Friday, September 07, 2007

Slavery. A Reason for War?

"I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in anyway the social and political equality of the white and black races - that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race."

Who do you suppose made that quote? It sounds to me like something straight out of Hitler’s Third Reich. Or maybe it is a quote from the Grand Dragon of the KKK? I know what you must be thinking. Surely this quote is from one of the leaders of the Southern Confederacy. Maybe Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson?

No, No, No, and No. I’m sure the answer will shock you, for this quote was made by none other than the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln! Lincoln, you ask? The savior of the black race? Who would have thought it? The truth is that he made this statement in 1858 in his debate with Stephen Douglas, three years before the outbreak of the War for Southern Independence.

It is said that history is written by the victors. So it is that all your life you’ve been taught that the War between the States was fought in order to free blacks from the grip of cruel Southern slaveholders. While this is certainly the more “politically correct” reason for the War Between the States, it, unfortunately, is not consistent with the historical record.

The historical record shows a much different reason…
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

True it was that slavery was a problem in the United States. In fact, slavery existed in the North and the South before the war. Truly, it was Northern slave ships that brought African slaves to the shores of Dixie. The reason that slavery was more common in the South had nothing to do with moral superiority in the North. It was strictly a pragmatic arrangement. The South, being a largely agricultural environment, with it’s wide open land and vast space easily accommodated slave dwellings. Many slaves were actually content to live on their master’s property and to serve them in exchange for the food, clothing, and shelter they received. This fact is shown by the many slaves who defended their plantations and protected the women and children from yankee invaders after the Southern boys had gone off to war. Conversely, in the North, industrialism had overrun the small amount of land in New England. Slavery didn’t work very well there because there was no extra space to keep other families on their small properties. It was much easier to get cheap labor by employing immigrant workers at pittance wages to crank out widgets in their factories. Add to this, the fact that Northerners were generally racists and did not want blacks living close to them. As an example of this hypocrisy, I remember when I was in college my history professor reading a newpaper headline declaring “Yonkers, New York decides to try racial integration.” That was 1988!

In spite of the greater slave population in the South, the real reasons for secession have nothing to do with slavery. It was, rather, an economical issue. The North bought its raw materials from the South. They would produce goods, then sell it back to the South with a large profit attached. When the South resorted to buying its goods from Europe, Northern congressmen rallied together to impose tariffs on imported goods, forcing the Southerners to buy from yankee imperialists rather than pay the high taxes on the goods from overseas. Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, goes into great detail on this situation in his 2 volume work entitled, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government.

In light of this economic warfare the North was waging on the South, the South decided to legally and peacefully secede from this voluntary union they had entered a short 80 years earlier. Remember what I read earlier? The Declaration of Independence states,
That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government.

With the election of Lincoln (getting only 40 percent of the popular vote), the South was now being governed without the consent of the governed. Therefore, they claimed the right guaranteed to them by the very document our founding fathers penned, the right to alter or abolish these political ties and to institute new government.

So, what did the war have to do with slavery? Initially, not a thing. The Confederate Constitution explicitly forbad the importation of new slaves into the country. It was a well accepted fact that slavery was a dying institution, and would soon fade into the shadows of history as industrialism began to creep its way down South. Only 1 out of every 16 Southerners owned slaves. Of those that did own them, only a tiny fraction of them owned more than 1 or 2. So, it is quite ridiculous to claim that men would risk their lives to preserve the institution of slavery when 98% of them never benefited from it. They were clearly fighting for their independence, against a strong federal government not too different than the tyrannical English monarchy they had fought in the previous century. What’s more, England, under the leadership of William Wilberforce had banned slavery there in the 1820s. Why then would they support the independence of a slaveholding Confederacy unless the South’s reasons for independence had nothing to do with slavery at all?

Why is it then that you always hear of the North as the liberator of the slaves? Lincoln’s Gettysburg address expressly delineates slavery as the primary cause of Northern aggression against the South. The answer is simply this. Early on in the war, freedom fighters from the South were winning victory after victory against Lincoln’s invading armies. Apparently, “preserving the union” wasn’t a strong enough reason for these yankee armies to continue their attacks against their brothers across the Mason Dixon line. Morale was dropping quickly. They needed a cause. And a cause was found. The radical abolitionists had had a presence in the Northern states for quite some time, even before the war. Previously most “civilized” gentlemen distanced themselves from these terrorist groups made popular through the “al-queda” like actions of a man named John Brown. Yet, when a cause was needed, the abolitionists were happy to supply it. Harriett Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin spread propaganda all across the North providing just enough reason for yankee soldiers to justify in their minds piercing their brothers in gray through with a bayonet and raping their surviving women and children. Julia Ward Howe's Battle Hymn of the Republic transformed simple imperial domination into a “righteous cause” against an evil, rebellious south land.

