Slavery & the Civil War

What caused the American Civil War? Historians are hesitant to assign just one cause to anything. There are always many factors that come together to create an event, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a primary cause.

Where do we go to find the primary cause for the Civil War? I suggest we look carefully at the official secession declarations of the various Southern states. They went to great pains to explain why they chose secession.

I’ve read them all. Some are rather lengthy. I’m going to have to be selective in what I use from them because I’m not writing a book here today. Yet I am not taking anything out of context. You can always check on me by reading them yourself.

What we will find in these declarations is a consistent thread for the secession rationale.

Let’s begin with South Carolina, the state that led all the others into secession.

Upset that the Northern states fought against the Fugitive Slave Law, South Carolina declared that the resistance to the law was tantamount to breaking the covenant, thereby allowing the state to leave. What bothered South Carolina specifically was any attempt to abolish slavery or help runaway slaves:

They have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States.

The declaration then turned to the election of Lincoln:

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.

The quote comes from Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech, but it’s taken out of context. What Lincoln actually said was that the nation couldn’t continue half-slave, half-free, and that it would eventually go one way or the other: either all states would have slavery or none would. South Carolina left out the other half of the quote. That’s historical revisionism/falsification; it’s inherently dishonest.

While South Carolina used states’ rights in its rationale, those rights were in the defense of slavery.

Mississippi, in its secession declaration was quite bold:

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.

An economic rationale is offered, but again, it’s in the context of protecting slavery. Then there’s this startling statement:

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.

So blacks need to be slaves because they are the only ones who can stand the intense heat of the sun. To rid the nation of slavery would kill both commerce and civilization, according to the Mississippians.

Georgia, meanwhile, focused on another concern:

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. They have endeavored to weaken our security, to disturb our domestic peace and tranquility, and persistently refused to comply with their express constitutional obligations to us in reference to that property, and by the use of their power in the Federal Government have striven to deprive us of an equal enjoyment of the common Territories of the Republic.

That complaint had to do with the exclusion of slavery in the territory won from Mexico in the recent war. Georgia believed it was only right that since it sent citizens to fight in that war, that any Georgia citizens should be able to move into that territory and hold slaves. The argument rests on the desire to extend slavery.

Then there is Texas, which provided the most combative of the declarations, accusing the Northern states of

an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color– a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law.

Now we are being told that God has ordained African slavery. Texas’s explanation continues along this same line:

We hold as undeniable truths that the governments of the various States, and of the confederacy itself, were established exclusively by the white race, for themselves and their posterity; that the African race had no agency in their establishment; that they were rightfully held and regarded as an inferior and dependent race, and in that condition only could their existence in this country be rendered beneficial or tolerable.

Rightfully regarded as inferior? They can be tolerated only as slaves?

The servitude of the African race, as existing in these States, is mutually beneficial to both bond and free, and is abundantly authorized and justified by the experience of mankind, and the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations.

Using Christian faith as the basis for treating other human beings as less than human is abominable.

Those are the “official” declarations. We also have testimony from Alexander H. Stephens, the vice-president of the Confederacy, in his infamous “Cornerstone” speech delivered on 21 March 1861, in which he noted,

The prevailing ideas entertained by him [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.

He got his history correct on that point, but he went on to say,

Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the “storm came and the wind blew.”

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.  This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

Superior race? A hint of things to come in the twentieth century? And as with the Texas declaration, Stephens brings God in on his side:

Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. . . .

By experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them. For His own purposes, He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another star in glory.”

Now, some argue that the common Southern soldier participating in the war was not doing so to defend slavery but his homeland. There is some truth there, but it’s also pretty well established by the evidence that even those who didn’t have slaves (the vast majority of Southerners) nevertheless supported the social system of slavery that existed.

For many of the poorer Southern whites, they liked having at least one segment of the population on a lower social rung than theirs.

Ulysses Grant, in his memoirs, shared his thoughts when Lee surrendered at Appomattox:

I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long & valiantly, & had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, & one for which there was the least excuse [emphasis mine].

It was an awful cause for which to fight. All the talk of states’ rights, tariffs, commerce, etc., cannot conceal the obvious truth: slavery was at the heart of secession. Without the existence of slavery in the mix of causes, there would have been no civil war.

