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.

Sabbatical Update: Texas

Periodically, I’ve been providing updates on my sabbatical year. Those of you who have kept up with this know I’m working on more than one project. One, though, has kept me moving across the country to different presidential libraries as I examine documents related to spiritual advisers to presidents.

I’ve already gone to Wheaton College–back in August–and researched in the archives of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, since he is the premier spiritual adviser for a number of presidents since WWII. Then I traveled to California and spent time at both the Reagan and Nixon libraries.

This past week I’ve been in Texas, continuing my research at the LBJ and George H. W. Bush libraries. Both of these presidents were close to Graham, and LBJ also had a couple other spiritual advisers I looked into as well.

Let me just give you a few impressions.

The LBJ Library, in Austin, is on the campus of the University of Texas. It is nothing like the Reagan Library (which remains my favorite, not only because of the president himself but also because of the beauty of the place and the immensity and quality of the museum). My first view of it was this:

LBJ Library

I certainly don’t wish to be overly critical. One could say it is majestic, I guess, but to me it appeared like a big block of concrete—massive, forbidding, almost like a fortress. Well, that may be just me. You can come to your own conclusions.

The museum portion had its highlights, but nothing as grand, in my view, as what I experienced at the Reagan Library. There was one “grand” view, however, that was worth noting:

Stacks-Front

They decided to showcase some of the archives behind the scenes. Going up this staircase, one can get some idea of the enormity of the collection. This is only a portion of it.

While in Austin, I also took in the Texas State History Museum.

TX State History Museum

I’ve heard that everything in Texas is big, or at least purports to be. This museum fits the stereotype, from its three-level staircase in the lobby to its nearly breathtaking view from the top level.

TX Museum-Interior 2

TX Museum-Interior 1

I want to pause here and offer a word of gratitude to the Texas State Trooper who decided to have a little talk with me after I went the wrong way on a one-way street. I didn’t see the sign, told him I was a newcomer (never been in Austin before), and was there to do presidential research. He asked what I was researching and seemed interested when I mentioned Billy Graham. He let me off with a warning. Yes, I am grateful (and will be more alert to one-way street signs in downtown areas in the future).

My next stop was College Station, and the campus of Texas A&M, where the George H. W. Bush Library is located.

Bush Library-Front

This library looked much more inviting. I also didn’t have any encounters with one-way streets. I like College Station.

The lobby was pretty grand.

Bush Library Lobby 2

The exhibits were excellent throughout and catch one’s attention right away.

Bush Portrait

Quotes from Bush are liberally scattered throughout. There were some I particularly liked, such as this one after he went down in the Pacific during WWII:

Bush-God Quote

While there, I decided to get a little work done, so I looked around for a desk I could use. I found one:

Bush Oval Office 3

Please don’t tell anybody.

That’s the travelogue side. Most of my time, of course, was spent poring through papers. I found a lot of fine documents that should help my colleague and me put together what we want to say about these presidents. I came away with a little more grudging admiration for LBJ, not in policy matters (where I disagree with his entire Great Society program), but simply for what he had to go through in a turbulent time. I’m not convinced, however, that his faith was genuine. One’s life must match one’s talk.

As for Bush, my appreciation for him was strengthened. I’ve always considered him to be a decent man, but I’m more convinced than ever that his Christian faith was the real thing. I have policy disagreements with what he did as well, but I want to give some leeway and offer praise for his strong family ethic, which can be seen in the way his sons honor him today.

Bush is now in his nineties and his health is declining. When he passes, the nation will have lost a true Christian gentleman.

I’m not yet sure when and where my next trip will take place, but when it does, another update will be coming your way.

The Perry Indictment Fiasco

Texas governor Rick Perry has been indicted by a grand jury for the felony charges of coercion of a public servant and abuse of his official capacity. I’m sure there have been other indictments in American history just as silly as this one, but this has to rank in the upper echelons of stupidity.

Rosemary LehmbergFirst, the facts. Who is this public servant who was allegedly coerced? Her name is Rosemary Lehmberg,  a Democrat district attorney who heads a public integrity unit in Travis County. She was arrested for drunk driving in 2013 with a blood alcohol level three times the amount required for intoxication. Feel free to browse the internet for video of her behavior during her arrest. I don’t feel the necessity to hold her up to ridicule; she has accomplished that all by herself.

Perry demanded she step down from her position. She refused. He then said he would veto funds for her agency. He followed through on that veto. Governors can certainly state their preference for public officials to resign, and he used his constitutional mandate to veto legislation. No matter if one agrees with the veto or not, how is this an abuse of power?

All that was necessary was to get a prosecutor of the opposite political persuasion of Perry’s to assemble a grand jury in Austin—which is a notoriously liberal city—to find Perry culpable. The old cliché about how grand juries would indict a ham sandwich might apply here. In other words, rarely will a grand jury decline to indict.

This appears to be a political indictment dressed up in constitutional clothes. It’s payback for Ms. Lehmberg and another opportunity for the prosecutor to get a Republican:

Under the Influence

It’s instructive to note that many liberal commentators who have no love for Perry or conservatism in general are saying this is pretty thin as an indictment. Most seem rather embarrassed by it. Even the vaunted New York Times, which rarely finds anything good to print about conservatives, has pretty much dismissed this indictment as phony. Maybe the prosecutor needed to be more imaginative:

Veto Threat

Rick Perry Mug ShotAt any rate, when Gov. Perry showed up for his “mug shot,” he used the occasion to give a strong message to his followers that he was going to fight this and win. That official mug shot doesn’t show a very worried Perry. Most people indicted for a felony don’t feel like smiling at this point. After it was over, Perry went out for an ice cream.

