Secession, the Expansion of Slavery, and Race

The inimitable defender of Confederate heritage, George Purvis, who blogs at Cold Southern Steel, posted a comment here recently that I think warrants a post of its own. In part, George wrote:

You are taking a narrow view of the secession documents. If you take them for what they are, they are nothing more than a list of grievances against the Federal government. I suggest you read each and every declaration and list these grievances to fully understand exactly what they are.

Even so if secession was secession was only about slavery, so what? Slavery was a legal institution in the United States, and these Southern states were part of that country. Slavery was not the cause of the war. This has nothing to do with what bothers me. It does appear that it bothers you because you can’t find the document that proves otherwise. What did you expect these states to say we are seceeding because we are seceeding? Does that make sense really????? [Sic]

This brings up an interesting point that I think I’ve answered in previous posts, and I know has been answered by Al Mackey at Student of the American Civil War and Jarrett Ruminski at That Devil History among many others, but merits a closer look.

At least, I think it’s an interesting point and merits more attention. None of what follows is remotely new to historians. It is one of the reasons that the neo-Confederate position is so puzzling.

The short answer to George’s question is while slavery undoubtedly caused the war–it caused secession, and the rest of the Union went to war rather than see the government destroyed–the specific, immediate issue that caused the South to secede was not so much slavery by itself, but rather, as someone recently said to me, “the real concern [is] the expansion of slavery. We have to keep the focus on that point.” Lincoln himself could not have said it better. It is truly the heart of the matter.

George likes “facts,” especially if they’re in the form of documents. Then, you can see it for yourself without someone else’s interpretation clouding the issue. He is known for blog comments like “This is just your opinion, bring some fact and I will accept it.”  Very well. Let’s look here at some key documents.

The Republican Position

First, let’s consider the Republican platform written in Chicago in 1860. This will establish what it was exactly that Republicans stood for. There’s a lot in there, but let’s look specifically at the fourth Resolve:

4. That the maintenance inviolate of the rights of the states, and especially the right of each state to order and control its own domestic institutions according to its own judgment exclusively, is essential to that balance of powers on which the perfection and endurance of our political fabric depends; and we denounce the lawless invasion by armed force of the soil of any state or territory, no matter under what pretext, as among the gravest of crimes.

Clearly, the Republican Party recognized exactly what George says, that slavery was Constitutionally protected where it existed, and that armed force to touch it was abhorrent. (I should hasten to add that, while this Party plank did not sanction “lawless” invasion, secession and rebellion were lawless by definition, so the war meant all bets were off.) But let’s continue on to Resolves 7 and 8:

7. That the new dogma that the Constitution, of its own force, carries slavery into any or all of the territories of the United States, is a dangerous political heresy, at variance with the explicit provisions of that instrument itself, with contemporaneous exposition, and with legislative and judicial precedent; is revolutionary in its tendency, and subversive of the peace and harmony of the country.

8. That the normal condition of all the territory of the United States is that of freedom: That, as our Republican fathers, when they had abolished slavery in all our national territory, ordained that “no persons should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law,” it becomes our duty, by legislation, whenever such legislation is necessary, to maintain this provision of the Constitution against all attempts to violate it; and we deny the authority of Congress, of a territorial legislature, or of any individuals, to give legal existence to slavery in any territory of the United States.

The 7th Resolve refers to the infamous Dred Scott decision, which allowed the extension of slavery into the territories (and, theoretically, free states as well). Here, Republicans were formally opposing this interpretation of the Constitution by the Taney Court, which said Congress could not prevent American citizens from bringing their “property” anywhere they wanted. The 8th lays out the Party’s philosophical opposition to slavery’s expansion by contending that freedom is the “default” mode for Americans in the territories, and that—contrary to Dred Scott—the Congress has the right and duty to restrict slavery from expanding.

With Lincoln and the Republicans elected, South Carolina seceded, followed by the other states in the Deep South. After the election, but before his inauguration, politicians both North and South were panicking and tried to find some compromise that would mollify the South. Lincoln was fine with that. But on the central point of slavery’s expansion—the “nub,” as Lincoln might have called it—Lincoln was clear. In a letter to Elihu B. Washburne from Springfield on December 13, Lincoln wrote:

My dear Sir. Your long letter received. Prevent, as far as possible, any of our friends from demoralizing themselves, and our cause, by entertaining propositions for compromise of any sort, on “slavery extention” There is no possible compromise upon it, but which puts us under again, and leaves all our work to do over again. Whether it be a Mo. [Missouri Compromise] line, or Eli Thayer’s Pop. Sov. [popular sovereignty] it is all the same. Let either be done, & immediately filibustering and extending slavery recommences. On that point hold firm, as with a chain of steel. 

Lincoln and many Republicans were even willing to compromise on an amendment protecting slavery where it existed forever—an “unamendable” amendment, the so-called Corwin Amendment—but not on the expansion of slavery. It was the most important plank in their platform, and it was the mandate by which they were elected. On that point hold firm, as with a chain of steel.

That position is why the states of the Deep South left the Union.

The Declarations of Secession

How do we know that? Some of the Ordinances of Secession as much as state this position, and the Declarations of Causes of Seceding States made by four states also state it. For example, Georgia’s secession convention included these reasons:

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. This hostile policy of our confederates has been pursued with every circumstance of aggravation which could arouse the passions and excite the hatred of our people, and has placed the two sections of the Union for many years past in the condition of virtual civil war.

The declaration of Mississippi  is even more detailed. Let’s look at some of more interesting passages:

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. 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. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

First, it establishes the economic value of slavery, and why only blacks have the natural ability to labor there. Then, it contends that a threat is imminent to this institution.

That we do not overstate the dangers to our institution, a reference to a few facts will sufficiently prove.

The hostility to this institution commenced before the adoption of the Constitution, and was manifested in the well-known Ordinance of 1787, in regard to the Northwestern Territory.

The Northwest Ordinance was passed by the old Congress under the Articles of Confederation. drafted by Jefferson, it set the terms by which new states could be created out of the region of the Great Lakes. It also specifically banned slavery from these territories. The Northwest Ordinance was re-passed into law in 1789 by the First Congress convened under the new Constitution.

The feeling increased, until, in 1819-20, it deprived the South of more than half the vast territory acquired from France.

The Missouri Compromise, which banned slavery in the Louisiana Purchase territory north of 36⁰-30” (except for the state of Missouri itself).

The same hostility dismembered Texas and seized upon all the territory acquired from Mexico.

Texas originally claimed a vast area that was ceded to New Mexico as part of the Compromise of 1850. Of the rest of the Mexican Cession, California came into the Union as a free state, while the rest was subject to the doctrine of “popular sovereignty.”

It has grown until it denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, in the Territories, and wherever the government of the United States had jurisdiction.

And here, explicitly, is the main issue, the heart of the matter, the nub.

It refuses the admission of new slave States into the Union, and seeks to extinguish it by confining it within its present limits, denying the power of expansion.

It tramples the original equality of the South under foot.