Today’s post is an attempt to provide the evidence for slavery as the primary reason for the Civil War. I’ve added what I believe are appropriate comments about that evidence. I can do no less. I can do no more. The decision whether to accept this evidence rests with those who read what I have written.

Tuesday’s Elections: Not a Conventional Analysis

Primary ElectionsFour states on Tuesday held either a caucus or a primary. As with last Saturday’s results, one can again go with the conventional analysis and give the night to Donald Trump or one can look a little deeper. I choose the latter.

Now, there’s no denying that Trump won three of those four states and that it moved him closer to the nomination. But it didn’t get him as far as one might want to think. Neither are the trends going in his direction.

Let’s look at each state individually.

Mississippi

This was a two-man race only. Kasich and Rubio were so far behind as to be nearly nonexistent. As with Louisiana, according to reports, more than 40% of the voters had already turned in ballots early, meaning they had made up their minds prior to witnessing the last two debates, both of which were problematic for Trump. In Louisiana, those who voted on primary day went for Cruz over Trump. I have to wonder if the same scenario played out in Mississippi. How many early Trump voters regretted their haste afterward?

Michigan

This one was quite interesting in that Cruz didn’t put any effort into the state. According to one report, his campaign spent about $1100 overall. In election terms, that’s like spending nothing. Yet he came in second, overtaking Kasich, who had labored to make Michigan his lead-in to Ohio next week. It’s amazing to hear some talking heads remark about Kasich’s “strong” showing in Michigan while seeming to miss the fact that he came in third out of four candidates. Comments about Cruz’s surprise finish, when he had pretty much written off the state, were few and far between.

I know it has become fashionable to blame the media for how much time they give Trump over Cruz, and I don’t want to jump on a bandwagon just for the sake of jumping on, but . . . the accusation is all too true.

Rubio, by the way, took last place by a convincing margin.

Ted Cruz 3Idaho

This was a runaway victory for Cruz, pulling in more than 45% of the vote; Trump was under 30%. Yet somehow it gets lost in the shuffle. Cruz spent more time here, giving an indication that when he concentrates on a state, he can make significant gains. Again, neither Kasich nor Rubio were major factors.

Hawaii

No one knew what to expect here. Trump won over Cruz by about 42% to 32% in a state known to be one of the most liberal in the nation. Cruz won liberal Maine, so that 32% in Hawaii may indicate more strength than some are willing to admit.

Delegates

As I noted in an earlier post, the number of states won, at this point, means less than the delegate total. While Trump won more delegates on Tuesday, it wasn’t a massive take. In fact, Trump, despite winning three states to Cruz’s one, earned only 12 delegates more than Cruz on the night.  Overall, he now has either a 458-359 or 459-364 lead over Cruz (depending on which network is doing the calculation), still within striking distance.

The Media

Okay, I have another comment to make about the media’s role. After Trump won Mississippi and Michigan, he staged (I use that word advisedly) a so-called press conference that turned into an infomercial for his business “successes.” Yes, I put that word in quotes. He had steaks on the stage, but his steak business went bust; he had water and wines, but he doesn’t really manage those anymore. The water bottles on stage were just the typical kind you get at the nearest grocery store.

Donald TrumpHe then boasted that his defunct and fraudulent Trump University would rise from the ashes of the current lawsuits and be “great.” Have you noticed how often he uses certain words—great, tremendous, wonderful, etc.? Have you noticed that instead of substance, he simply keeps repeating the same words and sentences over and over?

Yet the media never broke away from his ramblings. They gave full coverage to this lovefest for himself. He truly is a media creation. And a juvenile one at that.

What Next?

The big states next week are Florida and Ohio. I really don’t mind Kasich staying in the race right now if there is any possibility he could take Ohio away from Trump. It won’t be the start of Kasichmentum no matter how often he says it will be.

In Florida, I sincerely doubt that Rubio can win. I live here. I have access to a lot of disgruntled people who believe he betrayed them on immigration, and they are not very forgiving, even a few years later. Rubio won’t step down before Tuesday, I’m pretty sure, so he risks his entire political future if he ever decides to run for governor. Losing a presidential primary in one’s own state is a badge of dishonor that will stay with a candidate for a long time.

