedly "modern" approach for reaching the wrong conclusion on occasion, you're going to have to deal with the fact that all approaches to date have the same flaw.
8.12.2008 9:44pm
Randy R. (mail):
Caliban: "It goes to New England. So that's where the European immigrants went."

Some went to Boston, but no further. Most stayed in NYC. All the rest went to Buffalo, Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, Akron, Cincinnati and so on. That's where the jobs were.

Perseus: "That was precisely what I meant by people who like to invoke the modern science view of nature (especially human nature) in order to justify their conduct."

Please tell me how the gay penguins justify their behavior. Do they cite the modern science? Or are they just acting according to nature? I guess nature is pretty darn evil.

"Does modern science support the self-evident (half-)truth of human political equality?" Yup, as far as I can tell. haven't seen anything to the contrary, but if you do, please site it. I read Scientific American occasionally, and I have yet for them to say there should be any polical inequality in humans.

Oh wait. I take that back. Charles Murray does. But most scientists have rejected his studies, so what's wrong with that?
8.12.2008 9:45pm
TDPerkins (mail):

Have you never looked at how the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, among others ended slavery? Those obviously did not end in open massive warfare like the U.S. C.S.A. did, if the North truly wanted to end slavery why did it take the most violent way?


Fixed that for you.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.12.2008 9:50pm
AnneS:
RandyR - Don't forget all those German and Nordic farmers who went straight to the Midwest, where arable land was plentiful. Along with a significant proportion of landless white Southerners. Little available land + fewer jobs = states destined to lose the competition for economic growth. And that was before a shot was ever fired and LONG before Reconstruction was a gleam in a carpetbagger's eye.
8.12.2008 9:52pm
AnneS:
RandyR - Don't forget all those German and Nordic farmers who went straight to the Midwest, where arable land was plentiful. Along with a significant proportion of landless white Southerners. Little available land + fewer jobs = states destined to lose the competition for economic growth. And that was before a shot was ever fired and LONG before Reconstruction was a gleam in a carpetbagger's eye.
8.12.2008 9:52pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Pray tell , guest, Skyler, and other ahistorical slaver's apologists here, how is Lincoln's obeying the Presidential oath of office and enforcing the laws of the United States on the territory where the constitution was adopted any different from Andy Jackson, good southerner he, answering SC's nullification crisis?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.12.2008 9:53pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I'm not sure there's much point in debating Caliban; you're talking about someone who has argued that it's unfair to neo-nazis to call them neo-nazis.
8.12.2008 9:54pm
pluribus:
Spitzer:

We can all understand the need to simplify and explain - especially when that explanation fits neatly with our personal worldviews and provides a nice pedagogical point or two - but we do ourselves and our ancestors a disservice by lying.

And you, sir, do yourself and the profession to which you (claim to) belong a disservice by confusing disagreement with lying. I do hope this was a momentary excess of hyperbole, and not your usual method of dealing with disagreement.
8.12.2008 10:04pm
Randy R. (mail):
Thanks AnneS! And the reason that they moved to the upper western Plains is because the climate was very similar to that of the Nordic areas from whence they came.

According to Caliban, all you had to do was just reach our shores, and riches would fall like manna from heaven (except for those ignorant blacks who needed a benevolent 'massa' to house and clothe them). But David is right -- with some people, you just can't argue with them.
8.12.2008 10:14pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
Sorry for the delay on this, things are hectic over here.

@Randy R.: "you were called a troll because you explicitly stated that slavery was better for people than what immigrants had up north. Sorry, but any defense of slavery is indefensible."

I don't agree. I believe there are worse things than slavery, and that it is a moral imperative to identify them.

Quick, which was better: slavery or the holocaust?

Come on, ONE of them was better. It's easy. Figure out which one was worse, and the other one is better.

I say the industrial approach is worse than slavery, because slavery was already disappearing throughout the civilised world. It wouldn't have seen the turn of the century. But immigrant labor at starvation wages? WE HAVE IT TODAY. It's waiting outside of Home Depot every morning.

I suggest that an injustice which persists for a century and a half is worse than an injustice which would have persisted for less than half a century. Especially since it really doesn't seem to be going anywhere in the foreseeable future. If your objection to slavery is really about the human rights angle, and NOT about objecting to the things that are fashionable and accepted as targets of objection, you should object every bit as strongly to another human rights issue of similar import.

Especially since it's happening right now.
8.12.2008 10:21pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I say the industrial approach is worse than slavery,
And yet, many slaves were eager to get industrial jobs, while no industrial workers were volunteering to become slaves.
because slavery was already disappearing throughout the civilised world. It wouldn't have seen the turn of the century. But immigrant labor at starvation wages? WE HAVE IT TODAY. It's waiting outside of Home Depot every morning.
Really? I must have missed all the dead bodies in the parking lot. Or perhaps the phrase "starvation wages" doesn't mean what you think it means either?
8.12.2008 10:27pm
Caliban Darklock (www):
@Randy R.: "According to Caliban, all you had to do was just reach our shores, and riches would fall like manna from heaven (except for those ignorant blacks who needed a benevolent 'massa' to house and clothe them)."

You know, I keep coming back here and thinking for some reason that sooner or later you people will grow up.

But you don't. It's been what, three, four years? Longer? At some point, you're supposed to learn that it's not an "intelligent debate" to twist someone else's language into something you can ridicule. It's just infantile.

So I'll go away again now, and you can all sit here and pat yourselves on the back about how once again you didn't have to think too hard - or even justify what little you could be arsed to think.
8.12.2008 10:39pm
Perseus (mail):
Please tell me how the gay penguins justify their behavior.

Penguins cannot justify anything because they lack logos, which is an excuse that (most) human beings lack.

"Does modern science support the self-evident (half-)truth of human political equality?" Yup, as far as I can tell. haven't seen anything to the contrary, but if you do, please site it. I read Scientific American occasionally, and I have yet for them to say there should be any polical inequality in humans.

The commitment of most modern scientists to political equality does not seem to flow from their science, which reveals all sorts of physical inequalities between humans--and to be clear I'm not referring to inequalities between races--but rather to their (non-scientific) political beliefs, which denigrate those inequalities. (And I seem to have missed the passage in Charles Murray's book where he rejects political equality and says that those with the highest average IQ--Jews and East Asians--are entitled to rule the other groups without their consent).
8.12.2008 10:46pm
PersonFromPorlock:
David M. Nieporent:

They couldn't conduct their own foreign policy, enter into treaties even amongst themselves, print their own money, and the constitution and federal law were the supreme law of the land. Nothing about the states made them "sovereign."

You raise an interesting point. As you say, "Nothing about the states made them "sovereign." So was the term meaningless? It's often said that the power of the Sovereign is the power to destroy; could it be that the residual sovereignty of the states lay in their ability to destroy the Union by seceding?
8.12.2008 10:48pm
neurodoc:
Pinkycatcher: "It is in the slave owners best economic and moral interest the keep their slaves happy and healthy and alive, because it seems sick and dead people can't work?"

Not only was it in the best economic interest of slave owners to keep their slaves healthy and alive, it was also in the slave owners' best moral interest to keep them healthy and alive so they could work, and happy too! Wow, the things those of us who are not members of the Sons and Daughters of the Confederacy don't know.
8.12.2008 11:34pm
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
For all the condemnation of the Confederacy in regard to slavery, I have seen little or no evidence that any of the Confederate leaders were personally disliked by blacks -- not Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Alexander Stephens -- not even Nathan Bedford Forrest.

And the Civil War people did leave us with a strongly united country.

We should just remember the Civil War as the greatest legend of American folklore.
8.12.2008 11:35pm
MarkField (mail):

As you say, "Nothing about the states made them "sovereign." So was the term meaningless?


As applied to the states, yes. In the US, as in any republic, only the people are sovereign.
8.12.2008 11:37pm
dweeb:
Professor Somin, a constant drumbeat in your posting is widespread voter ignorance and how it allows politicians to mislead and deceive the electorate. Yet, I've seen nothing to support your assertion that secession was driven by slavery except the public political posturing of the time, material that was intended for that ignorant electorate of which you so often post. How many politicians can we quote saying the invasion of Iraq had nothing to do with oil?

If we are to take this posturing as a sincere expression of the Confederate leaders' actual motives, then should we also not believe a politician when he claims he is working to reform emminent domain, even though, according to you, such efforts overwhelmingly work in favor of developers? Should we believe that campaign finance reform is really a sincere effort at reform, rather than incumbent protection?

Were politicians in the 1860's more honest? Or did they, as today, simply say what they thought their audience wanted to hear?

Behind closed doors, when the ignorant electorate wasn't watching/listening, at the Hampton Roads peace conference late in the war, the talks broke down, not over slavery, which Lincoln was willing to concede to save the Union, but over protectionist tariffs, an issue notably absent from your treatment of the issue.

You would have us believe that the Confederate were driven by speculative prospects for what MIGHT happen under a Lincoln administration more than the real economic havoc wrought by the already-in-place tariffs. You're also asking us to assume that leaders of great intellect were completely blind to the impact of the Industrial Revolution, which would render slavery economically obsolete long before abolitionists in Washington would end it.
8.12.2008 11:44pm
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
Somin's clearly won here. The best response was Spitzer's, and succeeding comments had no problem dismantling that. I wonder if there's a consensus of historians on this issue--and what it is?
8.12.2008 11:52pm
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
Larry,

As to leaders being disliked by blacks, I can think of 63 who weren't big fans of General Lee.
8.12.2008 11:57pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Penguins cannot justify anything because they lack logos
Sez you.
8.13.2008 12:09am
MarkField (mail):

at the Hampton Roads peace conference late in the war, the talks broke down, not over slavery, which Lincoln was willing to concede to save the Union, but over protectionist tariffs, an issue notably absent from your treatment of the issue.


Tariffs were not discussed at Hampton Roads. Did you get this "information" from Lew Rockwell? That's the only "source" I know of which makes this claim.
8.13.2008 12:27am
Pinkycatcher (mail):
Scott,

If you think all slaves hated their owners, please read "Slave Narratives: A folk history of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves" You'll see a good number of them were not hostile towards their masters.
8.13.2008 12:32am
LM (mail):
DangerMouse:

All in all, it's the same crap you hear from partisans on any particular issue. They will bend any fact to fit their argument. I do it all the time, so I should know when it's being done.