So, the next time you hear some yankee indoctrinated student spouting off the supposed reasons for the “Civil War” remind him of the true reasons, and let him know that although you may stifle independence for a season, you can’t defeat a true patriot indefinitely before he rises to claim his God given liberty.


Unknown said...

Your point can be made without referring to fellow patriots and citizens as Yankees.

The fact that people of your obvious intelligence must continue to refer to Americans living in the North as a Yankee is disturbing and shameful.

Your closing, in my opinion, serves no purpose except to ruin a well-written and well-prepared article. By childishly referring to northern-dwelling American as Yankees you stoop to a childish level that compromises the rest of your piece.

Mike Southerland said...


Thanks for your compliment…I think…I must have missed the memo that “yankee” is now a politically incorrect term. On this day in 2007, I pulled the following definition for yankee out of

Yan•kee Pronunciation[yang-kee] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation
1. a native or inhabitant of the United States.
2. a native or inhabitant of New England.
3. a native or inhabitant of a northern U.S. state, esp. of one of the northeastern states that sided with the Union in the American Civil War.
4. a federal or northern soldier in the American Civil War.
5. a word used in communications to represent the letter Y.
6. Military. the NATO name for a class of Soviet ballistic missile submarine, nuclear powered, with up to 16 missile launchers.
7. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a Yankee or Yankees: Yankee ingenuity.
[Origin: 1750–60, Americanism; perh. back formation from D Jan Kees John Cheese, nickname (mistaken for plural) applied by the Dutch of colonial New York to English settlers in Connecticut ]

yankee. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved September 08, 2007, from website:

Now, if I’m misreading this, then please let me know. But I see no despairingly written definitions for the word “yankee.” I ask you, what is so “childish” about using a dictionary definition to describe a person living in the northeast United States? I’ve also observed that to this day, many Europeans refer to “Yankees” as anyone from the United States. There’s also a very famous baseball team that for some reason decided to take on this “politically incorrect” name. I’d think that a supporter of the north in the “Civil” War would wear the title of “Yankee” with pride. After all, the “Yankees” won.
Finally, you refer to them as my “fellow patriots and citizens.” Citizens maybe..since the South was assimilated once again into the American Empire during “reconstruction.” But Patriots? A fellow patriot would be one who would join another in a fight for a righteous cause. We may be “fellow patriots” when it came to battling the Japanese in WWII. We may be “fellow patriots” when it comes to fighting muslim terrorists intent on blowing up buildings on our soil. But when the topic of the War Between the States is raised, how could anyone consider those who fought on the other side as “fellow patriots?” That’s like saying that although the U.S. and Britain are now allies, we should refer to them as “fellow patriots.” Again…accurate if speaking of WWII…but quite inaccurate when speaking of our first war for Independence.

Unknown said...

My point is merely that I refer to myself as an American, I refer to you as an America, and I will refer to anyone living in any section of our country as an American. I feel that in this day of 2007 we do not need to go around using regional locations to qualify people.

I take exception to your use of "Yankee" not because of its definition, but because of the context you present it in. Perhaps I am looking too far into your passage; however, I feel you chose Yankee to convey an elitist, snobbish, Northerner.

I hope I am incorrect.

Mike Southerland said...

Jeffrey wrote:
however, I feel you chose Yankee to convey an elitist, snobbish, Northerner.

I hope I am incorrect.

I would be hypocritical if I did not acknowledge at least a bit of truth in that implication. To their credit, though, most “Americans,” in general (north or south) are greatly influenced by the educational system implemented by an elitist, snobbish, circa. late 1860’s – 1870’s Union army. If you’ve ever done any research on “Reconstruction” you will find that many atrocities were carried out by carpetbaggers and scalawags against a beaten down south land. Martial law was instituted, and governors appointed by the North were installed, against the will of the governed, in the southern states. At that point, a concentrated effort was made to strip young, Southern children of their heritage. Thus began the defamation of the Confederate flag, and the association of everything Confederate with racism. Imposed “Yankee” (and they must be described this way) governments worked diligently to pit whites and blacks against one another, creating a racial tension that did not exist before the war. They took the land away from Confederate veterans and gave it to former slaves. They denied the right to vote to anyone who had previously supported the Confederacy, and “stacked the deck” by giving the right to vote to former slaves, while at the same time buying their votes. I assert that the racial tensions seen in the Southern United States from the 1880’s through most of the 20th century, and even continuing to a large degree today, are due directly to the meddling of an imperialistic government in the affairs of a “conquered territory” in the former Confederate states. As I mentioned in the article itself, the whole slavery issue was an invented “cause” that gave the Union army the justification for attacking their brothers in gray. This invented cause did not end after the war. It continued as a “justification” for the war and written into the history books as such, to the point now where it is hardly ever questioned.

