A Book With No Credibility–The Introduction

I’m talking about Charles  Adams’ replacement for the Sears Catalog in the outhouse, When in the Course of Human Events:  Arguing the Case for Southern Secession [Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000].  Neoconfederates tend to swear by this book.  That’s because they have no clue about accurate history.

In his Introduction, Adams treats Charles Dickens as if he were an expert on the American Civil War while sitting in London.  He quotes Dickens as saying the Civil War was “solely a fiscal quarrel,” and that “the love of money is at the root of this.” [p. 1]  Adams tells us, “That fiscal view has not interested most of our Civil War scholars.  Yet Dickens was a man of genius and greatness who wrote while the war was raging, and his views deserve serious attention.” [p. 1]

So we’re to believe Dickens, who was in London, simply because Adams asserts he was “a man of genius and greatness” and we should discount the secessionists themselves who told us why they seceded, we should discount Alexander Stephens, the confederacy’s vice president, who told us slavery was the cause of the troubles, we should discount John S. Mosby, one of the men who fought in the war, who told us it was about slavery, and we should discount the trooper of Morgan’s Cavalry who wrote,  “Now, any man who pretends to believe that this is not a war for the emancipation of the blacks, and that the whole course of the Yankee Government has not only been directed to the abolition of slavery, but even to a stirring up of servile insurrections, is either a fool or a liar.“ [ The Vidette, the camp newspaper of Morgan’s Cavalry, 2 Nov 1862]

And where did Dickens get this viewpoint?  It comes from his journal, All the Year Round.  The December 21, 1861 and December 28, 1861 issues had a two-part article on the American Civil War, titled, “American Disunion.”  That is where the quotations Adams used came from, and in the first part Dickens tells us he drew “much of” his argument from James Spence’s book, The American Union, its effect on the National Character and Policy, with an Inquiry into Secession as a Constitutional Right, and the Causes of the Disruption. [All the Year Round, Vol. 6, Dec 21, 1861, p. 298]

What do we know of James Spence?  He was a proconfederate propagandist.  “Like all southern apologists, he dismissed the issue of slavery as having little importance.  Spence has often been cited as influential, but this has been difficult to substantiate.”  [Duncan Andrew Campbell, English Public Opinion and the American Civil War, p. 123]

Adams claims, “the entire nation, with the exception of a miniscule number of abolitionists, ‘gave active countenance to the enslavement,’ [of African-Americans] with our revered Constitution giving the most countenance of all.”  [p. 1]  This shows either a total lack of awareness or a complete lack of honesty.  First of all, to give “active countenance” to something would mean to support it.  Most of America at the time didn’t support slavery.  Secondly, his claim about the Constitution is completely false.  The Constitution didn’t establish slavery, state laws did.  That simple fact means the Constitution didn’t give “the most countenance of all.”  In fact, a great argument can be made that by the Constitution the norm for the nation was freedom, not slavery, and that a person could only be enslaved by applicable state laws.

Adams asserts the Civil War was “a war in which slavery was not an issue until after almost two years of unimaginable slaughter; only at that point did emancipation become a war measure, limited to areas under Confederate control and designed to create slave uprisings and unrest in the South and thus shorten the war.” [p. 1]  Once again, he is either completely unaware of what actually happened or he is completely dishonest.  Slavery was the issue behind the confederacy wanting its independence to start with.  The Federals wanted to preserve the Union, but they struck against slavery almost from the start.  Ben Butler’s coming up with the “contraband” device to keep from returning enslaved people to owners was in May of 1861, and from that time onward slaves came into Union lines almost continually.  Slavery shaped confederate strategy throughout the war.  Slavery determined confederate political and economic policy throughout the war.  He acts as though the Emancipation Proclamation was the first time slaves were declared free.  He ignores the First and Second Confiscation Acts.  He ignores the US Congress adding an article of war prohibiting returning fugitive slaves.  And the Emancipation Proclamation was not designed to create violent slave uprisings.  It specifies, in fact, “And I hereby enjoin upon the people so declared to be free to abstain from all violence, unless in necessary self-defence.”  Any “uprising” Lincoln wanted was limited to enslaved people leaving the plantations and coming into the Union lines, and then able-bodied men joining the Union army.