Thanks for the frank admission (not that anyone believed otherwise), and yes, most of us do it to one degree or another.
8.13.2008 1:00am
Skyler (mail) (www):
TDP, I am not an apologist for slavery and that is quite an insult. I've been very clear that slavery was wrong and should not be allowed to exist for a moment in time.

However, that doesn't mean that the war was solely about slavery. It wasn't. The people of that time were very clear about that. I'll take their word and the historical evidence and common sense over ahistorical revisionist history any day.

As for those defending Lincoln's provoking the war, most point out that he was only preserving the union as though this is a good in and of itself that needs no other justification.

So I ask these people, do you also support laws prohibiting divorce? It's very analogous. Two people entering into a union of marriage should be free to extricate themselves from that union. Forcing two people to remain married is an affront to the institution of marriage and human rights, and tends to encourage abusive behavior.

Forcing people to remain a part of the union when their state votes to secede is much the same. The result has been much the same as well. The federal government has amassed powers today undreamed of, except in nightmares, by the founders of this nation and they have done so only because they have stripped the states of all power at the federal level starting with removing the states' right to self-determination. This right was the main idea expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the document justifying the nation's existence.

The right is no longer recognized and that's a pity. The southern states erred in a very big way, as did the north, by allowing the two issues to be combined. Was this correlation of these two issues avoidable? Perhaps not. But I'm convinced that Lincoln did not even want to try to avoid it. Lincoln was more interested in acquiring power into a central government, one that can dole out money to big business through large construction works (the legacy of the Whigs) and contracts. He succeeded, oh, and he incidentally paved the way for freeing slaves. If he were half the sainted statesman that he is portrayed to be, he would have found a better way to free them than to kill more than a half million people.
8.13.2008 1:26am
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
Pinky,

I grant that, and therefore, 63 was too high a number to claim in my earlier comment. Though I imagine Lee's slaves who tried to escape and who, when recaptured, were whipped and rubbed with brine, probably bore a hint of animosity towards their owner. Which is enough to change Larry's view.
8.13.2008 1:36am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Pinky, it doesn't matter if slaves liked their owners or not. They were not free and that is sufficient to condemn the practice.
8.13.2008 1:45am
Skyler (mail) (www):
One more point before I end this long day:

The people of the 19th century were generally well educated, especially regarding politics and the theories of their democratic republic, just as we are today.

And just as there are people today who can intelligently argue against Lincoln's provoking the war and denying their right to self-determination, so there were people who could understand that nuance back then. And guess what, they even wrote at length about it. There is no rational logic to ignoring the claims of the people of the time when they said that slavery was not the sole reason for the war.

Slavery was of course a very big reason for the war, but it was not the only one and efforts to paint all the states and all the people of the south as fighting solely for slavery is wrong. A lot of people, especially in the four late seceding states did not own slaves and had little to lose if slavery were abolished. They were justifiably afraid of a federal government that wanted to amass power strip them of their rights.
8.13.2008 1:56am
Randy R. (mail):
Pinky: "If you think all slaves hated their owners, please read "Slave Narratives: A folk history of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves" You'll see a good number of them were not hostile towards their masters."

Of course, those mothers who gave birth to children and had them sold to another master and never saw their children again just *loved* their masters.

We know that blacks were happy under slavery because they sang song while picking cotton. And afterall, if it weren't for slavery and the discrimination against blacks, we woudn't have had the glorious birth of the blues and other forms of jazz.
8.13.2008 2:01am
Perseus (mail):
"Does modern science support the self-evident (half-)truth of human political equality?" Yup, as far as I can tell. haven't seen anything to the contrary, but if you do, please site it. I read Scientific American occasionally, and I have yet for them to say there should be any polical inequality in humans.

Come to think of it, Dr. James Watson of DNA fame goes in that direction when he avers that a woman should be allowed to abort a fetus for any reason and appears to have few moral qualms about it: "I think women should have the right to an abortion if they want one, irrespective of whether there is a disease," which includes a fetus that's identified as being homosexual, too short, or dyslexic. And while he opposes racial discrimination (if one is lucky enough to be born), Dr. Watson also doesn't appear to think too highly of the average intelligence of people of African descent.
8.13.2008 2:03am
Randy R. (mail):
Caliban: We are VERY upset that you have left us! Please come back. We enjoy your ruminations on how much better slavery is to being a freed worker. If only my grandparents knew, they would have gone from being poor farmers in Poland straight to slavery in the south. Without any education, of course, because what slave needs to know readin' and ritin'?

Perseus: "Penguins cannot justify anything because they lack logos, which is an excuse that (most) human beings lack."

Okay, I think I get it. Homosexuality is unnatural and against nature, so it's obviously a bad thing to do something against nature. But we see homosexuality among many species, including humans in every society and time period. In which case it means that they are just acting according to nature, which is a bad thing too. So which is it?

Penguins don't have to justify who they mate with, but humans do, because....well, you say so. Sorry, but I'm not buying.

But let's put the shoe on the other foot -- why don't you justify your interest in how other people lead their lives? I assume you have the logos to do that.

You know, here it is a thread on the causes of the civil war, and some people are just SO obsessed with who mates with whom that it has to be raised even here. My grandmother, the one from Poland who foolishly took a job in Buffalo instead of seeing the benefits of slavery, would have said that you should mind your business and clean your own house before you start minding about others'
8.13.2008 2:13am
gasman (mail):
Whether the South was motivated primarily by slavery can be examined in the confederate constitution.
No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed [by Congress]
Really not much else is different between the two constitutions but for this line. If the South was succeeding for any other reason important enough to wage war over it probably would have appeared in the constitution as a means of protecting for themselves that which they were fighting for.
8.13.2008 2:41am
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):

Really not much else is different between the two constitutions but for this line. If the South was succeeding for any other reason important enough to wage war over it probably would have appeared in the constitution as a means of protecting for themselves that which they were fighting for.


It is conceivable that the South approved of the US Constitution, but thought the Union was misinterpreting it. If so, it makes sense that they'd use the same Constitution--just interpret it the right way, by their lights.
8.13.2008 2:53am
Perseus (mail):
You know, here it is a thread on the causes of the civil war, and some people are just SO obsessed with who mates with whom that it has to be raised even here.

I didn't raise it as a main issue. Anderson in the very fist comment mentioned it in passing, as did I to illustrate the difference between how the Founders and Southern Confederates like Stephens viewed Nature and employed it to support their political positions. It is you, following the Randy rule, who is obsessed with it.

Penguins don't have to justify who they mate with, but humans do, because....well, you say so. Sorry, but I'm not buying.

Let's connect this more directly to the topic of the post. You yourself made a sarcastic remark suggesting that it would be wrong of you to enslave a Brazilian for your sexual pleasure. So, either your remark really wasn't sarcastic or you do indeed think that human beings need to justify whom they mate with.

you should mind your business and clean your own house before you start minding about others'

Such were the sentiments of many Southerners, Northerners like Stephen Douglas, etc., but Lincoln disagreed:

Let us be diverted by none of those sophistical contrivances wherewith we are so industriously plied and belabored - contrivances such as groping for some middle ground between the right and the wrong, vain as the search for a man who should be neither a living man nor a dead man - such as a policy of "don't care" on a question about which all true men do care--such as Union appeals beseeching true Union men to yield to Disunionists, reversing the divine rule, and calling, not the sinners, but the righteous to repentance...
8.13.2008 3:13am
Larry Fafarman (mail) (www):
Scott Scheule said (8.12.2008 10:57pm) --
Larry,

As to leaders being disliked by blacks, I can think of 63 who weren't big fans of General Lee.

What about Lee's statement, "I rejoice that slavery is abolished"?

And what about these words from Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas's first speech in the Lincoln-Douglas debates:

Do you desire to strike out of our State Constitution that clause which keeps slaves and free negroes out of the State, and allow the free negroes to flow in, ("never,") and cover your prairies with black settlements? Do you desire to turn this beautiful State into a free negro colony, ("no, no,") in order that when Missouri abolishes slavery she can send one hundred thousand emancipated slaves into Illinois, to become citizens and voters, on an equality with yourselves? ("Never," "no.") . . . . . For one, I am opposed to negro citizenship in any and every form. (Cheers.) I believe this Government was made on the white basis. ("Good.") I believe it was made by white men for the benefit of white men and their posterity for ever, and I am in favor of confining citizenship to white men, men of European birth and descent, instead of conferring it upon negroes, Indians, and other inferior races. ("Good for you." "Douglas forever.")

Take Alexander Stephens, whose "slavery is the cornerstone of the Confederacy" speech is often quoted as proof that secession was just about slavery:

(1) The speech included a lot about tariffs and unequal spending, and slavery was called "last, not least."

(2) He was well liked by his slaves, who stayed with him through the Civil War and afterwards. He advocated the education of slaves and recognition of slave marriages.

(3) He was a leading unionist of Georgia for many years. Even after the election of Lincoln, he gave a speech opposing secession.

It is possible to support practically any view of history, depending on what historical facts are selected and how they are interpreted.

History is very complicated and we must be objective.
8.13.2008 5:33am
Martin Grant (mail):
>What if the north did not try to alienate the south by pushing the rapid abolition of slavery? The north had many people like John Brown that wished open fighting against the south to stop slavery as soon as possible, that would rightly frighten the south.

How many extra years of lack of freedom should slaves have to endure so as not to upset the economic interests of their oppressors?

If you let these men stay slaves for 10 more years and let their children be born into slavery for just another half(!?!?) a generation, then they could have progressed towards the mutually agreed upon (!?!??!) end of slavery without frightening the slave owners and hurting their economy.

As a slave how many extra years would you agree to? Assuming many of the slaves were ignorant of the nuances of the situation due to lack of education, how many extra years of injustice would you agree to as an abolitionist acting on their behalf?
8.13.2008 7:02am
TDPerkins (mail):

TDP, I am not an apologist for slavery and that is quite an insult.


Slavery is the sine qua non of the Confederacy, to defend the one is to defend the other. Live with your choices.


However, that doesn't mean that the war was solely about slavery.


I have never said that slavery was the sole cause of the war. I have said that without slavery, no other combination of causes would have brought it about.


