the Past : Part 2 - The Road to War : Causes
(Drawing upon the works of Thomas
DiLorenzo, David M. Dodge and others)
large number of people believe that the American Civil War was
fought over the concept of slavery. While this despised institution
was a core reason, the full scope is not as simple as it would
seem. The simplistic argument is that the North fought to
“Free the Slaves” and to “Preserve the Union” and that the South
fought “For their Rights” and to continue to keep men in bondage.
complete examination of the reasons is beyond the scope of this
simple document. I will attempt to examine a few key arguments
that I have found.
first question is “Regardless of the reason, did the South have
a legal right to secede?”
The answer to that question is yes. Please see my previous
article “Revisiting the Past - An examination of the concept of
A complete examination of the institution of slavery in
the United States is well beyond this article. Within this piece
I will concern my self with 2 areas of research. They are
“The North fought to free the slaves and The South
fought to keep them in bondage. I will not discuss
the issue of if it was right or wrong. By todays more enlightened
standards, we find the concept of human bondage to be an evil.
The viewpoint changes depending on where one is in history and
us first turn to the belief that the North fought to free the
slaves. While it was true that there were those fighting on the
Union side who fought for that reason, the facts do not bear out
that conclusion. To dispute this fallacy, we must look at several
Lincolns own position, statements and proclamations concerning
* First Inaugural Address Washington, D.C. March 4,
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
understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution, which amendment,
however, I have not seen, has passed Congress, to the effect that
the federal government shall never interfere with the domestic
institutions of the States, including that of persons held to
service. To avoid misconstruction of what I have said, I depart
from my purpose not to speak of particular amendments, so far
as to say that holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional
law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable."
In an August 22, 1862, letter to New York Tribune editor Horace
Greeley he explained to the world what the war was about:
paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it
is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the
Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could
save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also
do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because
I believe it helps to save the Union.”
The U.S. Congress’s statements
* On March 2, 1861, the U.S. Senate
passed a proposed Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution
(which passed the House of Representatives on February 28) that
would have prohibited the federal government from ever interfering
with slavery in the Southern states. (See U.S. House of Representatives,
106th Congress, 2nd Session, The Constitution of the United States
of America: Unratified Amendments, Document No. 106-214, presented
by Congressman Henry Hyde (Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing
Office, January 31, 2000). The proposed amendment read as follows:
amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize
or give to Congress the power to abolish or interfere, within
any State, with the domestic institutions thereof, including that
of persons held to labor or service by the laws of said State.
On July 22, 1861, the US Congress issued a "Joint Resolution
on the War" that echoed Lincoln’s reasons for the invasion
of the Southern states:
. . . That this war is not being prosecuted upon our part in any
spirit of oppression, nor for any purpose of conquest or subjugation,
nor purpose of overthrowing or interfering with the rights or
established institutions of those states, but to defend and maintain
the supremacy of the Constitution and all laws made in pursuance
thereof and to preserve the Union, with all the dignity, equality
and rights of the several states unimpaired; and that as soon
as these objects are accomplished the war ought to cease.
"the established institutions of those states" the Congress
was referring to slavery. As with Lincoln, destroying the secession
movement took precedence over doing anything about slavery.
one might argue that they saw “Gettysburg” (The Turner movie,
not the town) and remember the line “This is an Army to set men
free” or something similar spoken by Jeff Daniels. While
it makes a nice Hollywood moment, it was incidental to the Official
purpose of the war - to preserve the Union, and not the main mission.
further identify and explode a few myths, I turn to Thomas Dilorenzo,
author of "The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln,
His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War" and a professor of economics
at Loyola College in Baltimore. Professor Dilorenzo states:
#1: Lincoln invaded the South to free the slaves.
Ending slavery and racial injustice is not why the North invaded.
As Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley on Aug. 22, 1862: "My
paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and it
is not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the
Union without freeing any slave, I would do it"
announced to the world on July 22, 1861, that the purpose of the
war was not "interfering with the rights or established institutions
of those states" (i.e., slavery), but to preserve the Union
"with the rights of the several states unimpaired."
At the time of Fort Sumter (April 12, 1861) only the seven states
of the deep South had seceded. There were more slaves in the Union
than out of it, and Lincoln had no plans to free any of them.
