User avatar
By Muddled Duck

Slavery was certainly a prominent issue at the time, and the Declarations of Secession you posted point that out well enough. That said, the fear that Lincoln would free slaves could well be described as the straw that broke the camel's back. There had been tension for decades prior, and there was serious talk of secession around 1850. Had that happened the outcome would quite likely have been different since the north wasn't quite the industrial might they were a decade later.

Relatively few southerners owned slaves, so it's obvious most foot soldiers weren't simply fighting for that right. What many don't realize is that while Lincoln freed the southern slaves (in token) in 1863, slaves in northern states weren't freed until Dec. of 1865 whereas southern slaves were free when the war ended (except in Texas). In the end, money was a primary reason for the war, and that's on both sides.

Normally I don't copy and paste very damn often, but time is short, and, since historians have documented so much and so well, I thought it reasonable to do so here. Following are some of the reasons for the conflict from a southern point of view. This certainly isn't a complete list, but it provides quite a bit of insight into the things that eventually led to secession. The idea didn't suddenly spring up overnight with the election of Lincoln, and the north wasn't some grand bastion of freedom for blacks. It's certainly difficult for us now to understand the mindset of people of that time, and it's even more difficult to understand how anyone could advocate owning another human being, but it was indeed a different time. People had a very different point of reference then, and to simplify their reasons for monumental decisions to a single factor that is popular today doesn't do history justice.

For more than 40 years Southerners spoke of "disunion" over a variety of issues. By the time Abraham Lincoln was elected president a single issue, the rise of the abolitionists, became the focal point of Southerners.

Tariffs levied in 1816 were aimed at lucrative Southern markets. Many Northern politicians were looking at wealthy plantation owners and wanting to share that wealth with their constituents and tariffs were the means by which to accomplish this goal. Protectionist fervor, fanned by pre-1816 success creating industrial growth through the Embargo Act was somewhat muted by shippers and merchants who opposed tariffs, but in 1820 and 1824 the United States once again was trying to increase tariffs.

The Tariff of 1828 precipitated the first secessionist crisis, in South Carolina in 1832. The battle pitted Vice-President John C. Calhoun against President Andy Jackson, ending with the Nullification Crisis. Luckily, another compromise was reached, courtesy of Henry Clay, and the crisis was avoided. Part of the compromise included a roll-back of tariffs to the 1816 levels over a 10-year period.

When the period was up, however, the pro-Tariff Whigs decided to reapply them to pay for their "internal improvements." The only problem was these internal improvements benefited Northern shipping interests and Western land speculators and not the South. For example, lighthouses had always been state-owned and run. The Northern shipping magnates wanted more lighthouses in the South and when state governments said no, they simply nationalized existing lighthouses and began increasing the number with the tariffs. Tariffs are generally considered to be a "Lost Cause" of the Civil War, but the cited example is directly out of the Georgia Causes of Secession document.

Expansion of government powers
Thomas Jefferson knew as President he did not have the power within the Constitution to agree to buy Louisiana from the French, but he did it anyway. This single act set the stage for a major shift in the political power in the United States, away from the states and to the President and Congress. The South felt that the President and Congress only had powers specifically granted them in the Constitution, but northern and western interests wanted a government who would do more for them and favored expansion of these powers. Even the federal judiciary got in the act, extending its authority over the province of state courts, again reducing the power of the states (Martin v. Hunter's Lessee (1816) and Cohens v. Virginia (1821).

Politicians, Northern and Southern, were generally labelled "strict constructionist" or "loose constructionist" based on their concept of how closely the Constitution should be followed in determining the power of the federal government.

State's Rights
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people" is directly from the Bill of Rights.

In the early 1850's states rights arguments faded, but by the end of the decade Southerners talking disunion were talking states rights, hardly the "Lost Cause" some want to make it out to be. The South got support from some unusual places: Wisconsin defended the sovereignty of the state in 1859, albeit over sentences imposed under the fugitive slave law.
By Salty
Slavery was the irreducible root cause of the Civil War. I’ll put it this way- The North didn’t fight the Civil war to abolish slavery, but the South sure as hell fought to keep it. The State’s Rights issue is fundamentally concerned with the right to own slaves. It is true that prior to 1861, the two regions grew apart. I would even go so far as to point out that the South was right in one respect- The North had changed from the Founding of the Republic, while the South of 1860 was almost unchanged from the South of 1760.

To sum it up briefly, the Northern economy industrialized and tended to double in size each decade from 1820 on. Public schools lead to a literacy rate among males of 95%, and counting females (who attended schools with males until the age of 14 or so) the rate hovered around 80%. The North produced about 90% of the cloth exported to the south and almost all of the durable goods came from either the North or Great Britain. This lack of industry, which was driven by the agrarian slave economy is why the South opposed tariffs.
Northern railroads and canals pushed industry along the Hudson River, Erie Canal, Great Lakes, and inland through the Old Northwest territories that comprised Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin. This industrialization and transportation network was financed by Northern banks and federal policy and incentives. On the whole, Northern life expectancy, standard of living, education and other markers of progress soared in this time period.