As for those defending Lincoln's provoking the war, most point out that he was only preserving the union as though this is a good in and of itself that needs no other justification.


Lincoln did nothing to provoke the war which would have provoked p[ersons not set on treason. The South was set on treason. Divorce is an unintelligent analogy for your to use for secession, and not the least reason for the foolishness of it is that a legal mechanism for exists, something secessionists go and went without the benefit of.


The result has been much the same as well. The federal government has amassed powers today undreamed of, except in nightmares


Which has nothing to do with Lincoln, who created no new federal powers, nor exercised any not found in the constitution. To Wilson, FDR, and Johnson's feet--Democrats all--should the bill for today's mess be laid.


The right is no longer recognized and that's a pity.


The "right"--in fact if it did exist it could only be a privilege or power--has never existed, it cannot be recognized only imagined.


Was this correlation of these two issues avoidable? Perhaps not. But I'm convinced that Lincoln did not even want to try to avoid it. Lincoln was more interested in acquiring power into a central government, one that can dole out money to big business through large construction works (the legacy of the Whigs) and contracts. He succeeded, oh, and he incidentally paved the way for freeing slaves.


It was the South which chose to combine the issues, and not the North. Lincoln certainly did want to avoid it, and did everything not violative of his oath of office to do so--the South pushed the issue at every turn, never failing to fail to avoid to war. What do you imagine federal expeditures to enforce the Fugitive Slave act were but a Hamiltonian support of the South self-avowed peculiar institution, how the North be denied such? Neither was wise policy, but certainly the South could have engaged in Industry and indulged in its patronage if it so chose. The South chose war.


If he were half the sainted statesman that he is portrayed to be, he would have found a better way to free them than to kill more than a half million people.


To avoid the war he wanted to avoid, Lincoln needed the South's cooperation. He got cannon fire.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.13.2008 8:41am
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
<i>So I ask these people, do you also support laws prohibiting divorce? It's very analogous. Two people entering into a union of marriage should be free to extricate themselves from that union. Forcing two people to remain married is an affront to the institution of marriage and human rights, and tends to encourage abusive behavior.</i>

So if someone says that adultery was the main cause of a divorce and points to the fact that one party was committing adultery, that the couple had a number of severe fights and disagreements over adultery just prior to the divorce, and that the adulterer eventually sought the divorce because he was tired of all the lectures on his adultery and was afraid that his wife was hampering or would hamper his ability to play around--
If someone makes this claim your response is to shriek, "but divorce is a good thing!"?
8.13.2008 8:43am
TDPerkins (mail):
Yikes. Typos and dropped words. I'll try to repost at lunch. TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.13.2008 8:49am
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
There is no rational logic to ignoring the claims of the people of the time when they said that slavery was not the sole reason for the war.

Can you please show where Ilya Somin or anyone else here has argued that "slavery was the sole reason for the war"? The "rational logics" has been that what the people of the time said and their actions and events show that slavery was the single largest cause of secession.

In any case, thanks for sharing your oh-so valuable conviction about Lincoln. My conviction is that Lincoln was a far better man than you can hope to be and that your convictions are malign.
8.13.2008 8:51am
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
<i>And what about these words from Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas's first speech in the Lincoln-Douglas debates</i>

It was not Douglas' election that precipitated secession. It was Lincoln's. As I recall, Lincoln also had a few things to say about slavery in the Lincoln-Douglas debates that were somewhat different from Douglas'.

But in any case Southern Democrats broke up the Democrat pary because of Douglas' refusal to sanction the fradulent LeCompton constitution making Kansas a slave state and because of his refusal to pass a federal slave code making slavery legal and protected by federal troops in every territory.
8.13.2008 8:58am
PersonFromPorlock:
MarkField:

As you say, "Nothing about the states made them "sovereign." So was the term meaningless?

As applied to the states, yes. In the US, as in any republic, only the people are sovereign.

Very true, but governments, state or federal, have 'sovereignty' as a usufruct from the people.
8.13.2008 9:44am
Hoosier:
RandyR:

We know that blacks were happy under slavery because they sang song while picking cotton. And afterall, if it weren't for slavery and the discrimination against blacks, we woudn't have had the glorious birth of the blues and other forms of jazz.

Yeah. I wonder why people cite the cases of freedmen who have god things to say about their masters, but somehow forget the overwhelming testimony from the other side that now resides in the Slave Narratives Collection at LOC.

Hmm.
8.13.2008 10:45am
Hoosier:
Randy R: By the way, 'you people' are not planning on seceeding, are you?

I mean, the Fabulous States of America would have to be some sort of, like, archipelago. Fire Island, P-town, Ann Arbor, Iowa City . . . There's NO WAY you'd get corridors connecting all those places.

Besides, EVEY one of your generals would want the nickname "Stonewall." No?
8.13.2008 10:49am
A.W. (mail):
Really, folks when you have people all but declaring the Civil War to be the "War of Northern Agression" there is a decreasing point in arguing about it.

To those who claimed that the South had a right to secede: bull on that. To believe that is to say that we intended to create no civil society by creating the Federal Government, a notion plainly at odds with the facts. And besides, again, the South showed no fidelity to states' rights. The personal liberty laws would have been seen by any principled defender of states' rights as a wonderful example of their principles in action. Yet none of these southern government supported that effort, but instead supported a flagrant violation of the constitution based on a dubius reading a federal power. Its like I said in the last thread: when Bill cheats on Hillary enough times, you have to wonder if he cares for her at all. Likewise, the South "cheated" on states' rights so often you have to wonder if they cared for it at all. I saw no principled defenders of states rights when VA and TN was abducted against its will out of the Union, or when GA attempted to secede from secession.
8.13.2008 10:54am
Skyler (mail) (www):
TDP charged:

Slavery is the sine qua non of the Confederacy, to defend the one is to defend the other. Live with your choices.



Where did I defend the confederacy? I have insisted that they were wrong. But the wrong was not entirely theirs because the war was about more than slavery.

Wow, for a bunch of lawyers, many of you don't understand the simplist of compound reasons.
8.13.2008 10:56am
A.W. (mail):
One more thing for the author of this post. i also think that its useful to look at the constitutional provisions of that era as evidence. Look at first the Confederate Constitution. There were some tweeks here and there, but the really big change between it and the federal constitution was slavery was better and more explicitly protected than ever before. Oh, and secession was more explicitly banned.

On the other hand, when the war was over and the north wanted to amend the constitution in such a way to prevent its recurrance, what did the Civil War amendments address? Slavery, and discrimination primarily first, and then further down the list of priorities, equal representation for former slaves, exclusion of former confederates from office, and the incorporation of the bill of rights. So judging by the confederate constitution, the issue was slavery and racism; and judging from the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, it was exactly the same issue.
8.13.2008 10:59am
pluribus:
Skyler, when you lie down with dogs, you must expect to get fleas. If you don't want to be tarred with slavery, stop defending the secessionists.
8.13.2008 11:07am
JosephSlater (mail):
This issue has been fully vetted, but I'll just add this to Spitzer and the others playing the "look at you cute lawyers trying to understand history" card. There are other "trained historians" that lurk and post here. I'm one, and Hoosier's another. I second every word Hoosier has said in this thread, not only on the merits but also as to what the consensus of serious historians holds on this issue, which is pretty much what Ilya says. And for the record, I don't agree with Ilya's conclusions all that often. But he's spot on here.
8.13.2008 11:26am
David M. Nieporent (www):
So I ask these people, do you also support laws prohibiting divorce? It's very analogous.
No; what would be analogous would be laws saying that one spouse can't unilaterally divorce the other, simply by saying, "I divorce you." And, in fact, we don't allow that. Even in states that allow no-fault divorce, one can't get divorced without permission from a judge.

Forcing people to remain a part of the union when their state votes to secede is much the same. The result has been much the same as well. The federal government has amassed powers today undreamed of, except in nightmares, by the founders of this nation and they have done so only because they have stripped the states of all power at the federal level starting with removing the states' right to self-determination. This right was the main idea expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the document justifying the nation's existence.
Once again, that is clearly false in every respect. The Declaration of Independence does not say anything at all about "state's rights," nor does it advocate some generalized right to "self-determination." What the Declaration of Independence says is that when government becomes oppressive, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it. So if the federal government under Lincoln had destroyed liberty, people would have had the natural right to revolt. But not simply because they felt like it. Indeed,

If he were half the sainted statesman that he is portrayed to be, he would have found a better way to free them than to kill more than a half million people.
Southerners killed half a million people, not Lincoln, and they did it for the purpose of enslaving 4 million people. The deaths of union soldiers is a tragedy, but one on the heads of the people shooting at them, not on Lincoln. The deaths of confederate soldiers is their own fault, brought upon themselves. Lincoln didn't even have a say in the matter; the rebels decided to commit treason before Lincoln even took office.
8.13.2008 11:33am
Hoosier:
JosephSlater:
Thanks, history pal. I should add (or rather "repeat," since I noted this before, and the secession-defenders did not respond) that the Confederate Constitution contained a supremacy clause that gave supreme power to the Constitution, and the laws and treaties of the Confederate government. It also contained a "necessary and proper clause" that was just like that found in the US Constitution.

In other words, if one wants to argue that "states' rights" was a primary goal of the secessionists, then one must explain why the Confederate Constitution shows so little evidence of this, aside from the preamble and some impeachment powers.
8.13.2008 11:40am
MarkField (mail):

Very true, but governments, state or federal, have 'sovereignty' as a usufruct from the people.


That goes farther than I would agree. Governments have powers delegated to them by the sovereign people. Those powers, even taken as a whole, never amount to "sovereignty", which always remains with its source.
8.13.2008 11:41am
MarkField (mail):

So I ask these people, do you also support laws prohibiting divorce? It's very analogous.


In addition to the responses others have made, I'll note that divorce involves just two parties. Here, you're ignoring the minority of voters in the Southern states who didn't want to secede. You're perfectly willing to drag them along with secession while protesting the right of the national majority to act under the Constitution. You can't have it both ways.
8.13.2008 11:45am
Angus:

If you think all slaves hated their owners, please read "Slave Narratives: A folk history of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves" You'll see a good number of them were not hostile towards their masters.
Black people being interviewed by white government officials were afraid to criticize their white owners? In the peaceful, racially harmonious south of the 1930s? I AM SHOCKED!
8.13.2008 12:10pm
A.W. (mail):
Caliban

I slapped you around with your amoral and ahistorical claims in the last thread, but here are a few additional points.