It has nullified the Fugitive Slave Law in almost every free State in the Union, and has utterly broken the compact which our fathers pledged their faith to maintain.

It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst….

It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system.

When George says we are taking a narrow view of the secession documents, I’m not sure what he means. This seems to represent some hard evidence, and there is more in the other Ordinances and Declarations. Perhaps he means that there are relatively few passages that appear to be directly about the expansion of slavery. The rest are aimed at the idea that the slave system of social control and white supremacy would be destroyed or compromised. The central message, then, is that the expansion of slavery is tied closely with the existence of slavery.

The Special Commissioners

But, fortunately, we needn’t guess–there is another excellent source that expounds on these ideas, fleshing them out so we know exactly why Southern slaveholders took their states out of the Union: the addresses and speeches of the so-called secession commissioners.

South Carolina and Company seceded in December and January (Texas in February), but that was it—no Tennessee, no North Carolina, no Kentucky, no Arkansas. No Virginia. To succeed in their endeavor, they realized they needed two things: a confederate league between the seceded states; and they needed the Upper South to join them in secession. As Charles B. Dew has shown in his excellent little Apostles of Disunion, the Cotton States all appointed special commissioners to the other slave states to accomplish these goals. Governor Andrew B. Moore of Alabama was typical, although he was so gung-ho that he made the appointments before Alabama officially seceded. He therefore felt the need to explain himself to his legislature:

As the slave-holding States have a common interest in the institution of slavery, and must be common sufferers in its overthrow, I deemed it proper, and it appeared to be the general sentiment of the people, that Alabama should consult and advise with the other slave-holding States, so far as practicable, as to what is best to be done to protect their interests and honor in the impending crisis. And seeing that the conventions of South Carolina and Florida would probably act before the convention of Alabama assembled, and that the Legislatures of some of the States would meet, and might adjourn without calling conventions, prior to the meeting of our convention, and thus the opportunity [be lost] of conferring with them upon the great and vital questions on which you are called to act, I determined to appoint commissioners to all the slave-holding States. After appointing them to those States whose conventions and Legislatures were to meet in advance of the Alabama convention, it was suggested by wise counselors that if I did not make similar appointments to the other Southern States it would seem to be making an invidious distinction, which was not intended. Being convinced that it might be so considered, I then determined to appoint commissioners to all the slave-holding States…

He then went on to name 16 such commissioners, all “well known to the people of Alabama, and distinguished for their ability, integrity, and patriotism.” These commissioners were able speakers, and they dispersed into the other slave states to plead their case: to cajole and convince other slaves states to vote for secession and join in a new confederation.

The Alabama Commission

What did commissioners like these say? What was their message? We have over 40 of such speeches and letters. Here is one of my favorites. It is a letter from two of Alabama’s commissioners, Isham Garrott and Robert H. Smith, to the Governor and legislature of North Carolina. It has many of the usual complaints—that the North used the federal government to its advantage, that it was slow to retrieve fugitive slaves, and so on. But most of the letter is about slavery. Here is Smith and Garrott describing why the election of 1860 was so ominous:

[T]he recent Presidential election is the inauguration of a system of Government as opposed to the Constitution as it is to our rights and safety. It ushers in, as a settled policy, not only the exclusion of the people of the South from the common Territories of the country, but proposes to impair the value of slave property in the States by unfriendly legislation; to prevent the further spread of slavery by surrounding us with free States; to refuse admission into the Union of another slave State, and by these means to render the institution itself dangerous to us, and to compel us, as slaves increase, to abandon it, or be doomed to a servile war. The establishment alone of the policy of the Republican party, that no more slave States are to be admitted into the Union, and that slavery is to be forever prohibited in the Territories (the common property of the United States), must, of itself, at no distant day, result in the utter ruin and degradation of most, if not all of the Gulf States. Alabama has at least eight slaves to every square mile of her tillable soil. This population outstrips any race on the globe in the rapidity of its increase; and if the slaves now in Alabama are to be restricted within her present limits, doubling as they do once in less than thirty years, the children are now born who will be compelled to flee from the land of their birth, and from the slaves their parents have toiled to acquire as an inheritance for them, or to submit to the degradation of being reduced to an equality with them, and all its attendant horrors. Our people and institutions Must be secured the right of expansion, and they can never submit to a denial of that which is essential to their very existence.

Without the ability to expand, slaves would be confined to the existing slave states. Because they reproduced themselves, the number of slaves would grow with no market outlet. The value of the slaves themselves would depreciate in the face of such a surplus. Also, the increase in numbers meant a growing and dangerous population of unhappy blacks that would be difficult to control. Then, white inhabitants would have to leave or “to submit to the degradation of being reduced to an equality with them, and all its attendant horrors.”

Harris of Mississippi to Georgia

But wait, there’s more! Here is the address of William L. Harris of Mississippi to the Georgia General Assembly, on December 17, 1860. Again, after touching on the Constitutional rights that the federal government and Northern states violated, he gets to the history of the slave-free conflict:

It will be remembered, that the violation of our constitutional rights, which has caused such universal dissatisfaction in the South, is not of recent date. Ten years since, this Union was rocked from centre to circumference, by the very same outrages, of which we now complain, only now “aggravated” by the recent election. Nothing but her devotion to the Union our Fathers made, induced the South, then, to yield to a compromise, in which Mr. Clay rightly said, we had yielded everything but our honor. We had then in Mississippi a warm contest, which finally ended in reluctant acquiescence in the Compromise measures. The North pledged anew her faith to yield to us our constitutional rights in relation to slave property. They are now, and have been ever since that act, denied to us, until her broken faith and impudent threats, had become almost insufferable before the late election.

So, the North had pledged to honor slavery. But the 1860 election showed that the North was set on the path of abolition. It’s here that Harris gets down to brass tacks:

There were three candidates presented to the North by Southern men, all of whom represented the last degree of conservatism and concession, which their respective parties were willing to yield, to appease the fanaticism of the North.…And yet the North rejected them all; and their united voice, both before and since the overwhelming triumph in this election, has been more defiant and more intolerant than ever before. They have demanded, and now demand, equality between the white and negro races, under our Constitution; equality in representation, equality in the right of suffrage, equality in the honors and emoluments of office, equality in the social circle, equality in the rights of matrimony. The cry has been, and now is, “that slavery must cease, or American liberty must perish,” that “the success of Black Republicanism is the triumph of anti-slavery,” “a revolution in the tendencies of the government that must be carried out.”

To-day our government stands totally revolutionized in its main features, and our Constitution broken and overturned. The new administration, which has effected this revolution, only awaits the 4th of March for the inauguration of the new government, the new principles, and the new policy, upon the success of which they have proclaimed freedom to the slave, but eternal degradation for you and for us.….

Our fathers made this a government for the white man, rejecting the negro, as an ignorant, inferior, barbarian race, incapable of self-government, and not, therefore, entitled to be associated with the white man upon terms of civil, political, or social equality.

This new administration comes into power, under the solemn pledge to overturn and strike down this great feature of our Union, without which it would never have been formed, and to substitute in its stead their new theory of the universal equality of the black and white races….