Adams claims, “By the 1860s the abolition of slavery was moving forward in Western civilization with great energy and force; only America had not caught the emancipation fever.”  [p. 2]  He neglects Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Brazil for one thing, and he also neglects that emancipation had started in the United States in the Northern states and by 1860 was almost complete in the states north of the Mason-Dixon line, except for 18 left over in New Jersey.  So most of America had already “caught the emancipation fever.”  Adams next claims, “Slavery was doomed everywhere, including America, even though the vast majority of Americans, North and South, had failed to sense the signs of the times.  It is unfortunate that the Emancipation Proclamation came as a war measure and not as a humanitarian measure.  Worse still was the lack of a positive, well-supported game plan to lift the slaves from abject poverty and illiteracy into the main stream of Western society.”  [p. 2]  If slavery was doomed, the slave owners didn’t know it.  Slavery was booming in the southern states of the United States.  The population of slaves was growing and the price of slaves was increasing, reflecting increased demand.  Southern slave owners cast greedy eyes south to land in Mexico, and toward Cuba in the Caribbean.  Filibusters had already tried to take land in Central America, and dreams of a great slave empire stretching south into South America were not uncommon.  That the Emancipation Proclamation came as a war measure is not the fault of Abraham Lincoln or the Republicans, but while a war measure it was also a humanitarian measure.  Just ask the slaves who were freed by it.  Lincoln had offered the gradual emancipation of which Mr. Adams would presumably approve, but his offer was rebuffed.  Enslaved people were kept as uneducated as possible by their southern slave owners, not by anyone else.

Adams claims, “We northerners like to read about Lincoln the martyr and the dying god, but do we want to know about Lincoln the dictator who circumvented the Constitution to wage war on the South?  His best generals would have a difficult time avoiding conviction by a war crimes tribunal according to the laws of war at that time for their plunder of Southern civilization.”  [p. 3]  I don’t know of any books that treat Lincoln as a “dying god.”  This is merely a fabrication on Adams’ part.  Lincoln didn’t circumvent the Constitution, which we will go into later, and no war crimes tribunal would convict “his best generals.”

Adams says, “To me, the slave issue and secession constitute the great enigma of the Civil War.  There is something strange, even irrational, about the thesis that the solid South seceded over slavery, even though many Southerners said so.  Jeffrey Hummel’s remarkable study, Emancipating Slaves, Enslaving Free Men, points to the slave issue as the cause of the secession of the solid South, while Charles Dickens wrote that the South seceded in spite of slavery, not because of it.”  [p. 3]  So Adams thinks the people of the time who were doing the seceding didn’t know why they were seceding, that Charles Dickens in London knew far better what their motive was than they did.

Adams continues, “The thesis that the solid South seceded to protect slavery just does not make sense.  The institution of slavery had never been more secure for the slave owners, with the Supreme Court in their back pocket; with the Constitution itself expressly protecting slavery and mandating the return of fugitive slaves everywhere–a mandate Lincoln said he would enforce; with Lincoln also declaring he had no right to interfere with slavery and no personal inclination to do so; with Lincoln personally supporting a new constitutional amendment protecting slavery forever–an amendment expressly made irrevocable.”  [pp. 3-4]

The secessionists themselves told us why they were seceding, and they were seceding because Lincoln posed a threat to slavery.  The Corwin Amendment said nothing about the expansion of slavery into the territories, which as Lincoln astutely pointed out, was the bone of contention.  The point, really, is what did the secessionists believe about Lincoln?  South Carolina said, “For twenty-five years this agitation [against slavery] has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that ‘Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,’ and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

“On the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States.”  [South Carolina Declarations of Causes]  The other secessionists said the same things.  Lincoln would restrict slavery from the territories, he would appoint antislavery men to political patronage jobs, and he would work to undermine slavery without directly doing anything about it in the states in which it existed.  The outcome would be the eventual abolition of slavery and the elevation of African-Americans to equality with whites, which was something with which they could not live.  Adams is apparently completely ignorant of these basic facts, or he is deliberately ignoring them to advance his preconceived agenda.