> I believe there are worse things than slavery

Here's a hint: free labor is never worse than slavery. And free northern labor was better than southern slavery, circa 1860, if only because the northern laborer was able to keep his wife and daughter from being raped, and his family together.

> Quick, which was better: slavery or the holocaust?

There is no easy answer to that, and it's a little like saying, "which is better? Being burned alive or starved to death." And that is a deeper metaphor than you might realize. One was acute and horrific suffering (the holocaust and being burned alive), while the other was less acute but went on longer (slavery and being starved to death). If you asked 10 different people either question, there would be no clear consensus.

> I say the industrial approach is worse than slavery, because slavery was already disappearing throughout the civilised world. It wouldn't have seen the turn of the century. But immigrant labor at starvation wages? WE HAVE IT TODAY. It's waiting outside of Home Depot every morning.

Which puts the finger on what is wrong with your analysis. If it is so horrible, why do these people not only readily volunteer to do it, but even break our laws to do so? People die illegally crossing our borders; I have yet to hear of anyone dying to sell themselves into slavery.

And again, there is no evidence that American slavery was going away. In the time since our founding, slavery had become MORE legally entrenched and not less. Not one single slave state gave up its slaves. The slave trade, made illegal since 1808 was restarted defacto by jury nullification and many states told the plantation owners they had no right to free their slaves, even on their deathbed, while talk of gradual emancipation—which was common in the founding era—all but disappeared as we got closer to 1860. And on the national legal stage, the Southerners had gotten more aggressive not less. They pushed through the flagrantly unconstitutional Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and the Supreme Court declared that black people could never be citizens, that they had no rights a white man was bound to respect, and that the Federal Government couldn't ban slavery in the territories even though a majority of our founding fathers had done exactly that.

Globally, slavery was on the decline, but in America it was getting worse, not better.

Randy R.

One point. I'm not even clear what you all are ultimately arguing about, but it is a complete fallacy to say "animals do it, so it must be right." Some animals eat their own young, after all.

The law of the jungle is evolution; and its amoral. We have to make our own independent judgments about right and wrong regardless of the law of the jungle. Which is not to come down on one side or the other in your discussion, but I am pointing out an invalid argument, imho.
8.13.2008 12:10pm
pluribus:
I agree with Joseph Slater, Hoosier, Mark Field, David Nieporent, Ilya Somin and all the others here who have defended the truth of this matter. I am also trained in history and the law, and have experience in both fields. I regard the two as compatible, not contradictory. Both historians and lawyers examine evidence, evaluate it, and interpret it. Neither can satisfactorily ignore the evidence to make a pre-ordained argument. If they do so, it will be at their peril.
8.13.2008 12:17pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Well, all these "historians" posting here are remarkably one dimensional. What was the last war that only had one cause? Name any war that only had one cause.

Slavery was indeed a major cause of the war. But you can't discount the fears noted by Virginians at the time. To say that all Virginians only fought for slavery is simple minded.
8.13.2008 12:44pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
In addition to the responses others have made, I'll note that divorce involves just two parties. Here, you're ignoring the minority of voters in the Southern states who didn't want to secede. You're perfectly willing to drag them along with secession while protesting the right of the national majority to act under the Constitution. You can't have it both ways.
And for "minority of voters" read "majority of residents," at least in some states. Blacks, of course, weren't voters, but it would be sort of odd to rest a claim of self-determination on an act of disenfranchisement.
8.13.2008 12:47pm
MarkField (mail):

And for "minority of voters" read "majority of residents," at least in some states. Blacks, of course, weren't voters, but it would be sort of odd to rest a claim of self-determination on an act of disenfranchisement.


Absolutely.
8.13.2008 12:50pm
Samwise:
The Virginia Ordnance of Secession makes no mention of slavery, only of states rights. Slavery was certainly an issue, but the attempt to blast all the states with the same brush is misguided.

No. It's not. Virginia ratified the Confederate Constitution: "No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed." Artcle I, Section 9, Para 4.
8.13.2008 12:54pm
A.W. (mail):
Samwise

Virginia was not taken from the union freely. It was abducted, against its will and in flagrant violation of state's rights principles. It was so flagrant that part of Virginia seceded from Virginia and rejoined the union, now known as West Virginia. They can paper it over with state's rights all they want, but its a little like Bill Clinton standing up for monogamy. It doesn't ring true.

(Btw, that is not entirely a joke about Clinton. He has recently stood up and proclaimed how important monogamy is in terms of fighting AIDS. Most sane people say, "right message, wrong messenger.)
8.13.2008 1:19pm
Randy R. (mail):
AW: "One point. I'm not even clear what you all are ultimately arguing about, but it is a complete fallacy to say "animals do it, so it must be right." Some animals eat their own young, after all. "

First, thanks for your thoughtful comments.

SEcond, this has a long back history that of course has nothing to do with the civil war. Anyway, anti-gay people will often claim that being gay is 'unnatural' or 'against nature' No, we don't know what that means either. but we do point out that gay people have existed in every culture in every time period, and that many animals have at least a few which can be classified as homosexual. The NY zoo famously has a pair of gay penguins which have adopted an ophaned baby. Our retort is that how can it be unnatural if it's found in nature?

Then of course, they throw it right back to us and say, well animals are amoral and if you want to act like animals then go ahead. And they often say the same thing you did, which is that animals don't know right from wrong, and eat their own, etc. Which may or may not be true. (My dog certainly knows right from wrong!)

So basically, they anti-gays just switch around their arguments to always come out that being gay is wrong. As you have seen Perseus do.

However, one of these days, we will secede and create the Fabulous Federation of Ptown and Russian River, and we will give you a free passport to see what all the fuss is about.
8.13.2008 1:28pm
Dave Ruddell (mail):
I rather enjoy John Scalzi's take on the issue. An excerpt:


But just for shits and giggles, let's grant the Confederate sympathizer position that the Confederate states had a right to secede from the United States, and thence form new, independent countries individually or severally (as indeed they did in creating the CSA). So, okay, Confederates, have your states' rights and your new country. Enjoy! It's on us.

There's just one catch: Once you're an independent country, you have no "states' rights." Yes, yes. We grant that you have the right to secede and form a new country. However, I don't see anything that says the United States is obligated to let you keep your shiny new country. If you're not a state in the US, then you're just land held by people who are not us. And you know how the US is about land held by people who aren't us. We wonder why we shouldn't be holding that land. Just ask Mexico, from whom we took two-thirds of its land mass, more or less because we felt like it. Or ask the Native Americans.

Now, let's take a look at the new, entirely legal CSA. First, your country is rather inconveniently located on what was previously roughly a third of the total US land mass. Well, that's bad. Second, y'all went and attacked US forces at Fort Sumter, which even if we grant was technically on your land, was still pretty hostile. Third, what population remains in the newly-truncated US is now not exactly inclined to let you sneak off with a goodly part of the continent. Fourth, there are no treaties between our countries which suggest the US is obligated not to stomp your ass and take your land. Even if one were to suggest that the various state constitutions implied that the US were obligated to treat the states with respect if they were to secede, I would suggest that by banding together in a new federal entity and subordinating their independence therein, the obligations the US may have had in regards to those state constitutions were voided. Save for passages regarding slavery and a few other tweaks, the CSA constitution is a copy of the US constitution, and therein the states are not allowed to make foreign policy. And I don't think I need to remind anyone the US certainly didn't have any non-hostility agreements with Confederacy.

So, to wrap up: A new, hostile country right on our border, sitting on land that used to be ours, which we have no legal impediment not to squash like a bug. And, let's not forget, thanks to codifying slavery into its constitution, the CSA is also officially and undeniably evil.

Honestly, now: Are you Confederates so unbelievably stupid as to think the US would continue to let you exist?
8.13.2008 1:34pm
Skyler (mail) (www):

And for "minority of voters" read "majority of residents," at least in some states. Blacks, of course, weren't voters, but it would be sort of odd to rest a claim of self-determination on an act of disenfranchisement.



Of course. That's why they were wrong. But to say that it wasn't claimed as an issue is historically incorrect and dishonest.
8.13.2008 1:38pm
CJColucci:
There's more to this divorce/secession analogy than we have explored so far. How do we know we can get a divorce? Because there are laws that say so, and explain how. They are not as old as our marriage laws, so there was a time when you could get married but could NOT get a divorce. But now you can, and if you want to get a divorce, you can look up what paperwork you have to fill out, where you have to file it, what facts you have to prove (or lies you have to tell) that will allow you to get it, and who gets to say whether you're entitled to it or not. Now, try the same exercise using "secession" instead of "divorce."
8.13.2008 1:46pm
pluribus:
Skyler, you are really confusing the issue.

What was the last war that only had one cause? Name any war that only had one cause.

I do not contend that slavery "caused" the Civil War. If that were so then why didn't we have a civil war in 1789, when we also had slavery? My argument is that secession was motivated by a desire to preserve slavery against the perceived threats of the Republicans, changing demographics in the United States, and the rising tide of anti-slavery opinion, both nationally and internationally. The threats were greater in 1861 than they had ever been in the history of the republic. The secessionists sought to perpetuate slavery against those threats. They believed that by seceding from the United States they could do so, and by remaining in it, they could not. Ilya was quite correct to say that slavery was central to the war. I do not believe that he said it "caused" the war. Secession led to the occupation of federal properties by insurrectionists, to the bombardment of Fort Sumter, to the very proper efforts of the Lincoln administration to defend the Union, and thus to war. Slavery was, as Lincoln said, at the root of it.

Slavery was indeed a major cause of the war. But you can't discount the fears noted by Virginians at the time.

You are wrong to distinguish slavery from their fears. Fears of what? It was their fears that they would be forced to give up slavery, which was central to their culture, their economy, and their perceived "honor." Cotton, which depended on slave labor, was the greatest cash crop in the world in 1860--equivalent today to oil. The most valuable crop produced in the United States or any other country. And the cotton plantation owners and the economy that rested on their slave labor were equivalent to today's Middle Eastern oil sheikhs. Cotton was "king," the blacks were its slaves.

To say that all Virginians only fought for slavery is simple minded.