Equality of rights secured to white men, in equal sovereign States, is among the most prominent features of the Constitution under which we have so long lived.

Next, he compares this desire of the North to the lack of equal treatment for in the South in equal opportunity to the territories.

This equality has been denied us in the South for years in the common territories, while the North has virtually distributed them as bounties to abolition fanatics and foreigners, for their brigand service in aiding in our exclusion.

Instead, the North would populate the West with states filled with those hostile to slavery. He then lists the familiar Constitutional violations by the North; mainly the lack of vigorous enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act.

Our Constitution, in unmistakable language, guarantees the return of our fugitive slaves. Congress has recognized her duty in this respect, by enacting proper laws for the enforcement of this right.

And yet these laws have been continually nullified, and the solemn pledge of the Compromise of 1850, by which the North came under renewed obligations to enforce them, has been faithlessly disregarded, and the government and its officers set at defiance.….

This new union with Lincoln Black Republicans and free negroes, without slavery, or, slavery under our old constitutional bond of union, without Lincoln Black Republicans, or free negroes either, to molest us.

If we take the former, then submission to negro equality is our fate. If the latter, then secession is inevitable — each State for itself and by itself, but with a view to the immediate formation of a Southern Confederacy, under our present Constitution, by such of the slave-holding States as shall agree in their conventions to unite with us.

Mississippi seeks no delay — the issue is not new to her people. They have long and anxiously watched its approach they think it too late, now, to negotiate more compromises with bankrupts in political integrity whose recreancy to justice, good faith and constitutional obligations is the most cherished feature of their political organization.

Then there’s a lot of huffing and puffing about honor. But then Harris finishes with a flourish:

[Mississippi] had rather see the last of her race, men, women and children, immolated in one common funeral pile [pyre], than see them subjected to the degradation of civil, political and social equality with the negro race.

So, the election of Lincoln and the “black” Republicans meant the end of slavery, the elevation of blacks to equal rights with whites. The distinction of “of civil, political and social equality” is important, because it shows precisely what they feared. Civil equality is equality before the law. It meant that blacks could serve on juries and testify in court against whites. Political equality means the right to vote and hold office. This meant that in a state like South Carolina or Mississippi, where over as much as 55% of the population was black, whites would face the fact of blacks sitting in the legislature, as judges, and maybe even in the governor’s mansion. Social equality meant integration—that blacks could work, eat, sleep, travel, consort, marry, and otherwise live side-by-side with whites. Ironically, blacks and whites actually lived in close proximity in the slave society of the South; but so long as blacks were under near-total control, Southerners weren’t bothered. But living that close to blacks without the social control of slavery made social equality—the polar opposite of white supremacy—utterly unthinkable. In short, the sort of black equality Harris envisioned would degrade, insult, and dishonor the South.

Preston of South Carolina to Virginia

Another good speech of John Preston of South Carolina to the Virginia Secession Convention on Feb. 19, 1861. First, Preston goes into the history of the United States under the Union, why secession was legal, blah blah blah. Then he shows how the entire country benefitted from slavery, although because of tariffs, Southerners end up paying more than Northerners. But then

[A]s early as the year 1820, the manifest tendency of the legislation of the general government was to restrict the territorial expansion of the slaveholding States. That is very evident in all the contests of that period; and had they been successful to the extent that some hoped, even then, the line that cut off the purchase from France might have been projected eastward to the bottom of the Chesapeake and sent Virginia and half of Tennessee and all of Kentucky, Virginia proper, after she had given to non-slavery her northwestern empire, to the non-slavery section. That might be the line. The policy, however, has been pushed so far as to deprive this Southern section of that line of at least seven-tenths of the valuable acquisitions of the government.

Ever since the Missouri Compromise, slave-holders had been denied access to the territories. After a description of how slavery affected the economies of both North and South, and how the North benefitted more, he gets to the nub:

For fully thirty years or more, the people of the Northern States have assailed the institution of African slavery. They have assailed African slavery in every form in which, by our contiguity of territory and our political alliance with them, they have been permitted to approach it.

During that period of thirty years, large masses of their people have associated themselves together for the purpose of abolishing the institution of African slavery, and means, the most fearful were suggested to the subject race-rising and murdering their masters being the charities of those means. In pursuance of this idea, their representatives in the federal government have endeavored by all the means that they could bring to bear, so to shape the legislation as almost to limit, to restrict, to restrain the slaveholding States from any political interest in the accretion of the government. So that as my distinguished colleague [Judge Benning], stated to you on yesterday, the decree goes forth that there are to be no more slave States admitted into the Union….

The citizens of not less than five of our confederates of the North have invaded the territory of their confederates of the slaveholding States, and proclaimed the intention of abolishing slavery by the annihilation of the slaveholders; and two of these States have refused to surrender the convicted felons to the demand of the invaded States; and one of these-one of the most influential-one, perhaps, recognized as the representative of what is called American sentiment and civilization, has, in its highest solemn form, approved of that invasion; and numbers of people, scattered throughout the whole extent of these seventeen States, have made votive offerings to the memory of the invaders.

Preston then tells the Virginians what South Carolina did and reads the Ordinance. But then he gets really worked up:

Now, gentlemen of Virginia, notwithstanding these facts which I have so feebly grouped before you, notwithstanding this patience which I have endeavored to show you she has practised, my State, throughout this whole land, throughout all Christendom, my State has been charged with rash precipitancy. Is it rash precipitancy to step out of the pathway when you hear the thunder crash of the falling clouds? Is it rash precipitancy to seek for shelter when you hear the gushing of the coming tempest, and see the storm cloud coming down upon you? Is it rash precipitancy to raise your hands to protect your head? [Loud applause.]

What is the “thunder crash” and the “coming tempest”? The end of slavery and the beginning of black equality. Of course, South Carolina had endured the disrespect heaped on slave-owners by the North with great patience. And so “long as it was a merely silly fanaticism or a prurient philanthropy that proposed our destruction, we scarcely complained.” They endured slight and slight, injury after injury. Southerners even endured John Brown’s raid. But no more:

But when at last this mad fanaticism, this eager haste for rapine, mingling their foul purposes, engendered this fell spirit which has seized the Constitution itself in its most sacred forms and distorted it into an instrument of our instant ruin; why, then, to hesitate one moment longer seems to us not only base cowardice, but absolute fatuity. [Applause.]

In the end, the two sections were too different, a clash of civilizations, and a “coercing power at the city of Washington…can no more coalesce the people of Virginia and the people of Vermont, the people of the St. Lawrence and the people of the Gulf of Mexico, the people of the Rio Grande and the people of the Hudson, than could Rome make one coalition of the Gaul.” They were too different, and the difference was slavery:

No community of laws, no community of language, of religion, can amalgamate, according to our faith, people whose severance is proclaimed by the most rigid requisitions of universal necessity. African slavery cannot exist at the North. The South cannot exist without African slavery. [Applause.] None but an equal race can labor at the North; none but a subject race will labor at the South.