You are correct in one area, though. Today, most people are generally “Americans” rather than being “from the North” or “from the South.” This is attributed, in large part, to our highly mobilized society. It is no longer a big deal of hearing someone relocating from…let’s say Maine, to Phoenix, AZ, for instance. It’s not uncommon for someone to live in several states over the course of a decade. In my own case, I have lived in Texas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma all since 2000. So, when the populations gets “mixed up” to this point, and people intermarry from various geographic areas of the country, the “heritage” of any one part of the country seems to slip away. I see this as a sad situation. We have lost the heritage for which our fathers have valiantly fought. In my case, I can trace my heritage for several generations on each side of my family back to the 1860’s, and all the ones I have researched out have been “from the South.” My wife’s maternal grandmother was from Illinois…so my children have a little bit of “Yankee” blood in them…but that’s OK. :-) Like you say, we are all Americans. However, what I want to do is to teach the truth concerning what happened in the struggle for Southern Independence, and teach the truth concerning the disregard of our Constitution that started with Lincoln and continues in each presidential administration to this day. I want to teach my children that it is a good thing for whites and blacks to treat each other with kindness and respect. We should live peacefully and United in support of our Southern way of life…not in strife as the Reconstructionist Union army intended.

Anonymous said...

While I agree that abolition of slavery was not the primary aim of the civil war. Although you have to admit that when South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter they weren't just thinking "Hey we don't want the federal government to have control over our state." The issue that brought about the states rights argument was slavery! It may not have been abolition when the seeds were planted but the abolition seeds were fertilized when the south wanted to have the federal government tell the northern states that they had to help the south continue slavery by returning runaway slaves. The other great plant food for abolition was the Dred Scott decision. None but the hardest hearted southern plantation owner could stomach the fact that federal law now said that Africans were not quite human. Again, the reason for the Civil war may not have been abolition but the without the underlying cause of slavery, there would have been no war. Which, brings me to my point. Slavery should have been abolished in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. It wasn't because every founding father in that hot house in Philadelphia knew that there would be no need for the declaration without the south and if the north declared for itself they would have had to fight Britain and their Southern Neighbors. However, toward the end of the war a tiny window of opportunity opened to rid North America of it's scourge. That tiny crack was opened by the son of one of the most wealthy slave traders and plantation owners in South Carolina. Here's where the story is. It's worth reading!

One thing this story doesn't tell you is that John Laurens made it very clear that this wasn't some pipe dream. He really hatred slavery and thought those who used the excuse that it was necessary for them to make a living were full of hot air.

Mike Southerland said...


Thanks for leaving a comment...I will try and respond to it when I get a chance.

Our life got suddenly busy this morning at 3:15 AM with the birth of our new son, Samuel Davies Southerland!

I'd enjoy the opportunity to engage in "friendly debate," but at this moment daddy duties are too great to enter into it. :-)

Mike Southerland said...

OK Roger...

Things have finally settled down a bit after the birth of our son, and the unfortunate loss of my grandmother.

I did want to comment on your post.

When you bring the issue of slavery in the ante-bellum history of the United States, I believe you bring up an important point. The Dred Scott decision was made by "U.S." judges. It was an "American" flag that flew over many of the slave ships that brought Africans to this country.

And John Laurens, as noble as he was in his efforts, was opposed by Northern and Southern politicians. His is an interesting story. I read about him as one of Washington's Aides-de-camp in the very good book by Arthur Lefkowitz, George Washington's Indispensable Men

Click here for the Amazon entry for it

As declared by Jefferson Davis in his series, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Sumter was fired upon because federal forces continued to reinforce the Fort after they had given their word that they would leave. After secession, this was a foreign fort on Confederate soil that had no legal jurisdiction to be there. Many warnings were given, and yet no action was taken by the north to follow through on their promise to leave. In fact, yankee forces were putting their ships in place to form a blockade off the coast of South Carolina. This was an act of war, and the South defended herself by firing upon hostile forces within her own boundaries.

