Monday, October 20, 2014

The American War for Southern Independence*

It was not about what you think.

* The "Civil War" for those of you who went to public schools.


Jeffrey Smith said...

Again, confusion mars the argument.
That slavery would have ended peacefully is very doubtful, especially as the South actively tried to export slavery to the territories, and expansion of slavery was a major engine of US foreign policy in the decades before the war.
Also, the tariffs were not really revenue measures, but protectionism to benefit Northern industries, which hurt the South (as an agricultural exporter) as a result.

But the reason the South wanted independence was to preserve slavery. Put aside Northern motives, which were complex and included slavery, and the Southern motives are clear.

Essentially the War was on one side morally wrong measures used to eradicate a great evil, and morally right measures on the other side used to defend that evil. So no wonder it was a mess.

Jeffrey Smith said...

Addendum. Slavery in most cases was ended by a central government imposing emancipation on the slaveholders. If the southern states had peacefully ended slavery of their own accord, they would have been nearly unique.

Comrade Misfit said...

Sorry, that's revisionism writ large.

Read the Secession Declaration of South Carolina or Georgia, for two. Their chief complaint-- abolition of slavery.

(Alabama's did mention slavery, but it was more "whaaaaa, our guy lost, we're taking our ball and going hooommeee!")

The South fought to preserve slavery. Without the issue of slavery, there would have been no war.

2cents said...

Actually, it was neither a civil war, nor one for independence. It was a war between these United States.

juvat said...

Yes, well, often when something contradicts the established "known" knowledge the most effective counter is to ridicule. A trip to Monticello was most enlightening as to how the US got into slavery and the mindset of those interested in how to get the country out.
Not that any of that will make any change in the mindset of commentators herein.

Roy said...

" the original compact of Government, the United States had certain rights which have never been relinquished and never will be. The South began the war by seizing forts, arsenals, mints, custom-houses, etc., long before Mr. Lincoln was installed, and before the South had one jot or title of provocation."
The Civil War, or as I prefer to call it: "The War of Southern Overconfidence", had been escalating for three months between the secession of South Carolina and the inauguration of President Lincoln. The fact that the lame duck President Buchanan didn't do a damn thing while all of that was going on does not change that fact.

The actual shooting war was started by a singular act of aggression by the Confederate government against the United States - the firing upon US troops that were garrisoning Fort Sumter. A fort wholly and legally owned by the US Government. This occurred even while negotiations were going on concerning the disposition of those same forts around Charleston harbor.
(Gee - I seen to recall another incident of an attack on US forces while negotiations were going on. That one happened 80 years later and resulted in the same thing - complete destruction of the arrogant nation that started it.)

Face it - the myth of the "Lost Cause" notwithstanding - the cause of the Civil War was the institution of slavery. All of this talk of tariffs is just so much puffery to try and mitigate the fact that, as noble as they thought they were, the southern states seceded because they wanted to preserve the institution of slavery.

For over forty years before 1861, the politics of the US were dominated by the question of slavery - and especially the question of slavery in the territories.

Sorry, but I agree with Comrade Misfit. Any history that does not acknowledge the primary role that slavery played in the war is simply revisionism writ large.

Richard said...

Most of the white abolitionists of the time, including Lincoln, coupled abolition with what we would call ethnic cleansing. This had two forms-African colonization (e.g. Liberia) and gradual abolition which would have resulted in slaves being sold down the river until they reached South America (abolition without emancipation). Given this, I have always been surprised that Lincoln's reaction to secession wasn't "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out". I suppose he thought reconquest would be easy and then got trapped by the war's own logic. Or there was something else going on as well. Tariff's were an issue. I tend to think that Manifest Destiny was a bigger one. Lincoln was a true believer in that. Homestead Act, land-grant colleges, trans-continental railroad, etc.

Goober said...

The confederates shot first. The confederates were slave owners.

An act of blatant aggression by a faction of states that supported the ownership of human beings...

This is indefensible.

Yes, the war was fought in part due to many different factors, of which tariffs were one, of which state's rights were one, and of which slavery was absolutely, positively included.

Yes, it was a war over state's rights - the right of the state to allow humans to own other humans.

Yes, the North did bad things, acted stupidly, and was no better, morally, than the south when it was all over. I'm not really voting for either side - both sides make me sick to my stomach, thinking that a country like America could possibly have housed enough people that supported the actions of either side to allow this abomination to happen.