Adams says, “The North American Review (Boston, October 1862) saw through the South’s highly emotional charge that slavery was the reason for secession:  ‘Slavery is not the cause of the rebellion. … Slavery is the pretext on which the leaders of the rebellion rely, ‘to fire the Southern heart,’ and through which the greatest degree of unanimity can be produced. … Mr. Calhoun, after finding that the South could not be brought into sufficient unanimity by a clamor about the tariff, selected slavery as the better subject for agitation.’  In other words, it was a political ploy, commonly resorted to by politicians then and now.  So Southerners’ proclamation–from the housetops so to speak–that they seceded for slavery was political cant.”  [p. 4]

Here’s what the North American Review said:  “There are two or three propositions which we place before our readers for their consideration.

“1.  Slavery is not the cause of the rebellion in the sense in which the emancipationists use that phraseology.  Slavery is the pretext on which the leaders of the rebellion rely ‘to fire the Southern heart,’ and through which the greatest degree of unanimity can be produced.  It is a subject upon which the slaveholders, and many at the South who are not so, are exceedingly sensitive.  Mr. Calhoun, after finding that the South could not be brought into sufficient unanimity by a clamor about the tariff, selected slavery as the better subject for agitation.  And the ultra abolitionists have not failed to supply sufficient fuel to keep the matter at a white heat.  All these projects for immediate emancipation at the present time are direct aids to the rebellion.

“It is the inordinate political ambition of the Southern politicians which is the cause of the rebellion,–slavery being only a remote agency, as it fosters and develops that ambition, and furnishes it with a subject for agitation; just as the personal ambition of some of the most prominent antislavery men of the North is the cause of their zeal for abolition, their love for the negro and for human freedom being assumed as the best subject on which to agitate themselves into public office.  If the nullification of 1832 had become an active rebellion, the tariff would not have been the cause of the war, but only the pretext for it.”  [North American Review, Vol 95, Issue 197, October, 1862, pp. 525-526]

What is the Review‘s stance on emancipation?  We can find it on the previous page:  “We shall not detain our readers by an argument that the President, with or without a cocked-hat, has no power to emancipate the slaves, even of rebels.  We have no certain assurance that he might not, if he should act in accordance with the requirements of the ‘WE’ of Mr. Horace Greeley, become himself, officially, felo de se.  But we trust that he will carefully abstain from any kind of suicide, and his answer to the requirements gives us great encouragement.” [Ibid., p. 524]  The Review, then, opposes the Confiscation Acts [See their second point, on Page 526] and opposes the Emancipation Proclamation.  To support their position, they deny slavery as the issue at stake.

Let’s take them at their word, though.  Let’s say they believe slavery was used as a pretext by secessionist leaders to gain support.  Isn’t that, then, the true cause, since they could not gain support by other means?

Adams says, “Even the territorial issue was a nonissue.  It was a part of the Republican platform in 1860, although Lincoln did not mention it in his inaugural address.  The only territory that could have benefitted the South was New Mexico.  At the time it included today’s Arizona, 200,000 square miles, four times as big as England.  Yet, after ten years as a slave territory there were only twenty-one slaves in the territory, and of the twenty-one, only twelve were resident–hardly a bastion for slavers.  And what would the planters in Virginia and in the slave heartland care about having slavery in lands a thousand miles away? … Slavery simply was not in jeopardy, despite what the Southern leaders proclaimed, and it is hard to swallow the claim that the South seceded because of slavery.”  [pp. 4-5]

Adams wrongly claims Lincoln didn’t mention extension of slavery in his First Inaugural.  “One section of our country believes slavery is right and ought to be extended, while the other believes it is wrong and ought not to be extended. This is the only substantial dispute.”  He also fails to consider that a slave could do any type of work, whether it involved agriculture or not, and that the slave holders wanted slavery to expand south as well as west.  It was thought at the time that slavery would eventually die out if its expansion was cut off.  That’s what Lincoln meant by putting it on the course to “eventual extinction.”

