The civil war was arguably the darkest period of American history as it signified a time at which the United States could have ceased to exist. It was the first time in history that all out war was waged between American citizens, American patriots, without the participation of a foreign enemy. More than 150 years following the civil war, wounds still lie deep between the sides, especially among the many citizens of the South, the descendents of those confederate soldiers and leaders. Over the decades following the civil war to this day, rightwing political advocates have been on a mission to rewrite history in their eyes. They portray the civil war as a dark period in American history perpetrated by the North in their conquest of greed and power. These rightwing political historians contend that it was the North and the North alone that started this war against the ‘peaceful’ south to maintain the ‘status quo’ of northern beneficiaries.
When you find yourself in a debate about the civil war, you will inevitably find yourself debating the constitution, racial relations, and ideological belief. It is a topic that encompasses many other topics. I have no doubt that many innocent men and women lost their lives in the war on both sides, neither do I debate the fact that there were many Southerners who fought in the war merely to defend their homes. However I disagree with this idea that the South was on the moral high ground of the war, I disagree that their intentions for secession had little to do with the institution of slavery and purely to do with that of upholding constitutional rights. This article will be focusing on the arguments from Confederate apologists, people whom believe that the Confederate states were more than justified to secede, and those whom believe this war had little to do with slavery.
Tariffs, taxes and the civil war
One of the major arguments about the reasoning for southern secession was that of taxation. The basis of the argument stems from the idea that the South was treated unfairly by the North through being unfairly taxed and confederate apologists would cite the introduction of Tariffs in 1828. Confederate apologists will point to the nullification crises as the key trigger to South secession, the core reasoning behind the move toward southern secession. This argument is a convenient one often used by conservatives to argue their ideological beliefs, but there are a number of holes in this argument, factors that just don’t connect to events between 1860 and 1863.
Firstly, the nullification crises occurred in 1828. It was also resolved by 1833, nearly 30 years before to the declarations of secession by the first Confederate States. By 1833 the nullification crises was resolved through a series of negotiations and compromises with South Carolina, the state whom had submitted grievances at the time:
In 1833, Henry Clay helped broker a compromise bill with Calhoun that slowly lowered tariffs over the next decade. The Compromise Tariff of 1833 was eventually accepted by South Carolina and ended the nullification crisis.
The South Carolina government even declared victory with the tariff compromise of 1833:
Clay, whose plan of preserving the Union was by compromise, came forward with a bill for greatly reducing the tariff. Webster, strongly opposed to yielding in this way, made a vigorous speech against the bill, but it passed and South Carolina claimed a victory.
One could theorize that South Carolina and the other Confederate States had been planning secession over a 30 year period following the Tariff bill of 1828, but this would not be logical for obvious reasons. Why would they wait 30 years to secede? Where the evidence that there was a build of toward secession between 1828 and 1860?
Secondly, tariffs were at their lowest in 1860 thanks to the hard lobbying of Southern agriculturalists and industrialists and the introduction of the 1857 Tariff bill:
The Tariff of 1857 was a major tax reduction in the United States. It created a mid-century low point for tariffs. It amended the Walker Tariff of 1846 by lowering tax rates around 17 percent.
Robert Mercer Taliaferro Hunter of Virginia authored the Tariff of 1857. The bill was a response to a federal budget surplus during the mid 1850s. Hunter planned to distribute this surplus in the form of a tax cut. Supporters of the bill came mostly from Southern and agricultural states. These states tended to depend on exports and thus were inclined to support free trade.
Confederate apologists still continue to argue the relevance and burden of tariffs on the south at the time despite this evidence. They point back to the 1860 presidential campaign where they claim that Lincoln supposedly caused controversy in the South with his protectionist stance and his support to increase tariffs. This in supposedly pushed States like South Carolina toward secession, claim rightwing political advocates DiLorenzo of Lew Rockwell:
Tariffs certainly were an issue in 1860. Lincoln’s official campaign poster featured mug shots of himself and vice presidential candidate Hannibal Hamlin, above the campaign slogan, “Protection for Home Industry.” (That is, high tariff rates to “protect home industry” from international competition). In a speech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (“Steeltown, U.S.A.”), a hotbed of protectionist sentiment, Lincoln announced that no other issue was as important as raising the tariff rate.
