Let Me Blow Your Mind: The Civil War Was About Slavery

civil war

Many Americans dies so rebels could preserve and expand slavery.


 
Falsehood and historical illiteracy are inexcusable in the age of information that we are currently living in. For some reason, people have a knack for believing what they want to believe. This ever changing reality always meets their standards and convinces them they are in the right irrespective of fact. Historical reality should not be considered “revisionism”. Racism and bigotry must be confronted and not written or explained away. In 1861, people knew slavery was bad and evil. While there were plenty of individual southerners who disliked slavery or freed their slaves, this does not change the fact that the South was a slave society and that the vast majority of Southerners supported slavery. That’s what the Civil War was about. The preservation and expansion of human chattel slavery.
 

Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever…

Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 178

The Constitution

It originates with the idea that all men are created equal; however, its adoption ignored the rights of blacks. Thomas Jefferson’s original draft of the Declaration included a paragraph on slavery, but the south wouldn’t have ratified the document if it were outlawed. The compromise was the 3/5ths rule and the statement that no law forbidding slavery could be written for 20 years including importing and migrating of slaves from one state to another, or from a state to a territory. This would lead to the Missouri Compromise.
 
Most of the signers, including Washington and Madison, thought slavery would die off on its own. This was the best that they could do, an imperfect document because perfection (abolition of slavery) was not possible in 1787. There was no expectation on anyone that slavery would continue indefinitely. This changed with the cotton gin and the switch to the cotton industry.
 
It would take an amendment to eliminate slavery because the Constitution protected slavery. This is why President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in the Confederate States of America (CSA) by the Emancipation Proclamation because he understood, as apparently Confederates did not, that he did not have the constitutional authority to free slaves in the USA. It took a Civil War, but the 13th amendment did pass which Lincoln himself shepherded through Congress.
 

Thomas Jefferson

He was a consistent opponent of slavery his whole life (in spite of owning slaves). Calling it a “moral depravity” and a “hideous blot,” he believed that slavery presented the greatest threat to the survival of the new American nation. Jefferson also thought that slavery was contrary to the laws of nature, which decreed that everyone had a right to personal liberty. These views were radical in a world where free labor was the norm.

Last night I talked awhile to those men who came in day before yesterday from the S.W. part of the state about 120 miles distant. Many of them wish slavery abolished and slaves out of the country as they said it was the cause of the War, and the Curse of our Country and the foe of the body of the people–the poor whites. They knew the slave masters got up the war expressly in the interests of the institution, and with no real cause from the Government or the North.

– From the diary of James B. Lockney, 28th Wisconsin Infantry, writing near Arkadelphia, Arkansas, 10/29/63

The North and Other States

Slavery was illegal in all the Northern states for decades prior to the Civil War. New Jersey, for example, abolished it in 1804. The Appalachian region tended to be union with West Virginia breaking away from the rest of Virginia in 1861 because it opposed secession. Expanding slavery west was of course the goal of the confederacy.
 
The North had plenty of racists and its opposition to slavery was probably more economic than moral. Abolitionism was a minority view in the North with the exceptions of New England and Pennsylvania. Indeed some Northern soldiers were upset about the Emancipation Proclamation. There is no doubt that the South was a slave society, and the North opposed the spread of slavery and ultimately destroyed the institution.

The area of slavery must be extended correlative with its antagonism, or it will be put speedily in the ‘course of ultimate extinction.’….The extension of slavery is the vital point of the whole controversy between the North and the South…Amendments to the federal constitution are urged by some as a panacea for all the ills that beset us. That instrument is amply sufficient as it now stands, for the protection of Southern rights, if it was only enforced. The South wants practical evidence of good faith from the North, not mere paper agreements and compromises. They believe slavery a sin, we do not, and there lies the trouble.

Henry M. Rector, Governor of Arkansas, March 2, 1861, Arkansas Secession Convention

Sir, the great question which is now uprooting this Government to its foundation—the great question which underlies all our deliberations here, is the question of African slavery…

Thomas F. Goode, Mecklenburg County, Virginia, March 28, 1861, Virginia Secession Convention

Secession

The South viewed their cause as the “Second American Revolution,” a direct admission that they were engaged in unlawful rebellion. They expected and wanted a fight, and believed they would win it. In the South Carolina Statement of Secession, there are 17 references to the right to own slaves. There are no references to any other rights.
 
According to the 1860 census, 33% of all families in the South owned slaves. And ownership rates were significantly higher in the cotton belt. In 1860, families owning more than fifty slaves numbered less than 10,000; those owning more than a hundred numbered less than 3,000 in the whole South. The typical Southern slave owner possessed one or two slaves, and the typical white Southern male owned none. He was an artisan, mechanic, or more frequently, a small farmer.
 
This reality is vital in understanding why white Southerners went to war to defend slavery in 1861. Most of them did not have a direct financial investment in the system. Their willingness to fight in its defense was more complicated and subtle than simple fear of monetary loss. They deeply believed in the Southern way of life, of which slavery was inextricably linked. They also were convinced that Northern threats to undermine slavery would unleash the quietly building hostilities of 4,000,000 African slaves who had been subjugated for centuries.
 
The “poor southern confederates” only describe the inhabitants of Appalachia, most of whom were Unionists by the way. Within the slave-belt majority of the South, agriculture was very profitable with an average return of 3-5% per annum. The plantation “elite” were overwhelmingly first-generation or at most second-generation wealthy, having become rich by gradually acquiring more land and more slaves. It was generally understood the path to success was land and slaves. It was the main path to success in the South (outside of the aforementioned dirt-poor Appalachian highlands) and it was open to everyone, providing the main source of social mobility. Hence, it was supported by pretty much everyone.
 