What people "fought for" is an entirely different question. Mostly they fought because they wanted their side to win, as people almost always do in wars. They identified with one side or the other, and fought to help it to win. Once their states had seceded and joined the Confedracy, they wanted to fight for their states and the Confederacy. Many (both North and South) were conscripted and had no real choice about whether they would or would not fight. Lee claimed that he fought because he could not raise his sword against Virginia. Now what does that tell you about his motivations, except he felt loyalty to his state but not to the United States. Of course, if he raised his sword against Virginia (as many Virginians in fact did, from the General in Chief Winfield Scott on down) he would have been hastening the demise of slavery. Lee certainly knew that. You cannot say that "all" Virginians fought for slavery any more than you can say that all Virginians opposed the Union. There were, in fact, many Virginians who opposed secession, recognizing it to be insurrection, rebellion, and treason. They still supported slavery. As Grant said of Lee (paraphrasing), a better general never fought a war, nor for a worse cause.
8.13.2008 1:47pm
Tomwarren:
Does anyone here make any argument that the Civil War would have happened if there was no slavery?

The other causes advanced above appear to be: 1) Tarrifs -- that prevented selling slave grown goods; 2) Wealth -- created by slaves; 3) State rights -- to protect property rights in owning slaves; and 4) Fear -- that the federal government would overstep its bounds and diminish indivdual freedom by outlawing slavery in the territories, which would lead to abolition.
8.13.2008 1:53pm
Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
Larry,

All very interesting, but I'm only presenting a fact you said you weren't aware of: that some blacks disliked the Southern generals you listed. As nothing you've said contradicts my example of blacks who in all likelihood did dislike Lee, I take it you've accepted my point.
8.13.2008 1:59pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Pluribus, thank you for finally making reasonable remarks.
8.13.2008 2:34pm
pluribus:
Dave Ruddell, good post.

If the Confederacy had managed to eke out some sort of a victory at the end of the Civil War, it would have marked the beginning, not the end, of wars in North America. The grievances that would have led to further wars were almost infinite. What would the South do when the North stopped capturing fugitive slaves and sending them South? Does anybody imagine that the North would still have honored the Fugitive Slave Act, or that the South would have found this acceptable? What about nativation rights on the Mississippi River, or on Chesapeake Bay? What would have prevented states from seceding from the Confederacy when they disagreed with some policy of the Confederate government. The Confederacy could hardly have argued that there was no right to secede, for they had already proven that there was. And the precedent could be claimed also in the North. There was already talk of forming a Pacific States of America in the West. Another Republic north of the Ohio River. When would secession have finally run its course? And what of the common property owned by all of the states when the war broke out? What of Washington, D.C.? What would have prevented Maryland from seceding and joing Virginia and then saying--well, we got Fort Sumter back, now we want the District of Columbia back? And what would have happened when one of the competing North American states formed an alliance with a foreign power--England or France, most probably--to oppose one of the other North American states? What if one of the states invaded Mexico, or formed an alliance with Mexico against another North American state? Would there be any precedent to solve these disputes peacefully? Or would they all throw up their hands and say, hey, war worked the last time, let's try it again. Europe was constantly at war for thousands of years. What would have prevented the same scourge from infecting North America? War, more wars, and more wars after that--and the rest of the world would have laughed and said, a self-governing republic will never work. Force, and more force, is the only answer.
8.13.2008 2:38pm
pluribus:
Well, I keep trying, Skyler.
8.13.2008 2:42pm
A.W. (mail):
Randy R.

So somehow the topic went from the civil war to gay rights? I am trying to figure out the connection. (Remembers the "Gloria regiment" skit from Saturday Night Live... where the first black regiment in the civil war meets with the fictional all gay regiment.)

Oh well. We can have that argument in a thread on gay rights. right now we are re-fighting the War of Northern Aggression. And yes, I am being ironic when I call it that. I feel like I have to specifically say it is meant ironically because there are many people who think that somehow the part of the country that illegally seceded, to protect a form of tyranny, and indeed fired the first shot, is not the aggressor in all this. Go figure.
8.13.2008 3:02pm
Randy R. (mail):
AW, It's always a pleasure to discuss matters with rational people, even if you disagree with them. But especially when you agree!

Ruddell and Pluribus: Excellent posts. Never thought of that stuff, and yet when you mention it, so obvious. The Conferates truly believed that they could secede, retain slavery for at least generation or more, and that the north would sit by and whistle Dixie? Naivite at its finest.

Your arguments convince me even more that our founding fathers were correct -- only war was going to settle the issue, and thank god the north won it.

The real irony is that the south is much better off, especialy today, because of the union. Had they won the war, as you say, there would have been many more wars, but more importantly, the north would have continued to industrialize and the south would have stagnated even more than it did.
8.13.2008 3:37pm
trad and anon:
Well, all these "historians" posting here are remarkably one dimensional. What was the last war that only had one cause? Name any war that only had one cause.
Is this a claim that anyone has made? And of course "slavery" in the abstract was not a cause of the war, but white Southerners' desire to preserve the institution was. As TomWarren points out above, all that stuff about states' rights, fear, and economics is just another way of describing the slavery issue. It's not as though Southern whites cared about slavery just as a matter of abstract principle! There were defenses of slavery as a matter of abstract principle (better for the slaves, Christianization, etc.), but in retrospect they were transparent rationalizations and not really a cause of anything.

I'm sure there were other things going on; history is never that simple. But that doesn't change the fact that the Southerners' desire to preserve slavery was the most important cause.
8.13.2008 3:41pm
trad and anon:
In other words, if one wants to argue that "states' rights" was a primary goal of the secessionists, then one must explain why the Confederate Constitution shows so little evidence of this, aside from the preamble and some impeachment powers.
Well, the states' right in question was the right to enslave a large minority (majority, in some cases) of the population. And the confederate constitution certainly protected that:
Article I, Section 9(4) prohibited Congress from passing a law "impairing the right of property in negro slaves."
On the other hand, the CSA Constitution didn't provide states with the right to ban slavery:
Article IV, Section 2(1) granted individuals the right to travel to any state "with their slaves and other property; and the right of property in said slaves shall not be thereby impaired . . ."

Article IV, Section 2(3) provided that slaves "escaping or lawfully carried into another [state]" would not be"discharged from such service or labor; but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such slave belongs . . ."
The territories too:
Article IV, Section 3(3) provided that slavery would be "recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government" of all CSA territories.
The CSA constitution also had provisions that appear to have been aimed at protecting the interests of current slaveholders by prohibiting the importation of slaves, thereby limiting supply and driving up the price:
Article IV, Section 9(1) prohibited the importation of slaves from any state or territory other than the USA and required the CSA Congress to pass laws preventing enforcing this prohibition.

Article IV, Section 9(2) gave Congress the power to ban importation of slaves from the USA as well.
So yes, the "states' rights" theory of secession is clearly bunk, unless you mean the right to keep slavery around but not the right to ban it.
8.13.2008 4:06pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Of course. That's why they were wrong. But to say that it wasn't claimed as an issue is historically incorrect and dishonest.
And what's equally incorrect and dishonest is to pretend that it was for some abstract right to "self-determination" that they started a war, as opposed to the concrete right to "self-determination" on the issue of slavery. They didn't want the right to determine for themselves whether to adopt the minimum wage or whether guns could be carried near schools or whether medical marijuana should be legal. They wanted the right to determine for themselves that they had the right to own slaves.
8.13.2008 4:26pm
MarkField (mail):

I agree with Joseph Slater, Hoosier, Mark Field, David Nieporent, Ilya Somin and all the others here who have defended the truth of this matter.


That agreement is all the more remarkable when you consider the differences in our current politics.
8.13.2008 5:16pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Nierporent,

Yeah, no one had any intelligence whatsoever back then. They only saw any issue as unipolar and uncomplicated.

You're again missing the fact that the first seven states seceded for slavery. The remaining third of the confederacy refused to secede for slavery and only seceded after the war was started by what they regarded as over-the-top militarisim by Lincoln.

Slavery was certainly an important dimension of this remaining third if the Confederacy's secession, but they were more concerned, at the very least publically, to protect themselves from what they considered was a mad man taking measures that were far too extreme.

And don't forget that except for jailing the entire Maryland state legislature, more states would have seceded at that date too. Lincoln was considered dangerous and a menace to peace. That's what the people of those days said and there's no reason to not take them at their word. Slavery alone was not the reason these states seceded. Fear of Lincoln was.
8.13.2008 5:33pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Oops, a mis-edit. Last sentence should read, "Fear of Lincoln was a major element in these states' reasons to secede."
8.13.2008 5:34pm
AnneS:
Fill in the blank - Fear that Lincoln would . . .

Were they afraid that Lincoln would (gasp) attempt to resupply a fort full of U.S. soldiers and citizens that had been blockaded by hostile forces and then respond with force when said hostile forces attacked the fort and the resuppliers? I can think of few surer ways to guarantee the materialization of such a fear than to do the same thing the sponsor of the hostile forces did.

Afraid that Lincoln wouldn't recognize their (putative) right to secede at some point in the future? That begs the question of why they would think they would WANT to secede at some future date, and why that possibility would be perceived as sufficiently likely that they would embrace near-certain war by seceding.
8.13.2008 6:00pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Were afraid that Lincoln would (gasp) attempt to continue to escalate the issue by provoking the hot-headed South Carolinians and that he wouldn't stop there.

Too many people are looking at this anachronistically. Today we recognize that states cannot secede, the matter has been settled. It was not settled at the time. You can't claim to understand a people's actions without taking into account their perspective of the issues of the day.

Lincoln back then was seen as having tyrannical ambitions. This is not a far fetched fear if you examine what he did. That the people of the day who were liable to be his victims, they were reasonable to hold this interpretation for their own security.

Again we see people here who are likely lawyers but are incapable of seeing alternate points of view. It's quite sad.
8.13.2008 6:09pm
Perseus (mail):
how can it be unnatural if it's found in nature?

That view of nature is essentially the same as modern materialist, non-teleological science. A whole slew of philosophers beginning with Plato had different notions of nature and the moral lessons that might be drawn from it. Otherwise, the Founders would been have foolish to call slavery unnatural since slavery had existed throughout almost all societies in human history to that point.