Though, likewise, there is an issue in this claim, as Harry Jaffa points out:
Tom DiLorenzo thinks that slavery was not the real issue in the Civil War, that it was the Whig economic program. Banks, tariffs, internal improvements, and what he calls corporate welfare. And he thinks that the slavery question was really only a sham that was not the real question; it was not the real issue.
That’s very strange for anybody reading the Lincoln-Douglas debates, since the subject of tariffs was never mentioned. The only time the word is used, I think, is when Douglas says that the tariff was one of the questions that the two parties used to discuss. But the only subject discussed in the Lincoln-Douglas debates was slavery in the territories.
The near absence of any mention regarding tariffs is not merely evident in the debates that Lincoln participated in during the 1860 presidential race; The is also a minimal mention of tariffs in the first declarations of grievances for secession on December 24th, 1860:
Slavery is the first thing to be mentioned in the South Carolina declaration of immediate causes to secession in December 24, 1860. Slavery is mentioned 6 times, tariffs are not mentioned at all, although taxes are, in relation to slavery that is: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_scarsec.asp
Slavery is mentioned first in the Mississippi declaration of immediate causes of secession, it is mentioned 3 times. There is no mention of tariffs or taxes: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/csa_missec.asp
Slavery is mentioned first in the Texas declaration of immediate causes of secession, it is mentioned 3 times. There is no mention of tariffs or taxes:
What about the State of Georgia? Slavery is mentioned first in their declaration of immediate causes to secession. It is mentioned 20 times (if I counted correctly). No mention of tariffs or taxes in the immediate causes to secession for Georgia. Tariffs were mentioned as a grievance at the Georgia convention of secession, it was however a minor issue compared to that of slavery though:
These were the first States to secede and the first States to put forth their grievances for secession. To the impartial reader, it is evident that the matter of tariffs were not in anyway the core motivator to secession and the civil war. Slavery was evidently the core issue cited for secession instead. There is no doubt in my mind that the matter of tariffs would have been brought back to life during the civil war to incite more grievances and justifications for secession, but it was a minor supplement to the core issue behind the civil war.
Again, confederate apologists will insist that high tariffs were the core issue to the civil war and they will often point to the Morrill Tariff which raised tariff rates significantly:
The Big Lie here is that Loewen makes no mention at all of the fact that the notorious Morrill Tariff, which more than doubled the average tariff rate (from 15% to 32.6% initially), was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives during the 1859–60 session of Congress, and was the cornerstone of the Republican Party’s economic policy. It then passed the U.S. Senate, and was signed into law by President James Buchanan on March 2, 1861, two days before Lincoln’s inauguration,
While the Morrill Tariff bill was debated in congress as far back as 1859, it was only passed and adopted in March of 1861, more than 3 months after Confederate secession (1). Thanks to the absence of Southern Democrats who were obviously focused on seceding, Republicans took control of the house and successfully passed the bill. To argue that the Morrill Tariff Bill had a key influence in the civil war is nonsense, considering that it wasn’t adopted till well after the south attempted secession, and considering that the absence of Southern Democrats allowed it to go through the senate in the first place. The Democrats controlled the senate prior to the first declarations of secession in 1860 and were well in power to stop the bill from being adopted. Not all Democrats opposed the bill either, some preferred it as protectionism favoured some of the States they represented, including Democratic president James Buchanan at the time (2). It was a Democrat president, a southern sympathizer at the time, James Buchanan, who would eventually sign the bill into law, not Lincoln.
