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.
The north wasn't as economically dependent on slavery as the South but was just as supportive of it. In fact Massachusetts was the last state to do away with slavery.
If slavery has been the real issue all the northern states would have been slave free well before the end of the War of Northern Aggression BUT THEY WEREN'T.
It was and emotional bit of propaganda to hide Lincoln Monarchical aims.
Give it some time though. It may not be long before the 'cut and paste cookie monsters' drop in and enlighten us on the "cold hard facts".
There is no validity to any of the D.S.'s arguments not one and that is easily proven. But next thread the D.S.'s are back pretending that their arguments have never been refuted throwing endless misleading, deceptive or outright lying statements from discredited or rightfully obscure hacks at the audience.
Pathetic waste of time defending treason and anti-Americanism. The D.S.'s hatred of Lincoln is particularly hilarious. His superior intellect over any of the Slaveocrats' "leaders" drives them to mad attempts to pretend he was actually worse than those beating and whipping the slaves. But the slaves knew the truth as their love for President Lincoln clearly showed.
It is particularly disgusting to watch the D.S.'s attack a true martyr. A man who gave his life (and happiness) for his country now becomes the subject of venomous vituperation from the hateful ignorant. Even one as confused as Jefferson Davis understood that the death of Lincoln was a tremendous blow to the defeated South. His latter day worshippers are too stupid to understand that.
Perhaps it is because the 'cold hard facts' all indicate that the defense of the institution of slavery was the primary reason for secession? If one reads the Declaration of the Causes of Secession for the various states it becomes clear. Mississippi, for example, said,
"In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.
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. "
"The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. 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. "
"Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery-- the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits-- a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. "
Alexander Stephens, vice president of the confederacy, said,
"But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other -- though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution -- African slavery as it exists amongst us -- the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution."
The southern leadership - in it's own words - makes it clear what the most important factor in their decision to enter into rebellion was and that was the institution of slavery.
That would have been New York in 1827. From a strictly legal standpoint it actually would have been Kentucky and Deleware and those parts of the southern states controlled by the North when the Emancipation Proclamation became effective. Slavery was theoretically legal there until December 1865.
Wrong. The question of the legality of the blockade was decided by the Supreme Court in 1863 in what are commonly called the "Prize Cases". The Supreme Court decided that the blockade was a legal extension of the President's powers to supress rebellion.
That is my major complaint with Adams' book. It if very poorly researched and full of inaccuracies such as these. The Civil War is one of the most thoroughly documented wars of the 19th century. There are warehouses full of government documents before, during, and after the war for both North and south. Every major figure in the war except Lincoln wrote memoirs. Every political leader of both the North and the south left masses of written documentation on their thoughts and positions both before the war and after. And yet Adams uses none of this. He quotes endlessly from newspaper editorials and nothing from the figures who actually made the history. All in all it is a very poorly researched work and little more than page after page of his own opinions.
BTW, I have a used copy of the book I am willing to sell cheap.
may i also recommend, LINCOLN & the SECRET SIX? that's another EYE-OPENER of a book.
You are telling us that there were no slaves in the North for approximately 20+ years before the War of Northern Aggression?
So were there slaves in the North during the Civil War? Yes. But even taking into consideration the 4 border south states that remained loyal to the Union 9 out of every 10 slaves still lived in the confederate states.
If you can't disprove them then how can you claim that they are lies?
That's interesting - kind of like they love Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton?
TIME OUT - no flames, please. I don't think Lincoln was evil incarnate, but he was not faultless, either. Slavery was (and is) evil.
I've made observations that I'd love to write a book about, but I know I'll never get around to it. But, let me ask you, and everyone else something - Doesn't it seem to you that we have substituted very poor education today for illegal education of slaves back then? - Is it too much of a stretch to see that those poorly educated people (too often "coincidentally" black) are now paid very little to work at the "McDonald's Plantation", or at the local "Hometown Factory Plantation"?
This is not a Southern problem alone. And there will always be bigots on BOTH sides of the fence. Your insistence that those of us who long for states's rights are all bigots is comparable to me calling you a Communist because you like a strong federal government.
I'll grant that slavery was a big part. But it was NOT the only issue.
I suppose there is a point you are driving towards? Out with it.
You've got it!
It's all a lot of DS!!
You can babble around all you want but it's true.
There's no proof that more than a handful of blacks were in arms for the CSA.