In bringing up the history of slavery in this country you uncover something rarely admitted by those who supported the efforts of the north. 1) Slavery existed in "America" - not just the southern states. 2) Slavery was not practical in the industrialized north, so the majority were in the south simply for pragmatic reasons. 3)The Emancipation Proclamation legally freed no slaves. It specifically did not free the slaves in the north (yes, there were many), and it had no jurisdiction to free any in the south. 4) The Confederate Constitution explictly forbad the slave trade...the importation of new slaves into the country, whereas the U.S. Constitution only forbad it after a certain date.

The simple fact that I pointed out in this article of the tiny percentage of Southerners that owned slaves gives enormous credence to the assertion that the war was not over slavery. Why on earth would I, as an able bodied but dirt poor farmer, leave my family and my farm to go fight just to preserve an evil institution of slavery when only the rich owned slaves anyway? I'll tell you the answer to that. They weren't fighting for slavery. They were fighting to protect their families and their land from an evil empire set on shackling them under the bonds of tyranny. It is the same story of the Scots in their fight against the English. It is the same story of the American patriots fighting those same Brits. It is a heroic effort of freedom against a repressive regime. One need not look very hard to see the truth of this. For after the loss, the South was devastated, and even today we have virtually no freedom compared to what we had pre-1865.

Anonymous said...

I agree with just about everything you wrote in your response, including

"The Dred Scott decision was made by "U.S." judges"

but it was shameful!


"It was an "American" flag that flew over many of the slave ships that brought Africans to this country."

also shameful!

However, the reason for the war between the stated could be summed up in one's opinion about whether or not Fort Sumter was a

"a foreign fort on Confederate soil that had no legal jurisdiction to be there."

Which brings us back to the central question.

Why did South Carolina feel the need to secede? It was because they felt their right to own slaves was threatened by the Lincoln presidency (which is a "whole 'nuther debate"). This is the clearest reason for saying that the civil war was caused by the slavery issue.

There was NO other right that was "threatened" by the federal government.

Those poor dirt farmers WERE (must have been) fighting for something beside the right to own slaves BUT I believe that instead of blaming the evil empire of the untied states that instead we should be blaming the Aristocratic Spin Machine of the south that convinced those poor dirt farmers that something beside the plantation owners institution of slavery was in jeopardy!

While the loss WAS devastating AND there WERE abuses by "carpetbaggers" from the North one COULD argue that the only reason a more conciliatory effort was not pursued was because that radical southerner who supported slavery, John Wilkes Booth, made sure that the incompetent Andrew Johnson would preside over the first few years of reconstruction.

I did have a couple of issues.

Mike Southerland said...

Why did South Carolina feel the need to secede? It was because they felt their right to own slaves was threatened by the Lincoln presidency (which is a "whole 'nuther debate"). This is the clearest reason for saying that the civil war was caused by the slavery issue.

I disagree with you here. If you will read Jefferson Davis' Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government you'll learn that the reason that the Southern states felt the need to secede was due to economic pressure. It had to do with the north raising tariffs on imported goods from Europe, buying southern raw materials for cheap and selling back finished goods to them at a premium. Due to the higher populations in the north, the house of representatives was lopsided in their favour. With the election of Lincoln with only 40% of the popular vote and winning no southern states, there were two branches of government stacked against the south.

What is interesting is that in the 1820's several northern states threatened to secede. However, they never did. What this does show, though, is that it was a legally recognized right for the states to leave this voluntary union into which they had joined themselves.

Though I vehemently disagree that slavery was South Carolina's reason for secession, I must point out that even it is was, secession was their legal right, and the north had no moral right to force South Carolina, or any other state to remain in this "voluntary" union at the point of the musket and bayonet.

I ask you this: Which was more cruel, an aristocrat slaveholder who provided food, shelter, and clothing for his slaves, or a Reconstructionist federal army who "declared" the slaves "free" but penniless and unemployable in a decimated southland by Sherman's tyrannical march across Dixie where he burned practically every house, barn, and church he saw? The federal government put it in the minds of the newly "free" slaves that he was entitled to the white man's possessions. So crime erupted and set in motion a disastrous race relations nightmare between black and white that continues even unto our present day.

Slavery was a dying institution. Davis admits this in his work. Should it have ever happened? Probably not. However, the blame is not entirely on the southern states, for it was "American" institutions that brought it here originally as I have already pointed out. Secession was carried out for economic reasons. Slavery was simply a "cause" that could be used to justify northern aggression against a fledging nation fighting for its independence from it's mother country due to unfair taxation…quite similar to 1776.