Robert McNamara at About.com further makes a point about the Morrill Tariff and Southern secession:
No, the secession crisis really began in late 1860, and was sparked by the election of Abraham Lincoln. It is true that mentions of the “Morrill bill,” as the tariff was known before it became law, appeared during the secession convention in Georgia in November 1860. But mentions of the proposed tariff law were a peripheral issue to the much larger issue of slavery and the election of Lincoln. http://history1800s.about.com/od/civilwar/f/morill-tariff-civil-war.htm
So what have we concluded here about the connection of tariffs and the civil war?
- The nullification crises did not coincide with the civil war, it occurred roughly 30 years prior.
- South Carolina declared victory after the tariff compromise of 1833, 27 years prior to it’s declaration of secession in 1860.
- Tariffs are barely mentioned in the immediate causes of secession.
- Tariffs were at their lowest in 50 years around 1860, thanks to the 1857 tariff laws, written, authored and favored by southern delegates (4).
- The Morrill Tariff, which raised tariffs, was adopted in March 1861, 3 months after Confederate secession. It was allowed to pass because much of the Democratic majority was absent due to the secession of their states.
States rights and the institution of slavery
Confederate apologists will often point out that States rights, constitutional rights, were key triggers toward Confederate secession, not slavery. What they forget, or fail to mention, is that the debate for ‘States rights’ at that time stemmed upon the institution of slavery. Slavery was considered a State’s right at the time, the idea of States rights being the cause to the war has become a misnomer for slavery. Let’s go back to the immediate causes of secession written by confederate representitives:
South Carolina (December 24th, 1860):
The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.
Mississippi (January, 1861):
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.
Texas (2nd February, 1861):
Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated States to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility [sic] and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery–the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits.
Georgia (January 29th, 1860):
The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.
So it should be well apparent that the grievances cited by the Confederate States are based around the institution of slavery, an institution they believed was a fundamental right to continue. Just how much respect did the Confederate slave holding states regard for States rights? Well not very much by historical standards, considering for example that they intended to enforce their own slavery laws on other none-slave holding States. The fugitive act of 1850 is an example of this:
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 mandated that states to which escaped slaves fled were obligated to return them to their masters upon their discovery and subjected persons who helped runaway slaves to criminal sanctions. The first Fugitive Slave Act was enacted by Congress in 1793 but as the northern states abolished Slavery, the act was rarely enforced. The southern states bitterly resented the northern attitude toward slavery, which was ultimately demonstrated by the existence of the Underground Railroad, an arrangement by which abolitionists helped runaway slaves obtain freedom.
To placate the South, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (9 Stat. 462) was enacted by Congress as part of the Compromise of 1850. It imposed a duty on all citizens to assist federal marshals to enforce the law or be prosecuted for their failure to do so.
Apparently the confederate States wanted to practice their constitutional right to enslave American citizens, at the expense of Northern States and their own rights. The Fugitive Act of 1850 is a good demonstration of how the ‘states rights’ claim behind confederate secession holds no water. On further note:
On Dec. 24, 1860, delegates at South Carolina’s secession convention adopted a “Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union.” It noted “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery” and protested that Northern states had failed to “fulfill their constitutional obligations” by interfering with the return of fugitive slaves to bondage. Slavery, not states’ rights, birthed the Civil War.
South Carolina was further upset that New York no longer allowed “slavery transit.” In the past, if Charleston gentry wanted to spend August in the Hamptons, they could bring their cook along. No longer — and South Carolina’s delegates were outraged. In addition, they objected that New England states let black men vote and tolerated abolitionist societies. According to South Carolina, states should not have the right to let their citizens assemble and speak freely when what they said threatened slavery.
