The Cause of the Civil War Debate and Poll
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Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was born in Kentucky into the family of a poor and illiterate pioneer farmer. Their neighbor, a wealthy plantation and slave-holder, took a dislike to the Lincoln family because of their friendly attitude toward Negroes, and began to make life hard for them, finally forcing Lincoln's father to sell his farm and move into the newly opened territories of the West.
In 1835 in his first term in the Illinois House of Representatives Lincoln cast one of only 5 votes against a resolution that condemned abolitionists.
In the famous Lincoln Douglass debate Lincoln said "I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are created equal upon principle, and making exceptions to it -- where will it stop? If one man says it does not mean a Negro, why does not another say it does not mean some other man?"
Slavery was a big issue before the war. Each side wanted new states to be entered either as a "Free" or "Slave" state so as to not lose power in government decisions. Emotions were on the rise. Many compromises over the issue of slavery had been passed after heated debate. In one instance a fight broke out between two Senators on the floor of Congress. The Kansas-Nebraska act was passed in 1854. This let the inhabitants of new states vote on whether the state would be "free" or "slave". Settlers from both North and South headed to Kansas. Corrupt elections and fanatical factions on both sides became violent. Homes were burned and people murdered and Kansas was quickly labeled "Bleeding Kansas". Two separate governments were even formed, a pro-slave and anti-slave body. Kansas became engulfed in its own war.
Alfred P. Aldrich, South Carolina legislator from Barnwell: "If the Republican party with its platform of principles, the main feature of which is the abolition of slavery and, therefore, the destruction of the South, carries the country at the next Presidential election, shall we remain in the Union, or form a separate Confederacy? This is the great, grave issue. It is not who shall be President, it is not which party shall rule -- it is a question of political and social existence."
In 1860 the Republican party nominated Lincoln for presidency, and he was duly elected. The Republicans choose Lincoln over William Seward partly because of Lincoln's strong anti-slavery beliefs. He was elected by only a section of the Union and that was the north. The south was convinced that Lincoln would push them to abolish slavery. His election was a signal for the slave-holders to rebel. South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860. Within the next two weeks, six other southern states had left the union (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas). They did this before Lincoln even took office. The pro-slavery leaders called a convention, formed a government and elected colonel Davis, a wealthy plantation-owner, to the presidency.
Lincoln rejected the Crittenden Compromise which was one of several last-ditch efforts to resolve the secession crisis of 1860-61 by political negotiation. Authored by Kentucky Senator John Crittenden it was an attempt to resolve the crisis by addressing the concerns that led the states of the Lower South to contemplate secession. As such, it gives a window into what the politicians of the day thought the cause of the crisis to be, slavery. Heres a couple of the shorter articles.
Article 2: Congress shall have no power to abolish slavery in places under its exclusive jurisdiction, and situate within the limits of States that permit the holding of slaves. Article 4: Congress shall have no power to prohibit or hinder the transportation of slaves from one State to another, or to a Territory, in which slaves are by law permitted to be held, whether that transportation be by land, navigable river, or by the sea.
"Our new government's
cornerstone," announced the vice-president of the Confederacy (this was the
name given to the secessionist states) at the rebel convention, "rests upon
the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery . . .
is his natural and normal condition." Thus the Southern states started
their rebellion in defense of the shameful institution of slavery.
The idea that President
Abraham Lincoln waged war against the South to abolish slavery is
fiction created by the victors. Here's an oft-repeated sentiment by
President Lincoln: "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to
interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it exists.
I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to
do so." Slavery simply emerged as a moral front for northern
aggression. Walter Williams
Lincoln said this in his first inaugural speech, hoping to save the Union and avoid war.
A more plausible source of
North-South antagonism is suggested in an 1831 speech by South Carolina
Sen. John C. Calhoun where he said, "Stripped of all its covering,
the naked question is whether ours is a federal or consolidated
government; a constitutional or absolute one; a government resting
solidly on the basis of the sovereignty of the States, or on the
unrestrained will of a majority; a form of government, as in all other
unlimited ones, in which injustice, violence and force must ultimately
prevail." A significant source of
Southern discontent was tariffs Congress enacted to protect Northern
manufacturing interests. Referring to those tariffs, Calhoun said,
"The North has adopted a system of revenue and disbursements in
which an undue proportion of the burden of taxation has been imposed on
the South, and an undue proportion of its proceeds appropriated to the
North." Among other Southern grievances were Northern actions
similar to King George III's Navigation Acts, which drove our Founders
to the 1776 War of Independence. Walter Williams
It is true the South did not like the tariffs, but the tariff and the speech were 30 years before the war. If they were the cause why did it take a whole generation for the South to react?
When South Carolina passed the Ordinance of Nullification in November 1832, refusing to collect the tariff and threatening to withdraw from the Union, Jackson ordered federal troops to Charleston. A secession crisis was averted when Congress revised the Tariff of Abominations in February 1833.
Though it's not politically correct for our history books to report, black slaves and free blacks were among the men who fought and died heroically for the cause of the Confederacy. Professor Edward Smith, director of American studies at American University, says Stonewall Jackson had 3,000 fully-equipped black troops scattered throughout his corps at Antietam -- the war's bloodiest battle. Smith calculates that between 60,000 and 93,000 blacks served the Confederacy in some capacity. These black Confederate soldiers no more fought to preserve slavery than their successors fought in WWI and WWII to preserve Jim Crow and segregation. They fought because their homeland was attacked and fought in the hope that the future would be better and they'd be rewarded for their patriotism." Walter Williams