Let’s look at one more, shall we? This is a letter written by another commissioner from Alabama, Stephen F. Hale, to Governor Beriah Magoffin of Kentucky on December 17, 1860. It follows a pattern found in many of these addresses: the commissioner shows why secession is legal, goes through a brief history of the injuries sustained by the South, and then comes down to the “nub”: the reason for secession: the election of Lincoln and the Republican Party. While long direct quotes can be a chore to read, I believe it’s most effective to let Mr. Hales have the floor:

What, then are the circumstances under which, and the issues upon which he was elected? His own declarations, and the current history of the times, but too plainly indicate he was elected by a Northern sectional vote, against the most solemn warnings and protestations of the whole South. He stands forth as the representative of the fanaticism of the North, which, for the last quarter of a century, has been making war upon the South, her property, her civilization, her institutions, and her interests; as the representative of that party which overrides all Constitutional barriers, ignores the obligations of official oaths, and acknowledges allegiance to a higher law than the Constitution, striking down the sovereignty and equality of the States, and resting its claims to popular favor upon the one dogma, the Equality of the Races, white and black.

It was upon this acknowledgment of allegiance to a higher law, that Mr. Seward rested his claim to the Presidency, in a speech made by him in Boston, before the election. He is the exponent, if not the author, of the doctrine of the Irrepressible Conflict between freedom and slavery, and proposes that the opponents of slavery shall arrest its further expansion, and by Congressional Legislation exclude it from the common Territories of the Federal Government, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction.

He claims for free negroes the right of suffrage, and an equal voice in the Government– in a word, all the rights of citizenship, although the Federal Constitution, as construed by the highest judicial tribunal in the world, does not recognize Africans imported into this country as slaves, or their descendants, whether free or slaves, as citizens.

These were the issues presented in the last Presidential canvass, and upon these the American people passed at the ballot-box.

Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republican party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as a change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new principles, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions — nothing less than an open declaration of war — for the triumph of this new theory of Government destroys the property of the South, lays waste her fields, and inaugurates all the horrors of a San Domingo servile insurrection, consigning her citizens to assassinations, and her wives and daughters to pollution and violation, to gratify the lust of half-civilized Africans. Especially is this true in the cotton-growing States, where, in many localities, the slave outnumbers the white population ten to one.

If the policy of the Republicans is carried out, according to the programme indicated by the leaders of the party, and the South submits, degradation and ruin must overwhelm alike all classes of citizens in the Southern States. The slave-holder and non-slave-holder must ultimately share the same fate — all be degraded to a position of equality with free negroes, stand side by side with them at the polls, and fraternize in all the social relations of life; or else there will be an eternal war of races, desolating the land with blood, and utterly wasting and destroying all the resources of the country.

Who can look upon such a picture without a shudder? What Southern man, be he slave-holder or non-slave-holder, can without indignation and horror contemplate the triumph of negro equality, and see his own sons and daughters, in the not distant future, associating with free negroes upon terms of political and social equality, and the white man stripped, by the Heaven-daring hand of fanaticism of that title to superiority over the black race which God himself has bestowed? In the Northern States, where free negroes are so few as to form no appreciable part of the community, in spite of all the legislation for their protection, they still remain a degraded caste, excluded by the ban of society from social association with all but the lowest and most degraded of the white race. But in the South, where in many places the African race largely predominates, and, as a consequence, the two races would be continually pressing together, amalgamation, or the extermination of the one or the other, would be inevitable. Can Southern men submit to such degradation and ruin? God forbid that they should.

But, it is said, there are many Constitutional, conservative men at the North, who sympathize with and battle for us. That is true; but they are utterly powerless, as the late Presidential election unequivocally shows, to breast the tide of fanaticism that threatens to roll over and crush us. With them it is a question of principle, and we award to them all honor for their loyalty to the Constitution of our Fathers. But their defeat is not their ruin. With us it is a question of self-preservation — our lives, our property, the safety of our homes and our hearthstones — all that men hold dear on earth, is involved in the issue. If we triumph, vindicate our rights and maintain our institutions, a bright and joyous future lies before us. We can clothe the world with our staple, give wings to her commerce, and supply with bread the starving operative in other lands, and at the same time preserve an institution that has done more to civilize and Christianize the heathen than all human agencies beside — an institution alike beneficial to both races, ameliorating the moral, physical and intellectual condition of the one, and giving wealth and happiness to the other. If we fail, the light of our civilization goes down in blood, our wives and our little ones will be driven from their homes by the light of our own dwellings. The dark pall of barbarism must soon gather over our sunny land, and the scenes of West India emancipation, with its attendant horrors and crimes (that monument of British fanaticism and folly), be re-enacted in our own land upon a more gigantic scale.

This so captures utterly the horror of white Southerners, it’s worth repeating: “as a consequence” of the end of slavery, “the two races would be continually pressing together, amalgamation, or the extermination of the one or the other, would be inevitable. Can Southern men submit to such degradation and ruin? God forbid that they should.” Degradation and ruin. Barbarism. The fear is palpable.

Race and Secession

But of course, it’s racist fear (which is redundant, really). It’s not fear of losing the fortunes, although that is an issue; it’s the fear of “amalgamation”: the fear of a multi-racial society.

And again, the South didn’t have a monopoly on racism. It was a profound element in the North as well. But, as Hale accurately points out in the letter, the number of blacks in the North was negligible. In the Deep South, it was nearly half. And the correlation between numbers of slaves and rate of secession is stunning. This graph by Michael Rogers, which  you can find posted at Kevin Levin’s Civil War Memorycompiles data from the census of 1860:


The Deep South (except for Texas—I’m not sure what their deal was), with percentages of blacks in each state over 40%, left fairly quickly. The Upper South waited until shots were fired, but left as well. The Upper South states fall into a range of around 24% to 34%. And the Border states, with percentages in the teens, never left at all.

It is overstating the case to say that racism—the fear of blacks—was what caused the Civil War. But as I wrote in a previous post, it is clear that it was extremely important. Southerners could live cheek-by-jowl with blacks if they had near total control over them; but they would not allow themselves to be “degraded” by living among blacks as equals.

And so, I hope George ponders this. I hope he will see that the three addresses we’ve looked at here are a tiny fraction of the number such addresses from these commissioners, and every one of them makes this same argument. I hope he recognizes that this sort of evidence is incontrovertible: this is the reason for secession right from the mouths of the participants themselves. I’d like to think that it could even cause him to change his mind about the cause of the war, and so give up the alternate, fictional version offered by neo-Confederates. We will see.


About Christopher Shelley

Christopher Shelley teaches American history and American Indian history at Portland Community College. He is fond of border collies, and bleeds Dodger-blue. Any and all opinions expressed here are those of the expressors themselves, and in no way represent the views of Portland Community College.
This entry was posted in Civil War, Neo-Confederates, Secession, Slavery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

65 Responses to Secession, the Expansion of Slavery, and Race

  1. Andy Hall says:

    The Deep South (except for Texas—I’m not sure what their deal was), with percentages of blacks in each state over 40%, left fairly quickly.