Still, in the face of this evidence, confederate apologists will continue to deny that slavery was a core motivator to secession in the first place. One popular part of history that they like to point to is that of Jefferson Davis’s inaugural speech as Confederate president. Do you notice this trend among confederate apologists? They make every effort to try and find speeches and statements that will not mention or reference slavery, while ignoring the many other statements, speeches and laws on public record in the south that pointed to the issue of slavery and it’s impact on political culture. Apparently we need to demonstrate that slavery can be referenced in all political speeches, declarations and so forth while confederate apologists only need to demonstrate one point when it isn’t:
guess what? Davis’ speech didn’t even mention the word “slavery.” The speech featured instead a long attack on the federal government and a defense of states’ rights
It is true that Jefferson Davis didn’t mention slavery in his inaugural speech as the Confederate president, but this doesn’t magically discount slavery as the motivator that lead to secession. Davis’s speech came months after the first immediate causes were written by the Confederate States. Those declarations of secession clearly mentioned slavery as the core motivator behind secession. The absence of any mention regarding slavery in Davis’s inaugural speech certainly does not discount his feelings over the matter in connection with Confederate secession either:
Jefferson Davis, April 29th, 1861:
When the several States delegated certain powers to the United States Congress, a large portion of the labouring population consisted of African slaves imported into the colonies by the mother country. In twelve out of the thirteen States negro slavery existed, and the right of property in slaves was protected by law. This property was recognized in the Constitution, and provision was made against its loss by the escape of the slave. The increase in the number of slaves by further importation from Africa was also secured by a clause forbidding Congress to prohibit the slave trade anterior to a certain date, and in no clause can there be found any delegation of power to the Congress authorizing it in any manner to legislate to the prejudice, detriment, or discouragement of the owners of that species of property, or excluding it from the protection of the Government.
Jefferson Davis Farewell speech, January 21st 1861:
It has been a conviction of pressing necessity, it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us, which has brought Mississippi into her present decision. She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races.
They have no reference to the slave; else, how happened it that among the items of arraignment made against George III was that he endeavored to do just what the North has been endeavoring of late to do–to stir up insurrection among our slaves? Had the Declaration announced that the negroes were free and equal, how was the Prince to be arraigned for stirring up insurrection among them? And how was this to be enumerated among the high crimes which caused the colonies to sever their connection with the mother country? When our Constitution was formed, the same idea was rendered more palpable, for there we find provision made for that very class of persons as property;
Roughly a month before Jefferson Davis’ inaugural speech, Confederate vice president Alexander Stephens, made an address regarding the motivations for secession. Slavery was cited as the core grievance:
But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other-though last, not least: the new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions-African slavery as it exists among us-the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization.
Confederate apologists will often cite Lincoln’s various statements and comments in favour of slavery, as if this some how discounts slavery as the core motivator of secession in the first place. It is true that Lincoln promised that he would leave the institution of slavery as is, probably to ensure an election win and to secure the Union for time to come. However there is this assumption that slave owners and their Southern Representatives believed Lincoln and trusted him in this. This was far from reality and the 1860 election results are a good demonstration of this. The mere fact that the first 4 States of the confederacy seceded a mere month or two following Lincolns election win demonstrates their just how much faith they held in him. Take into mind that the States seceded after Lincoln won the elections, but before he even took office. Are we to assume that this was just all coincidental? Did Buchanan, in his last months of office, do something to violate the rights of the Southern States that did not involve slavery? Buchanan was a Democrat and a southern sympathizer historically. He won every single Southern State in the 1856 elections (3).
The support and growth of slavery in the South
There was certainly no shortage of public supported toward slaveholders and the institution of slavery by 1860, particularly in the South. Contrary to the arguments of many confederate apologists today there was no indication what so ever to indicate a decline of the institution, even at the turn of the civil war. By 1860 the number of slaves owned in America totalled to more than 3.9 million, the highest ever number of owned slaves in American history (5). We can compare this to 1820 when the number of slaves was just under 1.8 million. The United States was of course not the only nation that had still been practicing slavery at the time (Cuba, Iran and The Ottoman Empire continued the institution as well) but nevertheless the institution had been at a steady decline in these countries, yet still staunchly supported in the American south.