Slavery was central to the South’s entire economy and they were actively trying to spread it into the western states, Mexico and the Caribbean. If the South had won, they would have planned to conquer Cuba, Mexico, and the Caribbean and built a slave empire. William Walker and the Knights of the Golden Circle told us so.
 

Tariffs

Tariffs were a sectional issue that would not have existed without slavery. The South relied on a slave-powered cash-crop economy, using its cash surplus to buy manufactured goods, and thus wanted low tariffs. No slavery meant no Southern cash-crop economy and thus no major disagreement over tariffs.

No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.

The Confederate Constitution: Article I, Section 9, Paragraph 4

The Confederate States may acquire new territory . .. In all such territory, the institution of negro
slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and the territorial government.

The Confederate Constitution: Article IV, Section 3, Paragraph 3

The General Assembly shall have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves.

Georgia Constitution of 1861: Article 2, Sec. VII, Paragraph 3

No slave in this State shall be emancipated by any act done to take effect in this State, or any other country.

Alabama Constitution of 1861: Article IV, Section 1

Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery . . . is his natural and normal condition.

Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy (referring to the Confederate government), Augusta, Georgia, DailyConstitutionalist, March 30, 1861.

First then, it is apparent, horribly apparent, that the slavery question rides insolently over every other everywhere — in fact that is the only question which in the least affects the results of the elections.

– – Henry L. Benning, Georgia politician and future Confederate general, writing in the summer of 1849 to his fellow Georgian, Howell Cobb [Allan Nevins, The Fruits of Manifest Destiny pages 240-241.]

I think then, 1st, that the only safety of the South from abolition universal is to be found in an early dissolution of the Union.

– – Henry L. Benning, Georgia politician and future Confederate general, writing in the summer of 1849 to his fellow Georgian, Howell Cobb [Allan Nevins, The Fruits of Manifest Destiny pages 240-241.]

The Flag

Inarguably, the Confederate flag represents a country that originated with the idea that slavery was a God Given right for white people to enslave black people. That is the states right flag sympathizers are referring to. The south wanted to make their own laws regarding slavery.
 
Like this flag, there are other symbols that you just don’t see very often that people find it offensive. These are not allowed to be flown on public property. They are not banned from private property, though they may make the neighbors uncomfortable. They include the Swastika, the Hammer and Sickle, and various satanic symbols. Moving the flag from the statehouse is not the same as “banning the flag”

Slavery forms a vital element of the Divine Revelation to man. Its institution, regulation, and perpetuity, constitute a part of many of the books of the Bible …. The public mind needs enlightening from the sacred teachings of inspiration on this subject …. We of the South have been passive, hoping the storm would subside …. Our passiveness has been our sin. We have not come to the vindication of God and of truth, as duty demanded …. it is necessary for ministers of the gospel … to teach slavery from the pulpit, as it was taught by the holy men of old, who spake as moved by the holy Spirit …. Both Christianity and Slavery are from heaven; both are blessings to
humanity; both are to be perpetuated to the end of time …. Because Slavery is right; and because the condition of the slaves affords them all those privileges which would prove substantial blessings to them; and, too, because their Maker has decreed their bondage, and has given them, as a race, capacities and aspirations suited alone to this
condition of life ….

From the “Scriptural Vindication of Slavery,” Ebenezer W. Warren, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Macon, Georgia, January 27, 1861

Religion

Originally, slavery wasn’t “God Given,” it was just convenient. There was a labor shortage and black slaves were a handy way to solve it. Since they were “other” it was easier for people to justify it to themselves. The notion that black slavery was approved/sanctioned by the Bible developed later on, in the 1820’s/30’s/40’s, as the South became increasingly defensive about the “peculiar institution.”
 

Today

In the 1950s and 1960s, white supremacists and white segregationists made the Confederate flag their symbol. That is a historical fact. That’s unfortunate, but that’s a lot more recent than the Confederate flag as a symbol of the Civil War. Many today lived through that era when white segregationists were carrying Confederate flags.
 
Those old segregationists were Democrats, but today its self-styled conservatives who still call the Civil War “the War of Northern Aggression” and maintain that the cause of the Confederacy was a good one. That isn’t 1950. That’s June 2015.
 
There’s no question that a lot of Southerners did not perceive themselves to be explicitly “fighting to defend slavery.” However, they did see themselves as fighting to defend their society and way of life. Slavery was a key component of that way of life, but for most of them this was simply an accepted and unspoken reality. If a Southerner talked about defending his “freedom” that was assumed to include the freedom to own and keep slaves, as well as the freedom to say what he pleased and vote for whoever he liked. All of these things were simply a “normal” part of the society they lived in.
 
There were plenty of Southern soldiers who saw themselves as merely resisting “Northern aggression”. The fact that they perceived things that way does not mean it was the truth.
 
Most Southerners did not own slaves, but they overwhelmingly supported slavery because it was the source and root of their prosperity and their prospects for social advancement. They saw slavery as an existential part of their society and viewed any threat to it, even the threat of not allowing it to spread into the territories, as a threat to their own survival and future growth. They were willing to dissolve the union and die to protect that institution.

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Kwaisi France

An 80's baby forged in the 90's and unleashed upon the world in the 21st century, Kwaisi France is a Baltimore raised Brooklyn resident.

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