Adams compounds his poor history:  “The North and South had evolved in different ways since 1787 and no longer constituted a single nation and people.  Their commercial interests had come into conflict, in contrast to the time of the founding.  The North had built up a large and extensive manufacturing economy, and to foster that enterprise it demanded a protective tariff, a prohibition tariff, the burden of which fell on the south in two ways.  First, because Southerners were large consumers of manufactured goods from their robust economy and, second, as agriculture producers and exporters, it was essential for their commerce to be able to exchange their products (e.g., cotton and tobacco) for manufactured goods in Europe.  Otherwise the merchant ships would have to return home empty, and the Southern exporters would have to be paid in hard cash for their commodities, which meant lower profits for the Southerners.  When these same exporters chose to import European goods, notwithstanding the high tariff, this meant a high tax, increasing the cost to the Southern consumer and enriching the coffers of the federal government at the expense of the South, to benefit mostly Northern interests.” [pp. 5-6]  Adams shows either a complete ignorance of the situation or he is making up huge lies.  The trade patterns show that the overwhelming amount of shipping came into and went out of Northern ports.  Over 90% of the tariff was paid in Northern ports, and the south paid a very small part of the tariff.  They didn’t use many imported goods.  Adams’ entire case has no validity at all.

Adams continues, “The prospect that this tariff would split the nation and foster secession was expressed decades before 1860 by a Southern congressman in the debates in the House of Representatives in 1828:  ‘If the union of these states shall ever be severed, and their liberties subverted, historians who record these disasters will have to ascribe them to measures of this description.  I do sincerely believe that neither this government,  or any free government, can exist for a quarter of a century under such a system of legislation.’  This prophetic statement came to pass thirty-two years later in 1860.”  [p. 6]

Adams’ source on this is Charles Dickens, whose own source was James Spence.  If we go to the actual source, we see that the speaker was George McDuffie of South Carolina, speaking on April 18, 1828.  The quote is rendered accurately, but we have to ask ourselves how relevant it is to the situation faced in the winter of 1860-61.  The secessionists themselves didn’t tell us that it was a controversy over the tariff that led to secession.  They told us they were securing the future of slavery.  Why should we think they were lying?  And why should we believe a difference over the tariff and not this identified difference?  “The States were divided into different interests not by their difference in size, but by other circumstances; the most material of which resulted partly from climate, but principally from the effects of their having or not having slaves.  These two causes concurred in forming the great division of interest in the U. States.  It did not lie between the large & small States:  It lay between the Northern & Southern.” [James Madison, June 30, 1787, speech in the Federal Convention]  Why should we not believe what the secessionists themselves said, such as:  “But the Tariff is not the question which brought the people up to their present attitude. We are to give a summary of our causes to the world, but mainly to the other Southern States, whose co-action we wish, and we must not make a fight on the Tariff question. . . . Our people have come to this on the question of slavery. I am willing, in that address to rest it upon that question. I think it is the great central point from which we are now proceeding, and I am not willing to divert the public attention from it.” [Lawrence M. Keitt, South Carolina Secession Debate, 22 Dec 1860]  And regarding the so-called tariff of abominations, why should we not believe John C. Calhoun himself?  “I consider the Tariff, but as the occasion, rather than the real cause of the present unhappy state of things.  The truth can no longer be disguised, that the peculiar domestick [sic] institutions of the Southern States, and the consequent direction which that and her soil and climate have given to her industry, has placed them in regard to taxation and appropriation in opposite relation to the majority of the Union; against the danger of which, if there be no protective power in the reserved rights of the states, they must in the end be forced to rebel, or submit to have . . . their domestick [sic] institutions exhausted by Colonization and other schemes, and themselves & children reduced to wretchedness.  Thus situated, the denial of the right of the state to interfere constitutionally in the last resort, more alarms the thinking than all other causes.”  [John C. Calhoun to Virgil Maxcy, 11 September 1830]

