Skip to comments.Arguing the Case for Southern Secession
Posted on 12/20/2001 4:01:19 AM PST by shuckmaster
Some reviewers have had a hard time with the present book. They imagine that there is a single historical thesis therein, one subject to definitive proof or refutation. In this, I believe they are mistaken. Instead, what we have here is a multifaceted critique of what must be the most central event in American history.
This is not Mr. Adamss first book. His For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes on the Course of Civilization (1999) lives up to its title and underscores the importance of a matter frequently ignored by conventional historians. Taxation and other fiscal matters certainly play a major role in Adamss reconstruction of the War for Southern Independence.
Those who long for the simple morality play in which Father Abraham saved the Union (always capitalized) and emancipated the slaves out of his vision and kindness have complained that Adams has ignored slavery as a cause of the war. That is incorrect. Slavery and the racial issue connected with it are present; they do not, however, have the causal stage all to themselves.
In chapter one, Adams sets the American war over secession in a global context by instancing other conflicts of similar type. He plants here the first seeds of doubt that political separation is inherently immoral. Chapter two deals with Fort Sumter and Lincolns successful gamble to have the Confederacy start the war. Here one learns that the Fort was primarily a customs house a nice bit of symbolism, especially since the South paid roughly four times as much in tariffs as the North did.
Given that, Lincoln was very concerned about his tariff revenues in the absence of the Southern states. After Fort Sumter, the (Northern) President unconstitutionally established a blockade of Southern ports on his own motion. Soon, Lincoln had robbed Maryland of self-government and was making other inroads on civil liberty his idea of preserving the Constitution via his self-invented presidential war powers (of which there is not a word in the actual document).
In chapter four, Adams unfolds his revenue-based theory of the war. The shift from a pro-peace to a pro-war position by the New York press and key business interests coincided exactly with their realization that the Confederacys low tariffs would draw trade away from the North, especially in view of the far higher Northern tariff just instituted. There is an important point here. It did not automatically follow that secession as such had to mean war. But peace foretold the end of continental mercantilism, tariffs, internal improvements, and railroad subsidies a program that meant more than life to a powerful Northern political coalition. That coalition, of which Lincoln was the head, wanted war for a complex of material, political, and ideological reasons.
Adams also looks at what might well be called Northern war crimes. Here he can cite any number of pro-Lincoln historians, who file such things under grim necessity. Along the way, the author has time to make justified fun of Lincolns official theory that he was dealing with a mere rebellion rather than with the decision of political majorities in eleven states.
Other chapters treat the so-called Copperheads, the treason trial of Jefferson Davis (which never took place, quite possibly because the unionist case could not have survived a fair trial), a comparative view of emancipation, and the problems of Reconstruction. The authors deconstruction of the Gettysburg Address will shock Lincoln idolators. Adams underlines the gloomy pseudo-religious fatalism with which Lincoln salved his conscience in his later speeches. This supports M. E. Bradfords division of Lincolns career into Whig, artificial Puritan, and practical Cromwellian phases the last item pertaining to total war.
To address seriously the issues presented by Adams requires a serious imaginative effort, especially for those who never before heard such claims about the Constitution, about the war, or about Lincoln. Ernest Renan famously wrote that for Frenchmen to constitute a nation, they must remember certain things and were obliged already to have forgotten certain others. Adams focuses on those things which Northerners, at least, have long since forgotten.
What Adams book with or without a single, central thesis does, is to reveal that in 1860 and early 1861 many Americans, north and south, doubted the existence of any federal power to coerce a state and considered peaceful separation a real possibility. In the late 1790s, The Federalist Papers, for example, laughed down the notion that the federal government could coerce states in their corporate, political capacity. For much of the nineteenth century Americans saw the union as a practical arrangement instrumental to other values. That vision vanished in the killing and destruction of Mr. Lincolns war. Americans paid a rather high price for making a means into an end.
Bump for historical truth and an excellent book. I think what upsets most yankees about this book is that Adams quotes from documented historical sources that the lincoln propaganda machine covered up for so long. The truth will come out
What the people missed was their personal freedoms that had just been won in the Revolution. Now here we are with another "King George" wanting political worship just like all the kings to be before him.
Our most recent King George W. looks like he is headed in the same direction. Here is what the war was really about.:
"Given that, Lincoln was very concerned about his tariff revenues in the absence of the Southern states. After Fort Sumter, the (Northern) President unconstitutionally established a blockade of Southern ports on his own motion. Soon, Lincoln had robbed Maryland of self-government and was making other inroads on civil liberty his idea of preserving the Constitution via his self-invented presidential war powers (of which there is not a word in the actual document)."
Trying to incite a riot, eh? Problem is, many of those people cannot face the truth about the War.
Read the book. Mr. Adams addresses slavery and the causes of the War. I was impressed by his use of documented references - it's all there.
Give it a look - it's well done.
PS: Charles Adams is from the North.
Can I take with me quotes from Frederick Douglass commenting on the number of blacks in the Confederate Army? How about documented Confederate army rolls with blacks on them, or black professors that have on their own mind you documented the importance of the black man within the Confederate Army? How about northern newspapers of the day condemning lincoln's actions? I'll even take the all holy Emancipation Proclamation, which if you would bother reading instead of blindly following a lie, didn't free anybody!! What about lincoln's quotes about not wanting to be painted with an 'abolitionist brush' or from his first inaugural address stating he would not try to block the original 13th Amendment making slavery perpetual?
Oh, yes, lincoln is my hero < /sarcasm>
The Civil War, though it acheived the positive goal of ending slavery and furthering the goals of freedom, was never actually fought because of the cause of abolition. Rather it was fought to keep the southern states inside the union because they were a signifigant source of capital.
I dont agree with the authors thesis that there is a legitimate case for southern secession. This has been argued before and the Constitution very clearly weighs in favor of the Union of States.
However, dont dismiss all of Rockwells writings so easily. He has, in the past made very interesting points on Federal/State-Local power sharing. And his writings, as well as the extensive Rothbard files he has on his website are worth further reading.
Of course, some folks think that the South leached off the North, and fought a war to keep us leaching off them. Makes sense to me. < /sarcasm >
Great Post! But of course your die hard butt-sucking Yankees will always want to ignore the truth! Like Len S does! He thinks its about slavery, when it was about rights! Pay him no mind, he probably lost his smarts because of all the Yankee Bovine Scatology he has been fed throughout the years.
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