Confederate apologists have a habit of twisting the statistics at the time to favour their arguments. In an attempt to try and minimize the influence of slave industry, confederate apologists would point out to a number of statistics concerning population and the number of slave owners. Firstly, they will point to the fact that black slaves only accounted for about 12% (5) of the total population of the United States and that slave owners accounted for a mere 1.2% (5) of the total population. The problem with these numbers is not whether they are inaccurate (they’re correct), the problem is that these statistics account for the entire continental United States. We should really be focusing on slave holding States themselves, those that would eventually form the Confederate States:
- The total population of Southern slave holding states accounted for approx 9.1 million people (including slaves).
- Out of 9.1 million people in those southern slave holding states, around 3.9 million of them were slaves. That means around 42% of the population in Confederate states were slaves (5).
- Out of 9.1 million citizens of the Southern slave holding state, 390,000 were slaveholders. If we were to subtract white person(s) from that population, we are looking at a total of 5.2 million people. Out of free white southern person(s), 7.5% were slave owners (6).
- 49% of Mississippi families owned slaves, 46% of South Carolina families owned slaves. Arkansas probably had the highest percentage of non-slave holding families in the confederacy, with 80% (Kentucky and Maryland were in dispute) (6). Take into mind that when discussing families, one family member may own slave(s), whom may be at the disposal or use to the entire family. A total of 30% of families in the Confederacy owned slaves (6).
Given these statistics, to say that the institution of slavery had little impact or relevance to Southern culture and industry is false. We could certainly point to poor white families and how they did not benefit much from slavery at all, but it does not discount the relevance and impact the institution had on southern society at that time:
Around 1820, slavery was concentrated in the tobacco-growing areas of Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky and along the coasts of South Carolina and northern Georgia. By 1860, it had significantly expanded into the Deep South, particularly Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, following the spread of cotton production. Had slavery somehow ceased during that expansion, it would have been impossible for the South to meet the worldwide demand for its products.
Confederate apologists contend that most whites did not own slaves, especially poor whites. However, merely them not owning slaves does not equate to them not supporting the institution or depending on it. It is a fact of history that the vast majority of white southern residents supported the institution of slavery, and why not? It was such a vital institution to Southern industry at the time:
Small Southern farmers eked out their existence mired in poverty, illiteracy, disenfranchisement, and hunger. It was reported that in the desperation caused by hunger some white farmers would eat clay. Despite the obvious oppression of white workers, their hatred was directed against both the planters and the Black slaves. In the South, Du Bois explains that slavery shaped the entire society so that even whites who did not own slaves were dependent on the slave system for their livelihood. Whites were employed as overseers, slave drivers, and members of the slave patrol—whose job was to catch runaway slaves. According to Du Bois, “Gradually the whole white South became an armed and commissioned camp to keep Negroes in slavery and to kill the Black rebel.”
These were the conditions under which the racism of poor whites developed against Black slaves.
While we can rationalize the personal positions of most Confederate soldiers at the time, many of whom were poor and white, we cannot deny their support for the institution of slavery. Neither can we deny their recognition of what agendas their governments, their representatives, held. Many confederate soldiers fought for what they believed was home and country, they stood in defence against what they viewed as a threat to their culture, their way of life. Unfortunately, the institution of slavery was what they viewed as a vital part to their way of life, to their States. Does this make them any lower than their northern counterparts? Well no not necessarily, slavery was an unfortunate reality at the time as with many things, but it was a system they knew very well they were defending.
How peaceful was the South at the time?
War is an unfortunate and ugly part of human history. It should not have to be necessary to solve problems and it should never be the only solution. It is however an ugly reality of human nature and human history whether we choose to accept it or not. War has been a fundamental part to the formation of the United States; it has helped shape the country and culture to what it is today. Confederate apologists argue that the North, lead by Lincoln, lead an unnecessary war against the ‘peaceful’ South which ended up costing more than 600,000 lives, and millions of dollars worth of damage at the time. But just how peaceful and innocent is the South when it came to war and the lives of human beings?