Adams asserts, “Even more enigmatic was the pro-Union, antisecession views of the slave owners in border states such as Maryland.  They wanted to stay in the Union, since Union protection returned runaway slaves.  With secession, once a slave went North, he was lost forever; with union, the slave had to go all the way to Canada to be truly free and safe.  In short, there had to be something else that caused Southerners to fire the first shot–to leave the Union by force of arms.  Yet slavery keeps rearing its ugly head, acting as a great catalyst in the monumental events of the war, and it becomes even more significant in the aftermath of the war.”  [p. 6] This highly simplistic viewpoint is just more poor history and incompetent analysis from Adams.

If he wants to look at the Border States, let’s take a look at them, plus the rest of the southern states:

State Percentage of Population Enslaved Secession Date
Alabama 45.12% January 11, 1861
Arkansas 25.52% May 6, 1861
Delaware 1.60% Did Not Secede
Florida 43.97% January 10, 1861
Georgia 43.72% January 19, 1861
Kentucky 19.51% Did Not Secede
Louisiana 46.85% January 26, 1861
Maryland 12.69% Did Not Secede
Mississippi 55.18% January 9, 1861
Missouri 9.72% Did Not Secede
North Carolina 33.35% May 20, 1861
South Carolina 57.18% December 20, 1860
Tennessee 24.84% June 8, 1861
Texas 30.22% February 1, 1861
Virginia 30.75% April 17, 1861

What happens when we sort the table by percentage of its population being enslaved, from highest to lowest?

State Percentage of Population Enslaved Secession Date
South Carolina 57.18% December 20, 1860
Mississippi 55.18% January 9, 1861
Louisiana 46.85% January 26, 1861
Alabama 45.12% January 11, 1861
Florida 43.97% January 10, 1861
Georgia 43.72% January 19, 1861
North Carolina 33.35% May 20, 1861
Virginia 30.75% April 17, 1861
Texas 30.22% February 1, 1861
Arkansas 25.52% May 6, 1861
Tennessee 24.84% June 8, 1861
Kentucky 19.51% Did Not Secede
Maryland 12.69% Did Not Secede
Missouri 9.72% Did Not Secede
Delaware 1.60% Did Not Secede

We can divide the slave states into different categories.  There are the cotton states who seceded in the first wave of secession, the upper south states who seceded after Lincoln’s call for troops, and the border states who didn’t secede.  With one exception, Texas, all the states that seceded first had at least 40% of their population enslaved.  Texas can be explained by its geographic position and by its smaller population.  With no exceptions, the states that seceded after Lincoln’s call for troops had between 20% and 40% of their populations enslaved, and with no exceptions the states that did not secede had less than 20% of their populations enslaved.  The percentage of populations enslaved represents how pervasive slavery was in the state.  Rather than fugitive slaves, we should look at how pervasive the institution of slavery was in a state, because that explains why and when they seceded.

Adams is merely one of the charlatans who tries to dupe people into believing slavery had nothing to do with secession or the war.

23 comments

  1. So now I know why you haven’t posted in a while.

    1. Well, that and other things. 🙂

  2. jfepperson · · Reply

    Bravo!

  3. Amanda Foreman seems to think that James Spence was influential. She says his book was “a surprise bestseller.” [Kindle Loc. 3767]

    1. Maybe so, Pat. But then we’d have to say that Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln was influential as well, no?