    Texas’ slave population was smaller than that of the other Deep South states, but it was virulently committed to slaveholding. The population of enslaved persons in Texas tripled in the decade between the censuses of 1850 and 1860, largely because of white settlers relocating from other parts of the South to Texas, where good land was plentiful and cheap, and the prospect of rising into the planter class was better than in long-settled areas further east. At the same time, Texas was very hostile to free African Americans; their numbers were exceedingly small, and actually decreased between 1850 and 1860.
    Here are two more charts that illustrate the connection between slaveholding and secession. Both show the order of secession of states going from left to right, beginning with South Carolina. This shows the proportion of individual slaveholders:
    And this shows enslaved persons as part of the total population:
    In both cases, you can see that the (generally speaking), those states with the highest concentration of slaveholding seceded first.
    For the stats-inclined, the correlation between proportion of slave population and order of secession is -0.919, and the correlation between percentage of slaveholders and order of secession in -0.901, which are both about as close to a perfect negative correlation as one gets with real world data.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow! Many thanks, Andy. Sort of the exception that proves the rule.


    • Michael Rodgers says:

      In case there’s any confusion about the graph I made. Andy has two posts called not surprising. The data are in the first and his graphs are in the second. You can see in his graphs the negative correlation: The higher the percent slave or percent slaveholder population, the sooner (in order) the state declared secession. I used this approach with a change from secession order to days after Lincoln’s election. It’s a still a strong negative correlation: The higher the percent slave population, the sooner (in days) the state declared secession. Finally, and here’s where there might be some confusion, when I graphed the data and the line I reversed the direction of the x-axis for story-telling purposes, so that we can start our story with South Carolina.


      • Andy Hall says:

        No, your graph made perfect sense. I just thought it was a subject that needed boldface, underline, and italics. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

      • My only complaint with it is that my brain wants the x axis to be time, and the y axis to be percentage. But that’s just my brain.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael Rodgers says:

        Thanks both and yes Chris generally time is the x and percent is the y, I was interested in x being percent to predict y days, as in if we knew what the percent was could we predict when the state would declare secession? Anyway, here is the data graphed with the x being days and the y being percent, with the axes drawn normally.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael Rodgers says:

        Thanks both, and yes Chris generally time is the x. I wanted to predict the date of secession based on the percent slave population so I did it the other way. But because you want it with time as the x and the axes the normal way, I can do that.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Rob Baker says:

    Well stated. Of course, you can bet that it won’t please those that won’t listen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Michael Rodgers says:

    George has repeatedly stated his claim that secession did not cause the war and his — switching the burden of proof — claim that no one can prove (to him) that secession was the cause the war.

    You stated that it’s self-evident that secession is the cause of the war. And I explained as much in my satire. One man’s satire is another man’s carefully considered opinion.

    George believes that the South seceded deliberately, legally, and peacefully and that the Union invaded wantonly, needlessly, and brutally. While adverbs.are wonderful parts of speech, they are not facts.

    The facts are: (1) Lincoln was elected president on a platform against slavery’s expansion to the territories. (2) SC and other states declared secession, issued ordinances, and began forming the CSA. (3) SC and other states stopped complying with the federal government. (5) Confederate forces fired on Ft. Sumter. (4) President Lincoln began preparing a response and explained his view of the situation to Congress on July 4, 1861. (5) Congress approved of Lincoln’s plan to militarily resolve the conflict so that the Union would remain intact.

    To conclude, it’s not up to anyone to prove to George. It was up to Lincoln to prove to Congress and he evidently did so.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That satire was nearly the highlight of my week. And thanks for the graph.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Rodgers says:

      I seem to have lost track of my numbering there. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Rodgers says:

      Here’s a more complete story, which I also posted as a comment at Al Mackey’s site.

      The US Civil War was a slave state insurrection that not all the slave states joined and that the federal government put down. The insurrecting states began declaring secession independently — but in communication with each other through secession commissioners — soon after Lincoln was elected President on a slavery containment platform, where slavery would not be officially interfered with by the federal government in the slave states but would be excluded from the federal territories — the frontier and the west.

      The slave states in the deep South, where the sun burns strong in the fields of the white owned plantations, feared losing the nearly $4 billion of property that the black slaves represented to them. Those slave states, with the highest slave population (over 40%), declared secession first, followed by Texas and then by the remaining slave states with over 20% slave population (those slave states with under 20% slave population never declared secession).

      The last batch of states to declare secession did so following the firing on Ft. Sumter, a military installation belonging to the United States of America, by insurrecting forces and following President Lincoln’s subsequent calling up of troops to put down the insurrection. The insurrecting states formed a new government, the Confederate States of America, which the United States of America did not recognize but instead fought and defeated.

      On July 4, 1861 President Lincoln addressed Congress seeking approval for the war effort, and he got it. The war was long and brutal. Confederate troops fought and also captured slaves, fugitive or otherwise. President Lincoln realized that he could enlist former slaves in the war effort and did so. He formed USCT and issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves in all of the insurrecting states. The Confederate government engaged in conscription to forcibly draft white men into the Confederate army and refused to consider making slaves soldiers.

      The war ended when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to U.S. General Ulysses Grant at a courthouse in Appomattox and when, not much later, Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured. The insurrection was over and, with the good news of the new Constitutional amendments and the bad news of President Lincoln’s assassination, the United States of America was reborn.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jimmy Dick says:

    It would really be interesting to see the results of a study comparing the enlistments from 1861 versus the drafts of 1862 to see the slave owning relationship. Andy posted a nice post on his blog with some of Joseph Glatthaar’s work which deals with a small slice of the ANV from 1861. I would like to see some of the statistics on who was drafted. I’m aware that missing records would always make this imperfect, but I think this would be a very interesting study.


    • Andy Hall says:

      Jimmy, Glatthaar followed up General Lee’s Army with Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served under Robert E. Lee, which covers the entire war. His sample of conscripts doesn’t seem to be very large, but his finding was that drafted men tended to come from poorer-than-average house holds, and that about a third of conscripts enlisted in 1862 came from slave-holding households. That dropped off dramatically to about 1 in 9 in 1863 (“Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight,” etc.).

      I’m going by the Google books preview, because I can’t put my hands on the actual book at the moment — a perennial problem for me — but it looks like there may be some differences in that pattern and ANV enlistees overall. Might be worth hunting up a copy.