"It's pure fantasy,' contends James McPherson, a Princeton historian and one of the nation's leading Civil War scholars. Adds Edwin Bearss, historian emeritus at the National Park Service: 'It's b.s., wishful thinking.' Robert Krick, author of 10 books on the Confederacy, has studied the records of 150,000 Southern soldiers and found fewer than a dozen were black. 'Of course, if I documented 12, someone would start adding zeros,' he says.
"These and other scholars say claims about black rebels derive from unreliable anecdotes, a blurring of soldiers and laborers, and the rapid spread on the Internet of what Mr. McPherson calls 'pseudohistory.' Thousands of blacks did accompany rebel troops -- as servants, cooks, teamsters and musicians. Most were slaves who served involuntarily; until the final days of the war, the Confederacy staunchly refused to enlist black soldiers.
"Some blacks carried guns for their masters and wore spare or cast-off uniforms, which may help explain eyewitness accounts of blacks units. But any blacks who actually fought did so unofficially, either out of personal loyalty or self-defense, many historians say.
"They also bristle at what they see as the disingenuous twist on political correctness fueling the black Confederate fad. 'It's a search for a multicultural Confederacy, a desperate desire to feel better about your ancestors,' says Leslie Rowland, a University of Maryland historian. 'If you suggest that some blacks supported the South, then you can deny that the Confederacy was about slavery and white supremacy.'
"David Blight, an Amherst College historian, likens the trend to bygone notions about happy plantation darkies.' Confederate groups invited devoted ex-slaves to reunions and even won Senate approval in 1923 for a "mammy" monument in Washington (it was never built). Black Confederates, Mr. Blight says, are a new and more palatable way to 'legitimize the Confederacy.'"
-- Wall Street Journal, May 8, 1997 AND:
"There seems to be no evidence that the Negro soldiers authorized by the Confederate Government (March 13, 1865) ever went into battle. This gives rise to the question as to whether or not any Negroes ever fought in the Confederate ranks. It is possible that some of the free Negro companies organized in Louisiana and Tennessee in the early part of the war took part in local engagements; but evidence seems to the contrary. (Authors note: If they did, their action was not authorized by the Confederate Government.) A company of "Creoles," some of whom had Negro blood, may have been accepted in the Confederate service at Mobile. Secretary Seddon conditioned his authorization of the acceptance of the company on the ability of those "Creoles" to be naturally and properly distinguished from Negroes. If persons with Negro Blood served in Confederate ranks as full-fledged soldiers, the per cent of Negro blood was sufficiently low for them to pass as whites." (Authors note: Henry Clay Warmoth said that many Louisiana mulattoes were in Confederate service but they were "not registered as Negroes." War Politics and Reconstruction, p. 56) p. 160-61, SOUTHERN NEGROES, Wiley
History gives lie to myth of black Confederate soldiers
By TRUMAN R. CLARK
A racist fabrication has sprung up in the last decade: that the Confederacy had "thousands" of African-American slaves "fighting" in its armies during the Civil War.
Unfortunately, even some African-American men today have gotten conned into putting on Confederate uniforms to play "re-enactors" in an army that fought to ensure that their ancestors would remain slaves.
There are two underlying points of this claim: first, to say that slavery wasn't so bad, because after all, the slaves themselves fought to preserve the slave South; and second, that the Confederacy wasn't really fighting for slavery. Both these notions may make some of our contemporaries feel good, but neither is historically accurate.
When one speaks of "soldiers" and "fighting" in a war, one is not talking about slaves who were taken from their masters and forced to work on military roads and other military construction projects; nor is one talking about slaves who were taken along by their masters to continue the duties of a personal valet that they performed back on the plantation. Of course, there were thousands of African-Americans forced into these situations, but they were hardly "soldiers fighting."
Another logical point against this wacky modern idea of a racially integrated Confederate army has to do with the prisoner of war issue during the Civil War. Through 1862, there was an effective exchange system of POWs between the two sides. This entirely broke down in 1863, however, because the Confederacy refused to see black Union soldiers as soldiers -- they would not be exchanged, but instead were made slaves (or, as in the 1864 Fort Pillow incident, simply murdered after their surrender). At that, the United States refused to exchange any Southern POWs and the prisoner of war camps on both sides grew immensely in numbers and misery the rest of the war.
If the Confederacy had black soldiers in its armies, why didn't it see black men as soldiers?
By the way, all the Confederate soldiers captured by Union troops were white men. If there were "thousands" of black soldiers in the Confederate armies, why were none of them among the approximately 215,000 soldiers captured by the U.S. forces?