  4. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Thanks for the book recommendation. LOL Don’t know what Adams’ other points might be — doubt I will buy his book to find out. But I do think, Al, that the “Jerry Maguire” syndrome has merit. You’ve got some 4 million slaves worth billions back then, trillions today, and a Southern economy which largely controlled about 80% of U.S. exports — cotton, tobacco, rice, indigo and sugar cane. It’s not hard to imagine a bunch of late-night, mint-julep-laced out-of-the-box thinkers saying, “Hey, what the he[ck] do we need you (the North) for? We’ll establish our own country, expand into the Southwest, southern California, northern Mexico, the Caribbean and perhaps Central America. He[ck], we’ll be the richest country on earth.” Follow the money.

    1. You may find this book useful in that regard.

      Another good one, though a bit old, is this one.

      1. Bob Nelson · · Reply

        I am about two-thirds finished with Russel’s book. Interesting stuff although rather stiffly written. I suspect it was a doctoral thesis although he doesn’t say so. The style is rather typical of theses written in the 1920s. Russel taught history at Western State Normal School, now Western Michigan University where I got my M.A. in 1980. I also ordered the Huston book and one other — John Majewski’s “Modernizing a Slave Economy” (North Carolina Press, 2009). Thanks for the lead.

  5. Bob Nelson · · Reply

    Thanks, Al. I found the Russel book (and the price is right — LOL) but it’s going to take a while. 200+ pages. But it looks very interesting.

  6. How many people have actually bought this piece of fiction?

    1. If they’re a neoconfederate, chances are they have.

  7. Actually,Alexanders Stephens knew full well that slavery was not the cause of the war, and he plainly said so. From “A Constitutional View of the War Between the States”:

    “…It is a postulate, with many writers of this day, that the late War was the result of two
    opposing ideas, or principles, upon the subject of African Slavery. Between these, according
    to their theory, sprung the “irrepressible conflict,” in principle, which ended in the terrible
    conflict of arms. THOSE WHO ASSUME THIS POSTULATE, AND SO THEORIZE UPON IT, ARE BUT SUPERFICIAL OBSERVERS…”

    So that’s that. And of course Adams is correct in observing that slavery had nothing whatsoever to do with the war. In fact, it is absolutely absurd to think that slavery was a cause of the war, and for the obvious reason that slavery was perfectly legal in both the United States of America and the Confederate States of America. What could possibly be more ludicrous than the notion that one nation of slave-owners (USA) would declare war on another nation of slave-owners (CSA) to eradicate slavery. The idea is positively preposterous. Not to mention that Lincoln said, over, and over, and over, and over again that he was not fighting to eradicate of slavery:

    “… If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it…”

    By the way, this is the same Lincoln who described the fugitive slave law as, in his exact words, “running and catching [edit]”.

    PS- Do you happen to recall what the total dollar value of slave-produced commodities the commercial interests in the North purchased in 1860? 1859? 1858? 1857? 1856? I can’t quite recall at the moment, but I can research it if you would like. Adjusted for inflation, and expressed in 2013 dollars, I suspect it would run well into hundreds of millions. Quite profitable for the North.

    1. Alexander Stephens, on March 22, 1861, said, “The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact.” His postwar claim was a lie because by then slavery was destroyed and he was searching for some way to salvage what little honor he could from the conflict. Every state that told us why they were seceding told us they did so because they wanted to protect slavery. That, then, is why they wanted their independence. That was their objective. Adams lied.

      Your lack of knowledge about the Civil War leads to several ludicrous claims in your post. That slavery was legal is irrelevant. The confederates believed it would become illegal and protecting it from that was why they wanted their independence.

      Your post lacks logic because you assume both sides in the conflict had to have been fighting for the same thing.

      You commit the red herring fallacy with your irrelevancies regarding Lincoln. Lincoln did not determine why confederates wanted their independence. Same with your irrelevant question about commodities. “The North” did not determine why confederates wanted their independence. As usual, neoconfederates can’t construct an actual argument with real historical facts so they have to rely on trying to distract people with irrelevant claims, red herrings, and strawman arguments. That’s because actual historical facts are not kind to the heritage instead of history crowd.