      • Jimmy Dick says:

        I have got to get that book. I really would love to see an analysis of other states especially the Lower South. Where’s that grant money to pay for a three year research project?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Andy Hall says:

        Jimmy, you could always become a True Southron. Think how much money you’d save not buying books, and never wasting time bothering to look stuff up.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Michael Rodgers says:

        To be a True Southron™ you have to ignore or contort
        () The Declaration of Independence
        () The US Constitution especially the preamble and the first eleven words of the tenth amendment.
        () The constitutional conventions
        () Federalism
        () George Washington’s Farewell Address
        () The Louisiana Purchase and Manifest Destiny
        () The effect of the 3/5 compromise on federal power and United States history
        () The Fugitive Slave Act’s empowerment of the federal government
        () The Fugitive Slave Act’s effect of turning free states into slave states
        () The Lincoln-Douglas debates about the expansion of slavery into the territories
        () The fact that all states participated in electing Lincoln president
        () The Secession Conventions, Commissioners, and Declarations
        () The difference in kind (not just degree) regarding the percent of slave population between, for example, Kentucky and South Carolina
        () This graph regarding the exponentially increasing economics of slavery
        () Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, July 4 Address to Congress, Emancipation Proclamation, Gettysburg Address, and Second Inaugural Address
        () Congress, especially from the Missouri Compromise onward through Reconstruction
        () The Supreme Court
        () The process used by federal and state authority to create West Virginia
        () The refusal of international powers to assist or recognize the CSA
        () The story of Lee’s surrender and his words, deeds, and example after the war
        () The assassination of Lincoln
        () Southern resistance to Reconstruction and implementation of Jim Crow
        () The difference between history and heritage
        () The difference between a flag of an existing government (USA: Stars and Stripes, SC: Palmetto, etc.) and flags that are not flags of existing governments
        () The difference in context between governmental and historical placement of flags
        () The difference between public and private
        () The difference between commemorating and politicizing
        () The difference between artifacts from the Civil War and things produced years, decades, or centuries later
        () The difference between removing a flag and committing cultural genocide on your heritage, whatever that means
        () And a whole lot more

        Liked by 2 people

      • Michael Rodgers says:

        Also to be a True Southron™ you have to ignore or contort
        () The Bible
        () The violence of slavery
        () The difference between a non-soldier and a soldier
        () Tariffs — see this visualization
        () State’s rights — see these 5 myths
        () The contribution of African-Americans to winning the Civil War
        () The efforts of the Confederate troops to capture slaves, fugitive or otherwise
        () The behavior and policies of the Confederate government, including conscription
        () Nixon’s Southern Strategy and Lee Atwater’s tactics
        () Strom Thurmond
        () And probably much more

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Jimmy Dick says:

    Would it not be far easier for me to just go duh and let George Purvis, the High Priest of Ignorance, tell me what to think? I mean, thinking for myself on all these things would require work. So if I just stopped thinking and let George tell me what the meaning of life is I would have more time to do whatever it is that rednecks do.


    • Michael Rodgers says:

      Rednecks farm and hunt and lots of things, no need to disparage. Otherwise yes just follow George’s lead: The Declarations of Secession had nothing to do with the war, and Lincoln got the war he wanted because um because um he um oh yeah to kill people of all races in The Insane Massacre of the Southern People by the Tyrant Lincoln. Fix bayonets! Deo Vindice! What do you mean the war’s over? Unreconstructed!

      One good thing about all this, in addition to this nice post by Chris, is that we can appreciate Lincoln all the more for doing his duty to keep the United States together — by delivering great speeches including his July 4 Address to Congress, by being politically savvy with his cabinet, the legislature, and the population at large, and by leading and prosecuting the military effort to win the war — when a weaker or lesser person may have shirked or otherwise failed to keep the country together.

      Liked by 1 person

      • In one earlier exchange with Waterboy, he said that Lincoln was a political hack with no genius. It was too silly to respond to–it demanded a thousand words or none at all. But it brings up something we see again and again: that the CACs and Purvises refuse to begrudge Yankees anything, ever. I mean, they could argue that Lincoln was a brilliant Machiavellian, who pursued evil plans against the South (as do the Libertarians). But they don’t: he was a dullard, a hack. And yet this stupid hack convinced hundreds of thousands of Americans to slaughter their countrymen? Their Lincoln is both an all-powerful despot and a fool. But consistency is not one of their strong suits.

        Likewise, Waterboy keeps pounding his head against THE STATES in Article VII. By his logic, the Constitution must not have protected slavery because it’s never mentioned explicitly in the Constitution. But enough of these clowns. It’s not my job to explain to them why Lincoln became great. It’s like explaining color to a colorblind man who has the power to remove his colorblindness but won’t because he refuses to believe there’s such a thing as color. I agree with Mike–and with Frederick Douglass:

        Had he put the abolition of slavery before the salvation of the Union, he would have inevitably driven from him a powerful class of the American people and rendered resistance to rebellion impossible. Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined….

        [T]he judgment of the present hour is, that taking him for all in all, measuring the tremendous magnitude of the work before him, considering the necessary means to ends, and surveying the end from the beginning, infinite wisdom has seldom sent any man into the world better fitted for his mission than Abraham Lincoln.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Rodgers says:

      Basically there are two schools — oh my God I can’t call them schools! — I mean approaches, as I indicated, the Purvis way, which is to ignore, and the Caldwell way, which is to contort. One of the ways leads to repeating “Prove it” even when quite compelling evidence has just been presented, while the other leads to verbose, smug, and supercilious arguments typical for their over-abundant use of colorful, unusual, and derogatory adjectives, especially in groups of 3.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jimmy Dick says:

        I think I’m going to go with the way of reading this nifty little book here by Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Team of Rivals,” so that I can add to my store of knowledge. You may have heard of it? I’m sure it gets a five star Amazon review from everyone!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael Rodgers says:

        Purvis has nothing of value to say. Caldwell is entertaining because he imagines how he would write the story of the CSA if it had somehow wound up victorious in the war: The secession declarers were visionary founding fathers who rallied soldiers in a war that was brutally, mercilessly, and unjustly* put upon the CSA by the USA, etc. But since that’s not what happened, it’s best to refer him to Devil’s Advocate: Permission Denied.
        *I went with adverbs instead of adjectives.


      • What do you do, Mike?


      • Michael Rodgers says:

        Truly though I had enough of them both back in Brooks’ chatroom when Caldwell was calling himself Thad. I wrote some good analysis then though, for example here, when I refused to take their bait and stopped responding directly to them.


      • Jimmy Dick says:

        Well, he has a new name now no matter what he calls himself. From now on he shall be known as the Waterboy.
        I haven’t decided if I want to label George as the Swami of Stupidity or stick with the High Priest of Ignorance. I am kind of surprised we haven’t seen Jerry show up here yet or the Mouth of the South (her version of it). In any event we are better off without their attempts to lower everyone’s IQ.
        George though, he sort of reminds me of Pee-Wee Herman going “I know you are, but what am I?” Hmmmmm……What do you think?


      • Michael Rodgers says:

        I had a blog years ago TakeDownTheFlag but shut it down eventually (the bill I was supporting expired and wasn’t reintroduced, so there was no reason for me to keep the blog going). So don’t ask me as a blog owner. See what the other guys do. Kevin Levin does the best, I think. Here’s how he dealt with a certain someone who went by Parker:
        “Is that really what this is all about? Who is more guilty? Silly.”
        As a commenter, I don’t respond directly to them. I think about what I want to learn and express and I do it — basically how you decided to write this post. On a technical note, they probably signed up for RSS and get replies in their email very conveniently and since I don’t respond to their comments, they might not ever know if I’ve made my new comment — perhaps inspired partly by their comment but not in direct response to their comment.
        Best Regards,
        PS Keep up the good work and don’t let the you know get you down.