If there were thousands of African-American men fighting in the Confederate armies, they apparently cleverly did so without Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, the members of the Confederate congress or any of the white soldiers of the Confederacy knowing about it. (I can just imagine some former Confederate soldier, told in 1892 that hundreds of the men in his army unit during the Civil War were black, snapping his fingers and saying, "I knew there was something different about those guys!")
The South was running short of soldiers as the war dragged on, however, and some people began to suggest that it would be better to use slaves to fight than to lose. As late as three weeks before the Civil War came to an end, the members of the Confederate congress (and Lee and Davis) were hotly debating the question of whether to start using slaves in the Southern armies.
If, as some folks in the 1990s claim, there were already "thousands" of black troops in the Confederate armies, why were the leaders of the Confederacy still debating about whether or not they should start bringing them in?
The very accurate point made then by opponents of this legislation was, as one Georgia leader stated, "If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong." Southern newspaper editors blasted the idea as "the very doctrine which the war was commenced to put down," a "surrender of the essential and distinctive principle of Southern civilization."
And what was that "essential and distinctive principle of Southern civilization"? Let's listen to the people of the times. The vice president of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, said on March 21, 1861, that the Confederacy was "founded ... its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based on this great physical, philosophical and moral truth."
What was the "very doctrine" which the South had entered into war to destroy? Let's go to the historical documents, the words of the people in those times. When Texas seceded from the Union in March 1861, its secession declaration was entirely about one subject: slavery. It said that Thomas Jefferson's words in the Declaration of Independence in 1776 -- "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" -- were "the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color ... a doctrine at war with nature ... and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law."
But, by March 13, 1865, the Confederacy had its back against the wall, and by the less than overwhelming margin of 40 to 37 in the House, and nine to eight in the Senate, the Confederate congress approved a bill to allow Jefferson Davis to require a quota of black soldiers from each state. Presumably (although the bill did not say so) slaves who fought would, if they survived the war, be freed. Southerners who opposed using blacks in the army noted that this idea had its problems: First, it was obvious that the Yankee armies would soon free them anyway; and second, if slavery was so wonderful and happy for black people, why would one be willing to risk death to win his freedom?
The war was virtually over by then, and when black Union soldiers rode into Richmond on April 3, they found two companies of black men beginning to train as potential soldiers. (When those black men had marched down the street in Confederate uniforms, local whites had pelted them with mud.) None got into the war, and Lee surrendered on April 9.
Yes, thousands of African-American men did fight in the Civil War -- about 179,000. About 37,000 of them died in uniform. But they were all in the Army (or Navy) of the United States of America. The Confederate veterans who were still alive in the generations after the war all knew that and said so.
Finally, these modern nonhistorians say that slavery couldn't have been a main cause of the Civil War (never mind the words of Alexander Stephens and the various declarations of secession), because most of the Confederate soldiers didn't own slaves.
As modern historians such as Pulitzer Prize-winner James M. McPherson point out, the truth was that most white people in the South knew that the great bulwark of the white-supremacy system they cherished was slavery, whether or not they personally owned slaves.
"Freedom is not possible without slavery," was a typical endorsement of this underlying truth about the slave South. Without slavery, white nonslaveholders would be no better than black men.
The slave South rested upon a master-race ideology, as many generations of white Southerners stated it and lived it, from the 1600s until 1865. There is an uncomfortable parallel in our century with the master-race ideology of Nazi Germany. First, millions of the men who bravely fought and died for the Third Reich were not Nazis, but they weren't exactly fighting for the human rights of Jews or gypsies. And second, yes, as was pointed out in the movie Schindler's List, many thousands of Jews did slave labor in military production factories in Nazi Germany -- but that certainly didn't make them "thousands of Jewish soldiers fighting for Germany."
We can believe in the "black soldiers fighting" in the Confederate armies just as soon as historians discover the "thousands" of Jews in the SS and Gestapo.
Clark is a professor of history at Tomball College.
There is no proof of black CSA soldiers. The 189,000 soldiers who served in the Union Army, on the other hand, are well documented. President Lincoln said the armng of black soldiers was the heaviest blow struck at the rebellion. Tell 'em that in Detroit.
I should of said in debt instead sharecropper! Has anything really changed? Are we not enslaved to the taxes and the rules that the federal Gov. forces on us? To me all the war in 1860's did was to remove the right of the people to change the government. All that can be done now is to restrict the freedoms of the people!
Is there anywhere where freedoms have grown for the whole popultation?
Blue Zone States would be purged from the Union.