  8. First of all, it was immensely satisfying to see your edit of the Lincoln quote. The very idea that Lincoln repeatedly referenced African-Americans in terms so foul, vulgar, and offensive that they are unfit for civilized discussion is enormously revealing. Now then, regarding the secession, I am afraid you make the same egregious and predictable mistake most neo-lincolnites do. Specifically, the seceding States that issued declarations did not issue declarations of war,but simple declarations of causes. These states had no intention of engaging in a war against the United States. They merely wanted to peacefully withdraw their affiliation from a political union. It is really that simple. And had they in fact, been permitted peacefully withdraw, no war would have occurred.

    Lastly, it is worth repeating that the war was fought between two slave-owning countries, so the idea that slavery could have been the cause is outright ridiculous. This is also evidenced by the fact that Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and Missouri felt perfectly confident that their rights as slave-owners would be fully and thoroughly protected. And why wouldn’t they? After all, Lincoln reassured them of this fact on many occasions:

    “…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…”

    Slavery as a cause of the war? Positively absurd.

    1. Lincoln was a man of his time and background, and he used language that was quite acceptable when and where he used it and would have been quite acceptable even 40 years ago but is not considered acceptable by today’s standards. I don’t judge him by today’s standards. That you wish to claim to do so speaks about you, not Lincoln.

      As I’ve said consistently throughout, the Declarations of Causes told us why they wanted their independence. The reason why they wanted their independence was their objective and what they were ultimately fighting for.

      Your lack of understanding of the confederate position does not make that position ludicrous. I’ve said it before. They believed Lincoln and the Republicans posed a threat to the continued existence of slavery, which is why they wanted their independence.

      Lincoln certainly did all he could to tell the slave states that he wouldn’t interfere with slavery in the states in which it existed. He did all he could to tell them he would enforce the so-called “Fugitive Slave Law.” But he was dead set against its expansion into the territories. He was an antislavery president. That was enough to make him a threat to slavery. Kentucky held him as enough of a threat to slavery that they at first tried declaring neutrality, indicating considerable public concern about slavery’s future under him.

      Just because you don’t understand why they wanted their independence doesn’t make their reason absurd.

      1. Kristoffer · · Reply

        I have another explanation for Lincoln using the N-word: he had a habit of using the racial language of the people he was criticizing. His use of the N-word could thus be seen as a sneer at the people responsible for the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

        Another example of this habit comes from a quote cited on page 105 of Stephen Mansfield’s Lincoln’s Battle with God, where Lincoln attacked a proslavery theologian with an impudent and hilarious analogy, using the minister and a slave with the stereotypical name Sambo, which the theologian himself was likely to have used:

        “The sum of proslavery theology seems to be this: “Slavery is not universally right, not yet universally wrong; it is better for some people to be slaves; and, in such cases, it is the Will of God that they be such.” Certainly there is no contending against the Will of God; but still there is some difficulty in ascertaining, and applying it, to particular cases. For instance we will suppose the Rev. Dr. Ross has a slave named Sambo, and the question is “Is it the Will of God that Sambo shall remain a slave, or be set free?” The Almighty gives no audible answer to the question, and his revelation–the Bible–gives none–or, at most, non but such as admits of a squabble, as to its meaning. No one thinks of asking Sambo’s opinion on it. So, at last, it comes to this, that Dr. Ross is to decide the question. And while he considers it, he sits in the shade, with gloves on his hands, and subsists on the bread that Sambo is earning in the burning sun. If he decides that God Wills Sambo to continue a slave, he thereby retains his own comfortable position; but if he decides that God wills Sambo to be free, he thereby has to walk out of the shade, throw off his gloves, and delve for his own bread. Will Dr. Ross be actuated by that perfect impartiality, which has ever been considered most favorable to correct decisions?
        As a good thing, slavery is strikingly peculiar in this, that it is the only good thing which no man ever seeks the good of, for himself. Nonsense! Wolves devouring lambs, not because it is good for their own greedy maws, but because it is good for the lambs!!!”

        1. Well, I suppose that’s possible, but I think the assumption he was comfortable using the term is the simplest explanation.