        Liked by 1 person

      • All good advice. But I actually meant: what do you do for a living?


      • Michael Rodgers says:

        And if you’re asking about my profession I’m a high school teacher at Spring Valley in SC.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael Rodgers says:

        One last comment — it helps me that I can be the uninterested cop to your good cop Chris and your bad cop Jimmy, though Chris you’re too nice and Jimmy you’re too mean. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Jimmy Dick says:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Rob Baker says:

    What is all the ‘hubub’ about the graph? It’s pretty self explanatory. You are showing a correlation between high slave percentage states and their early secession in correlation with Lincoln’s election; whereas the states with fewer slaves were more hesitant. Is it really that hard to interpret?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael Rodgers says:

      It’s shocking, I know, but some people (probably only one person) make simple things difficult in order to insult others for their own amusement. You’re right that there’s nothing difficult to understand about the graph. The higher the slave population percentage the sooner (fewer days after Lincoln’s election) the state declares secession, which is a negative correlation — when one variable goes up the other variable goes down, crystal clear.
      In the first graph I made, the line goes up to the right because I made the x-axis to the left instead of to the right, for story-telling purposes (I wanted the first point you see to be SC) after I had decided for the independent variable x to be percentage and the predicted variable y to be days after Lincoln’s election. Normally up to the right means positive correlation because axes are normally drawn normally.
      I like the first graph because you can predict when a state will declare secession based on its slave population percentage, I additionally made a second graph with x as the days after Lincoln’s election and y as the percent slave population. With this graph you would predict the percent slave population that a state would have if it declared secession on a certain day. The second graph has normal axes and the line going down to the right as you would expect for this negative correlation.
      Of course you wouldn’t use the graphs to predict anything because it’s history and it happened etc. It’s just interesting to speculate and to see the groupings really. It would be interesting to note days of specific things happening like Ft. Sumter or if anything specific happened near to Texas’s secession date, etc.
      Finally, the people (probably just one person) who may be hub-bubbing is probably of the opinion that because the USA contained slave states when it put down the slave-state insurrection the war couldn’t possibly have anything to do with slavery, or some such nonsense, uhm argument. These people (probably just one person) believe that it wasn’t a slave-state insurrection because not all the slave states joined in. #notallslavestates

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey, hey, easy there, Sparky. Just because I read “time” from left-to-right (like normal people) is no reason to disparage.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael Rodgers says:

        (1) You kid, but you made a good suggestion and so I made you a new graph.
        (2) I like how I ended my last comment. Would neoconfederates claim that the Whiskey Rebellion couldn’t possibly be about whiskey because not all whiskey drinkers rebelled? I never expect them to be consistent and always expect them to be ridiculous, but that’s their argument! #notallwhiskeydrinkers


      • Re: (2) Mind. Blown.

        Seriously, the Whiskey Rebellion is like one of my favorite things.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael Rodgers says:

        It’s like Larry Wilmore said, “The called themselves slave states.” They threw a slave state insurrection and invited all the slave states but a few said no. #notallslavestates

        Liked by 1 person

      • Rob Baker says:

        I’m guessing that one person was Purvy Purvis or Austin/Caldwell/Carmichael/Reed/Jennifer Cotton/etc. etc. etc.


    • Michael Rodgers says:

      Also, in a pinch, like as a last ditch effort to make some sense out of the thing, like if a person was really really just flummoxed and flabbergasted, he could print out the first graph and turn it 90 degrees to the right — or he could just turn his head 90 degrees to the left while looking at the screen — and what do you know, miracle of miracles, with this rotation, time is the horizontal axis running left to right as expected and percent is the vertical axis and the trendline goes down to the right showing negative correlation and everyone gets a car.


      • Are you sure you’re not from the West Coast?


      • Michael Rodgers says:

        I was just up late, a little jazzed about my realization and a little snippy from being tired. Continuing, after Lincoln’s election, in which the whole country participated, the “over 40%” slave states and Texas declared secession — as they said, to protect and expand slavery — and while so doing they classified the states as slaveholding states and nonslaveholding states and invited all the slaveholding states to join them. The “under 20%” slave states spurned the invitation.

        That brings us to your mind-blowing accounting-based realization that the illegality of secession was reconfirmed via a de facto Constitutional amendment (and thus no de jure amendment was necessary) since at least 2/3 of the Congress, 3/4 of the states, and 3/4 of all Americans were opposed to secession at the time (BTW I’d love to see your accounting and some links).

        What this means is that the spurning is not evidence to support the claim* that slavery is not the cause of the war; instead the spurning is evidence that supports the claim that slavery is indeed the cause of the war.

        * I successfully resisted employing derogatory adjectives!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, that remark was just a little fast-and-ugly. In truth, because there were 33 states, and 22 stayed in the Union, that’s only 2/3rds of the states, not the required 3/4ths. But for the rest:

        >> The total number of Senators was 66; 22 from seceded states, 44 from true blue states. That’s 2/3rds of one house.

        >> The total number of Representatives (according to Wikipedia) was 238; 66 from seceded states; 172 from loyal states (including Border States, which may be a bit unfair, since Maryland would have seceded if the army hadn’t sat on it, but whatever). That’s 72%, or more than 2/3rds of the required second house.

        >> The total voting population in the election of 1860 that voted for one of the four major candidates was 4,685,031; 4,094,129 of these voted for Lincoln, Douglas, or Bell; 590,901 voted for Breckinridge. The Lincoln and Douglas votes I count as Union votes; same with Bell, since he did after all run as the Constitutional Union Party candidate. That means that arguably 87% of voting Americans favored Union over disunion in 1860. At least, that’s how one can read the numbers.

        So my earlier statement was slightly exaggerated. And one could dink around with different numbers as well: what about non-voters, like women and blacks? What about slaves? There are more accurate ways to do this, I’m sure. But my overall point is, that at a fundamental level, a Constitutionally significant majority of Americans rejected the right of secession in 1860.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Michael Rodgers says:

        Chris, OK, interesting, got it, thank you. Regards, Mike


  8. Jimmy Dick says:

    I always like how the neo-confederates here in Missouri like to claim that Missouri seceded which it did not and that the state was Confederate to the core. The numbers show a far different story. They reveal that around 180,000 Missourians fought in the conflict with 30,000 fighting for the Confederacy and 150,000 for the Union. That’s a 5 to 1 ratio for the Union.

    It really makes you wonder why they ignore those numbers, the state secession convention with its notes and recorded votes, and the witnesses whose observations on the secession process in Neosho were corroborated by the recent discovery of the missing official logs of the state legislature. I guess the truth just sucks for them.


  9. Michael Rodgers says:

    I think George Purvis wants to focus discussion about the cause of the war on events related to Ft. Sumter. He said in his latest post “Part 14 — Mr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. Pages 162- 230,” after presenting Chapters X and XI of that book (available online at google books), “We now have the Buchanan version of the events leading up to the war. Slavery being a cause of secession was soon overlooked and forgotten as the issue at Fort Sumter took front and center.”