North invaded to regain lost federal tax revenue by keeping the
Union intact by force of arms. In his First Inaugural Lincoln
promised to invade any state that failed to collect "the
duties and imposts," and he kept his promise. On April 19,
1861, the reason Lincoln gave for his naval blockade of the Southern
ports was that "the collection of the revenue cannot be effectually
executed" in the states that had seceded.
[[[[[[We will return to this later]]]]]]
#6: War was necessary to end slavery.
During the 19th century, dozens of countries, including the British
and Spanish empires, ended slavery peacefully through compensated
emancipation. Among such countries were Argentina, Colombia, Chile,
all of Central America, Mexico, Bolivia, Uruguay, the French and
Danish colonies, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. (Lincoln did propose
compensated emancipation for the border states, but coupled his
proposal with deportation of any freed slaves. He failed to see
it through, however). Only in America was war associated with
Ok, so we have examined and determined that the North did not
invade to free the slaves. Did the South secede in order
to protect the institution of slavery?
To answer this question, we must turn to the Articles of Secession
which each of the Southern States issued prior to it’s departure.
This is an interesting journey, and I will apologize to the reader
in advance for any wording I may quote which offends. The
language is presented here unedited, as I found it.
each State seceded independently, each has its own declaration.
I have included the reference in the notes at the end of this
article which will display several of them. For this argument,
I will focus on South Carolina, the first to secede.
people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled,
on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent
violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal
Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of
the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from
the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes
of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to
exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have
continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a
assert that fourteen of the States have deliberately refused,
for years past, to fulfill their constitutional obligations, and
we refer to their own Statutes for the proof.
Constitution of the United States, in its fourth Article, provides
as follows: "No person held to service or labor in one State,
under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence
of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service
or labor, but shall be delivered up, on claim of the party to
whom such service or labor may be due."
stipulation was so material to the compact, that without it that
compact would not have been made. The greater number of the contracting
parties held slaves, and they had previously evinced their estimate
of the value of such a stipulation by making it a condition in
the Ordinance for the government of the territory ceded by Virginia,
which now composes the States north of the Ohio River.
same article of the Constitution stipulates also for rendition
by the several States of fugitives from justice from the other
General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry
into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these
laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of
the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has
led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General
Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.
The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut,
Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,
Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the
Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them.
In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service
or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government
complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State
of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with
her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery
feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative
the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress.
In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave
has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa
have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder,
and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia.
Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and
disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence
follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.
South Carolina left the Union as it believed the other states
had broken the compact by NOT enforcing the law. These fugitives
consisted of murderers, criminals –and- escaped slaves. One can
argue that it was all about the slaves, however you miss the greater
picture by limiting yourself to only that portion.
wait. We must read further.
ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which
each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control
over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was
recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights,
by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with
direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing
the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating
for the rendition of fugitives from labor.”
each state was equal and made it’s own policies. Slaves were recognized
as property, and laws were written surrounding the institution.
affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted
have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive
of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States
have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic
institutions; and have denied the rights of property established
in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they
have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have
permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed
object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the
citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands
of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have
been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.
twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing,
until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government.
Observing the forms of the Constitution, a sectional party has
found within that Article establishing the Executive Department,
the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical
line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north
of that line have united in the election of a man to the high
office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes
are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration
of the common Government, because he has declared that that "Government
cannot endure permanently half slave, half free," and that
the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the
course of ultimate extinction.
sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution,
has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship,
persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of
becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate
a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs
the 4th day of March next, this party will take possession of
the Government. It has announced that the South shall be excluded
from the common territory, that the judicial tribunals shall be
made sectional, and that a war must be waged against slavery until
it shall cease throughout the United States.
guaranties of the Constitution will then no longer exist; the
equal rights of the States will be lost. The slaveholding States
will no longer have the power of self-government, or self-protection,
and the Federal Government will have become their enemy.”
South Carolina saw that the established laws of the land were
being ignored, the disruption of certain groups was allowed which
was against the law, and that there was a fear that the incoming
administration would be hostile towards them. They feared
a loss of their political power, continued disruption of their
sovereignty by an increasingly hostile Federal government, and
a continued ignoring of law by those who disagreed with them.
can only conclude that there was more to this secession than the
institution of slavery, however that institution was a major catalyst
in the conflict.
was this all? What other situations were at play here?
Economic and 3: Political
We must now look to the Economic and Political issues.
Between the founding of our nation and the time of the war, the
northern states had grown in a different direction than the south.