  9. You don’t judge Lincoln by today’s standards, but you do judge South Carolina and its Declaration of Causes by today’s standard’s,right? And Lincoln was in fact, an ardent pro-slavery President. From his vigorous support of the fugitive slave law, to his equally vigorous support for the original 13th amendment (Corwin), to his repeated announcements that he would not interfere with slavery as it existed. Lincoln’s consistent support for slavery was likely rooted in his white-supremacist views, and can be traced at least as far back as his representing a slave-owner in the case of Matson v Rutherford. And Lincoln’s opposition to slavery in the territories was also rooted in his white-supremacist views, as he reasoned that if slavery was not permitted in the territories, the territories would then be for whites only. He explicitly said as much. But I know, you will only judge Southerners by today’s standards. How convenient.

    Ultimately you seem to take the position that the slave-owning citizens of Kentucky were so outraged that slavery was lawful in South Carolina, that they waged war against South Carolina. Yet somehow, that doesn’t strike you as absurd.

    1. Wrong. I don’t judge South Carolina by today’s standards. In 1860 the majority of the civilized world was antislavery. The majority of the United States was antislavery. The majority of the United States considered their actions to be treasonous. That you are in ignorance of these basic facts speaks about you, not about anyone else.

      The claim that Lincoln was a proslavery president is itself ludicrous. He was antislavery in that he believed it should be placed on the road to extinction. He believed its expansion should be cut off. He believed owners should be offered compensation to give up their slaves. But he also believed in following the law, even if he disagreed with it. That’s why he would enforce the so-called “Fugitive Slave Law.” That’s why he would acquiesce in the Corwin Amendment, which did nothing more than state the accepted constitutional interpretation of the time. That’s why he wouldn’t interfere with slavery in the states in which it existed. When you claim he was ardently proslavery you show you have no understanding of the man whatsoever. Only an antislavery president would come up with and issue the Emancipation Proclamation. Only an antislavery president would sign the bills that cut off slavery’s expansion into the territories and repealed the so-called “Fugitive Slave Law.” Only an antislavery president would approve Ben Butler’s use of “contraband” to allow fugitive slaves to remain within Union lines without being delivered back to their enslavers.

      Lincoln lost the Matson case due to an Illinois State Supreme Court precedent set in the case of Bailey v. Cromwell, a case argued in front of the Illinois high court and won by Abraham Lincoln. Matson doesn’t seem to think Lincoln did enough to win the case, since he skipped town without paying his legal fees. I cover Lincoln’s use of language based on his audience in another post. I understand why you prefer to simply cherrypick carefully selected portions of his record in order to make it appear he was something he wasn’t.

      You persist in your inability to comprehend that two sides in a conflict can have two completely different motivations in the conflict. This seems to be a defect most neoconfederates have.

      The only absurdity is your thinking your strawman fallacy can actually distract people.

  10. James Rutledge Roesch · · Reply

    The reaction to this book just proves its point: no one wants to hear that taxes, not slavery, were the underlying cause of the conflict between the North and the South. As Morpheus explained to Neo, “You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

    1. No one wants to hear lies.

    2. Greg Eatroff · · Reply

      If taxes were the underlying cause of secession, why did the cotton states secede when the tax rate was at a level their representatives had voted for without a single dissent, and which there was no chance of changing in the near future because free trade Democrats controlled the Senate?

      Why did North Carolina vote against secession after the Senate, now in Republican hands because those 14 cotton state senators had quit, voted in favor of a tax increase?

      Why did Virginia vote against secession after Buchanan signed that tax increase into law?

      Are you arguing that the south seceded because taxes were too low? Because seven states seceded when taxes were at their lowest rate in a generation, and none seceded in response to a subsequent increase.

      Are you arguing that they fought because they found the deal they wrote and unanimously voted for intolerable? Do you really think that the secessionists were that stupid and childish, James?

  11. Why do neo-Confederates appear to have absolutely no idea who Howell was or what he did before the war? If anyone knew about unfair tariffs it would have been him, right?

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