Cruz’s decision to make a stronger play for Florida might be too little too late, but he is on an upswing while Rubio is heading in the other direction. Trends do matter. Even if Cruz cannot win Florida, if he puts in a surprisingly strong showing, that could help propel him into victories elsewhere.

If Rubio should lose Florida, his run is over, and he will need to acknowledge it, sooner rather than later. That will be the only hope for Cruz to overtake Trump. Despite some of the bad blood between the two campaigns, I find it hard to believe that the majority of Rubio supporters would migrate to Trump.

As far as I’m concerned, nothing has been decided for sure yet, no matter what you may hear in the media.

It Will Be Over Only When It’s Over

I’ve let a day pass since the primary elections on Tuesday. It provided time to reflect on the results. Listening to the talking political heads on TV, there are certain themes that have emerged, some I agree with, some I don’t. In no particular order, they are:

  • Santorum’s victories in Alabama and Mississippi took almost everyone by surprise. Only one Alabama poll had him leading, and that was only by a single point. No Mississippi polls showed him ahead. Yet I followed the returns minute by minute, and except for the very early returns, Santorum led throughout the night. Some attribute this to the high evangelical turnout in those states. That certainly was helpful. But only a few voices keyed in on one of Santorum’s clear strengths: his likeability when one meets him in person and the genuineness of his character. He doesn’t come across as a phony politician saying what he thinks you want to hear. Those who characterize him as strident miss the essence of the man.
  • Gingrich lost big time. His only real shot—and it was a true longshot—was to capture both of those states in an area, the South, where he should have been strongest. Almost everyone thinks he has no chance of getting the nomination after these losses, and they believe he should exit the race as gracefully as possible. I couldn’t agree more. He is finished. The only thing his continued candidacy will accomplish is to divide the conservative vote with Santorum, who is the clear consensus choice of the conservative electorate. If he really doesn’t want Romney to get the nomination, he should bow out now. He has declared, though, that he’s going all the way to the convention in Tampa. Will he be forced to rethink that position? When funding dries up, he may have to face the inevitable. It’s a shame he won’t do so now.
  • Strange as it seems, Romney came out ahead with new delegates despite his third-place finish in Alabama and Mississippi. He won Hawaii and American Samoa [with all of 70 votes being cast there]. With the proportional division of delegates, that put him 5 0r 6 delegates ahead of Santorum for the evening. For the Romney campaign, it’s all about the math. They continue to say his nomination is a done deal.
  • My view: his nomination is no way a done deal. Yes, he still has the inside track, but there is a distinct lack of enthusiasm in the Republican electorate for someone who has to try to convince people he really is a conservative. Santorum, meanwhile, is picking up that lost enthusiasm. I’m fully aware that enthusiasm by itself doesn’t equal victory, but it is an essential ingredient for anyone who eventually gets the win. The last thing the Republican party needs is a nominee who doesn’t generate any real excitement.
  • There’s also a lot of talk about the final choice of a candidate not being made until the convention. While I would like to see this settled before the convention, I’m not as dismayed as many seem to be by that prospect. I also question the belief that a prolonged primary season is bad for the Republicans. A thorough vetting of the two candidates who are left is very important. We shouldn’t just jump on a bandwagon of inevitability and then face buyer’s remorse later. A vibrant convention that actually chooses the party’s nominee might inspire enthusiasm when all is said and done. Who knows? Political analysts and professional campaign staff have been wrong innumerable times before.

Sometimes, it takes time for a candidate to grab the attention of the voters. And once he gets that attention, it takes time to fund a complete campaign staff. That’s what is happening with Santorum, and it would be a travesty to allow the early primary and caucus states to determine the nominee before a good number of the other states get their say. Illinois and Louisiana are next on the docket. Romney currently leads in Illinois, but there’s no telling how Santorum’s latest victories may change that. Louisiana polling shows Santorum on top at present. If he takes both of those, can anyone justifiably say this race is over?

It will be over only when it’s over.