    I had previously emailed the Civil War Trust about their awful pie charts (the concepts are ill-defined and not mutually exclusive) in their “documentary study” by John Pierce, and I received a response from Garry Adelman. He said, “We present slavery as the cause for secession in other places on the web site.” and “The piece in question was our attempt to get people to draw this obvious conclusion for themselves.” and further:

    “Still, the issue is not so simple and I think we need to lead people backward to better understand it (as we plan to do in an upcoming piece) in separating why soldiers fought from why the war started from the reasons for secession. All of these have different answers. Soldiers on both sides fought for a variety of reasons. The war itself really started over Federal property (at Sumter). The property issue of course stems entirely from secession which you and I agree was because of slavery. This is tough in my experience for people to separate, even if they come to agree that slavery was the cause for secession.”

    Garry Adelman referred me also to a Civil War Trust in4 movie The War Between the States,” the title of which he explained in a comment on a post at Kevin Levin’s site by saying, “For the Civil War Trust’s four minute summary of the war video we called it ‘War Between the States’ because we thought having a video called ‘Civil War In4–The Civil War’ sounded stupid.”

    Anyway, you can write some more about Ft. Sumter sometime if you want to.


  10. What is really amazing is most posters here are biased in their views. Nearly everyone here in their turn has tried to prove the secession docs. are proof that the Confederacy was fighting to preserve the institution of slavery. The secession docs say no such thing. The secession docs are not decla4rations of war.

    . Most people tried to “out slick” me but were not successful. Each person except Andy Hall has been banned from Cold Southern Steel because they cannot deal with facts without the insults. I listened to each and every argument is turn and gave factual responses to each when I was not being insulted.

    It has been my position from the beginning that slavery was not the cause of the war. I said nothing about secession as the cause. Slavery was not the only reason for secession.

    My position is backed up by facts, posted to my blog, not opinions and insults Anyone who desires to read the actual facts and make a civil argument is welcome to visit Cold Southern Steel at

    George Purvis


    • Again, you are ignoring the argument of this “poster.” Until you read the speeches and letters of the Special Commissioners, you will not understand why the Deep South left the Union.


    • Jimmy Dick says:

      No, they’re not backed up with facts. You cherry pick stuff and make claims that are usually out of context. You ignore what proves you wrong. You are not a historian at all.


  11. Michael Rodgers says:

    Yes this focus on the expansion, not just existence, of slavery is exactly right. Both the USA and the CSA wanted to expand. The USA wanted expansion with every new state being a free state, while the CSA wanted expansion with every new state being a slave state. That’s what the war’s about.

    First, the CSA sought to take as many slave states as they could away from the USA, by starting a war with the USA by shooting on the USA’s Ft. Sumter and by inviting all the slave states to secede from the USA and then join the CSA. Second, the CSA sought to expand westward to the pacific to eventually make slave states out of New Mexico, Arizona, California, and more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jimmy Dick says:

      The South Carolina Declaration of Secession made the issue crystal clear in the opening sentence with this line “but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States.”

      As for the expansion of slavery, the traitors in the state of Georgia made it clear, “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.”

      What these documents show is the rejection of the concept of majority rule. The slaveholders rejected anything that conflicted with their ideas even to the point of breaking the Union. They were determined to have slavery at any cost. It is very interesting to go through the creation of the confederate constitution and see how things developed. William C. Davis explained it well in Look Away! When we look at the differences between the US Constitution and the confederate version we see a major difference involving the ability of states to be free or not. That choice did not exist.

      I have always found it ironic that the confederates who loved the concept of state’s rights so much were actually against state’s rights in their Constitution in two places. It is also interesting to see that the main change involved the issue of slavery. To make the matter even more interesting, it is worthwhile to note that the main fire-eating secessionists didn’t like the confederate version because it didn’t go far enough to suit them.

      As for expansion itself, look to the confederate constitution and article IV, section 3, “The Confederate States may acquire new territory; and Congress shall have power to legislate and provide governments for the inhabitants of all territory belonging to the Confederate States, lying without the limits of the several Sates; and may permit them, at such times, and in such manner as it may by law provide, to form States to be admitted into the Confederacy. In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.”

      Note that slavery was enshrined in this section. Any territory gained would automatically be slave territory. The idea that this constitution was designed to prevent the expansion of federal power and that this idea lay at the heart of secession is clearly seen as a smokescreen designed to hide the central tenet of the confederacy; the right to own slaves and control of the government by slave interests. In short, the confederacy was all about slavery and its preservation. The inclusion of territorial gain made it clear that the Confederacy had designs on the expansion of itself and slavery. The two went hand in hand.

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  12. Michael Rodgers says:

    Just to add that there’s a great series of posts at LoathingLincoln and readers should click there for all of them and all the links. In this one he writes:

    Finally, Livingston writes that “Lincoln and Congress repeatedly said that the war had only one aim: to preserve the Union.” Once more, he is correct. But, and this cannot be stressed often enough, when Lincoln and the Republicans said they wanted the Union preserved, they sought a Union in which slavery – again, what Livingston clearly states “was a national wrong” – was peacefully and eventually eradicated, not one in which it was protected forever and/or extended into the territories or into Central or South America.

    And he concludes with a question like mine (Now they believe him?!?!):

    It is here, it seems, that Livingston most assuredly disagrees with Lincoln and the Republicans. He preferred the country split apart and argues that allowing the United States to divide peacefully by allowing secession would have been the better antislavery policy. More on this in future posts. But first, I have to ask: does the Confederate Veteran, or Livingston for that matter, realize the degree to which the arguments they are making are the arguments of Lincoln and the Republican Party?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Michael Rodgers says:

    Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 [Kindle Edition] James Oakes (Author)

    Reconstructing the history of antislavery policy has also compelled me to reconsider a popular assumption about the broader trajectory of the Civil War itself. Like most historians I always believed that the purpose of the war shifted “from Union to emancipation,” but over the course of my research that familiar transition vanished like dust in the wind, and I have been unable to recover it. Republicans did not believe that the Constitution allowed them to wage a war for any “purpose” other than the restoration of the Union, but from the very beginning they insisted that slavery was the cause of the rebellion and emancipation an appropriate and ultimately indispensible means of suppressing it. It was the Democrats, not the Republicans, who insisted on keeping slavery out of the war, who hoped to restore the Union “as it was,” who vehemently denied that the restoration of the Union required the destruction of slavery, and who tried to shift the discussion from slavery to race by demanding an answer to the question What is to be done with the Negro? The real question, Republicans believed, was What is to be done with slavery? They never had to move from Union to emancipation because the two issues—liberty and union—were never separate for them. If there was a shift over the course of the war, it was the realization by Republicans that destroying slavery would be much harder than they had originally expected. Not until January 31, 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment finally squeezed through the House of Representatives—with but a few votes to spare, and against overwhelming Democratic opposition—could Republicans be reasonably certain that slavery would be fully abolished.

    Liked by 2 people

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