The north had a larger population, and more industry, while the
south had a more ‘rural’ society. Large cities teeming with
factories were much less common in the south than in the north.
Now, unlike today, at this time the Federal government didn’t
have the hundreds of taxes, user fees, etc we do today.
It had Tariffs.
turn now to the U.S. Department of Interior, National Park Service
of these quarrels was about taxes paid on goods brought into this
country from foreign countries. This kind of tax is called a tariff.
In 1828, Northern businessmen helped get the "Tariff Act"
passed. It raised the prices of manufactured products from Europe
which were sold mainly in the South.
purpose of the law was to encourage the South to buy the North's
products. It angered the Southern people to have to pay more for
the goods they wanted from Europe or pay more to get goods from
the North. Either way the Southern people were forced to pay more
because of the efforts of Northern businessmen. Though most of
tariff laws had been changed by the time of the Civil War, the
Southern people still remembered how they were treated by the
“Wedges of Separation In The Civil War
addition to this monopoly of the foreign export business, the
almost complete control of banking in the North worked a hardship
on the South; and heavy tribute was paid to Yankee shipping interests
which enjoyed the greater share of the ocean carrying trade of
the country. Southerners were therefore saying: We must free ourselves
from this economic subservience. Manufacturing, banking, and international
trade must be brought into Southern hands. New Orleans must supersede
New York as the business hub of the nation. Look to the tariff!
While the South has lacked the majority to determine the incidence
of this unequal tax, yet her shoulders must bear the burden. Through
the operation of unequal navigation laws passed by the Federal
Congress, feudal palaces rise throughout New England and fleets
of merchantmen crowd its ports. Let the South but assume her stand
among the nations, and these palaces and fleets will vanish, and
the seats of economic domination will be transferred to the harbors
of the Chesapeake, to Charleston, Savannah, Mobile, or New Orleans.
Great European liners will establish regular connection between
Europe and the South, instead of having Boston, New York, or Philadelphia
as the termini of the Atlantic lines.”
we are seeing here is that the money, shipping, and importing
power lie in the North, and the South wanted more control.
the North saw things from a different perspective:
of course, held a diametrically opposing view of these economic
developments. Eager for "a liberal immigration policy to
assure an abundance of cheap labor, ship subsidies for the promotion
of commerce, internal improvements in the form of roads, canals,
and harbor facilities, a sound monetary system to guarantee that
loans and interest would be duly met in values at least equal
to the nominal figure in the bond, [and] high tariffs for industries,"
Northern businessmen complained that the backward, agrarian, feudalistic
South dominated the national government. Southern votes had been
chiefly responsible for the low Walker tariff of 1846, and Southern
votes would back the still lower tariff of 1857, which greatly
reduced rates and expanded the free list. In the days of Jackson
and Van Buren it had been Southern votes which helped destroy
the second Bank of the United States, thereby depriving the nation
of central financial direction. Southern Congressmen defeated
or retarded necessary appropriations for internal improvements.
Southern jealousy held up federal assistance for the construction
of a transcontinental railroad linking Chicago or St. Louis with
the Pacific coast. Southern Congressmen repeatedly helped defeat
homestead legislation which would have encouraged free-soil settlement
of the national territories. To many irate Northern capitalists
the South appeared to require that "the federal government
was to do nothing for business enterprise while the planting interest
was to he assured the possession of enough political power to
guarantee it against the reenactment of the Hamilton-Webster program."
problem here is of course that both sides were right and wrong.
They were 2 halves of a whole, blinded by their own fears and
prejudices. This fear wove itself through out the arguments
of both sides. The South and North both fought over the
admission of new states as either free or slave, as they would
in turn tip the balance one way or another. It was not because
one side was either for or against slavery that was the key, but
that the status of a state as either free or slave would in effect
change the voting blocks in congress. With the south’s economy
dependent on the colonial plantation model (which worked best
with large numbers of low paid workers or slaves), it was a matter
of power and profitability. In addition, too many slave
states would skew power away from the free, and too many free
would unbalance the federal against the slave.
The conclusion here is that while the institution of slavery was
in fact a component of the war, it was not the reason for the
war. It was in fact the economic and political issues that
formed around the institution, and not the moral which were the
Myths About Lincoln - Thomas Dilorenzo
Missing 13th Amendment - David M. Dodge, Researcher
Original Thirteenth Amendment
of Causes of Seceding States - South Carolina Mississippi Georgia
of Separation In The Civil War