Slavery alone was not the reason these states seceded. Fear of Lincoln was a major element in these states' reasons to secede.

But didn't their fear stem from their concern that Lincoln despite his protests to the contrary was really a rabid abolitionist who would trample their rights in pursuit of that goal?
8.13.2008 6:50pm
AnneS:
Skyler, Your explanation makes no sense. The acts that the South Carolinians found provoking weren't unreasonable or tyrannical acts. In any event, there was no reason for the later block of seccessionists to actually fear that such acts would be directed at them, or to enter a war with a bigger, richer neighbor by exercising their (putative) right to secede, UNLESS they believed that they might want to secede in the future. FInally, I know that there was a lot of hysterical speculation about President Lincoln's likely dictatorial actions whipped up in advance of the inauguration. All this just begs the question of (a) what the Southerners feared Lincoln would direct his alleged dictatorial proclivities against and (b) why they thought they might want or need to secede.
8.13.2008 6:50pm
Samwise:
"Lincoln back then was seen as having tyrannical ambitions. This is not a far fetched fear if you examine what he did."

It's not far fetched, to you. That does not make thier conduct reasonable nor does it make thier conduct appropriate. Lincoln's "tyranical ambition" was to implement the Republican party platform by getting congress to outlaw slavery in the terrotories (perfectly constitutional) and he won an election to do so! So, before he takes office the South rebels over SLAVERY, (as you admit). And then it is joined in this ignoble enterpise by other SLAVE states. So your refain about thier "understandable" fears motivating them is not a plea for understanding different points of view, its a claim that they were justified. No. They were not.
8.13.2008 6:53pm
CJColucci:
All this just begs the question of ... (b) why they thought they might want or need to secede.

As someone said in an earlier thread, nobody gets a divorce just to prove they can.
8.13.2008 6:56pm
LM (mail):

Lincoln back then was seen as having tyrannical ambitions.

What principally motivated those who spread this propaganda? Others have already answered that. But this illustrates more generally the recklessness of deception and demagoguery. Whether it's "Lincoln is a tyrant who will enslave the south" or "Obama is a Marxist who will surrender to terrorists" some people actually believe such nonsense, and it's to unpredictable, sometimes destructive effect.
8.13.2008 7:03pm
Golda:
From Virgina's Ordinance of Secession:

"the Federal Government having perverted said powers, not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States."

Oh, I see, Lincoln was a tryrant to slaveholding states. But 'it was not slavery.' Really.
8.13.2008 7:13pm
pluribus:
You ought to give up, Skyler. Even General Lee knew when it was time to give up.
8.13.2008 7:16pm
Golda:
the recklessness of deception and demagoguery. Whether it's "Lincoln is a tyrant who will enslave the south" . . . some people actually believe such nonsense.

And the people that buy into such nonsense deserve moral blame and historical censure, just like the liars and demagogues.
8.13.2008 7:30pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Anne queried:

The acts that the South Carolinians found provoking weren't unreasonable or tyrannical acts. In any event, there was no reason for the later block of seccessionists to actually fear that such acts would be directed at them, or to enter a war with a bigger, richer neighbor by exercising their (putative) right to secede, UNLESS they believed that they might want to secede in the future.


It's not unreasonable or tyrannical if you are living in the US today, but back then in the perception of the people of that day such actions by Lincoln were interpreted in the worst possible light by very rational and reasonable people (who also thought slavery was acceptable). They may not have gone to war for slavery (but might have, the vote was taken but not successful) but they certainly didn't think Lincoln had the right to do so either.

And yes, after seeing what happened to their southern neighbors they certainly wanted to reserve the right to secede -- whether we recognize it as a right today or not they did. They did not see secession as a horrifying act like many here appear to do. They believed that they could succeed alone, or with the other states and did not need to be conjoined with the northern states. Clearly they were proven wrong, but that's what they believed.

You have to take off the 21st century blinders.

The Hobbit charges:

So your refain about thier "understandable" fears motivating them is not a plea for understanding different points of view, its a claim that they were justified. No. They were not.


Where did I say that they were justified? I said that's what they thought. They believed that they were upholding the rights they fought for 80-some years earlier. It is historical revisionism to claim that this was not a major factor. Slavery was certainly a big part, maybe a major part for these states (how can you measure?) but another big reason was their fear of Lincoln. This cannot be denied.
8.13.2008 8:22pm
MarkField (mail):

And don't forget that except for jailing the entire Maryland state legislature, more states would have seceded at that date too.


Even under secesh theory, the legislature could not secede. Only a convention of the MD people could do that. There certainly were traitors in the MD legislature, but nothing Lincoln did to them affected MD's secession.


This is not a far fetched fear if you examine what he did.


Five of the 11 secessionist states acted before Lincoln even took office. SC waited barely a month after his election. Lincoln did not "do" anything to them and could not have done so. As for the later actors, Lincoln still didn't "do" anything except call for troops because US soldiers were under attack. I gotta say that if you consider any President who reacts that way under those circumstances to be a tyrant, you have views which I want nowhere near the White House.
8.13.2008 8:24pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
Lincoln back then was seen as having tyrannical ambitions. This is not a far fetched fear if you examine what he did.

Run for office?
8.13.2008 8:56pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
And yes, after seeing what happened to their southern neighbors they certainly wanted to reserve the right to secede -- whether we recognize it as a right today or not they did.
The problem with that argument is that, at the time they seceded, nothing had "happened to their southern neighbors."

Virginia didn't secede, not because it didn't care about the slavery issue, but because many in Virginia thought that secession was not the best way to protect slavery. They thought they could mediate between North and South. Once they realized they couldn't -- once Fort Sumter made it clear that no peaceful resolution was possible -- they seceded too. It's not surprising that the northwestern counties, who saw the same things as the rest of the state, opposed secession: they had no slaves.
8.13.2008 8:59pm
Samwise:
"Where did I say that they were justified?"

That would be: "Lincoln back then was seen as having tyrannical ambitions. This is not[]far fetched . . . they were reasonable . . .".

Sounds like justification to me. Especially since Lincoln had no such ambitions.
8.13.2008 9:03pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
Mark, the question is whether there were any reasons besides slavery that caused the states to secede. It's pretty clear that the first seven seceded primarily because of slavery. The issue is whether all the states did. The remaining four states did not secede until after the battle of Fort Sumter.

Lincoln did not respond to troops under attack and your assertion to that extent is historically farcical. Lincoln refused to abandon a fort that was within the sovereign territory of South Carolina. Whether he was obliged to do so or not is beside the point. He knew and stated that he knew that refusing to do so would provoke a fight. He decided to accelerate that by reinforcing the fort. He WANTED that war to start. He declined to take any actions to avoid it. His actions were purely machiavellian -- to not delay a war if he thinks he has to wage it.

Whether the war was a foregone conclusion is anyone's guess. But Lincoln didn't even raise one finger to try to avoid it. He wanted it and he got it. That's what frightened the remaining four states.

Whether he was right or not is a separate issue. Frankly, I think he should have tried harder to avoid starting the war. He could have then kept those four states on his side and been successful faster.
8.13.2008 9:05pm
AnneS:
Skyler, I"m not wearing my 21st century blinders. I understand everything youve written, but nothing you've written or attributed to the later secessionists makes any sense UNLESS viewed in light of the slavery issue and those states' desire to maintain the institution of slavery. They were afraid of Lincoln's "tyranny" because they were afraid he would use it to undermine or destroy the institution of slavery. They were alarmed by his actions because they knew he would do the same to them if they exercised their putative right to secede, which right they believed they would want to exercise in the near future because they thought an increasingly free-state dominated federal government would undermine the institution of slavery.

They may very well have thought the CSA could survive as a separate country, but they knew for a certainty that they were going to have to fight a larger, richer country to do it. They also knew that if they didn't secede once war became all but inevitable, they would likely never be able to do so. You just don't pick that fight unless you actually want, or reasonably believe that you soon will want, to secede anyway. Besides, as others have pointed out, they DID cite slavery in their ordinances of secession and, furthermore, the primary source of their solidarity with the other secessionist states was their shared status as slave states.

None of this is to say that they didn't have other grievances against the Union and the North, although many of these were also tied up with the slavery issue. But if it hadn't been for their desire to preserve the institution of slavery, they would not have seceded and there would have been no war.
8.13.2008 9:07pm
AnneS:
Skyler, I"m not wearing my 21st century blinders. I understand everything youve written, but nothing you've written or attributed to the later secessionists makes any sense UNLESS viewed in light of the slavery issue and those states' desire to maintain the institution of slavery. They were afraid of Lincoln's "tyranny" because they were afraid he would use it to undermine or destroy the institution of slavery. They were alarmed by his actions because they knew he would do the same to them if they exercised their putative right to secede, which right they believed they would want to exercise in the near future because they thought an increasingly free-state dominated federal government would undermine the institution of slavery.

They may very well have thought the CSA could survive as a separate country, but they knew for a certainty that they were going to have to fight a larger, richer country to do it. They also knew that if they didn't secede once war became all but inevitable, they would likely never be able to do so. You just don't pick that fight unless you actually want, or reasonably believe that you soon will want, to secede anyway. Besides, as others have pointed out, they DID cite slavery in their ordinances of secession and, furthermore, the primary source of their solidarity with the other secessionist states was their shared status as slave states.

None of this is to say that they didn't have other grievances against the Union and the North, although many of these were also tied up with the slavery issue. But if it hadn't been for their desire to preserve the institution of slavery, they would not have seceded and there would have been no war.
8.13.2008 9:07pm
Adam J:
Skyler- "abandon a fort that was within the sovereign territory of South Carolina"- First of all, state territory is also under the sovereignty of the United States and second of all the fort was SOLELY the sovereign territory of the United States, not South Carolina. Seriously man, the idea that Lincoln was either obligated to abandon the fort or should have abandoned the fort is completely ludicrious.
8.13.2008 9:14pm
Perseus (mail):
Slavery was certainly a big part, maybe a major part for these states (how can you measure?) but another big reason was their fear of Lincoln.