Southern involvement in the Mexican-American War
Just under 15 years prior to the beginnings of the civil war, the United States had waged war against their southern neighbour, Mexico, over her Northern Territories which today comprises of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. What sparked the Mexican-American war?
Throughout the 1820s, Americans settled in the vast territory of Texas, often with land grants from the Mexican government. Their numbers soon alarmed the authorities, however, who prohibited further immigration in 1830. In 1834 General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna established a dictatorship in Mexico, and the following year Texans revolted when the new government abolished slavery.
Santa Anna defeated the American rebels at the celebrated siege of the Alamo in early 1836. On 21 April 1836 General Sam Houston with some 1,000 Texans under his command annihilated the 1,400-man army of Santa Anna. The Battle of San Jacinto lasted 18 minutes, and won Texas its independence from Mexico. When Texas declared its independence, it claimed as its territory an additional 150 miles of land, to the Rio Grande River. For almost a decade, Texas remained an independent republic.
At first, the American government strove to preserve peace with the goal to purchase New Mexico and California. The Jackson and Van Buren administrations feared both diplomatic trouble and the political consequences of admission of a new slave state; they therefore did not press the issue. The frontrunners in the 1844 presidential nominations, Democrat Martin Van Buren and Whig Henry Clay, announced they were against immediate annexation of Texas. In response, Southern democrats managed to block Van Buren’s nomination, allowing dark horse James K. Polk to come to the forefront. He campaigned for the acquisition of both Texas and Oregon. Clay, seeing the popularity of Polk’s stand, began hedging on the question of annexation, thus causing a defection of anti-slavery Whigs from the party, a defection which probably cost him the election.
What lead to a dispute with Mexico over the eastern part of what is today Texas added to the build up towards a war. When Mexico refused to sell what was rightfully their northern territories of California, Arizona and New Mexico in addition to giving up it’s disputed western Texas claim at the time, the American government with the full support of Southern governments declared war. Was there any attempt by the American officials, including those of Texas and Southern representatives, to negotiate a peaceful resolution? Well no, unless you’d believe the only peaceful solution was to force Mexico to give up its territories, which does not really amount peaceful resolution or a compromise at all. The Texan government along with their southern counterparts fully supported an invasion and annexation of Northern Mexico even if it came at the expense of lives on both sides.
The U.S. Congress declared war on May 13, 1846. Northerners and Whigs generally opposed the war while Southerners and Democrats tended to support it. Mexico declared war on May 23.
Was Mexico treated unfairly in the war of 1846-1848? Well yes and no. Mexico had a part to play in hostilities surrounding western Texas and in so the war, but the United States was no more innocent in this case. What’s more, there was no real justification or fairness surrounding the American invasion of all of Mexico’s northern territories as well, especially if this dispute originated from that of western Texas. So should this war against Mexico have been fair? In this instance southern representatives, especially those of Texas, would have thoroughly disagreed. There is nothing forcing the victor of war to be fair in anyway, fairness is a social concept, it means nothing when it comes to power. The United States invaded and annexed the territories of Mexico. They added what was the final piece to the continental United States. The point of all this is that going back to the civil war, the Union, being the eventual victor in the end, had no reason to give the south what she wanted, which was independence. The excuse that the South was peaceful does not change the reality of war and it does not make them any better or justified in the end. It does not change the inevitable response to secession that southern governments were well aware of. If the western part of Texas decided to secede and they wanted to negotiate a ‘peace’ with the rest of Texas, would the Texas government agree to such a thing? Or would they send in forces to quell any attempt of their territory seceding? I think the latter is more fitting to reality. The United States has a history of invading and taking by force, this is the reality of how this country came to be, and this was more than fine for the Southern States because they had benefitted, until they were on the receiving end. Southern representatives were well aware that secession would lead to war, but they did so, mostly bitter by the election result, and what they saw was a threat to their institution. If the South had won the war, there would have been nothing stopping them from eventually becoming a fully recognized State, but the war simply didn’t end up this way.