It's a sick, sad chapter of our nation's history, and the fact that out of this chapter, heroes arose and were lionized (Lincoln, I'm looking in your direction) is just wrong.

Neither side should be lionized. Neither side did the right thing.

One side fought, in part, over the right to own human beings, and the other side fought, in part, over the power of the federal government to subjugate and oppress.

Sort of reminds me of another war in our history, where Nazis and Communists spent the better part of four years ruining each other - who do you root for?

I'm rooting for winter, myself.

Borepatch said...

Critics of the day were pretty much unanimous in the opinion that the South would have outlawed slavery - certainly this was H. L. Menckin's view. The dynamics were simple - the South was rapidly industrializing in the 1840s and 1850s and so it's quite wrong to think that everything was about Plantation owners.

For example, Columbus, GA was a center of heavy industry until the Yankees came through and burned everything. There were lots of rapidly growing factory towns all over - including my own domicile of Roswell, where the mill was burned by Sherman's boys. There were essentially no blacks working at the mill, and so mill owners had a quite different view of the Peculiar Institution as the landed gentry.

My point is that the history of the era is entirely unreliable and the sepia-hued morality play that is presented is quite far from the truth. And the stark truth is that the better part of a million people died.

Roy said...

The stark truth is that the Confederacy attacked US troops without provocation.

They did this, bringing on a general conflict, without a single cannon factory within the borders of the Confederacy.

What would cause a people to do such a stupid thing? Hubris and pride, pure and simple. They really did believe that one southerner was the equal to any ten Yankees. Well, it didn't quite work out that way did it.

The irony of it all is that there were enough people in the north who had the attitude of "good riddance", that had the south not allowed itself to be consumed by its own fire-eaters, they might have gotten away with it - for awhile anyway - at least until the next conflict over places like Colorado, Utah, or Nevada arose.

John Balog said...

I agree that the North was not chiefly interested in abolition.

But (as was pointed out) opposition to abolition was the chief Southern complaint. It's amazing to me how many yeehaw south will rise again stars and bars on my pickup types are entirely ignorant of the actual writings of the Southern leaders on the topic of why they were attempting to secede. Note: I am not saying BP is part of that group.

I think the South is a great example of "this is why we can't have nice things." Starting the war led to the essential abolition of the 10th Amendment, .gov segregation policies led to the civil rights act that will now be used to force people to violate their religious convictions re same sex marriage etc.

Ken said...

The argument isn't entirely without merit, but when one (in effect) tries to memory-hole Alexander Stephens in support of it, it doesn't help the Cause.

Patrick Henry said...

Ah the common misconceptions are on full view in the comments.

A) Who shot first is irrelevant to who is right. If a guy is coming at you with a knife saying "I'm going to kill you" and you shoot first, are you wrong? No, because you have the right to defend yourself.

Fort Sumter was on land that SC loaned to the federal government. It was rightfully SC, and they were defending it from invasion.

B) while slavery was a part of the argument, it was not the primary one. As the South knew, slavery was better protected in the Union. First, there was the Fugitve Slave Act, requiring federal capture and return of slaves. Out of the Union, that would not be enforced, and slaves could escape without worry. (Of course the North was any better a place to be for blacks). Lincoln himself proposed a constitutional amendment protecting slavery for all time. Even Stonewall Jackson illegally taught blacks to read. He certainly wasn't fighting for slavery.

Every other country in the world ended slavery peacefully. There was no reason this country couldn't. Slavery would have ended sooner.

The South fought for protection against a tyrannical government- even if they had their own problems.

Dorsai said...

The War for the Freedom of Americans Who were Being Treated as Livestock.

There, I fixed it for you.

You don't get to claim freedom for yourself while denying it for other people. That's our best argument for the idea that the 2nd Amendment, along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, means something.

Roy said...

"Fort Sumter was on land that SC loaned to the federal government. It was rightfully SC, and they were defending it from invasion."

Sorry, but that is bulls%$t. The land that Fort Sumter sits on wasn't land at all, it was merely a shoal - that is until the Federal government had it filled so that they could build the fort.

"If a guy is coming at you with a knife..."

The US was not attacking or "coming at" anyone. Indeed, Major Anderson evacuated Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan's Island, because it couldn't be properly defended on the landward side, and he wanted to avoid any provocation the presence of his troops might cause until the disposition of the forts was settled.

"Slavery would have ended sooner."

Before 1865? With the fire-eaters in charge of the Confederate government?

Not bloody likely.