That still begs the question as to why they were so afraid of Lincoln. Given which states decided to secede and their publicly expressed reasons for doing so (see Virginia's Ordinance of Secession above), it is difficult to conclude otherwise than that their fears were rooted in what Lincoln might do about slavery.
8.13.2008 9:14pm
AnneS:
Skyler, by your account, anything Lincoln did short bending over and asking the seceding states to be gentle as they stole federal land and resources would have been a "provocation." It's patently unfair to accuse him of being "Macchiavellian", with all the negative connotations that entails. Once he decided, as was his duty, not to permit secession, he absolutely could not afford to abandon federal military installations, which would have meant turning them over to the seceding states. Aside from any tactical issues, it would have been tantamount to surrender and would have seriously undermined his negotiating position with the Confederacy. It would also have cost him support in the North, which he could not afford to lose.

Was the Berlin Airlift Macchiavellian? If Cuba decided to take back Guantanomo and blockaded our base, would it be Macchiavellian for the U.S. to "provoke" an attack by attempting to resupply our soldiers?

(Note: I am aware that Machiavelli gets a bad rap and that, in fact, all of those actions would be in accordance with Macchiavelli's political advice. I am merely mimicking the popular use of the term "Macchiavellian" as a negative descriptor of cutthroat politicians.)
8.13.2008 9:23pm
Golda:
Lincoln refused to abandon a fort that was within the sovereign territory of South Carolina. Whether he was obliged to do so or not is beside the point. He knew and stated that he knew that refusing to do so would provoke a fight. He decided to accelerate that by reinforcing the fort. He WANTED that war to start. He declined to take any actions to avoid it. His actions were purely machiavellian -- to not delay a war if he thinks he has to wage it.

The Fort was in the sovreign taerritory of the United States and it was Federal Property. The Confederate States fired the first shot of the war on the Federal Fort to "reduce" it, while United States forces were in it. Your argument that Lincoln did not respond to Federal forces under attack is, how would you say, farcical.
8.13.2008 9:30pm
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
Once he decided, as was his duty, not to permit secession, he absolutely could not afford to abandon federal military installations, which would have meant turning them over to the seceding states.

Lincoln announced in his inaugural address that his policy was to "hold, protect, and possess" federal property. Pretty cunning of him to announce his plan in the most public of settings and then to follow through on it. Pretty Machiavellian, that.

The only thing Lincoln did that was "Machiavellian" was to decide to send unarmed supplies to Ft. Sumter, thus putting the South in the position of having to start the war if it wanted the war (Davis did and he did). But it takes a pretty twisted logic to accuse Lincoln of being the aggressor by virtue of his refusal to be the aggressor.
8.13.2008 10:18pm
Skyler (mail) (www):
As to the point that the fort was federal property. Clearly that's how the north viewed it, and how we would view it today. But it takes circular logic to argue that a state can't remove a foreign power from its land because that would mean that it has seceded and it can't secede because the feds won't allow it. Arguments that Lincoln had a right to keep Sumter are based on the assumption that states can't secede. Attention! This is what the whole war was about, whether states had a right to secede. Secession of the first seven states was solely about slavery. The remaining four states seceded because of fear of Lincoln using military power when they were convinced it wasn't necessary or allowable.

It's a legitimate argument to say that states can't secede. It's a legitimate argument to say that feds should keep control of installations in states that try to secede.

But my point is that not everyone bought into that argument back then. Whether you agree with their argument or not is irrelevent, it was their argument that Fort Sumter was properly part of South Carolina once it seceded.

Anne wrote:

They were alarmed by his actions because they knew he would do the same to them if they exercised their putative right to secede, which right they believed they would want to exercise in the near future because they thought an increasingly free-state dominated federal government would undermine the institution of slavery.



BINGO!!!! You got it exactly right, Anne. The remaining four states were not solely seceding for slavery, they were seceding because of fear that their options in the future would be limited by an aggressive federal government. Exactly. They wanted to settle the issue in a peaceful manner and were perfectly willing to stay in the union so long as there was peace. Once that was no longer an option, they rightly saw that their voice would be completely ignored in any future political process and they feared that any future disagreement on any topic would be met with cannon.

Anne further said,

None of this is to say that they didn't have other grievances against the Union and the North, although many of these were also tied up with the slavery issue. But if it hadn't been for their desire to preserve the institution of slavery, they would not have seceded and there would have been no war.


You're batting a thousand, now, Anne. You're exactly right. There was more than one reason for their seceding, but it all related back to the slavery issue as the catalyst. Now, why was that so hard?

Mandias, announcing that you're going to rob someone doesn't change the fact that robbery is wrong. The South Carolinians considered Lincoln's act wrong and announcing it beforehand did not excuse it. Whether we agree with the South Carolinians or not, there's no getting around that this is what people of the time thought.
8.13.2008 10:45pm
MarkField (mail):

As to the point that the fort was federal property. Clearly that's how the north viewed it, and how we would view it today. But it takes circular logic to argue that a state can't remove a foreign power from its land because that would mean that it has seceded and it can't secede because the feds won't allow it.


SC ceded that fort to the federal government pursuant to the provisions of Art. I, Sec. 8, cl. 17. You can't seriously argue that secession operated as some sort property seizure.

Your attempt to invent justifications for VA is, well, inventive, but not in the slightest convincing. As others have pointed out, you have no explanation at all why it was that only slave states felt so "threatened" by Lincoln. If slavery were not the issue, then surely some free state would have seen this imaginary danger. Instead, only slave states left, and only border slave states were still in play.


Mandias, announcing that you're going to rob someone doesn't change the fact that robbery is wrong.


Even granting this point -- which I don't -- your original assertion was that Lincoln was "Machiavellian". Mr. Mandias responded to that particular assertion by pointing out that Lincoln's publicly announcement of his policy utterly refutes your slur.
8.13.2008 11:23pm
Hoosier:
Skyler referred to me--and others--as "historians" (Scare quotes in the original post.)

Why the " " around "historian? Has Skyler seen my paycheck?
8.13.2008 11:50pm
MarkField (mail):
Yeah, on a board full of lawyers (lawyers!!), he singles out historians. Then again, this is the guy who thinks Lincoln was properly seen as dangerous and the secessionists weren't.
8.14.2008 12:06am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Come on Mark.

You can't seriously argue that secession operated as some sort property seizure.


What on earth do you think secession is?

Whether you think it meant that or not is irrelevent. The South Carolinians certainly thought that and so did a whole passel of other people throughout the country, both north and south.

And I'm not "inventing" justifications. These are well known and were published back when the state was seceding.

I have never said that slavery wasn't a reason for secession. It was. It was not the ONLY reason and Ilya Somin's attempts to paint it that way are revisionism.

My slur against Lincoln as being machiavellian was intended with all its baggage. But let me be clear as to how it applied in my comment. Machiavelli said that one should never try to post-pone a war that is inevitable because the time and money spent getting more ready for it is joined by your future enemy doing the same. Here Lincoln seems to have wanted to accelerate the start of a war he deemed inevitable. Nothing was refuted by the comment above that he announced this in his inaugural address. Announcing it only makes it more clearly machiavellian.

The recurrent theme among those who see this issue incorrectly is that they see the history through the prism of northern lenses. If you look at how the people were thinking from the other side, it's an entirely different viewpoint. And since we're talking about the motivations of those people we certainly should take into account what they thought. They thought secession was legal, they thought the Feds should leave forts in seceded states, and they thought Lincoln was far too aggressive in abandoning the political process.

They also thought that people should be chattel. They were wrong. They were wrong about a lot of things, but that doesn't change what they believed and what caused them to decide to act as they did.

Hoosier, that's funny!
8.14.2008 12:19am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Mark, did I ever say the secessionists weren't dangerous? Did I ever absolve them of any blame? No. What I'm saying is that Ilya's attempt to rewrite history by denying that any southerners had any interest in seceding beyond slavery is flagrantly wrong.
8.14.2008 12:44am
David M. Nieporent (www):
But my point is that not everyone bought into that argument back then. Whether you agree with their argument or not is irrelevent, it was their argument that Fort Sumter was properly part of South Carolina once it seceded.
Your point is either (a) wrong or (b) banal; either way, it's completely nonsensical, nonresponsive, and unhelpful in discussion.

No, whether we agree is not "irrelevant"; it's the whole point. Their argument was wrong, and therefore the fact that "it was their argument" is utterly meaningless.
8.14.2008 12:53am
Perseus (mail):
Why the " " around "historian? Has Skyler seen my paycheck?

Some of us are "political scientists" and I bet our paychecks are comparable.
8.14.2008 12:57am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I have never said that slavery wasn't a reason for secession. It was. It was not the ONLY reason and Ilya Somin's attempts to paint it that way are revisionism.
I repeat: it certainly was the only reason for secession. Neither South Carolina nor any other traitor state had any other motivation for secession except the preservation of slavery. No other reason was either necessary or sufficient, while slavery was both.

The thing you try to put so much weight on -- the fact that not all traitor states seceded at once -- shows nothing except disagreement over the best way to protect slavery.
8.14.2008 1:00am
Golda:
"This is what the whole war was about, whether states had a right to secede."

. . . followed by

"You're exactly right. There was more than one reason for their seceding, but it all related back to the slavery issue as the catalyst. Now, why was that so hard?"

and, then . . .

"I have never said that slavery wasn't a reason for secession. It was. It was not the ONLY reason and Ilya Somin's attempts to paint it that way are revisionism."

Perhaps it is "hard" for you because you are arguing against yourself.
8.14.2008 1:03am
David M. Nieporent (www):
The recurrent theme among those who see this issue incorrectly is that they see the history through the prism of northern lenses. If you look at how the people were thinking from the other side, it's an entirely different viewpoint.
Actually, it really wasn't, no matter how many times you try to obscure it. It was the same viewpoint. Both sides agreed it was about slavery. Sure, Southerners thought slavery was fine and northerners didn't, but Southerners were not pretending the war was about something else until after the war, when they created the Lost Cause myth.
And since we're talking about the motivations of those people we certainly should take into account what they thought. They thought secession was legal, they thought the Feds should leave forts in seceded states, and they thought Lincoln was far too aggressive in abandoning the political process.
Once more: Lincoln didn't abandon the political process. The South did. Before Lincoln even came into office.

Some may have thought secession was legal, but what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? They weren't seceding because they thought secession was legal; they were seceding because of slavery.
8.14.2008 1:08am
Skyler (mail) (www):
Nieporent,

You're not being responsive. You're pretending that you can assign a motive to actors without taking into account the thoughts of the actors. What you think of their argument has no bearing on what they thought of their argument. Whether they were right or wrong doesn't change what they believed.