Civil war casualties vs Slave casualties
Confederate apologists blame the North for some 625,000 casualties on both sides as they claim that the North started the war. Putting aside the fact that the Union had it’s own territorial interests at hand and that the South inevitably instigated a war by seceding, confederate apologists conveniently leave out the casualties of slavery:
Because African slaves were not really considered worthy of being considered person(s), their deaths were not really documented or so much accounted for. Nevertheless, estimates had been made to account for the number of slave deaths as the result of the American – Atlantic slave trade:
In American Holocaust (1992), David Stannard estimates that some 30 to 60 million Africans died being enslaved. He claims a 50% mortality rate among new slaves while being gathered and stored in Africa, a 10% mortality among the survivors while crossing the ocean, and another 50% mortality rate in the first “seasoning” phase of slave labor. Overall, he estimates a 75-80% mortality rate in transit.
In Slavery A World History, Milton Meltzer estimates that 10 million slaves arrived in the Americas. This would be the residue after 12.5% of those shipped out from Africa died on the ocean, 4-5% died while waiting in harbor, and 33% died during the first year of seasoning.
In “The Atlantic Slave Trade and the Holocaust” (Is the Holocaust Unique, A. Greebaum, ed., 1996), Seymour Drescher estimates that 21M were enslaved, 1700-1850, of which 7M remained in slavery inside Africa. 4M died “as a direct result of enslavement”.
Take into mind that these numbers only really accounted for those African slaves taken from their native lands and shipped by sea to the United States. The death toll of African slaves on American soil is less accounted for considering that they were at the mercy of their owners, will little rights. Rape was also high among African woman by their southern ‘masters’, nevertheless crime was less accounted for. Had the South successfully won the civil was the institution of slavery continued, how long would it take for the casualties of African slaves in America to grow by the same number as those white soldiers who lost their lives in the civil war?
To argue that the casualty rate of the civil war makes it unnecessary, to argue that the South should have been left to peacefully secede, is by the least hypocritical. It is a fact that many innocent lives were lost in the civil war, but 1000’s of innocent lives were lost at the hands of slave holders on a yearly basis in the South. The casualty rate of the civil war does not excuse the south and her actions at all; it does not make her any innocent.
I should clarify in this article that Lincoln did not enter the civil war in order to free the slaves. While Lincoln was sympathetic to the causes of abolitionists in the past, when he ran for office he took a more sympathetic approach to slave owners in order to ensure no fear that may stroke secession:
Between late August and mid-October, 1858, Lincoln and Douglas travelled together around the state to confront each other in seven historic debates. On August 21, before a crowd of 10,000 at Ottawa, Lincoln declared:17
I have no purpose directly or indirectly to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.
Confederate apologists point to this fact as evidence that the Southern states could not have held concern about the institution of slavery at that time. But this is the problem, the assumption that because Lincoln ran on the position of preserving the institution of slavery where it was, Southerners believed him, but this was not the case:
On election night, November 7, 1860, Abraham Lincoln was the choice of 39 percent of the voters, with no support from the Deep South. The remainder had cast ballots either for Stephen A. Douglas of the Northern Democratic Party, John C. Breckinridge of the Southern Democratic Party, or John Bell of the Constitutional Union Party. Still, Lincoln won a decisive majority in the electoral college.22
By election day, six southern Governors and virtually every Senator and Representative from the seven states of the lower South had gone on record as favoring secession if Lincoln were elected.23 In December, Congress met in a final attempt to reach a compromise on the slavery question. Senator John H. Crittenden of Kentucky proposed an amendment to the Constitution that would guarantee the institution of slavery against federal interference in those places where it was already established.24 A more controversial provision would extend the old Missouri compromise line to the west coast, thereby permitting slavery in the southwest territories.
What worried Southerners most about the prospect of an end to slavery was fear of what the newly-freed blacks might do. Southern dread of Lincoln was inflamed by the region’s newspapers and slave-owning politicians, who portrayed the President-elect as a pawn of radical abolitionists. Much was made of Lincoln’s widely-quoted words from a June 1858 speech:27
A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free … I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.