Those same measures for the South either flat lined or regressed. Only 10% of southern cloth was made within the region, while 90% of its cloth came from exported raw cotton that was sent North and then returned. Despite several conventions and exhortations, Southern textile mills never really developed. In fact. the city of Lowell, Massachusetts had more mills than all of the Southern states combined. The South resisted public education to the point that white male literacy was only 80%, while total literacy, when combining women and slaves barely cracked 60%. Southern states were resistant to both industrialization, banking and transportation developments. In case of point, Jacksonian Democrats actively railed against both industry and banking as detrimental to the Southern agrarian economy, as wage earning and capital formation were corrupting and debasing to the gentleman and yeoman farmers.

In terms of transportation, by 1840, the South possessed 40% of the nation’s railroad lines but by 1850, that percentage had slipped to 26%. Despite a regional push to link the cotton producing regions of the deep south to the coastal Atlantic ports, the South still only managing to achieve 35% of the total railroad capacity by 1860. The South’s population flatlined despite massive immigration from Ireland and Germany in the 1840s and onward due to the slave economy pricing out farm labor and the lack of industry precluded wage jobs.

The arguments against public education both feature salient points regarding the indoctrination of children in either abolition or climate change (depending on era), the socialistic nature of public education (why should the productive “aristocratic class” of planters pay for the education of the poor?) although a southerner of 1855 would probably not use the term socialism. The Northern perspective was one that mass literacy improved standards of living, wages, etc and that the inculcation of thrift, punctuality and temperance by the public school were beneficial to life long employment and the actualization of the American Dream. In fact, of 100 industry revolutionizing patents (think of things that are equivalent of email, the Google search algorithm, the PC) filed from 1820 to 1860, 93 originated in the North.

Despite their cultural protestations regarding the corrupting and degrading influence of public education, industry and banking (railing against New York banks was a minor sport in slave holding states), the South lamented that all of the finished goods came from the North, financing came from the North and that the economic miracle of 19th century America seemed to pass them by. Although the price of cotton doubled on the international market from 1840 to 1860, little of that return was invested in industry; almost all of the returns on cotton sales were invested in new slaves and additional acreage to grow cotton. Despite all the rending of garments, the South was unwilling to make the necessary changes in terms of institutions and cultural attitudes to join the 19th century. The South became trapped in its own vicious cycle.

Politically, the South resented all Federal intrusions into the institution of slavery and related affairs. The refrain of state’s rights was trumpeted to reopen the trans-Atlantic slave trade, expand slavery westward and southward into Latin America (the Golden Ring policy) and Congressional pressure towards abolition. The one area where the South cried “Federalism Now!” was enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, whereby slave catchers could capture and return fugitive slaves, incidentally along with any freemen or manumitted blacks they came across. Northern states either passively ignored requests for assistance in extradition or actively prevented salve catchers from operating.
User avatar
By Muddled Duck
Well done Salty, and your premise is certainly accurate to a degree while your history is dead on. The disagreement we have isn't whether or not slavery was A cause of the war. It's whether or not it was THE cause. There's no debate that the regions were moving in two different directions. You're obviously well versed enough to know that secession was a hot topic long before the abolitionist movement came about. Simply put, since many in parts of the south considered secession before there was any pressure regarding slavery it's obvious to a reasonable man that other factors contributed.

I posted in another thread that John Wilkes Booth was the worst thing that ever happened to the south. Had Lincoln lived I believe the entire country would have been far better off. Slavery had to end at some point. I refuse to judge the morals of those who lived in the past as long as they lived within the laws of the day. That said, slavery was on the way out. Taking the indiviuality and immorality of slavery out of the question, I sometimes wonder if we who have followed (black, white and on both sides of the conflict) would be better off today had our ancestors let nature take its course.

I truly respect your obviously well learned and thought out point of view, and I've enjoyed the back and forth. Some shitty stuff has happened in history, and it's good to meet people with enough respect for history to have taken the time to really learn about and from it. Most just hit the high points and move on. It's certainly the easy route. I don't remember the author, but if you ever have the time or inclination readIf the South had Won the War. Obviously it's strictly an opinion piece, but it's an interesting read and different from what many would expect.
User avatar
By Muddled Duck
Salty wrote:MD- The respect is mutual although we have a pronounced difference of opinion.
Probably not as far apart as you think. Trying to condense a whole lot into a few paragraphs usually leads to subtle misunderstandings. Twenty minutes and a couple of beers would probably have both of us nodding more often than shaking our heads.
User avatar
By BigCliff

Y'all were all set for the all time "highest word count per page" record, but you're startin to f'k it up.

Here's my unrelated and non-record defeating contribution-

A fine tune from Slobberbone
[quote]THAT IS ALL

All this talk of fire, of gumption and direction

Leave you reaching for some kind of resurrection as to

Who you thought you were and who you thought you'd be

They'll say it's the trying not the being, the journey not arrival

But all I'm seeing's discouraging reprisals

Of every mistake I've made and all the things I'll never be

And every version of me I tried so hard not to miss

Gets stabbed and shot with the thought of someone else's kiss

There's just no easy way to say

That everything you thought was right was wrong today

That is all, go away

So go on and sing another about the drinking and fights,

Cracks in the sidewalk, the darkness of night

Can you still believe it'll all put you closer to the light?

'Cause yeah direction's just an arrow, not a place to reside

Though "home is where you find it" and "time is on your side"

But none of that crap means squat alone on a Sunday night

And every version of me I tried so hard to retain

Gets swallowed and sweat out and pissed on down the drain

There's just no easy way to say

That everything you thought was right was wrong today

Move along, 'cause you can't stay

Good Stuff right there-thank you sir.

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