The four late seceding states did so because of reasons other than, or more correctly, in addition to slavery. That's what they claimed at the time, that's what they claimed afterwards, and there is no reason to doubt it.

That you refuse to accept that fact is bizarre.

Golda, pay attention. The war was about secession. Lincoln was quite clear about that and so was almost everyone else. The cause of secession is what we're discussing.
8.14.2008 1:14am
Skyler (mail) (www):

Once more: Lincoln didn't abandon the political process. The South did. Before Lincoln even came into office.


The first seven states to secede did. The remaining four did not! That's what we're talking about. The remaining four believed Lincoln went too far and feared for his over reach of power. Whether that fear was justifiable or not is irrelevent. That's what those four states claimed and believed. Yes, they wanted to keep their slaves, but they had this second reason that Ilya and many others seem to want to wish away as though it never happened.


Some may have thought secession was legal, but what does that have to do with the price of tea in China? They weren't seceding because they thought secession was legal;



Um, yes they were. Virginia clearly stated that this is exactly why they were seceding. Why do you doubt what they put in ink on paper? You bet they wanted to keep their slaves, but they had been willing to work through the political process until the war started and they feared that they could never have their view point considered without a cannon being aimed at them. So was it about slavery? Of course. But it was also about fear of the feds.

Y'all are just too much. You lack logical brains. I'm done.
8.14.2008 1:30am
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
<i>Once that was no longer an option, they rightly saw that their voice would be completely ignored in any future political process and they feared that any future disagreement on any topic would be met with cannon.</i>

Are you really arguing that if you can't secede you no longer have any say in the political system and that any future disagreement will be met with cannon? That's absurd.

You don't have the right to secede yet I'm pretty sure you haven't been cannonaded lately.
8.14.2008 1:39am
Mr. Mandias (mail) (www):
<i>Announcing it only makes it more clearly machiavellian.</i>

You're so deep into Orwellian doublethink territory. First you argued that Lincoln's clear refusal to fire the first shot and his willingness to send an unarmed relief expedition made him the agressor. Now you are arguing that Lincoln's willingness to announce his policy well in advance so that everyone understood what he was going to do and what the consequences of the possible reactions were--you're arguing that this is Machiavellian. Do you even know what the word "'Machiavellian' with all its baggage means?" It means 'sneaky, underhanded, behind the scenes manipulation'. Jefferson Davis wasn't *tricked* into firing on Ft. Sumter. He clearly understood that firing on Ft. Sumter would bring on the war and he fired on Ft. Sumter because he *wanted* to bring on the war. He thought the South would win it and that bringing on the war would precipitate the secession of the upper South slave states, which it did.
8.14.2008 1:46am
David M. Nieporent (www):
You're not being responsive. You're pretending that you can assign a motive to actors without taking into account the thoughts of the actors. What you think of their argument has no bearing on what they thought of their argument. Whether they were right or wrong doesn't change what they believed.
I'm not pretending that I can assign a motive to actors without taking into account their thoughts. I'm pretending that I can assign a motive to actors without taking into account the fact that they thought they were justified in their actions.

Once more: Lincoln didn't abandon the political process. The South did. Before Lincoln even came into office.

The first seven states to secede did. The remaining four did not!
Yes, they did! They didn't secede before he came into office, but they seceded before he had the chance to do anything. Lincoln didn't abandon anything. The only thing that Lincoln did before they seceded was send food to American troops. Nothing about that constitutes "abandoning the political process."
8.14.2008 1:46am
AnneS:
Well, since Skyler has left the party, I guess this comes too late. I will point out, as others have done, that no one, myself included, has said that slavery was the ONLY reason the South seceded. We have consistently said that slavery was the predominant issue, that it was inseparably attached to most of the other reasons/justifications for secession, and that without the Southern states' desire to preserve the institution of slavery, none of them would have seceded and there would have been no war. I'm not sure, but I think Skyler agrees with this, so I don't really understand what he continues to argue with us about, unless it's to pedantically lecture us on our 21st century blinders. Let's be clear, I understand and I think most other posters understand the perspective of the Southerners. We also understand, because unlike the principals we were not caught up in events, that their insistence that resupplying Fort Sumter was casus belli ONLY makes sense if they had already decided that the only acceptable response from Lincoln was complete surrender.

Furthermore, Skyler used the word "catalyst" to describe slavery. I don't think he knows what that word means. The resupplying of Fort Sumter, which even at the time any reasonable person couldn't view as an unjustified provocation, was arguably the catalyst - that is, the spark that set the fire ablaze or the accelerant that caused it to become a conflagration, depending on your point of view. Slavery and all the issues it engendered provided the majority of the fuel for the fire.

(I also don't think he knows what Macchiavellian means, but that's another post for another day.)
8.14.2008 8:42am
Golda:
Skyler: When you say that the slavery issue was the catalyst for the "two" reasons to secede ("There was more than one reason for their seceding, but it all related back to the slavery issue as the catalyst . . . Yes, they wanted to keep their slaves, but they had this second reason "), you are semantically saying the same thing as Ilya.

Similarly, I can say with some evidence that your sympathy for the "lost cause" is the reason for both your antipathy toward Lincoln and the credence you give to a reason, whose catalyst is slavery.
8.14.2008 8:58am
Martin Grant (mail):

Really, folks when you have people all but declaring the Civil War to be the "War of Northern Agression" there is a decreasing point in arguing about it.


That's just a framing issue. Why not call it the "War of Southern Aggression"? That willll make for a good discussion.

I prefer the "War of Southern Oppression". That's ambiguous enough both sides can agree on it.
8.14.2008 9:52am
Tom S (mail):
Several issues that have either not been mentioned, or were only mentioned in passing.

1) The implosion of the Democratic Party made it possible for Lincoln to win as a minority President in 1860. This implosion took place at the behest of the Southern slaveholding wing of the party.

2) Southern state governors coordinated the seizure of Federal military installations by state troops, before their states seceded.

3) The first attempt to resupply and reinforce Fort Sumter (and Fort Pickens in Florida) was ordered by President Buchanan, who could under no stretch of the imagination be considered Machiavellian. An unarmed, civilian merchant ship attempted to enter Charleston harbor in January 1861, was fired upon by state troops in Fort Moultrie, and turned back.
8.14.2008 11:48am
Adam J:
"As to the point that the fort was federal property. Clearly that's how the north viewed it, and how we would view it today." Gee, and why wouldn't it be viewed that way by anyone in any time? If Panama had suddenly decided it wanted its Canal back before the lease ran up would it have been anything less then an act of war for Panama to take it? Apparently secession also gave the southern states the right to be an indian giver (apologies to any Indians for the phrase) and take its fort back, simply because it wanted to. You should of course know that the 10th Amendment clearly doesn't apply here (really it doesn't apply at all to secession, but this should be indisputable), since the land was given pursuant to an explicit Constitutional clause. In what world do you live in that you think there was a time when a sovereign nation (let alone a State which only has limited sovereignty) could sell its land to another sovereign and then suddenly decided it wanted it back?

"The four late seceding states did so because of reasons other than, or more correctly, in addition to slavery." Or more likely, they believed the best way to preserve slavery didn't lie in secession, however those wacky South Carolinians tipped their hand and forced them to join the Civil War. After all, after the first seven states states seceded clearly the remaining slave states lost the votes they needed to preserve slavery.
8.14.2008 3:22pm
Dennis Todd (mail):
I came across an CSPAN Q&A interview with Thomas DiLorenzo, a Lincoln revisionist who said Lincoln 'tricked' S. Carolina into attacking Ft Sumter. He offered as proof a letter Lincoln sent to G. Fox thanking him for accomplishing the goals they had set out. He also claims Lincoln refused to meet with Confederate 'peace delegations'.

The whole hour is here. The clip on Sumter is here.

A question for those who say secession is not legal: If it were clearly and unambiguously stated during the Constitutional convention that membership was a one way ticket, do you think any, all or some of the original 13 colonial delegations would have joined?
8.15.2008 3:46pm
Dennis Todd (mail):
On the point about Ft. Sumter being federal property, I recall an historian friend of mine explaining to me that the Federal government paid for tons of limerock to build the ground into the sea which formed the fort. He said the land was literally bought and built by the US govt.

Can anyone confirm this?
8.15.2008 3:50pm
Jeremy C:
Ilya - While you are correct about slavery's emphasis in the four secession documents you provided, particularly the three that solely emphasize slavery, you left out a fifth document that is arguably the preeminent of the secession declarations as it was the first, made by South Carolina, and it was written for the explicit purpose of recruiting other states into the secessionist movement. This document is the "South Carolina Address" authored by Robert Barnwell Rhett and adopted by the South Carolina Secession Convention.

As you will find upon reading it, slavery, though present, is anything but the solitary reason given to the other states as to why they should join the South Carolinians. Any careful and honest reading of it will reveal that Rhett understood the issue at a much more complex level in which anti-slavery abolitionism, in itself, was not a sizable enough faction to impose itself on the south. Rather, South Carolinian concerns derived from the *alliance* of abolitionists with multiple other causes, chief among them protectionism, into an aggregate majority.

South Carolina was not afraid of any threat to slavery from Lincoln alone - it was afraid of good old fashioned logrolling in which the anti-slavery cause was brought together with all sorts of other issues into a working majority.
8.16.2008 5:18pm
Jeremy C:
IMO the best analysis of the secession question is the one found in Lysander Spooner's "No Treason" and his other civil war era writings, such as the letter to Charles Sumner.

Spooner, who writes with the credentials of a well known and bona fide abolitionist, concluded nonetheless that secession was legitimate for the simple and clear reason that its suppression was an act of coercion violating the principle of consent from which our government, in both theory and explicit claim at its founding, derives its authority. Motive, to Spooner, is little more than a diversion to the legal core, and he recognizes that the south's pro-slavery motive, though fundamentally immoral and worth resistance in its own right for that reason alone, is nonetheless honestly admitted by the south and is not sufficient itself to intrude upon government by consent in the south.
8.16.2008 5:26pm
Dennis Todd (mail):
Amen to that Jeremy. I thought of Spooner as well, when reading this thread.
8.17.2008 3:17pm