Lincoln’s eventual declaration of freedom for all black person(s) through the emancipation proclamation was more of a strike against southern resistance than a moral decision. Lincoln knew that the South would resist force to return them back into the Union, so he declared all slaves free in order to add rebellion again the South, on the side of the Union. It was a convenient move for Lincoln, but it was not one of moral or ethical conscious, as demonstrated by Lincoln’s campaign positions prior to the election outcome.
Suggestions to peaceful resolutions to avoid war
There was an article written at the CATO institution regarding the result of the civil war:
the Civil War was no shortcut to achieving civil rights for blacks. While chattel slavery in the United States was abolished in 1865, blacks didn’t begin to get substantial legal protections for their civil rights until the 1960s.
As if civil rights for African Americans would have come faster had the South continued the institution of slavery? What a silly argument to make. In regards to the advancement of civil rights for black Americans, it is historically evident that the Union did not enter war with the Confederacy for the moral and ethical rights of African slaves. While the institution of slavery was the core motivator toward southern secession, it was not a core motivator to the Union waging war. Lincoln had no intentions of allowing the Union to break up, his main concern first and foremost was with preserving the Union, hence Lincoln’s assurance that if the Southern States peacefully returned to the Union, he would not seek to abolish the institution where it was.
Abraham Lincoln took the oath as President on March 4, 1861. Among the first words of his Inaugural Address was a pledge (repeating words from an August 1858 speech) intended to placate Southern apprehensions: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” Referring to the proposed Crittenden amendment, which would make explicit constitutional protection of slavery where it already existed, he said, “I have no objection to its being made express, and irrevocable.” He also promised to support legislation for the capture and return of runaway slaves.32
At the same time, though, Lincoln emphasized that “no state, upon its own mere motion, can lawfully get out of the Union.” With regard to those states that already proclaimed their secession from the Union,
Another common argument made against the Union entering the civil war was this idea that if the South did secede on the basis of preserving the institution of slavery, they could have been paid to free to slaves. In the same article from CATO, Brazil’s resolution to ending slavery through payment was used as an example:
In Brazil, the largest market for slaves – about 40 percent of African slaves were shipped there — abolitionists raised funds to buy their freedom.
While I find this idea absolutely preposterous considering by the least the violations and deaths of black Americans at the hands of slave owners, confederate apologists are mistaken in assuming that this ‘buyout’ would have changed the motives for Southern secession in the first place. It was the position of Southern States at the time that the legality over the institution of slavery should be left solely to the States and the States alone. Buying out the slave owners (assuming they’d all magically agree to the sale) would not have change the legality or legitimacy of the institution in those States. What’s the use of purchasing all the slaves in order to free them if slavery remains legal in those states? Those States also seceded before Lincoln even assumed office so the matter could even be discussed or dealt with.
Lincoln was clearly no stranger to the idea of a slave buyout to freedom either:
Professor Goldin, with a scholar’s confidence in the logic of her argument, betrays a touch of exasperation that the two sides didn’t settle their disagreements with a civilized business arrangement rather than subjecting the country to the brutalities of war. She cites an 1862 letter in which Lincoln argued: “Less than one half-day’s cost of this war would pay for all the slaves in Delaware at $400 per head … [and] less than 87 days’ cost of the war would, at the same price, pay for all in Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Kentucky and Missouri.”
If, he wrote, as had been true in Great Britain when its slaves were freed, slave owners were compensated for the loss of their slaves as he, who by then owned a few slaves, believed was fair, non-slave owners would have to pay high taxes to raise the necessary funds. This would be true even if, as was unlikely, Northerners agreed to bear part of the cost. Like many Southerners, he did not think whites and blacks could peacefully co-exist in the absence of slavery;
So clearly Lincoln and his Southern counterparts were well aware of the idea, but southern representatives were not prepared to abolish the institution even through a pay out.