Friday, January 13, 2012

Yes...I Believe They Mentioned Slavery

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

There has been a lot of hullabaloo over at Kevin Levin's Civil War Memory concerning a recently discovered secession document. We are familiar with other secession papers - those that discuss in explicit detail the threat to the institution of slavery. Well, this document from Florida is consistent on the slavery position...and it has stirred up a fuss.

I would like to direct you to both the posts and especially the comment threads following. Click HERE for the January 10th entry discussing Florida's Declaration of Causes and HERE for the January 11th follow up piece featuring a video by historian Dwight T. Pitcaithley discussing Florida's secession.

I am intrigued by those who insist that this document (and others like them) are presented "out of context" and that southern states were not seceding to defend slavery. I am more than a little interested in what context they are thinking of.

So - if any of you out there can specify exactly what the southern states thought was more important to protect than slavery please do so. And if you say "their rights" you get a C-. I want to know what "rights" (from a white southern perspective) trumped the right to own slaves and why they would go to war to protect them. You can give me the top three...that would do just fine. Anyone who writes me off as a "revisionist" gets a D. I like to go straight to the source and let the secessionists do the talking when it comes to cause.




  1. Scott A. MacKenzieJanuary 13, 2012 at 2:12 AM

    I found that even in northwestern Virginia, an area with few slaves, local Confederates used slavery extensively to mobilize for their cause. They cited Harper's Ferry many times, used the term "Black Republican" frequently, and said how the Union was no longer supportive of slavery. Sometimes they said so openly, but often they couched the terms that 19th Century Americans (North and South) could easily understand: the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Racism helped too.

    Case in point: Kanawha Valley Star, May 7, 1861:

    "Amongst the various grievances that we have suffered, the execution of the various laws, growing out of an express provision of the Constitution, providing for the reclamation of a “fugitive from labor, have been obstructed by laws passed by the legislatures of a large majority of the non-slaveholding States, and by lawless mobs, created by fanatical and misguided minds, for the purpose of hindering the execution of the laws, thereby making them inoperative and void. Raids of lawless desperadoes have invaded many of the Southern Slave States and have murdered the peaceable citizens in the nighttime while they were sleeping in confident security under the hopeful protection of our institutions, and more effectually to complete their work of death and devastation on an unoffending and unsuspecting people, have burned their barns and dwellings and incited their slaves to insurrection. Under the sanction of law, a party having for its object the abolition of slavery has elected by a majority of the electoral college the chief executive officer of this government, and having thus elected exclusively upon sectional principles, has, during the short but eventful period of his administration, in every conceivable manner, pandered to the will of the fanaticism of his party, which in point of a reckless disregard for the lives and happiness of a people whom it is his sworn duty to protect, is unprecedented in the history of the most barbarous ages and in our most earnest and mature deliberations is unfit to be the chief executive officer of a free people."

  2. Thanks Scott - it is really hard to argue with this kind of evidence...yet people still try. Sigh.

  3. They'll try for two reasons: 1) they have a massive personal stake in it. They see it as defending their ancestors' honor against those who would harm their view of it. 2) Their audience is less critical for the same reason. In a way, it shows progress - they're sensitive to race and slavery, even if they deny it. The next step is to admit that mid-19th Century America - indeed the world - was strong racial views.

  4. Scott pretty much has the reason for the majority of the denials about the Civil War being primarily caused by slavery. I frequent several Civil War blogs and a few fb pages concerning the war, and when the topic turns to slavery as a cause, you mainly get emotional denials and the comment, "My ancestors did not own slaves!" Which in the main is true, but almost all such denials are based on emotion and never, never on the original source documents which clearly shows slavery as the reason for separation.

    Even if these primary source documents are brought up, emotion dictates that they MUST be taken out-of-context or one or two lines, splendid in their isolation, to show why the conflict was not about slavery. Even Lincoln's first inaugural speech, which clearly shows the issue of slavery as bringing about the secession crisis, the majority of that speech MUST be thrown out and one, lone passage concerning the collection of "duties" or tariffs be shown to be the real reason for Lincoln and the North "invading the South."

    Getting past the emotional defense of 21st century defenders of the ancestors and their individual heritage issues is going to take some doing. Primary sources and their demanding they be placed in full context is one way of doing such.


  5. I get so weary of the "It was not about slavery" sophistry. I was told I should read for myself what the Confederates said about why they seceded, so I read the different articles of secession as illustrated by the Florida documents and... Duh... It was the slave issue. Supposedly I'm only suppose to read what they wrote after the war where the defeated former Confederates sought to defend the cause on other grounds... If I was teaching a history class on the Civil War, the various articles of secession would be required reading.