I think this indictment is politics run wild. Chances are it will get laughed off the front pages over time. It may never see the drama of a courtroom. Overall, it’s pretty ridiculous. But it is an indication to what lengths some Democrats will go to undermine Republicans.

Border Insecurity

The most prominent story in the past week has been the influx of children from Central America coming over our border for the express purpose of being apprehended and then resettled somewhere in the U.S (although, if the truth be known, some of those children are gang members and nearly 50% of the detainees are adults). They know that will be the result for most of them since we are not doing anything to stop the illegal immigration flow and our humanitarian impulses will ensure they are taken care of.

Why the influx now? It’s a direct outgrowth of the administration’s policy of inviting everyone to come without penalty. Rules for immigration? Oh, those can be ignored. Why bother with the rule of law? It’s what our Chief Executive does every day. Concerns about terrorism with an uncontrolled border? Overblown, of course. We are the problem; there would be no Muslim extremists if we didn’t harbor such suspicions about them. Overwhelming the system? No sweat. We’ll just spend more money we don’t have. Everyone come. Oh, and our border has never been more secure. At least, that’s the line we’re supposed to believe:

Never More Secure

Of course, President Obama is right on top of the situation. His first action was to stop in Colorado and play some pool:

Your Shot

Those photo ops were engineered to show that he gets out to meet ordinary people, like the governor of Colorado. It was also a great way to ignore what’s happening at the border and punt to the Republicans, who obviously are the real culprits here. His next stop was Texas where there actually is a border with Mexico. I think he’s aware of that. Yet when Gov. Perry of Texas asked him to please go to the border to see what’s occurring, he demurred. That would just be a photo op, you know, and he’s not into those:

Photo Ops

He did lower himself to meet with the governor for a few minutes, but Perry came away unconvinced that the president really cares about the problem:

Blinders

After all, his real reason for being in Texas in the first place was to go to some fundraisers. Priorities.

Genuine leadership is lacking if one compares the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. with one of his predecessors:

Tear Down This Wall

Not exactly a Reagan moment.

What people need to realize is that the reason Obama is not invested in a solution to the problem is that he doesn’t see it as a problem. This is precisely what he wants to happen. He seeks complete amnesty for all illegals; in fact, he disdains the term. All, in his view, have a right to be here. In fact, I strongly suspect that if he had his way, the only ones being deported would be people like me. He doesn’t like criticism.

So don’t waste time worrying about when he’s going to change policy and take this seriously. It will never happen. Our only recourse is through the courts and through the elections of 2014 and 2016. Hopefully, there will be something left to salvage.

Pro-Abortion Lawlessness

Late last night—actually, early this morning—abortion supporters “won” a “victory” in Texas.  Yes, I put quotation marks around those two words for a reason. Any victory for those who favor abortion is an abomination before God. A win, for them, is by any means possible, even at the cost of disrupting a legislature and overturning the rule of law.

Here’s what happened.

Unborn ChildThe Texas legislature was on the verge of passing a bill that would protect the lives of unborn children, disallowing abortions after the twentieth week of pregnancy. This bill would save hundreds of lives in that state and move us closer to being a nation with a conscience once more. Those without a conscience, however—or rather, those with a seared conscience—decided to stage a combination of legislative chicanery and outright riot to forestall the possibility.

One Democrat woman legislator held a filibuster on the bill, seeking to keep the chamber from voting before midnight, when the legislative session would legally end. She had help from a raucous crowd, both inside and outside the building, attempting to create an atmosphere of chaos. Republicans were finally able to end the filibuster at 11:45 p.m., but then were kept from voting on time by the mob that made it impossible to conduct business.

I’m reminded of the same strategy in Wisconsin a couple of years ago, when protesters occupied the state capitol and even made death threats against Gov. Scott Walker and Republican legislators there. What we are witnessing is an ongoing tactic of trying to get one’s way by intimidation and lawlessness.

Is this where we have come as a society? Well, that’s really a rhetorical question. You can see it plainly. We celebrate the murder of innocent children, all in the name of reproductive rights. There’s a translation of that phrase I can give you: utter selfishness and depravity.

By the way, that unlawful mob yesterday received direct written support from Barack Obama, who may be perhaps the most lawless person ever to hold the office of the presidency. It’s time to stop acting as if he’s just a nice guy who simply holds an uninformed opinion on abortion. No, he’s the foremost proponent of killing innocent children. How often do I and others have to remind an uncaring people that he’s one of the few legislators on record as opposing a bill that would have required medical attention from doctors for any child born alive during an abortion? Who else has pronounced God’s blessing on an organization—Planned Parenthood—whose primary purpose is to carry out as many abortions as possible?

Barack Obama fits the description offered by C. S. Lewis in his Screwtape Letters, when he has the senior devil gloat over how wickedness is no longer found primarily in the dark corners of society, the sordid dens of iniquity, but rather in the corporate offices and government bureaucracies of the land run by people who are well-manicured and respectable.

This is the face of evil in our day. It’s time to stop mincing words. It’s time to speak the truth more boldly than ever.